6 Cheap(er) Cities Where It’s Great to be a Freelance Writer

6 Cheap(er) Cities Where It’s Great to be a Freelance Writer

One of the great perks of being a freelance writer is the possibility of taking your work with you, wherever you go.

But a few conditions make certain cities more conducive to a productive freelance life than others.

Good internet, a creative and innovative atmosphere, plenty of co-working spaces or other good places to eliminate distractions and write, and a low cost of living are essential elements for many freelancers considering leaving their home bases and starting somewhere new.

From North America to Europe, Latin America and Asia, here are some suggestions for cheap places to live that are great for the freelance lifestyle.

1. Medellin, Colombia

Although once called the most dangerous city in the world, the situation has changed in Medellin. Colombia’s second-largest city has more recently been called the world’s most innovative city.

Lisa Imogen Eldridge, a British travel writer, lived in Medellin and raves about it.

She says you can share an apartment with views, a pool, sauna and security for around £200 (US$257) a month, and have an organic food delivery for £20 (US$25) per month. The WiFi connection is fast, and there are lots of great cafes for working in and meeting people during working hours.

2. Chiang Mai, Thailand

This city in northern Thailand is a favorite among travel bloggers and digital nomads.

While this means you won’t be the only foreigner in town, it does mean there is plenty of support for the freelance lifestyle. Plus, it’s pretty, has a good climate and is cheap!

Forbes Magazine cites rents in Chiang Mai as starting at just $100 per month. Food is also extremely cheap, and there is a large network of entrepreneurs in the city with whom to bounce ideas off. Meet-ups and conferences in different industry niches are frequent.

3. Berlin, Germany

While cities in Western Europe may never be as affordable as some in Asia or Latin America, for freelancers who want or need to be in Europe, the German capital is an excellent choice.

Rent prices in Berlin are extremely affordable — cost of living index Numbeo lists a one bedroom apartment in central Berlin as costing around US$625 per month, as opposed to $2000 per month in a nearby European capital, London.

And of course, if you have a European Union passport, there are no restrictions on living and working in Germany (although citizens of the UK may need to act fast if they want to make the most of this undeniable benefit of being part of the EU).

cities to be a writer

4. Portland, Oregon

Portland is one of the best cities in the USA to embark on a freelance career, for many reasons. A large proportion of its inhabitants surely agree, as 16 percent of the city freelances for a living.

Aside from the great outdoor and leisure pursuits nearby, the city has a low average cost of rent ($960 per month).

5. Tel Aviv, Israel

The Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv is known as one of the hippest cities in the Middle East, even being called “the essence of cool” by Forbes Magazine.

While some areas of the city are cheaper to live in than others, American expat Jaclyn Mishal points out that Tel Aviv is known as one of the best start-up hubs in the world for good reason.

The city is full of cafes and co-working spaces, and South Tel Aviv is the perfect place for freelancers on a budget. Health insurance is free, or nearly free (up to $50 a month for tourist insurance), which may be a massive draw for U.S. freelancers.

It would be difficult for non-Jewish people to live in Israel permanently, but working there for a shorter period is not so hard, according to Jaclyn.

6. Lisbon, Portugal

A 2017 survey by Dutch freelance platform Hoofdkraan ranks the Portuguese capital as the best city in the world for freelancers.

While such statistical surveys should always be taken with a necessary pinch of salt (one freelancer’s heaven may be another’s hell), is seems  Lisbon does have a lot going for it.

It is cheap, the internet is fast and the environment is attractive.

If Lisbon doesn’t appeal for some reason, the Portuguese city of Porto also featured on Hoofdkraan’s list, at number 10.

It’s worth keeping in mind that depending on your passport, it may not be possible to stay in some of these destinations long-term. But that might be ideal if you just need a temporary change of pace, or if you need to reduce your cost of living while transitioning into a full-time freelance career.

Bon voyage!

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21 comments

  • Harish Desai says:

    when will you start covering India centric content?

    • Elen says:

      Are you addressing me personally, or The Write Life? Because personally, I am a writer specialising in South Asia, so I write about India all the time. You’re welcome to take a look at my website for more India-related articles: http://www.elenturner.com

  • Wonderful article Elen! You covered most corners of the globe and I definitely learned more about the world I live in from reading it. I think travel is good for a writer in and of itself. I’m curious, have you lived in more than one country?

    • Elen says:

      Hi Donald, I sure have! I’m a New Zealander based in Nepal, but I’ve also lived in the UK, Czech Republic, Australia, USA and Japan.

