A year ago, I was about to make some big changes in my life. I was already living abroad – in Australia to be exact. I was quitting my “temporary” job on the farm to visit home after 20 something months.
I would be home for 6 weeks which means I couldn’t get a real job again. I thought it was the perfect time to try and concentrate on my blog and possibly become a freelancer. Long term, this could become something bigger; something like digital nomadism?!
One year later, I still haven’t worked a “real” job since. I’m not rich at all, but I have nothing to complain about. I have enough money to be out there (I’m based in the UK at the moment), to travel once or twice a month and to pay some silly debts off.
They were right; I managed to create a job for myself that gives me enough freedom – as long as there is Wi-Fi involved.
As my main income comes from freelance work, you’ll get information on how to get started as a freelancer/digital nomad and a little information on how to become a professional blogger (Oh, this sounds actually pretty professional, high five Mel!).
What are your special skills? What is your magic gift?
I became a blogger and sometimes, let’s be honest, I’m quite impressed with myself. As English isn’t my mother tongue, I’m still amazed that people dare to read these lines. I came a long way to get here! I only have to look back at my older posts and I feel slightly ashamed, but somehow, it worked.
Starting a travel blog helped me understand social media. I didn’t know anything about Twitter, algorithms, website hosting, Pinterest… name it! I had to search… research, watched some tutorials, call support, read blogs (many blogs)… and I had to deal with massive headaches too. I managed to build my following making some mistakes along the way, but I was young and naive. (Okay, I’m still young and I’m still not a pro, but I do know way more than I used to!)
I realized that I could use this knowledge somehow and this is how I started as a virtual assistant and a social media manager last year. Well, if I thought I knew what I was doing, I was far from it and when I say far, you can picture New Zealand (unless you’re already in this part of the world!). I wasn’t organized enough. I made mistakes along the way. (We’re only humans, right?) I did it for a few months to realize that it was lots of work and I preferred to concentrate on my own things especially when my Wi-Fi was a bit dodgy (Hello Australian Outback!).
Then, I left for Asia when my blog was starting to pay off.
As soon as I got back to Australia, I needed to find a way to have a regular income as the blog can sometimes be a money roller-coaster. I decided to become a virtual assistant, and this time it was for real.
So whether you prefer to write, design websites, code some stuff (I don’t know anything about coding yet as you can see), handle social media… it’s possible. Your skills can give you opportunities if you know how to use them!
How to become a digital nomad? How to get started?
There are a few platforms where you can find freelance work. Personally, I think they suck. Why? Pretty simple; you could end up paying big fees and working for very little money. But, still, it’s a great way to get started if you have little or no experience. In this case, you can check out Upwork, Freelancer or Fiverr. (That’s how I landed my two first clients!)
The second best way to start up is to join Facebook groups like these ones (kindly note that there are many more groups):
You’ll be able to connect with other freelancers, bloggers and some business owners. That’s how I landed my first real long-term client too. I left a honest message on the wall saying something like; I don’t have a lot of experience as a virtual assistant, but I’d like to give it a go! And magic happened; a blogger I’ve met during a press trip messaged me to discuss a potential collaboration. At the same time, I proposed my services to grow smaller Instagram accounts which works well for me.
And if you do a great job, your clients will mention you to other people and you could get referrals from it. That’s what happened to me.
Now, I’m juggling with all these contracts and my own blog and somehow, I haven’t turned crazy yet! (Or am I?)
How much time are you ready to give away for other people?
If you already have a job, your own blog or your own business, you might not be ready to give up all your time for others. Some contracts require a lot of your time (especially at the beginning) and some others are more manageable.
You need to keep in mind that to get started in a new contract it takes time! In fact, it’s always longer as you need to get familiarized with your new tasks, your new voice (new passwords) and a new client.
If you are pretty settled down, then it would be easier! Although, if you’re travelling, you might want to consider a slower pace so you can enjoy your travels without becoming crazy with an insane workflow. Personally, having the freedom to work from anywhere makes my life easier/better as I can earn an income along the way.
The better you get, the smarter you’ll be able to work. This means your tasks will take you less time, which becomes way better for your wallet!
How to work smarter?
Did I just hear “Organization”? Staying organized is essential while you’re working as a freelancer. You’re going to have to handle deadlines, daily tasks, weekly tasks, and perhaps some other crazy people?!
I used to laugh about one of my friends who was over-using spreadsheets. And then, I started with a client who wanted to use google shared spreadsheet with me. I couldn’t understand any of it at first and a few weeks later, I was ditching my notepad and several sticky notes to spreadsheet everything in my life (blog, contracts, deadlines, editorial calendar, whatever-else you could think of).
