Make it Work

For Freelance Writers, Are Some Cities Better to Live In Than Others?

By Kylie Jane Wakefield July 18th, 2014

If you work in finance, you should live in New York. If you want to be an actress, you pack up your car and drive to Los Angeles. But if you’re a freelancer, does location really factor into success?

The beauty of being a freelance creative is that work can be completed virtually anywhere. With a few exceptions, all you need is a computer and a WiFi connection. However, there are some advantages to residing in New York, Los Angeles, or another large metropolitan area, depending on the niche you wish to pursue.

“If you want to get in with larger-scale publications, networking in person and being able to ask editors to grab a coffee is helpful,” said freelance writer Jenny Adams, who splits her time between New York, Alabama, and Southeast Asia.

While cold pitching is always an option regardless of the location, it may not be as effective as meeting an editor face to face and making a human connection.

“Networking is always critical,” added freelancer Kimberly Rotter, who is based in San Diego. “If you’re not able to do it in person you have to find ways to build relationships from a distance. If you’re not in New York or L.A. and you can’t go to professional events to meet other people in your industry, you have to find ways to shake people’s hands online.”

Additionally, in smaller towns, there is likely a lack of opportunities for those who want to cover local news. Adams experienced that dry spell living in Alabama, admitting that, at some point, you just hit a ceiling.

Narrowing the focus of your pitch, however, can make it appeal to a national publication. “If you live outside of New York, and you’re smart about it, you can bank on that,” she said.

Adams, who writes about bars and hotels, has been published in Travel + Leisure, the Miami Herald, and Outside. Whether she’s in Alabama, New York, or Asia, she finds stories to pitch by exploring the local scenes in faraway places like Thailand and Cambodia. “I often end up reporting on great hotels in that region,” Adams said. “I just tell my editors I’m going to be there and use Skype to call people.”

Meredith Turits, a senior culture editor at Bustle.com (and a fellow freelancer), lives in Brooklyn and employs writers from all over the United States, since there’s no need for them to be tied down by a particular homebase or central office. “Location makes a difference depending on the beats you’re covering,” Turits said. “If you’re trying to do red carpet events or go backstage and be in close proximity to the artists and celebrities, your location makes a huge difference. If your beat is insular [and involves] watching TV or doing book reviews, your location will not be contingent on it.”

New York and Los Angeles may be great places to live for creatives—as long as you can afford it. According to Adams, if you’re a freelance writer considering relocation to a major city, you also need to consider new types of freelancer work, such as writing for PR firms and ad agencies. There may be more opportunities in a metropolis, but the cost of living will likely be higher as well.

“There’s tons of work if you’re okay with begging,” Adams said. “Location depends on what you want to do and the type of person you are. You need to put yourself in the right position to be successful.”

Image by Stuart Anthony
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