Welcome to another installment of the Drinking Coffee With Writers series! We’re featuring writers from our community who have insight to share on their unique freelance journeys.

This week we spoke to Monique Wise, one of our original community members and savvy affordable travel writer. She creates itineraries and imparts invaluable travel tips on her website, Wanderlust My Way. You might have seen her awesome guide, How to Take Your Photos When Traveling Solo.

Here’s what Monique has to say about growing a freelance writing career, facing challenges, her favorite place to travel, and more.

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Freelance Writing Cafe: What was the #1 reason you decided to start freelancing?
Monique Wise: I honestly wanted to make money doing what I loved to do. I knew I loved to travel and naturally ended up writing about it. I then learned that other people who looked like me (that’s important) were getting paid to do the same thing I was doing for free! I wanted in!

How did your freelance journey begin?
Because I started as a blogger, the first time I got paid was from someone wanting to advertise on post I wrote. The first time I officially got paid for writing about travel for others was through Upwork. Like many others, I received a lot of “No”s before I received my first “Yes”—and lucky for me it was an ongoing project. I was writing about various attractions in NYC. Even if it wasn’t much, knowing I was getting paid for each piece I turned in motivated me more.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned so far?
I quickly learned to diversify my income. Not all money will come from Instagram. Not all money will come from freelance gigs. Not all money will come from ads on my website. I’ve done plenty of odd jobs that don’t fall under the title of “freelance writer” just to get by sometimes—and while that won’t be everyone’s story, I learned to adjust. I’ve managed social media for small businesses, been a ghost writer, Instagram influencer, the list goes on.

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What is something you still struggle with as a freelance writer?
I struggle with finding consistent, long-term clients. A lot of the jobs I come across and apply to are one-off assignments or have an end date. I’d love to find a client and build a long term work relationship.

What advice would you give to freelancers who are just starting out?
When it comes to securing clients, you have to branch out and not stick to one platform or medium to find them. And when you do find them, don’t be afraid to ask them to pay you what you’re worth. Working for pennies an hour won’t be of much help to you or your fellow freelancers that come behind you.

What is your favorite thing about freelancing?
I love working on my own time, to an extent. There will always be a due date so you don’t have all the time in the world, but I love working through the morning and stopping at noon if I feel like it because that’s when I work best. Or if I have a productivity burst at 9pm, I can work then because I create my own schedule.

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What is your favorite app, tool, or tip?
I have a couple tips/tools! I use Keysearch to assist with the SEO of my blog posts. I find keywords and phrases that people are actually searching for on google rather than coming up with some random title that will never be seen by anyone other than a few loyal readers. I then love creating an outline of each section I want to write about. This helps to avoid mindlessly writing with no direction. I get straight to the point and answer the questions people are searching for while also being able to showcase my personality.

What’s your favorite way to plan content?
If you are a freelance content creator/virtual assistant, I highly recommend using tools that allow you to plan out your content in advance. I’ve used some that allow me to schedule 10 days in advance (on the free version) and others that have no limit so I would plan out and schedule a month of content. This allowed me to focus my time and energy elsewhere.

Do you have a go-to mantra or quote that keeps you inspired?
What’s for me is for ME. It helps with envy. Just because you see someone else with a thing or opportunity it just means it was their time to have it. Be patient. Bigger and better may be coming to you.

What’s your favorite hot beverage to sip while working?
Earl grey tea, even right now.

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How do you find the motivation to work when you’re distracted or having a bad day?
If I’m feeling distracted I sometimes allow myself to be. I don’t wait until the last minute when I have a project due so I usually have some wiggle room. If I’m distracted by something I want to read or social media, or even a video I want to watch, I simply allow myself 10-15 minutes to do that and then get back to work for an allotted time. I’ll do that throughout the day.

What is your favorite place to travel to?
Paris is my favorite city on earth, but during this quarantine my mind has been in Central Europe and I’ve been thinking about heading back to countries like Montenegro, Croatia, and Hungary. Places with a low cost of living and high quality of life, in my opinion.

What advice would you give to other freelance writers who want to travel while they work?
If you rent Airbnb’s, make sure they have reliable WiFi. A lot of people lie about this so be sure to have them do a WiFi speed test and screenshot the results if you’re concerned. Also take into account how you work. I do best in peace and quiet. So renting a room in a home with children (especially those of a young age) isn’t a good idea for me unless I plan to do all work outside of the home or while they’re sleeping. Speaking of doing work outside…are there nearby cafes? I’ve been in remote places where there aren’t. Make sure the tools that keep you productive are at your disposal.

What’s one interesting thing about you that people might not know?
People know I love to travel but a lot of people with wanderlust have an idea of where they’d like to settle down and when. I personally have no desire (at the moment) to ever do that. There are places I would love to live, but stay forever? No thanks. Even with a spouse and kids I’d still want to live the nomadic life.

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Don’t forget to visit Wanderlust My Way and give Monique a follow on Instagram!

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Images via Monique Wise