Writes Nick Clayton about: working from another country

allmediascotland.com is about to change, in terms of design, functionality and style of editorial.

That may lead to some disruption of normal services over the next few weeks, not least because there are holidays to be had.

It does mean also the prospect of new voices, from a galaxy of bloggers. So far, Shaun Milne, David Calder, Chris Bell, Craig McGill, Paul Hineman and Mark Gorman.

Here, Nick Clayton writes for a second time… 

A FEW Novembers ago, I looked out through the rain trickling down my window.

It was getting dark, despite being only the middle of the afternoon. I hadn’t set foot outside for three days.

Why bother? I had a fridge full of ready meals, all the news I could desire via the web and a pile of work to do. Occasionally, the monotony would be broken by a phone call or an email. It had the makings of a great life… for a battery chicken.

Slowly, it dawned on me that I didn’t need to be there. I was interviewing people on the phone, researching via Google and emailing my copy. My physical presence in Edinburgh wasn’t required. That’s when I decided to persuade Barbara we should spend 12 months in Ibiza.

Four years later, we’re still here.

In employment terms, some things have lived up to expectations. It has become ever easier and cheaper to work online. But the challenge is getting the jobs in the first place. It’s not easy for any freelancer; however, distance does make a difference. It shouldn’t make pitching story ideas any more dispiriting. Believe me, it does.

As ever, the freelancer’s Holy Grail is a regular gig underpinning your income. A few months after I moved, I found one, as web editor of a membership organisation for retired and soon-to-retire professionals. It was a good idea, but funding soon ran out.

Although I only started working for the club some months after the move to Ibiza, it came from contacts I met regularly face-to-face in Scotland (thanks, Ash and Christine).

But the explosion in social networking services such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn ought to mean the need for physical meetings is declining. On a pragmatic level, it should make creating new contacts for work easier.

But my experience so far is that online networks are good for keeping in touch with existing contacts and less useful for creating new ones. From a social point of view, it’s nice to be gone but not forgotten. But friendly emails don’t pay the bills.

Last night, I joined an online seminar with Ki Work (www.ki-work.com) which is a social network intended to create a global marketplace for all types of online freelancer.

There were participants from California, the Bronx, Tipperary and Lethen. The last is because Ki Work founder, Michael Wolff, has his home in Nairn. He’s perhaps best known for bringing 4,000 call-centre jobs to the Highlands as CEO of Lydiastar Telecommunications.

Now, he has developed a clever structure to try and create an online organisation that will foster trust between individuals in virtual organisations and customers for their services. It’s a tough call. If cost becomes the main criterion, it’ll simply be another mechanism for outsourcing to low-wage economies.

Equally, if quality is determined by endless pitches for small jobs, the effort will almost certainly outweighs any reward.

Wolff is trying to avoid those pitfalls.

Much of Ki Work’s focus is on professionals promoting themselves through ‘service offers’ rather than applying for jobs or bidding for projects.

One innovative twist is the ‘Ki Bounce’. The idea is you send your offer to your Facebook friends who then bounce it to their friends and so on. Theoretically, your offer could be seen by millions of Facebook members, including some who might even pay you.

I intend to have a go. I’ll let you know if I have any success – and if you want to be my Facebook friend, it’s not hard to find me.

The whole Web 2.0 thing should increase demand for professional writers, if only to enable organisations to differentiate themselves from the great amateur blogosphere.

Well, that’s what I keep telling myself will pay the rapidly-rising mortgage on my home in Ibiza.

Nick Clayton believes that, in the digital age, writers should be able to work anywhere they can get a dial tone. To prove the point, he lives in Ibiza with his wife, dog, swimming pool, several computers and a broadband connection. Only the last two are strictly necessary for his productivity.

His book, ‘The Guardian Guide to Working Abroad’, was published recently. Nick continues to write a weekly gadget column for The Scotsman where he was technology editor during the first internet boom. His other work is generally less conspicuous, but better paid, producing white papers, press releases and other copy for a variety of mainly techie outlets.

And occasionally, he gets to give his middle-aged perspective on Ibiza’s nightlife, glamour and entertainment, notably for Pacha Magazine.