This was the first step. Then, I needed a bit of color in my daily life so I decided to use a color system to help me prioritize my tasks.
Sad truth; sometimes I have to do tasks that I don’t really like to do, but as I’m paid for it, I quietly shut my impatience switch off and try to meditate at the same time. You’re right, this doesn’t work. So what seems to take ages to do is perhaps not that bad? I started to use a stopwatch to see how long these tasks were taking me to realize it was never more than 30 minutes. I timed everything for a week and since then, my motivation came back! I still use my stopwatch for many quick daily tasks to make sure I don’t turn into a procrastination monster while I’m on Instagram for instance.
If you have an addiction to Facebook, you could also use this Chrome extension as a reminder to get back to work!
Tools that allow you to work smarter:
There are some tools that can make our lives easier whether it’s for blogging, virtual assistance or to play around with social media.
My favorite is Buffer as it includes every social media network. Bonus: it also covers Instagram and Pinterest. I use the paid version of it which is more than enough for my needs.
If you want to skyrocket your traffic using Pinterest or even use it smarter, I’d recommend BoardBooster or Tailwind. Personally, I prefer BoardBooster as it allows you to loop, to create some campaigns and to stay up your Pinterest game without having to worry too much.
If you want to focus on SEO, then, Keysearch seems to be the easiest/smartest resource out there! (You can use this coupon code to get 20% discount: “KSDISC”.)
Now, let’s talk about blogging.
I started to monetize my blog from the beginning. Of course, I needed to improve my DA (domain authority) and grow my audience before it started to pay off.
Let’s be honest, so far, I couldn’t live this life only from this blog, so that’s why I needed to make sure I’d have something regular; freelance work!
Where does my blogging income come from exactly?
My main income comes from sponsored content/campaign. Sponsored what? Let’s picture it!
Let’s say my friend Buddy creates a travel related startup. When he makes his marketing plan, he will make sure we heard about the startup. How? He is most likely to connect with travel influencers at some point (if he knows what he is doing). So, Buddy will get in touch with travel influencers (in this case me) via email, Instagram, Twitter, name it. He has a couple of ideas but he isn’t sure about it. Also, he doesn’t have a big budget. His startup is quite new. That’s how I get in the equation. I’ll pitch him different ideas with different packages (and different rates). Of course, he might want to pick that dream package but he might have to find a budget for it! Then, it’s all dependent on my selling skills – we call it pitching!
So, why would Buddy be interested in working with me in the first place? He wants to improve his DA, he wants to get noticed, he wants traffic on his website, he wants people to know about his startup.
If Buddy has a limited budget, he might choose a simple sponsored post which includes a link to his website. He will probably ask for what we call a do-follow link to make sure the link has an impact on his DA. As I’m not very good at explaining do-follow and no-follow links, here’s my polite invitation; please, google it! Google has many answers, doesn’t he?
If Buddy has a bigger budget, he might want to go for a dream package which will include long-term promotion on social media, a blog post and a strong partnership between us.
Then, my income also comes from Affiliate Marketing which means that if people use some of my links to book their accommodation or build their websites, I will get commission from it. I can’t say it’s super successful for me just yet, but many bigger bloggers may only count on that!
There are different platforms to get started with affiliate links, I personally use these ones:
I don’t get a lot from it and I refuse to have a website filled with advertising (or at least, not for now!)
But, it’s a possibility… for others!
If you’re starting as a travel blogger, then, I’d suggest you head here: How to start a travel blog. It will give you all the necessary details to get started as a travel blogger.
And then, what?
Once your domain authority and your influence starts to pay off, brands and/or tourism boards will start to reach out to you. You must focus on building your website, your social media and creating a unique voice. Blogging isn’t magic, it comes from hard work.
Being a digital nomad, is it really that easy? Can we really make money while travelling?
If you want to enter the digital nomad lifestyle, make sure you have enough money to get started so you can survive if it takes a while before you get contracts.
OR as I believe that it is possible to travel on a strict and minimal budget, you could consider house-sitting and target cheap destinations. This way you won’t have to spend money on accommodation and you will appreciate a slower travel pace which also rhymes with a life abroad.
If you’d rather stay in a hostel or in a community, you could also consider signing up for Helpx or Workaway which will involve daily volunteer work. These programs normally offer free accommodation and food in exchange for your work.
My life isn’t perfect, but I’m happy with it. As long as it keeps me happy, then, I’ll be out there working from my laptop.
And if you envy me for some reason, you must know that it’s possible. It will take time, but it could work just fine!
Are you a digital nomad? How did you get started?
Are you still at the dream stage? What is stopping you from going forward?
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links at no extra cost to you. This will help me run this website and perhaps, allow a few more extra kilometers.