  • Great article Elen. I’m a Filipino and I really recommend being a Freelance Writer here in the Philippines. You get to work with foreign clients online and it’s very affordable to live here. Your $1,000 every month will go a very long way 🙂 Also, there are plenty of beaches to go to when you are in work leave. 🙂

    All the Best,
    Jan Limark | Brotherly Creative

    • Elen says:

      Thanks Jan! I was actually in the Philippines last year and thought it was a lovely place. A lot of people have complains/concerns about the internet service there, however, so it may not be ideal for all freelancers.

  • Kevin says:

    Nice article! I would add Viña del Mar, Chile to the list, you can get a 4 bedroom, 3 bath apartment with ocean view and full time conserje for $900 USD, or a whole house in nearby Quilpue for about $450. My friends loved Medellin, incidentally!

  • Sandy says:

    South Africa is also quite affordable. An income of $1000 will go far in suburbs outside city centers. Those who prefer the hustle and bustle of the city look at around $2000 for a comfortable stay plus some spare change for coffee dates and gourmet burgers.

  • Kim says:

    I loved Lisbon. I’m in Zagreb now (just traveling, unfortunately, not living) and it’s amazing – a super fun city with a very friendly and chill feel to it. Not expensive but it sounds like you’d need online / freelance income from elsewhere as I’ve heard it’s tough to find local work here.

  • Cathy says:

    You may want to do some fact-checking, Elen. Nice article, but as a Portland resident, I can tell you I had a huge laugh over the comments about reasonable rent at under $1000/month! Read the news, we are having an epic housing squeeze and residents are being priced out of even low-income choices and we have record numbers of homeless folks on the streets. Just sayin’, I wish folks would stop moving here thinking they can easily make it, only to end up on the street. Free-lancers beware, it’s very expensive to live in Portland metro or even just outside of it.

    • Elen says:

      Thanks Cathy! It’s good to have up-to-date information from a local. To be clear though, this article wasn’t intended to promote these 6 cities as the only or best cities for freelancers in the entire world; the intention was to point out that these places can be cheaper than elsewhere, and offer a lot of the things that freelancers are looking for. In the USA, New York City is seen as a hub for writers but it is a notoriously expensive place. So, Portland’s inclusion was a kind of counterpoint to that.

      • Cathy Mull says:

        Thanks for your reply, Elen, and to be sure, being a native New Yorker by birth, I can tell you that there is a huge livability difference between the PNW and NYC. So, there is a reason the PNW is experiencing a tremendous influx of folks looking for a healthier and more pleasant lifestyle. Portland more affordable than NYC? Not for long, haha. We are one of the top cities for traffic congestion and skyrocketing housing costs in recent years. Such is the cost of being a popular city. But yeah, it’s a very cool place to live. 🙂

  • Krysti says:

    I’m with Cathy…Portland is far from a cheap place to live! I actually just moved away from Portland because of the cost of living.

  • Nina Amir says:

    Elen,

    I found this article quite interesting. I wondered about Mexico…I’ve been there and it’s very cheap and there are lots of writers living there.

    Also, I wondered…Why did you (or Jaclyn) make this comment: “It would be difficult for non-Jewish people to live in Israel permanently, but working there for a shorter period is not so hard, according to Jaclyn.”

    Why would it be hard?

    • Elen says:

      Hi Nina, a good question. As far as I’m aware, there is assisted migration to Israel for Jewish people from around the world who have Jewish ancestry and who want to make Israel their home. The set-up is not so easy for non-Jews. But, I am not Jewish myself and have not lived in Israel, so I don’t have personal experience with this.

  • Tim says:

    Just wondering if there are any truly global cities (with good internet) where you could stay for a year or more. I guess you’d need a passport from a politically and economically stable country. (I’m Australia.) Also I’d expect that you couldn’t earn an income in that country, so as to not compete with locals for work.

    • Kevin says:

      In a lot of countries you can stay 90 days and then renew your visa by going over the border for a day and going back. Some countries don’t consider whatever you do on the internet work at all, others don’t check. Also, most countries want your money, so if you want to start a business that doesn’t count as work either, even though you ARE working. I have friends in Sofia, Bulgaria and they like it. The big plus there is that they don’t expect you to learn Bulgarian, Ever!

  • Laura says:

    I have an American friend living in Costa Rica right now. Apparently one of the happiest countries on earth and it doesn’t seem that the residency requirements are that strict, at least for the short term.

  • Gladys says:

    Hi Ellen. I love this piece that you have written. I just want to ask if you have travelled to Africa, any country to test out the waters. I am a Ugandan actually, and I have recently taken to writing to support myself through University

  • maryjane says:

    thank you for sharing this information.

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