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The Business of Being a Freelance Writer in Thailand

How you can build a career writing about food, travel, business, and more.

Finding freelance writing jobs in Thailand doesn’t have to be hard.

Like most things in life, with a proper system in place and guidelines to follow, you can thrive as a freelancer in the country.

I’ve been a freelance writer and editor for nearly seven years in Thailand.

However, when I moved here full-time in 2014, despite having over ten years of experience as a writer, I didn’t know where to start.

Over the past seven years, though, I’ve built a network of contacts and resources that have kept me busily writing about lifestyle, sports, and people.

Now I’m going to share what I know about freelancing as a writer in Thailand with you so you can carve out your own career.

Who to Write For

As a freelance writer in Thailand, travel or Thailand-related websites aren’t your only potential clients.

You can write for NGOs, small businesses or large corporations, or schools and universities. Even your local coffee shop might ask you to help them clean up the English on their menu.

If you think about it, opportunities are everywhere for freelance writers in Thailand. You just have to know where to look, which this section will help you with.

Websites in Thailand

Thailand-based websites are the easiest online platforms to write for if you have some experience.

When I was just starting out in 2014, a few simple pitches got me long-term gigs with Thailand Starter Kit (now Expat Den) and Whats On Sukhumvit (currently inactive).

Although I already had ten years under my belt as a writer when I moved to Thailand, I had to prove that I could write about the country. These were great websites to do that with.

To this day, I still freelance for Expat Den on occasion because they’ve been great to work with. They regularly look for new writers, too. You can pitch their editor if you have any topics about life in Thailand (or other countries) that you’d like to cover.

You can also contact the editors at The Thaiger and Coconuts Bangkok, two websites that often work with freelance writers.

Magazines in Thailand

Not many physical magazines aimed at expats in Thailand exist anymore, but Expat Life in Thailand is one of them. They accept pitches for topics about food, travel, education, health, and more.

Time Out Bangkok is another physical publication that publishes articles written about the topics mentioned above.

You also have BK Magazine and Bangkok 101. You can pitch a story to Bangkok 101 here.

Keep in mind that some of these publications may not produce physical magazines anymore, especially since the COVID–19 pandemic has slowed down the economy.

Websites Outside of Thailand

Just because you’re looking for freelance writing jobs in Thailand doesn’t mean you have to work for websites in the country.

With the amount of freelance websites on the internet today, you can find work all over the world.

But I’d be wary about using these websites. Most freelancers are willing to work for very little money, which means you’ll have to lower your wages well below the standard rates for freelance writers.

Then there are major publishers like National Geographic, who has a Travel section on their website. You can pitch a story to National Geographic here.

Yourself

Many freelance writers in Thailand start their own websites and find ways to monetize their content. The Thailand Life and Tieland To Thailand are two that come to mind.

Even if you don’t want to monetize your website, you can use the content you create as writing samples.

What to Write About

When it comes to freelance writing in Thailand, you can write about almost any topic under the sun. You’re bound to find a website somewhere in the world that’s willing to post your content.

But I’ve found that the topics below are usually most easiest to pitch to editors and publications in the country.

Business

Many foreigners want to open a business in Thailand, making this a hot topic in the country right now.

If you can write articles about registering a company in Thailand, creating a shareholders agreement, hiring a lawyer and accountant, and a myriad of other things that come with starting your own company here, then you can stay busy as a freelance writer.

Culture

If you can offer some unique insight into the culture of Thailand, insight that has never been done before, then you may be able to find work writing about Thailand’s rich culture.

Education

Private education in Thailand is big business, and one way for private schools to attract new students is through online marketing, mainly blog posts read by expat parents.

Some private schools will outsource their content creation process, which means opportunities for you.

I know one writer who specializes in writing about education in Thailand and has cornered the market in this niche.

Expatriation

Relocating to Thailand is a life-changing process. To make the transition go as smooth as possible, it takes know-how and insight.

If you know how a process works in Thailand, like getting a driver’s license or applying for a work permit, that makes you an expert on the subject who can help the thousands of other expats who move to Thailand every year.

Food

Food is another popular topic in Thailand and for good reason. Food—delicious food—is available at anytime of the day or night in Thailand. From 30-baht street food to thousand baht dinners, it’s all there to write about.

The challenge is writing about Thai food in a way that hasn’t been done before. Thousands of articles exist on the topic, so you would have to find a way to write about Thai food from a new angle.

If I were to pitch a story about Thai food, I’d probably go with the gluten free angle since it’s something I’m very familiar with (my daughter has gluten allergies).

Lifestyle

Aside from writing about the practicalities of living in Thailand, you can write about everyday life in the country.

I wrote quite a few articles on raising half-American, half-Thai children in Thailand, and that turned into my niche for a while.

News

Some English news agencies run an operation here in Bangkok, but I’ve found this is one of the more challenging niches to break into.

A lot of the websites that cover Thailand news in English hire only Thais who can speak and write English fluently.

