Insider Tips to Becoming a Successful Freelancer Abroad

Insider Tips to Becoming a Successful Freelancer Abroad

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Freelancer Annabelle Azade. Photo courtesy of author.

Annabelle Azadé, a French 29-year-old globetrotter, has lived on four continents freelancing as an international correspondent. From Bangkok to Tel Aviv, New York to London, she has used her language, writing and technical skills to work as a fashion and lifestyle writer, an on-air political reporter, social media director, copywriter and translator. She currently lives in Paris and is here long enough to share her insider tips with INSPIRELLE on how to happily succeed as an expat working abroad.

Annabelle, where have you lived and what were the major differences in terms of working?

Right after I graduated, I decided to see the world and lived for six years abroad in Bangkok, Tel Aviv, New York and London.

I began my freelance activity in Bangkok and I was there at a time where the political situation was pretty much peaceful and the economy was good. Clubs, malls and restaurants were popping up everywhere, as well as new designers, and locals were very enthusiastic about the trends. I think it has changed since then, but it was very easy to pitch new topics to London and Paris-based media as there were very few correspondents on site to compete with!

Then I hit New York. I was a fashion assistant for a PR agency, and I used the opportunity meet a lot of journalists during fashion events. I even got the chance to pop up at the legendary Vogue office!

I found London to be a big city to mingle in and find people who are looking for work. As I mainly cover lifestyle and politics, Brexit and fashion weeks kind of filled up my schedule quite easily.

Annabelle Azade on air in Tel Aviv. © Annabelle Azade

On the other hand, Tel Aviv is pretty small, so you tend to know everyone. It’s rather hard to freelance on site, but there are tons of original events happening, so I enjoyed finding new story angles and covering fashion and lifestyle for French-speaking media abroad.

Paris is a VERY exclusive city. I tend to pitch stories from Paris to foreign media and foreign stories to French media. The market is saturated and the competition is very high, so if you want to pitch something French to a French media outlet, you really need to be on the mark with your offer! Make sure to double check your grammar too, as French people are very picky about spelling mistakes!

While writing on fashion in Bangkok, lifestyle, tech and politics in London and Tel Aviv, I developed a reputation and people started calling me to publish stories.

The first thing I would say is that it takes time, and if you want to be a freelancer over the long term, you need to be patient and confident.

Interview with PDG of Ces Gary Shapiro. © Annabelle Azade

You’ve been able to re-establish yourself wherever you’ve moved. What are the first steps to take when settling somewhere new?

I would recommend anticipating as much as you can. First off, never underestimate that you will need money to buy you time. Make sure to have at least three months of salary saved. Networking-wise, try to check from your home country who are the biggest influencers in your industry in the country you want to live in. Information is so easy to get nowadays! You just need to check on LinkedIn, ask friends of friends… Also, I find Facebook Groups very helpful.

Once you are in the new country, make sure to attend expat events. You will be surprised how small the world is! One recommendation to another will lead to a job opportunity. Be always ready to listen to new stories and meet with new people. That is also why you want to be an expat in Paris: get a slice of the French life! Try not to judge too much a book by its cover too…which brings us to the third and last point: be humble.

In every expat experience, whether I have heard it from my friends or lived it, there is a lot of loneliness. You need to make sure you can cope with making yourself busy if you’re waiting for a call, or find your days long. It requires discipline and it is a very humbling experience. You need to make sure you can create opportunities for yourself. Don’t be shy and never take no for an answer!

Also, try to improve your pitches every time you’re meeting with people. It’s a learning curve. When I speak of loneliness, I mean that you have to capitalize on your thinking time to create a new business opportunity. This is also why you’re living abroad, to think outside of the box and do things you would have never done in your home country!

News reports by Annabelle Azade for Buzzfeed. © INSPIRELLE

What inspires you the most about being a journalist in Paris?

Paris is full of stories, but it is not easy to get them. First of all, because culturally, French people are very exclusive. You need to “dig in” to make sure you are in the right circles at the right time. People will not easily share stories.

So my advice to you, if you are freelancing in Paris: do NOT give up!

People will probably refuse to put you on the list the first time, but you’ll get there. It’s all about resilience.

The perk of being in Paris right now is that the politics are changing. The employment laws are kinder to freelancers. There are many interesting stories to tell, but as usual, stories won’t come to you! You have to be on the lookout for new stories. I particularly like to write about politics and lifestyle. I navigate between the serious and the frivolous, as it is important to have a wide range of stories to offer! At the end of the day, I’ve built up a strong network of trustworthy sources who will inform me if anything happens. It’s a great feeling to know you can rely on a small community of reliable people to get things going.

Photo courtesy of Annabelle Azade.

Does freelancing ever lead to a full-time job?

Definitely! But not a 9-to-5 job. Working full time for someone is very different. Being a freelancer is similar to becoming a lone wolf. For example, I started freelancing, then landed at several desk jobs in big newsrooms. Although you might think this is an office job, it actually wasn’t, because newsrooms don’t have breaks and you usually end up working through the night. I had many opportunities to work full time during night shifts or for morning shows, so it was a very special schedule. It requires you to be strong headed and put your job first in your life! You have to know how to keep up with a free schedule, which means that you have to know how to prioritize your tasks.

What is your favorite mantra to keep you positive?

 “The less you care, the more you dare”.

Being an expat gives you the opportunity to mingle with different sorts of people. You’ll soon be able to connect dots you would have never noticed before. Make sure to be persistent and consistent, and as time goes by you’ll grow a full community from the ground up.

Above all, I believe it’s essential to work hard when you’re abroad. You’re there for a reason: to make a name for yourself! So there’s virtually no limit on what you can achieve in terms of workload.

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