How taking short gigs interstate can lead to more work

by Emma Lovell
20 March 2019

As much as we’d all love to find the perfect client around the corner from our home, it’s not always possible. I’ve been fortunate to have a 10-year long career while predominantly working from home. Every so often, it’s paid to take short gigs interstate with a client in their office, even if that meant moving temporarily.

In 2015, I was offered my dream contract. A role in the Media Team at World Vision Australia, an organisation I’d supported since high school. It was a three-month gig working on the historic 40 Hour Famine fundraising campaign. The only downside was that the gig was in Melbourne and I lived in Sydney. Would that stop me? No! I took the role and have since maintained a strong relationship with the organisation working on a number of contracts over the past four years, most from wherever I called home at the time.

In early 2018, work was slow and there wasn’t much on the horizon. Along came a seven-week contract with Cure Brain Cancer Foundation in the Marketing and Communications department. Perfect use of my skills, great time frame but, this one was in Sydney! Not so great news as I had since relocated to the Gold Coast. Regardless, I took the opportunity to temporarily base myself in Sydney.

But I like my home office!

Travelling interstate for work isn’t going to suit everybody – and for some freelancers, the idea of going into a client’s office is daunting and possibly restrictive. Ideally, you would be single, footloose and fancy-free – but because many of us have partners, mortgages and children, up and moving isn’t always going to be the best case scenario.

Logistically, these situations certainly weren’t ideal for me at the time (even though I was in the lovely position of knowing people in the city I was headed to, meaning cheap or even free accommodation). However, I will say that the sacrifice of temporarily moving interstate has led to continued work, new contacts and relationships and opportunities that I would never have been exposed to had I been working from my home office.

Here are some things to consider when looking at short term contracts interstate.

What are the opportunities?

Broadening your network. Through the interstate contracts, I’ve not only met impressive and dynamic colleagues, but also the partners and clients they work with. Some of those contacts have gone on to new organisations and kindly remembered me when new projects come along.

Picking up ongoing remote work. Just because you take on a three-month contract, doesn’t mean that will be the end of it. In my experience, your name will continue to pop up in conversations long after the initial contract is through.

The chance to experience a new city like a local. Fortunately, both the contracts I had were in cities where I knew people and had actually lived before. But the added benefit was getting to spend time with friends and family while earning a living. Trying new restaurants, exploring new areas and meeting interesting people were all perks of the interstate roles.

Learning new skills. Working at home, it’s easy to fall into a niche and stay in that lane. Working with teams on campaigns and projects in their office has given me a wide range of new skills and offerings for my own clients.

What are the challenges?

The costs of travel. Often when taking work interstate, the travel back and forth will be on you. If you don’t have a place to stay, that can be another cost to factor in. Generally you’re taking the opportunity because you want the gig, regardless of where it is. You can certainly discuss having flights, travel and possibly accommodation costs included as part of the contract.

Missing your loved ones. At times I desperately missed my partner. I’m certainly not built for long-term long distance. It can be hard living the day to day separately. But the weekend visits and chance to explore your temporary city together can be fun. My clients also understood that I had moved for the role and were obliging when I wanted to leave earlier on a Friday to have a weekend back in my home city.

Working with a bunch of new people. I’m an extrovert by nature with the energy of an introvert, meaning I give a lot of myself. Being surrounded by people all day really took it out of me. But finding ways to have time alone after work kept me grounded.

Managing existing clients during the contract. At times, I was working 16 -18 hour days to maintain my own clients and fulfil the full-time internal role. It’s tiring, but it’s temporary and if things can keep ticking along, all the better when the contract ends.

Finding the right accommodation

My ability to take on interstate roles has been made easier through my living circumstances and family support. The first contract was simple as I was living with my father at the time and so just ceased to pay rent there. I then rented a room in a friend’s home in Melbourne which she let out from time to time. My partner has also taken on a larger portion of the rent when I’ve moved interstate temporarily for work. You could also…

Investigate house-sitting. Websites such as House Sitters offer free accommodation in exchange for caring for someone’s home. I have also temporarily moved interstate and taken on some ‘pet sits’ – as my former side hustle, Lovelly Pet Sitters, enabled me to stay in other people’s homes and get paid to look after their furry friends.

Look into Air BnB. Doing a short term stay in an AirBnB property can be cost-effective, and it means not worrying about furniture or utilities (regardless of whether it’s a single room or entire apartment).

Serviced apartments. It’s an easy option in prime locations, though these can come at a cost.

Co-living spaces. If it’s a totally new city and you’re keen to meet others, co-living spaces may be the solution for you. Check out UKO for fully furnished studio apartments in Sydney with a social atmosphere and Google ‘co-living’ to find options in other States.

Top tip, be flexible

Remember when taking a contract interstate, it’s not giving up. It’s being agile. Some freelancers view going into an organisation as a last resort. However, contracting internally has opened a world of opportunities for me and led to many ongoing contracts, not just with the initial organisation but with contacts and businesses I’ve worked with during the contracts.

I love my new network of ‘virtual colleagues’ whose skills, insight and friendship I highly value.

Do you take on short gigs interstate or away from home? We’d love to hear your experiences.

Emma Lovell
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