Crunch Ranjani: “I don’t see myself giving up being a freelancer any time soon.”
As a full-time traveller/part-time freelancer, the world is digital nomad Crunch Ranjani's workplace.
Many people make a conscious decision to freelance after being attracted to the idea of working for themselves. But the same can’t be said for digital nomad Crunch Ranjani, who describes herself as having “fallen into freelance writing”.
Bitten by the travel bug in her university days, Crunch knew that it was her goal to travel the world. So after about a year in the workforce as an enrichment centre teaching associate, she resigned from her job and hopped onboard a one-way flight to Argentina to begin a new adventure.
While she was having a blast backpacking around the globe, a problem started rearing its ugly head: she was running out of money.
Fortunately for Crunch, a friend was able to throw her a lifeline.
“I was teaching English in Costa Rica at that time and by chance, a friend I met there told me that her company was looking for a writer to take on a small project,” recounts Crunch.
“Since I enjoyed writing – and needed the money – I thought, why not?”
Fast forward to today, 3 years later, where Crunch now offers freelance writing, editing and proofreading services to clients all over the world. Her typical work day starts at 7 am (in her local time zone), where she has coffee before tackling her projects.
She works until about lunchtime, where she knocks off and heads out to explore her current city for the rest of the day. (At the time of this interview, Crunch was travelling in Mexico.)
Not your usual work life
Crunch estimates that she works about 20 hours a week, with some variations. She also readily acknowledges that her work life is quite different from that of the typical Singaporean.
“The people I know back home ask me, ‘You have so much free time, why aren’t you working more?’” she shares. “Well, I write to fund my travels. If I spend all my time working, I can’t enjoy myself travelling!
And it’s not as if I’m on 100% vacation mode when I’m travelling too, because I have to make sure to complete my work within the deadlines. Doing so takes a certain level of discipline.”
Such discipline has helped her stay on track with work despite her travel schedules, which can be hectic.
If she is aware that a deadline may clash with a flight or bus ride, Crunch tries to finish her work ahead of time. But as far as possible, she aims to avoid such tricky situations in the first place.
“Most of the time, I schedule flights and long bus rides on days where I don’t have work,” reveals Crunch.
“That said, I’ve also been known to work while in transit and camped out next to the only available power outlet at the bus station.”
As is the standard operating procedure for digital nomads, Crunch relies heavily on the Internet to communicate with clients, and to send and receive work files. But with her penchant for travelling to rural and/or less touristy areas, reliable Internet access can sometimes be hard to come by.
In such situations, a file upload task that may usually take 20 minutes to complete can end up dragging on for many – painful – hours.
To overcome spotty Internet connection issues, Crunch parks herself at Internet cafés with better Wi-Fi connectivity. In a pinch, she may even resort to the pricier option of using her phone’s data hotspot. “But thankfully this hasn’t happened that often.”
“I need to keep putting myself out there”
At present, Crunch is working on diversifying her client base to improve her job security. Most of her income currently comes from one client, and she’s looking to work with more in case that client were to leave – and take a large portion of her rice bowl with them.
While she has dutifully set up social media pages to advertise her services online, Crunch has found word-of-mouth most effective in helping her secure projects. (It was a referral from a friend that kick-started her freelance career, after all.)
“I’ve learnt that I need to keep putting myself out there,” shares Crunch. “I have to keep forming connections with others, and letting them know what I do and how I can help.”
But this doesn’t mean Crunch takes on every potential client that comes her way. As a native English speaker and holder of 2 university degrees, Crunch knows her worth. She has no qualms rejecting those who expect her to write for cheap.
“When I first started offering freelance services, I was worried about paying the bills and making ends meet. As a result, I was happy to take whatever I was offered,” admits Crunch.
“But as I’ve built up my portfolio and experience in the industry, I feel more comfortable turning down clients who are not a good fit for my business.”
Balancing work with travel
By being selective about the clients she takes on, Crunch also ensures she has sufficient time to travel – a luxury which she credits to her living the freelance life.
“I’ve come to enjoy the flexibility that freelancing has afforded me to work – and travel – at my convenience. I’m not likely to get such flexibility with a typical 9-to-5 job.”
She cites the example of how she usually works on projects in the morning, but can choose to do the work in the evening instead if she has morning travel plans on a particular day.
Crunch also relishes how her “workplace” can be virtually anywhere. She could be writing in her hostel, a co-working space, a café – it doesn’t matter, as long as she gets the job done.
By Crunch’s estimate, she’s visited about 50 countries in her entire lifetime so far. She loves the freedom that being a freelancer has given her to travel to the ends of the earth, and doesn’t see herself giving up such a lifestyle any time soon.
“I hope to be able to continue this forever, and I will do my best to keep it going.”
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