Politics

In my honest opinion, I’d avoid pitching stories to editors in Thailand about Thai politics.

I’d even avoid writing about Thai politics altogether, unless you work for a publication outside of Thailand, or a publication in Thailand asks you to do so.

It’s still a subject that could get you into trouble.

Real Estate

Real estate trends in Thailand is another interesting topic to foreign investors.

I know a guy who writes nothing but white papers about Thailand real estate.

Although he doesn’t invest in real estate here in the country, he has become an expert on the subject and the go-to guy for these articles.

Sports

Like the news niche, you’ll find it more challenging to get assignments for websites that cover sports in Thailand.

Don’t get me wrong, it is possible. But publications will be more likely to hire Thais who can speak and write English fluently.

Surprisingly, though, most of my writing revolves around sports news and feature stories nowadays. But that’s also because I’m an editor for a sports broadcasting company in Singapore.

Travel

Thailand is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world.

With that said, it only makes sense that the travel niche would offer opportunities for freelance writers in Thailand.

But like writing about food, writing about destinations in Thailand has been done countless times.

You’ll really need a unique angle to make your travel story stand out from the myriad of others online.

Work

Not to be confused with the business niche, the topic of work in Thailand is also very popular right now.

People no longer have to teach English to live in Thailand long term. Expats have so many more options today than there were 10 years ago.

Potential expats are keen to read about their work choices and trends in Thailand.

How to Pitch Stories to Editors and Websites

The guidelines below will give you a starting point on how to pitch stories to editors in Thailand.

If possible, always send an email to the editor of the department you wish to write for. Most websites have a contact page that lists respective emails, so that’s a good place to check.

If the website doesn’t have a contact page or an editor’s email listed, do a search on Google or LinkedIn.

When you pitch an editor as opposed to a catch-all email, you’re more likely to get a response. You can also build some rapport with the editor even if they turn your story idea down.

Opinions differ on what to include in pitches, but having been on both sides of the email, here’s what has worked best.

  • Study the types of articles the website publishes, their style guide, and pitching guidelines (if any exist)
  • Email the editor directly (if possible)
  • Write a few short sentences about who you are as a writer and what topics you cover
  • Provide a short one- or two-sentence summary about your story
  • Include a basic outline, and if necessary, summaries of each section
  • Add a few links to your best and most relevant work
  • Thank the editor for his or her time

Remember, editors are busy. If you write an email that the receiver will have to scroll through to read, it’s too long.

When it comes to pitching stories, you also have two other choices.

First, you can ask the editor if they accept pitches before you send them one. This way, if they don’t, you will save yourself the trouble of putting a pitch together.

Second, you can send an editor a story you’ve already written. But I would avoid going this route. I’ve never had success with it and neither have any writers who’ve ever pitched me a full story.

Then there’s the issue with email in Thailand. Not all Thais use email to communicate, even if they have an email address.

So if you pitch a Thai editor, you may never hear back from that person. Give it a week or two, and if you want, try to reach the editor on social media.

How to Have Freelance Writing Work in Thailand Find You

When you become a freelance writer in Thailand, your goal should be to build a portfolio and reputation so extensive that work starts coming your way.

It’s okay to spend time looking for work when you start your freelance writing career, but once you’re a few years in, work should also come to you.

In the sections that follow, you’ll find ways to do this.

Keep an Online Portfolio

This goes without saying, but freelance writers in Thailand must have an online portfolio of their work. Even if you haven’t been published yet, you should keep a few samples of your writing in a portfolio.

You’re online portfolio doesn’t have to be a full-blown website (although I recommend that all freelance writers eventually build a website); your writing portfolio could be a simple Google Doc or PDF with your contact details, a short bio, and links—or samples—of all or some of your writing.

Not only will this be useful if an editor wants to see samples of your work, but it will also save you time because you won’t have to dig up the links to your articles every time you pitch an editor.

Keep your portfolio updated once a month, or as more of your articles are published.

Network at Events

Many new writers may spend a lot of time networking on social media to try and find writing gigs, but in my opinion, networking in-person at conventions will yield better results.

You may not land a new client right on the spot, but if you shake a few hands and hand out a few business cards, work may come back to you down the road.

Eventbrite.com and Bitec.co.th are great websites to keep up with conventions in Thailand, especially in Bangkok. Just pick a convention that’s in line with your writing niche, register, show up presentable, and start making contacts.

Underpromise, Overdeliver

More often than not I come across writers who overpromise and underdeliver, but it should work the other way around.

Here are a few dos and donts to follow if you want to stay on an editor’s shortlist:

  • Never commit to a deadline you can’t meet
  • With the point above in mind, never make promises you can’t keep
  • If you’re going to turn work in late, let your editor know ASAP—not on the day it’s due
  • Revise, revise, and revise again—don’t hand in sloppy work
  • Get to know the publication’s style guide so your editor can spend less time editing
  • Reach out to your editor often for potential work

Use Social Media Wisely

I rarely use social media to find freelance writing jobs in Thailand, although a few gigs have come to me through LinkedIn and I do see the benefits of using social media for marketing purposes.

