Chuifen Village Downtown

For the most part, freelancers tend to work in relative isolation out of their home offices. There are some that may have a desk at a coworking space, but I imagine that the home office — in some form or another — is probably the norm. And this is probably true of freelance writers, photographers and graphic designers alike. In this way, we’ll tend to spend hours on end, staring at the same computer monitor and the same four walls and we’ll do this for most of our days out of the year.

Out of the Home Office and into the World

It’s a configuration that is generally cost-effective and gets the job done, but it doesn’t do much in terms of expanding your horizons or broadening your perspective. Given the international nature of the online economy, we really can’t constrain ourselves to a single culture in a single city. Having been born and raised in Vancouver, I can tell you that this city has a certain way about it that is distinctly different from somewhere like Seattle, a mere two-hour drive across the border. And Vancouver is different from Edmonton or San Francisco or Los Angeles.

If you want to understand the different cultural norms of the world, you have to take off your blinders and visit these places. Reading about the boulangeries and museums in France is not at all the same as actually visiting them. Hearing about the sense of personal responsibility in Japan is not the same as experiencing it for yourself. Seeing pictures of the night markets in Taiwan cannot be compared to personally navigating the maze of food stalls.

What Does This Have to Do with Freelancing?

Consider this: everything that you bring to the table has potential value to your clients. Local wedding photographer Tomasz Wagner is well-traveled and he has great knowledge of many international cultures. What this means is that he can be just as comfortable shooting a conventional western wedding as he is shooting one that involves all kinds of traditions from China or India. Because he understands the customs and the ceremonies, he can better serve his clients than someone who doesn’t know anything about the tea ceremony or the significance of the henna.

When you travel the world, you gain knowledge and experience. You could try to soak in international cultures by proxy by visiting Chinatown or Little Italy, but that’s not at all the same as going to Beijing or Florence. This also helps to open you up to new opportunities to work with international clients, because you can better understand their culture and their needs. And you can help them broaden their reach to international markets too, because you have a better understanding how their message might translate in Australia or Brazil.

Never Stop Growing

In theory, I can work anywhere I have an Internet connection and this is going to be true for many other freelancers too. Thanks to cloud storage and remote access, there’s a lot that can be accomplished over the web. Whether you’re renting an apartment in Chiang Mai or you’re backpacking through Berlin, you can still work while gaining this valuable experience. So, go do it. These kinds of life experiences cannot be gleaned from reading blog posts.