Freelance Writing versus Teaching English

Careful planning for the future has never been one of my biggest virtues, but I did come to Cambodia with a plan. In fact, I even had a back-up plan. In 2004, I took a $3000+ course in teaching English as a Second Language (TESL). Fortunately, I managed to find work in Australia for the better part of the year before I hit the road, so the course was not a complete waste of money.

When Plan A, to build and sell houses, fell flat, I confidently set out to find a job teaching English. I found none. I also found out that if I was “lucky” enough to find a job, the pay would be pathetic. It was time for Plan C, but I hadn’t yet formulated a Plan C.

Fate stepped in and in a roundabout way introduced me to the world of freelance writing. Rather than repeat myself, you can read all about it on my other blog in the post titled Starting from Scratch – My Freelance Writing Career. The title says it all: I started at rock bottom and worked my way up to the point where now I’m doing okay.

Matador U Travel Writing School

Freelance travel writing is an enticing career prospect for backpackers and expats. I know this because I used to do travel blog reviews and just about every backpacker’s travel blog started out stating an intention to make money travel writing as they made their way around the world. Later on, they wrote about getting gigs as teachers and living on a bowl of rice a day while they saved up for their next adventure or getting free accommodations in exchange for waitressing or bartending, but rarely about their fantastic success as freelance writers.

The problem is, millions of people travel, but few have the requisite skills or determination to make a living as freelance travel writers or freelancers of any other description, for that matter. How do you find a potential buyer for your work? How do you go about pitching yourself? Is your subject matter original enough to compel a publisher to overlook all your grammatical errors and accept your submission? For that matter, how do you find publishers to submit to? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself before you decide you’re going to make freelance travel writing your career or even part-time career.

Both here and on my other blog, Writing Resources, I am often asked, “How did you do it?” Well, although I’m a college dropout, I did major in English and developed my writing skills there. I did some freelance writing for print publications over the years, so was relatively confident in my abilities when I started writing full-time. However, I didn’t know where or how to find assignments online, so I started my new career from rock bottom. It was a painful process.

Just as my $3000 TESL course ultimately got me a job as a teacher of English as a second language in Australia, I seriously believe the MatadorU Travel Writing Course can help you launch your writing career – but only if you’re serious. It’s not one of those idiotic “How to make a 6 figure income as a freelance writer” ebooks, but a comprehensive course of study that can get you started in the right direction. It also costs a lot less than my TESL course did and you won’t have to attend classes in person. Check it out.

In the battle between freelance writing versus teaching English, writing was the hands down winner for me. It may or may not be for you, but if something about it really grabs you, go for it.

6 Responses to Freelance Writing versus Teaching English

  1. Kiet Thaven says:

    Hi, I am a freelance English teacher, translator and writing articles. In this present day I am living in Kompot, Cambodia. I am looking to help on those who are in need for people to work with. Hopefully, can help in the most friendly way. For more information details, Please kindly do contact me by these; hand phone : (+855) 010222070 and Email:
    Mr. Kiet Thaven

  2. Kiet Thaven says:

    Hi, I am a Cambodian man, living in Kompot the city of Cambodia and having a high proficiency of English skills. I have also studied my English at Singapore. I am a freelance English teacher and worker for helping to those who are in need. Please kindly do contact me by my hand phone: (+855) 010222070 and Email:
    Mr. Kiet Thaven

  3. Hi my name is jim williamson I was given your name by a mutual friend of ours Jan Cornall.(jan and I worked at the Pram Factory together in the 1970s and worked on shows together) My partner Vanessa Newton-Brown and I are trying to get funding for a project called the KEP CHILDREN’S WRITERS FESTIVAL. The project is in its very early stages, more like a foetus than an embryo at this stage. But it would be great if we could generate some enthusiasm for this idea from people who are locally connected to the place. here is a brief outline of our idea , if you could have a squiz at the idea and if you have any suggestions they would be gratefully received sincerely your Jim and Vanessa

    The Kep Children’s Writers Festival
    1. Our motive is to initiate an event over one week in Kep Cambodia that is a celebration of children’s writing. with an ongoing benefit that encourages Cambodian and international children’s authors and illustrators to engage in the reading of their work , daily workshops , masterclasses and skills exchange.
    2. We would like to use the other writers festivals that currently exist as a model, but with the difference being this events principal focus is children’s literature.
    3 achieved by bringing 10 successful authors/illustrators from outside the country to engage in performances and workshops over a 7 day period.
    4 to set up a project based learning framework where ‘effective applied learning and communication is the result”
    5 to provide opportunity to enhance outcomes leading to effective communication through “practitioner” mentor based teaching.
    6 By setting up a practise model, our intention is to set precedents that can be easily followed and for the event to then be ongoing on an annual basis.
    7 Give young aspiring Cambodian and Australian children’s writers and illustrators the opportunity to develop through cultural exchange a vision of themselves in the Asia Pacific region.
    8 We seek to create an annual event that will attract Primary school teachers and librarians and other interested parties from outside the country to travel to Cambodia and thereby establish forums for the free exchange of ideas and skills between Cambodians with the central theme being children’s literature. That includes both traditional folklore and contemporary stories.

    1. Why Kep?
    2. Kep is located at 152 km South from Phnom Penh, 24 km from the Vietnamese border, on the coast of Cambodia and bordering the Gulf of Siam. Kep (ខេត្តកែប) literally: “Saddle of the Horse” is the smallest province with 336 km2 with a population of 40,280 inhabitants.
    3. After French colonial rule, with the Independence in 1953 Prince Norodom Sihanouk assured Kep’s status as the “Saint-Tropez of South-East Asia”. Cambodian people built villas influenced by the Modern architecture Movement, in which Le Corbusier was widely concerned, after World War II. But, the existence of this chic littoral lasted less than twenty years.
    4. The Vietnam War and the Khmer Rouge Regime didn’t spare homes and people in Kep. Peace returned, in a still developing country, the city now looks to the future.
    5. By staging the event in Kep, we can stimulate the local economy and gain support from the local business population which will help ensure the project’s longevity.
    6. Having the event in such a small place we can help maintain focus around the daily activities of the festival.
    7. We envisage that the event would take place during the low tourist season (October-November). With daily schedule of workshops and readings taking place in the local hotels, the schools and the sailing club.
    8. We believe by linking mutual benefit and aspiration in this way we can create a learning environment that will provide an event of significance that may have long term benefits well beyond our present imaginings.
    9. Lastly , that the festival would cover the costs of each of the authors and illustrators travel, accommodation and transport to and from Cambodia and a speakers fee of $1000.
    10. All box office receipts for the event will be distributed to the local schools in Kep.

    • Hi Jim, It sounds like a great idea, but I’m not sure I can help you. I don’t know anyone in Kep or any Cambodians who could help with a children’s writing festival. I’ll chew on it, though, and if I have any ideas or run across anyone who can help, will let you know. If you like, I can copy/paste the above and post it on a blog. What would you like the contact email to be?

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