But I have hangups with social media. I just can’t seem to justify the time it takes to find work on social media. I feel like I should be using that time more wisely.

With that said, I do use social media to find writers, especially in Facebook groups, when I’m looking for someone to write about a niche topic.

So just because social media doesn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. If you’re going to use social media to find work, however, just make sure your time spent on it is fruitful.

Get on the Telum Media Email List

I don’t remember exactly how I stumbled upon Telum Media’s weekly newsletter, but it has helped me a few times over the years.

The team at Telum Media sends out weekly emails in Thai and English sometimes listing freelance writing jobs for writers and editors in Thailand, the names, titles, and emails of writers and editors who land new positions, and bios of writers and editors looking for work.

And yes, they will post your own bio or job ad for free in their newsletter if you ask them.

Even if you don’t land a job after posting your bio, the connections you make could be helpful.

Vetting Freelance Writing Jobs in Thailand

When you’re just starting out as a freelancer, you may not have the luxury of picking your clients or deciding which topics you want to write about.

Like most new writers, you’ll have to take what you could get until you build your portfolio in one niche.

If, however, you’re already established in your niche, here are a few questions to ask yourself before taking a freelance writing job in Thailand.

Are You Interested in the Assignment?

There’s no use taking a job if it’s not going to do anything for you creatively, professionally, or financially.

If the three factors above aren’t motivators for you, then ask yourself if the assignment is going to add value to your life in a way that means something to you.

Are You a Good Fit?

When I wrote about the challenges of raising two mixed-race daughters in Thailand, the topics were heavy—not something you’d read about on your typical parenting blog.

So when someone asked me to write parenting articles for Bangkok Mothers and Babies International (more famously known as Bambi in Thailand), I didn’t hesitate to turn it down. I knew my writing wouldn’t suite their audience.

When you’re vetting freelance writing jobs in Thailand, you have to ask yourself: “Am I a good fit for this assignment?”

If you answer no, then perhaps you know someone who is and you can pass the work on to them.

As you grow as a freelance writer, one of the best feelings is being able to pass along work to other writers.

Who Will You be Working With?

When you’re hired as a freelance writer, you may be part of a team of creators who must work together on projects.

If this is the case, make sure you get along with everyone you’ll be working with.

Remember, you’re a freelance writer because you don’t want to deal with the cons of corporate life. So don’t put yourself in that position as a freelancer either.

How to Handle Getting Paid

Getting paid for freelance writing jobs in Thailand is straightforward, especially with all the online services available.

With that said, I won’t cover the practicalities of getting paid in this section. I reserved this part of the article to talk about other issues surrounding pay.

Deposits

If a client reaches out to me and asks me to write for them, it is my personal policy to ask for 50% of my costs up front, unless someone has vouched for them or they are a well-known organization.

You should do the same whenever possible to avoid not getting paid, which does happen.

If I reach out to a publication because I want to write for them, I don’t ask for a 50% deposit up front. Most likely I’ve already vetted them as being reputable.

Don’t Expect to Get Paid Until the Job is Done

When I was working as the chief editor for Expat Den, I hired a freelance writer from Phuket.

She turned in her first draft, and before I had a chance to look over it and offer feedback, she sent me a message saying she had bills to pay and asked her if I could “just pay her now.”

Needless to say, I never hired that woman again.

All publications have their own payment schedules, so never rush them into paying you.

Anyways, these things should be hashed out before you even accept the assignment.

Legal Issues

I want to add a caveat to this article. Technically, working as a freelance writer isn’t legal in Thailand. If you work in the country you must have a work permit.

Do people follow this law? Not everyone.

Do the authorities enforce this law? From time to time they crack down on people who work in the country illegally, but mostly English teachers.

The general rule of thumb is that if you don’t piss anyone off, no one will come looking for you.

With that said, I suggest you get a work visa. There’s one company in Thailand called Iglu, who will help you get setup as a legally working freelancer in Thailand. They may be worth checking out.

It’s also up to you to account for any money you earn on your annual taxes. Check with your country’s guidelines for further info.

Final Thoughts on Being a Freelance Writer in Thailand

The question shouldn’t be: How do I survive in Thailand as a freelance writer? The question should be: How do I thrive in Thailand as a freelance writer?

If you follow the suggestions in this article, you’ll be on your way to building a solid freelancing career in Thailand. And if you put in the time and effort, you can earn a decent living for yourself.

Before I go, I want to thank Rob Goss over at Tokyo Freelance for the idea of this article. He wrote his own version for freelance writers in Japan.

Lastly, if you’re not looking for freelance writing jobs in Thailand, but rather a full-time writing job in the country, check out Thailand Writing Jobs by Expat Den.