Q&A with Chelsea Gallagher, Freelance Writer in Vietnam
Chelsea Gallagher left Canada in December 2018 intending to spend the winter backpacking through Southeast Asia. However, when she arrived in Vietnam in January 2019, she quickly fell in love with the beautiful country and its tasty cuisine, and knew she had to stay. She volunteered in the hospitality and tourism industries throughout most of the first half of 2019, wanting to share her passion with fellow travelers. Leaving briefly, she returned in November 2019 and has not left since. Since the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 closed much of the hospitality industry, most recently Chelsea has focused her energy on branching into the freelance writing field. She writes for tech startups in Ho Chi Minh City, the hospitality industry, and the local expat paper, The Tay Ho Times, in Hanoi. Her niche focuses on personal essays covering love, self-empowerment, travel, and transition. She also enjoys writing a diverse range of articles or poetry.
Here she discusses her freelancing life in a Q&A.
What has it been like living in Vietnam during the pandemic?
I have felt extremely privileged and grateful to live in Vietnam during the Covid-19 pandemic. The country and government have put their people first and effectively dealt with the spread early. Vietnam went 99 days with no cases, so during that time we were out at restaurants and bars back to normal. Unfortunately, 3 days ago we got a confirmed case in the central part of the country, so we are preparing to go into lock down again. Still, I really cannot sing this country's praises enough. It's been a real sense of security to live here during this time.
Why did you decide to start freelancing?
I have always admired the nomadic lifestyle and after Covid wiped out the tourism industry, I didn't want to go into English teaching. Freelancing allows me to develop and grow as a writer while living and working in a country I love.
What types of freelance projects do you enjoy?
I'm very new in my field, so projects that pay the bills bring me a lot of joy! The main types of writing I like to focus on include personal essays and self-empowerment. I have a collaboration in the works to guest write for a blog focusing on dealing with anxiety, and I am thrilled to lend my voice to an issue that affects so many.
How has freelancing during 2020 affected you?
I think this is a great time to get into freelancing. There's a lot of people with time on their hands that want to start passion projects but have no interest in writing. I've been able to join many creative teams to help with social media growth and editing website copy or creating blog posts to drive traffic. It's given me a purpose and distraction while the world is going through massive uncertainty.
What milestones do you hope to reach this year as a freelancer?
Continuing to publish my work and generate an income. A lot of my work (80/20) has been to develop my portfolio or submission pieces which haven't been selected. I am continuing to build my confidence and can't wait to see what the rest of the year holds!
Do you have any hobbies you like to do outside of work?
I'm a massive bibliophile and foodie, so any time I'm not reading, I'm trying new restaurants (those that are open during this time) or buried in books. It's an inside joke with my friends that I'll normally have a book in my bag regardless of where we are.
What is the freelancing community like in Vietnam? How do you connect to other freelancers there or around the world?
Because I can't write Vietnamese, my job options here are limited locally to expat projects or international work, but digitally, Facebook is a great tool to connect to others! The many different pages devoted to different freelancers offer a source of community and encouragement. I was lucky enough to meet Kristen through one of these pages, and I'm extremely grateful to the many women who support and encourage others just starting in our field.
In Vietnam specifically, I struggle to meet other freelance writers. The foreign freelancers I do meet (more at coworking spaces or coffee shops) primarily work in IT, which is a different language barrier entirely. I think my main support just comes from my friendships across the globe. I have a fiercely loyal girl gang that I know I can always count on who live across various time zones.
What advice do you have for anyone going into freelancing now?
The hardest part is starting. Once you start, you'll wonder why you didn't do it sooner. Be prepared to be organized and comfortable spending time alone. I need a schedule during the week, but sometimes with writing I can't write until the evening. Surround yourself with inspiration in whatever form that lights your fire! Embrace feedback and try to do as much research as possible.
How can people contact you if they want to work with you? The best way to connect would be via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Feel free to connect via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chelsea-gallagher-71b755b9/
Or read my portfolio with the local expat paper:
Special thanks to Chelsea for the candid responses and beautiful photographs!