Job Hunting Strategies for the Expat Freelance Writer
by Suchi Rudra

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So you've made the move abroad, you're still writing for some clients back home, but you'd also like to dig into the local and regional markets? Even if the local language remains a mystery to you, there are still plenty of ways to earn a decent income from local and regional freelance writing work in English. Having lived and worked abroad in India, Czech Republic, Ukraine and Russia, I've found that no matter where I set up camp, there are certain strategies that I can follow to enhance my success in writing for local and regional markets. And the best part about these strategies? They can still apply even if you're not an expat!

1) Always keep an eye out for local English-language magazines, newspapers and publishing houses. Anytime you are out and about, pick up all the free brochures, flyers and complementary magazines you can handle. Often, these are aimed toward tourists and study-abroad students, so you will find more of these English language publications to snatch up in the more happening and touristy spots. However, some publications, like trade journals, might only be found in banks, real estate agencies, travel agencies and other similar institutions. And don't forget about airport magazines and publications for expat organizations! I queried a popular website for expats in Prague with some story ideas and am now a frequent contributor.

2) Collect business cards. Anytime you find yourself at a cafe, restaurant, bar or boutique that appeals to you, ask for their business card. Look around to see if you can contribute your language skills to their advertising. If you're a stickler for grammar, you'll probably notice that many places serving food often need help with either proofreading or translation of their menu, advertisements or website. Offer your assistance for a small fee or for free as a trial period, and the manager will probably come running back to you for more help if you do a good job. Some places might even have a newsletter you can sign up for, so check to see if it needs some English help. Don't forget to scope out their website as well.

3) Inflight magazines are a huge, well-paying market that is constantly expanding with the growth of low-cost airlines. Each time you fly, use your flight time to carefully read through the magazine and get a good idea of the writing style and range of topics. Look up their website and contact info, and send them a query.

4) Contact local NGOs and nonprofits and find out if they might want some help with their communications department. These organizations are constantly looking for solid sponsors and need to send out professional emails and informational packets in English. You won't make a ton of money by working for a nonprofit, but you will be contributing to a good cause, and may eventually land yourself a staff position, if that's what you are looking for. In Bombay, I was given a small but sufficient stipend to help a local NGO in corresponding with their corporate sponsor relations via e-mail and also to write up a few surveys that they were conducting.

5) Check out local university bulletin boards (put on a backpack and you can slip right into any academic building with the students). Some students will put up notices asking for help in editing or proofreading their English language essays or research papers. Conversely, you can post a notice with your number or e-mail advertising your editing/proofreading/research guidance abilities in English. I once responded to a bulletin board flier from a Czech PhD student (at a university in Prague) who needed help in editing and preparing the English translation of his doctoral thesis - it turned to be a nice, long project, since the thesis was rather complicated, and I ended up learning a good amount of Czech too!

6) NETWORK! There's never an end to networking, but this can help you especially when you are abroad and outside of familiar territory. Keep an eye out for local writer's groups. Usually these will be expat groups, but some of these expats may have been expats for years and can teach you a thing or two about the town you now call home. If you are a part of Rotary or Toastmasters or Kiwanis or any such international organization, join the local chapter right away! If you aren't already on it, join Facebook, LinkedIn and even Twitter, and hook up with everyone you start to meet in your new city. Also, keep your LinkedIn page up to date on your whereabouts, and you might just hear from an editor searching for the inside scoop on your city. You can also meet a plethora of new and fascinating people from an infinity of backgrounds if you join http://www.CouchSurfing.org or http://www.InterNations.org. And do not forget your alma mater -- check out the alumni database online to see if anyone from your university currently lives in or near your new hometown. And, don't cringe, but you may as well browse through your local Craigslist. You never know...

7) Take a walk. Stroll around your town like a detective and peer into office buildings, write down business names and addresses, take pictures of the signs. See if any of these places look like they could use your native English skills in one way or another. Likely candidates include translation agencies, marketing and PR firms, advertising agencies, bookstores, tour guide companies, hotels, or even an embassy or cultural center (better chance if you know their language!). Basically, think about companies that need to reach an English-speaking audience. Find their contact info and send them a nice email with your CV.

8) Join a co-working group or space. Here you are bound to meet other freelancers (writers and otherwise) who can give you the lowdown on your town, who might have some leads for you, or even have some work to load off on you.

9) Look up any local publishing houses, like an independent small press or an academic press. Contact the editors there to see if they need any English language proofreading, editing, research or other help.

10) Always have your camera with you. Try to invest in a good one that will produce high-res pictures. Take pictures often when you are out and about, not just when the mood strikes you or when you want to send mom a picture of the lasagna you made from her recipe. Travel articles especially require engaging and high-res photos as an accompaniment. The more photos you have to choose from, the better your chance at getting the article accepted. There are even publications that accept photo essays in addition to articles, or you might even look into selling your photos at photography stock websites, like http://www.shutterstock.com or http://www.istockphoto.com.

11) Make sure your resume is up to date and up to standard of the country you are living in. Most places outside the US will call your resume a CV; some require your head shot to go along with it. Have one of your new friends go over your CV with you and make any necessary changes.

12) Advertise your freelance English language services all over town: post flyers on those university bulletin boards, in bookstores, at student cafes, at language centers, place ads in the classified section of the local English language newspaper and/or magazine and of course on any local expat community portals or websites. See if you can get one of your new friends to translate your ad into the local language and place it in local language publications - some of your best clients might come from this effort.

13) Print up business cards, both in English and the local language. Or, have one side of the card in English and one side in the local language. Make sure you take a big handful with you when you head out to network, or just always carry them on you (just like your camera!) because you never know when an opportunity might present itself.

14) Try to contact local artists and musicians to see if they need any help with bios, posters, flyers, CD booklets. In Prague, I met musicians who were not native English speakers, but wanted their music to enter into the English market. So they needed help proofreading, editing and even writing their English lyrics.

15) Persist! The longer you are living in your new city, the more time you have to get acquainted with how things work. You will meet all sorts of people who can lead you to other people and job connections. If you can't get at least one local gig within the first month or two, you aren't trying hard enough!

Copyright © 2011 Suchi Rudra
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.


Suchi Rudra is a full time expat and freelance writer who has lived here and there but prefers there. When not scribbling on Post-it notes, she likes hanging out at airports, singing in smoky cafes and learning languages through osmosis. Her writing can be found at Transitions Abroad, EuropeUpClose.com, India Currents, The Writer, Expats.cz, and other publications. Her first book, Kitaab, written after a year-long stay in Bombay, was published last summer. She is currently putting together her next book, a short story collection.

 

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