As ClearVoice expands our talent roster and client list internationally, we’ve begun reaching out to top-tier freelancers in foreign but English-speaking markets. While the U.K. and Canada would seem our closest cousins, quite a few folks in America share a fascination with Australia — where surf culture permeates even major cities, wild animals hop on two legs, and everyone seems to have a more laid-back yet more intense approach to enjoying life. Australia is similar to the U.S.A. in many ways, but it‘s the differences that fascinate us.
I was very eager to chat with Aussie permalancer and blogger Lindy Alexander of TheFreelancersYear about the self-employed creative lifestyle on her side of the world. While she couldn’t give the magic formula for a U.S. citizen to land a temporary life-swap in Oz, she did share plenty of helpful insights on pay rates… and her own parallel wanderlust to live and work in the southwestern U.S.A.
She also confirmed that, indeed, Australians love to have adventures, so all those dozens of “nomad with a laptop” Instagram feeds you’ve seen from Australian expats are representative of a real professional lifestyle. (A lifestyle in which the teams at ClearVoice are also believers.)
What’s the average pay range for different common types of writing assignment? Blog post, feature article, podcast script, “About Us” section. Do you know how it compares with the U.S.?
This is a big question! And it doesn’t have a nice, straightforward answer, but here goes! All rates are in Australian dollars (AUD).
[CV note: The exchange rate AUD to U.S. dollars (USD) is approximately 1 AUD = .75 USD. This discrepancy is important to keep in mind when pitching and discussing rates with Australian clients.]
For Australian newspapers (print), the going rate is around $0.65 a word (but for weekend supplements and in-depth features this can be up to $1/word. Online versions of newspapers typically pay a little less (around $0.50/word), but again this really varies depending on the outlet, the editor, the writer and the section.
With blog posts, that’s pretty tricky because it depends on the client. I think most Australian writers would agree that $1 per word is a decent rate and that $0.50 a word is probably towards the lower end. That said, lots of writers will offer flat fees for blog posts (e.g., $300 for 600-700 words).
From what I gather from friends and colleagues, it seems like we have less of the outlets that pay very little (e.g., $20 for a blog post), but it’s a rare publication that would pay over $1 a word, whereas I think there are quite a few in the U.S.A. that pay $1 a word and up.
I could be wrong, but it doesn’t seem that Australian writers are asked to write for free as much as U.S. writers are.
Have you ever worked in the agency world, and if so, can we compare notes? U.S. agencies are stereotypically super-high pressure, competitive — expecting people to work round the clock. U.K. agencies don’t have a better reputation; in fact, they’ve recently been represented in industry media as misogynist and ageist. Is that world kinder and gentler in Australia?
I only do a tiny bit of writing for a couple of agencies, but I don’t think staff there are expected to work around the clock. (I don’t think that’s the Australian way of life!)
What would make an Australian creative uproot and come to the U.S.A.? What do we supposedly have that Australia doesn’t?
I think Aussies see the U.S.A. as a place where dreams can come true. Where anything is possible, people dream big and work hard. Australians can be disparaging about others Aussies who achieve highly (“tall poppy syndrome“), and I think some go to the U.S. to escape that feeling that they will be cut down if they stand up too tall. The U.S. encapsulates that feeling that you can be successful and proud, whereas I think in Australia many people would accuse you of taking yourself too seriously, and you’d be seen as being full of yourself.
I see a lot of Australian “travel influencer” backpacker “social content producers.” Is nomadic the preferred lifestyle among remote-working creators? Or is that just one niche?
Australians love to travel, so I think the ability to travel but also earn money while you do so is super appealing to lots of people. If you look at Ubud in Bali, there are so many Aussies working there who are “location independent.” And while some are social content producers and travel influencers, I think lots are micro-enterprise owners and entrepreneurs in all kinds of industries.
If you could work and live in one U.S. city for a year, what would it be and why?
Oooh, don’t tempt me! I visited Boulder, Colorado, some years back and totally loved it. I loved the college vibe, the great cafes and the outdoor lifestyle. But I think I’d pick somewhere I’d never been, like Santa Fe in New Mexico. I’d love to learn more about the native Americans from the area, eat some fantastic food, and visit all the beautiful national parks.
I was quite obsessed with the U.S.A. when I was younger. In my early 20s I wanted to work in the U.S.A. so badly that I entered the green card lottery a couple of times but never got anywhere. I then applied to work in Canada for a year, figuring that if I couldn’t be in the U.S.A., I could at least be nearby!
What destinations in the U.S. do the best job of marketing themselves to Australia, in your mind?
I think New York, Hawaii and California are the big names in U.S. marketing in Australia, but lately I’ve heard a lot more about Colorado, Philadelphia, and Oregon.
In your blog, you talk about a false start to your freelance career. What was that all about? (This has nothing to do with comparing two countries/cultures — just want to hear more about your journey, since you’ve gotten to such a successful place after the false start.)
It was a few years ago now, and I felt like I was ready to make the move to becoming a full-time freelance writer. But as so often happens, several editors I had been working with left their post and I had a bit of a crisis of confidence. I wasn’t sure that I could make the same amount of money as I was making in my social work job and with my PhD scholarship, so I shelved the idea. I think at the time I thought I’d never be able to go full time.
But three or so years later, I was in a much better state to make the transition. I had saved up a financial buffer, worked on building diverse relationships with editors, and was really strategic in how I approached it. And it worked.
You have a profile of Nikki Vargas on your blog. As it happens, I have worked with — and am a fan of — her Unearth Women co-founder Kae Lani Kennedy. How do you see, as a blogger, the Internet and social media closing the distance in ideas, alliances and collaborations?
I think it’s the most exciting time to be a writer because of what you mentioned. The Internet and social media are bringing us closer together. I have coached writers from all over the world, and I’m always amazed at how similar the challenges we face are. I love that there are thousands of writers out there not only writing, but creating magazines, writing blogs, making documentaries and so on. All you need is to discover them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etcetera, and you can become part of their world. In Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes talks about finding your tribe. I think more of us, now more than ever, are finding our tribes of writers and creative, because the internet is bridging the distance between us.