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My Freelance Life in Ecuador

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Hi there. My name is Krista Wenz and I work as a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader. I am a native English speaker, born and raised in the United States. In 2012, after going on a month-long vacation to Ecuador, I decided I wanted to move there. It’s a beautiful country which is full of history and warm, friendly people. I wanted to experience a different culture, to learn a foreign language, and to live life in a more peaceful place. When I moved to Ecuador, I had retired from a large metropolitan fire department where I had worked as a Firefighter Paramedic for 20 years. During that time, I had also worked as an adjunct EMT and Paramedic Instructor for a local community college and a private school. Part of my job description was to develop course curricula and edit and proofread technical documents. I have always loved to read and excel at spelling, so this came easy to me and it’s enjoyable work. I started working at a young age and have a lot of other work experience. I have worked as a server in multiple restaurants, worked in construction and landscaping, was an apprentice stonemason, worked in nurseries, was a home health aide providing caregiving services, and have been the project manager on many large budget projects. Little did I know, these past experiences would help me in my freelancing career.

How I Started Freelancing
After retiring, I became “antsy”, and wanted to find an avenue to continue doing the work I loved and was good at. I have never been a person who gets bored and there are a lot of activities I participate in, but I wanted something more mentally stimulating. After searching the internet, I found Upwork and decided to try my hand at freelance editing, proofreading, and writing. Once I was accepted to Upwork, I figured it would be easy to get clients with my past work experience. How wrong I was! What I discovered is it’s hard to get clients without having feedback from other clients. But to get feedback, I need clients. And on top of that, there is something Upwork has that is called your Job Success Score (JSS). Most clients want to hire a freelancer with a score of 90% or above. But to get a JSS score, you need clients and positive feedback. I felt stuck, and almost left Upwork many times, but I did not want to be defeated. So, I decided to take jobs that paid less so I could work towards building up my feedback and to be more marketable to future clients. And that paid off. Once I started building up my feedback and JSS score, I started receiving offers for more lucrative jobs. I decided to narrow down my niche so I could find specific clients that were looking for my specialty, which is my many years of experience working as a first responder and healthcare instructor. Once I became more specific in what I was looking for, I started getting clients who were looking for medical writing and editing, and for content creation of healthcare curriculum. Because of my other past work experience covering a wide range of topics, I have been awarded multiple Subject Matter Expert (SME) contracts based upon a certain skill I have. For example, I am considered an SME in project management since I have over 5 years of experience doing the work. I am an SME in healthcare because of my past work history. I recommend to anyone wanting to break into freelancing to write down all your skills and market them. In addition to Upwork, I am in the process of building a small website to help promote my services. I have used LinkedIn but haven’t contracted with clients from there. I have friends who have websites and they have had good success with bringing in new clients once it ranked high enough on a search engine.

The Challenges of Freelancing
Besides getting those first clients as a freelancer, there are definite challenges to being self-employed. I do not have covered health insurance, but fortunately, Ecuador has a very good health care system which I pay $80/month for. That covers me and my husband 100% with no deductibles. I need to be disciplined and set money aside to pay taxes since I am still a US resident and must file my yearly taxes on the income I earn as a freelancer. Another challenge is the unknown of when your next job or paycheck will be coming. But I have found if I am sending daily proposals to posted jobs, along with repeat clients and referrals from clients, I have enough work to keep me busy and am able to live comfortably. I don’t believe a universal basic income would work for me, as I like to work hard to make my money. Another challenge can be the client. I have been fortunate to have respectful, communicative clients, but have had a few who have been challenging. It seems the biggest difficulty for some is a lack of communication. I don’t quite understand this. I am hired to do a job for a client, and they tell me to ask if I have any questions about the material. I look through the material, make a list of questions if I have any, and write the client back with my questions. One, two, three days go by and still no response. I am unable to complete the job without having my questions answered. I write to my client, explaining why I cannot move forward, and still no communication. This has only happened a few times, but it’s frustrating because I want to complete the job and move to the next one and not have unfinished business.

The Benefits
While there are challenges, I feel the benefits of being a freelancer far outweigh the difficulties. I love the freedom of being able to set my own schedule and work from home. I don’t have to wear a uniform and can work anywhere there is an internet or Wi-Fi connection. I only apply to jobs that sound interesting and/or challenging. I can meet people from all over the world while working online. I currently have clients in Russia, Italy, Israel, Germany, Portugal, Sweden, and the United States. My work makes my clients happy and appreciative, which I find great joy in doing. Freelancing does not recognize an age or any type of discrimination. It’s many people trying to improve their lives and the lives of others, all while working remotely. I don’t think it gets any better than that!
Author: Krista Wenz