Making Money as a Writer While Seeing the World

Stephen L Dalton

I have been freelance writing and editing for seven years while living in three countries and visiting 17 others.

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Open an American Bank Account before You Go

Freelancing is a great way to earn money while traveling. However, having an American bank, PayPal, and a credit card can make life much easier.

I would advise you to get a Schwab checking account with ATM. Schwab refunds overseas ATM fees. There may be other banks that do that too, but I am not aware of any. Using most overseas ATM costs a minimum of $5.00 for each use beyond what your bank charges for a foreign transaction fee. That can make a big difference.

Think about how many times per month you use an ATM. Now, multiply that by $5.00. It could easily cost you $200 or $300 a month. You must have an American bank account for many of the things you will want to do while traveling overseas.

I know this from experience because I canceled my American bank account because of some of the things they were doing. However, when I tried to set up a 529 College Savings account for my granddaughter, I wasn’t able to do it very easily. I could not transfer funds from an overseas bank. Many other transactions were declined when I used my bank Mastercard debit card, even though I have a US Dollar account.

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Photo by Nick Pampoukidis on Unsplash

Get a Credit Card & Save Money

Processing a tax return to a foreign bank is nearly impossible, so having a US bank, routing number, and checking/savings account number is essential. Another thing to consider is a credit card that provides cash back and miles. Although it may seem contrary to everything everyone’s ever told you about saving money, a credit card overseas can be beneficial in two ways, cashback, and travel miles.

Capital One is an excellent card for traveling. I use mine almost exclusively rather than taking cash from an ATM. I pay my card off when I get paid. Then, I get cashback and miles. And now, I can use my miles to make purchases on Amazon. I bought all my 2020 Christmas gifts with miles. Plus, with Amazon Prime, I can wait until the last minute to shop and know they will get there on time.

I keep a small amount of cash in local currency for coffee shops and other venues that don’t accept a credit card. I make most of my large purchases with my cashback card instead of my debit card. That way, I get cashback from most purchases and travel miles too! I actually have two Capital One cards. I keep one at home and the other in my wallet. I lost my card one time, and it took nearly a month to get another. Ouch! Plus, using a credit card will save you the hassle of foreign exchanges.

Set Up a PayPal Account

Set up a PayPal account before you begin your travels. You can set up a PayPal account in some other countries. But it’s a lot more complicated, and it is usually tied to a local bank using the local currency. What's more, with PayPal and Xoom working together, you can send cash to friends and family for only $4.99. It is way cheaper than Western Union.

Alternatively, you can use a different service, such as Payoneer. Still, most freelance companies use PayPal to pay. Plus, with PayPal, if you order something and don’t get it, you are usually protected by PayPal’s guarantee. Make sure to set up your account before you go. Otherwise, when you use it overseas, they will see a foreign IP address and block or limit your account, which could be very inconvenient.

Use a VPN Proxy

I use Windscribe ad blocker and proxy. What the Windscribe VPN does to protect your privacy is to give you an IP address for anywhere you wish and hide your current location. I typically use Boston because many of my clients are there.

According to WhatisMyIPAddress.com, “A virtual private network is your connection to a safer Internet experience.” I no longer get bombarded with ads after looking up a product online. Freelancers are constantly doing research. Without a VPN, I used to get tons of ads after researching products.

Plus, access to websites for research is essential for writing. Lots of online opportunities will not consider you or even let you onto their website from some overseas IP addresses. Many .gov and .org websites block IP ranges for specific countries. This practice can be very inconvenient when you are researching an article.

With Windscribe, I change my IP to something local. Say, I am doing a legal document and need to get into the California Department of Motor Vehicles, DMV.CA.GOV. They have several Asian countries blocked. I go to my VPN and change my IP address to LA or Sacramento, and I get right into their website.

Notify Your Bank When You Visit Another Country

This is crucial for all debit and credit cards, notify them where you are traveling, so they don’t block your card when you need it most. Even though I told my bank, I need access to my money while traveling in the US, Korea, and the Philippines; I still have problems when I go to Korea. My bank still does not get that there is a South and a North Korea. I have to tell them I am going so that they do not suspend my card. When I call, they say stupid s--t like, “Korea is a terrorist or communist country. Why are you traveling there?”

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The Gorgeous Mayon Volcano Photo by Camille San Vicente on Unsplash

Working in the Country Where You Are & Social Security

Do not work for companies or individuals in the countries you are in without a work permit on your visa. You can get heavily fined and even deported. Even when it is through a service such as Guru.com or Upwork.com. In fact, it would be advisable to consult a tax lawyer before you decide to move to another country.

Likewise, if you are collecting Social Security Retirement benefits, you must meet their requirement to continue receiving benefits overseas.

It is a requirement when you are receiving Social Security to report any work you do. Although you can earn up to $18,240 in the United States without penalty, if you work more than 45 hours per month overseas, you must report it to the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Believe me; I am fighting with them right now because I have an affiliate agreement with Amazon and many others. Some will not report it until you earn more than $400. Medium sent a Form 1099 to the IRS that showed I received $125.86 last year.

That’s another reason to use PayPal for receipts and payments; it is so much easier to do your taxes with everything in one place. What’s more, they have free invoices for your use.

Freelancing & Taxes

Many countries have treaties with the US so that your retirement pension is not double taxed, but you should find out before you travel. Some countries without an agreement with the US may be inexpensive. Still, they might tax your Social Security or other pensions.

Plus, freelance income must be claimed on your income tax if you are a US citizen. US citizens or legal residents (in some cases) are required to report income no matter where it was earned. I use a Schedule C, Form 1040, to report my freelance income to the IRS. There are some benefits for foreign earned income, so get tax help from a professional if you are not sure.

When bidding sites like Guru or Upwork state only people living in the US, UK, and Canada should apply, I apply anyway. Then, I explain my circumstances.

I have been freelance writing and editing for seven years and lived overseas for all of those. During that time, I have lived in the Philippines and South Korea but have traveled to 20 countries in all.

Immigration and Visas

Immigration and Visas can be painful, so check the requirements before you go. Never, ever raise your voice to a TSA agent or Immigration official. You are a GUEST in their country, and if you don’t want to find out what the prison conditions are like, be nice. I do not comment on anything political about my guest country. To me, that would be like going to your house and insulting your cooking.

South Korea (most countries with a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the US do.) extends a 90-day Visa automatically to an American tourist, and the Philippines offers a 30-day visa upon entry. You must have a ticket leaving the country within that 30 days and show it at the airport of origin before you can board. However, some countries require that you apply and get an approved Visa before you go there. Check the requirements before you go.

Every country requires you to have six months left before your passport expires and at least one empty Visa page. Contact the American Embassy to get new visa sheets or a new passport. Let’s say you go to Korea with seven months until your passport expires and stay for two months; you will need to go to the Embassy to renew your passport before you can leave.

I’m sure there are some things I am forgetting, so if you have something in particular or personal, ask in the comments below.

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Stephen Dalton is a retired US Army First Sergeant with a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Top Writer in Virtual Reality, Sports, Short Story, Design, and Creativity. I especially like writing about design and home improvements.

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