Don’t let the title fool you; it hasn’t been easy and I couldn’t have done it without some serious support. So I begin this post by giving a hearty THANK YOU to those who helped me out along the way.
With that said, I struggled for the first seven months.
A bit of backstory for those who haven’t read Part 1: At the end of June 2015, I quit my job working as a project manager / graphic designer for a Fortune 100 company to start Courting Adventure and work as a freelancer. When I’m not taking amazing people on tours through Asia, I design presentations for executives, agencies, and startups.
Winter is a notoriously slow season for most freelancers. In January, I was in the middle of a dry spell. My bank account was empty and my credit cards were near maxed out. I was borrowing money from family and friends. It had gotten to the point where I had mapped out new Life Plans A-E, most of which involved getting a full-time job. I can work for a year or two at a new job, save up, and try again. I was thinking of giving up.
Five months later, I have secured several long-term freelance contracts, acquired a number of repeat clients, and am currently now making double what I made at my previous job. I relocated to Bangkok, Thailand six months ago and travel out of the country on a monthly basis, researching and designing new trips for 2017.
Being on the digital nomad path has certainly not been a smooth ride. Let’s take a closer look at (frankly) how I screwed up and how I turned things around.
Not Enough Savings, Too Much Travel
This was my biggest mistake, that I briefly mentioned in Part I. I had quit my job with about 3K in the bank and no credit card debt. I would recommend starting with 10K, with 5K being an absolute minimum. This low amount of savings was quickly wiped out by problem #2: expensive travel. A silly move on my part, I had two trips lined up immediately after I quit my job—a week in L.A. and about 10 days in Iceland. Iceland by itself cost over $3K—by far the costliest trip I’ve ever been on. Although I quit my job due to timing more than anything, in retrospect I should’ve stayed on for a few more months.
Not A Clear Enough Vision
I may have seemed prepared on the surface, but I was largely winging it. My plan was to run a travel company and do freelance design work on the side. But I did not have solid, tangible goals in regards to how I will grow my business and generate a sustainable income through it nor did I accurately calculate how much money I needed to be making monthly. Now I have my finances mapped out and there’s no surprises.
And if you’re curious, here it is for reference:
Recurring bills: $225
Living expenses: $750
Miscellaneous expenses: $150
Debt Repayment: $500+
Anything I make over the top three categories gets plugged into the bottom two categories.
In regards to Courting Adventure and freelancing, I’ve started mapping out monthly goals to grow both ventures and am working on a comprehensive marketing strategy to bring my services and trips to more potential customers. I’m also working on building a team of kick-ass folks to help me as I take on bigger contracts and expand in the future. (With that said, if you are a graphic designer who can take on PowerPoint/Keynote, please contact me!)
I’d been using freelance sites for years with moderate success. This time around I focused on Upwork. Even though presentation design is a niche field, I still narrowed my job search even further:
In addition, make sure you’re getting paid your worth. I’ve talked to so many people that charge less because they’re afraid that they won’t get hired otherwise. Recently I increased my hourly rate by $10/hr and you know what happened? I’ve gotten hired more often and now have potential new clients coming to me with work.
Now that I’ve taken these steps, business has been booming.
Another big source of my income recently has come from friends referring me for projects that either weren’t a good fit for their skillset or they were too busy for. In return, I pass other projects on to others—which resulted in one person landing their dream job working remotely for a Bay-Area startup. Share the love and keep on networking!
Life is Good
Last month I hit a career milestone I’ve been chasing for years: my work now comes at a regular enough pace that I no longer have to hustle to find new clients every month. I cannot even express how much of a relief that is to have payments directly deposited weekly as a freelancer. I also get to work with some of the biggest names in the tech industry, which is both awesome and bolsters my portfolio, making me look more valuable to potential clients.
Being a digital nomad can be tough sometimes—the abundance of all-nighters, the financial uncertainty, the 4am Skype calls. It takes sacrifice, perseverance, and constantly being on the grind. However, I’m very happy with the lifestyle I’ve designed and wouldn’t change it for anything. I wake up each day excited and challenged. Here’s to an even more productive and fulfilling Year 2!
Keep an eye out for Part 3! I promise to bring it to you much quicker. Also, if you’re someone who is living a remote lifestyle, please hit me up! I’m looking to interview a few people to gain other perspectives for the next part in this series.