Full disclosure, I’m still in the side hustle phase of my freelance career. As I’ve been exploring how to continually expand my freelance effort, it hit me. Success, as a freelancer (far more than a traditional 9-5 job), is dependent on your geographical location.
Why? Here’s the thing. While the (US) federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, the average salary within different professions is set based on regional cost of living.
Middle school teachers in Idaho make an annual wage of $45,830. New York middle school teachers, on the other hand, can expect to earn $75,340.
This is something I’m all too aware of. As an internet marketer, when my co-workers used to gripe about being paid below the national average, I always felt like saying, “Chill out. We earn a solid wage for Idaho.”
Fortunately for us Idaho bound freelance writers, the freelance market doesn’t set pay structures based on geographical region. In the age of the internet, all writers, no matter the geographical region, can be expected to be paid around the same amount.
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This is accomplished in two ways:
- Flat payments set by the website or business.
- Bidding against other freelancers to win the right to work on a project.
In the payment arena, New Yorkers have a disadvantage. I, as an Idaho bound writer, have the ability to pursue lower paying projects and still be able to live fairly comfortably. I can also afford to bid a lower hourly rate on projects.
Both aspects benefit me as a newbie freelance writer.
I won’t lie. It’s not ideal by any means, but it gives me the time to earn higher paying projects and relationships without becoming a walking, talking starving artist stereotype.
If you’re a freelance writer and can’t seem to make enough to survive, you might want to consider moving to a state (or country!) with a lower cost of living.
Help! I'm Not Making Enough as a Freelancer!
Below are factors to consider before making the leap to another state or country.
The prospect of handling the full cost of health insurance is one of the reasons I haven’t taken the plunge as a full-time freelancer.
For freelancers not lucky enough to be on their parents' insurance plan, they will be required to handle the high cost of health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
How much you can expect to pay each month for health insurance is highly dependent in what state you call home.
The difference in health insurance rates between states are dependent on the following factors:
- The age demographic of the population.
- Community rating VS. Individual (age) rating
- Population of the state. (Higher population more prone to lower rates).
- Medicaid expansion. (States that have expanded Medicaid tend to have slightly lower rates).
If you are considering a move as a freelancer, I would highly recommend that you evaluate how state insurance premiums will affect your quality of life.
Note: If you're moving countries, this changes again and if you plan to travel, make sure you get travel insurance.
You can check out states with the highest and lowest cost premiums here or check out the image below.
Car insurance, for me, is a monthly black hole that steals my money and protects me from the horrendous fines and the expense of unforeseen crashes. If you own a car, car insurance will play a role in your ability to financially thrive.
The cost of car insurance differs from state to state.
The following factors affect the average car insurance premiums in each state:
- number of underinsured or uninsured drivers.
- the level of insurance coverage legally demanded.
- the level of traffic in the state.
- the average commuting distance.
- the number of accidents reported or crimes committed.
- the chance of severe weather that will destroy cars.
You can find a list of the states with the lowest car insurance premiums here or look at the map below (courtesy of Insure.com).
Considering a new place to live? If you own a car, I would take a bit of time to determine how gas prices for the state will affect your financial bottom line.
Gas prices, unlike other expenses, tend to differ based on the geographic region that you live more than by State.
Here are a few factors that affect gas prices:
- Number of gas stations that create a competitive market.
- State taxes on gasoline.
- Special standards for fuel.
- Distance from gasoline refineries, pipelines, or ports.
I would recommend you take a look at the following map created by the EIA.gov before making your decision.
The final and maybe most important, in my opinion, factor to look at is the cost of housing across different states and cities in the United States.
In Idaho, I can expect to pay around $755 to $823 in rent per month (depending on whether or not I get an apartment in Boise, Idaho).
Freelancers, lucky or unlucky enough to live in New York, can expect to pay 14% (Rochester) to 461% (Manhattan) more. I can’t even imagine trying to live on a newbie freelancer salary in New York City.
I would recommend utilizing this tool created by CNN to compare the housing costs across the United States.
A freelance lifestyle can be a fulfilling and lucrative career.
If you do feel like you’re just not making enough to survive, I would suggest that you at least consider the possibility of moving to a cheaper location before abandoning your freelance endeavor to return to the 9-5 job market.
You can check out some more freelance work hacks here if you need more advice.
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