Lu-Hai Liang

thoughts from a freelance foreign correspondent

Reader, I’ve been living on £744 a month

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Ao Nang: February is a great time to go to Thailand

Since the beginning of this year I have traveled to Spain, Thailand, Hong Kong, Chengdu, and Qingdao. Only one of those places was for work, all the others were for holidays. And I’ve done it all by earning, on average, £744 a month.

Let’s put that figure into context. In December I secured a freelance contract with a PR firm. They pay me Chinese RMB 5,000 a month guaranteed (that’s about £500). Having this stable income has been a godsend. The work is copywriting and editing, and only requires a laptop and a smartphone to do it, without office requirements.

Since January I’ve had some other freelance work come in. A significant one came in January. An Australian publication asked me to write two travel articles of 600 words each. I received £458.69 in total for the two articles. At the time I was staying with my parents in England, as I’d gone back to visit for Christmas.

The travel articles money paid for two trips: to Spain and to Thailand. Spain was cheap — flights from Easyjet or Ryanair are cheap as chips. I stayed with a friend of mine in Valenicia and enjoyed myself with copious amounts of Spanish red wine which is good and incredibly affordable.

Thailand cost a little more. But there were excellent flight deals on at the time. I could have flown straight to Beijing from London. But after checking I found that flights from London to Phuket, and from Phuket to Beijing did not cost that much more than a direct flight to Beijing. January to March are by far the best times to go to Thailand and I love the country so I booked myself another holiday.

Another big freelance payment came in June. A content marketing company asked me to go to Chengdu (a city of 10 million in south-central China, about three hours flight from Beijing). The company would pay me €200 for 350 words and agreed to cover travel expenses. This allowed me to visit Chengdu and a friend, with whom I stayed. I then went to Qingdao, a seaside city on China’s eastern seaboard, where I stayed at a friend’s for a week.

There were some smaller freelance gigs here and there, and a couple of medium-sized ones for which I haven’t been paid yet. But in the majority of cases, the freelance work found me. The two big assignments I’ve mentioned (the Aussie travel publication and the Chengdu gig) both of those assignments just landed in my inbox one day, and all I had to do was say “yes” to the job.

I’d never worked with the Aussie publication before and I guess they found me via my online presence — which is this blog you’re reading, or Twitter or LinkedIn. The content marketing company I’d worked with before and I guess they needed me again. But they also found me to begin with, not the other way around.

There are two points here: if you’re a freelancer you really, really, should have an online presence. And two: traveling is easy and not that costly. It’s only time and willingness you need.

Combining my freelance assignments with the steady RMB 5,000 from the freelance contract adds up to an average of £744 a month — my monthly earnings so far this year. And it goes further because my rent is not that high, living in Beijing, and I don’t spend on clothes and gadgets. Otherwise I go out quite a bit, and eat out regularly. It’s pretty good.

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Written by Lu-Hai Liang

July 12, 2016 at 5:25 am

Posted in Features

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