I’m on a train headed for Budapest. Next month I’ll be in Amsterdam. The month after that, Berlin. I don’t know anyone in these cities, can’t speak a word of their respective languages, and have zero idea if the rooms I’ve reserved in advance will actually be available when I get there.
Life could not be better.
Am I a salesman? A hobo? An international man of mystery? No, no, and I’d love to tell you, but could you please have a sip of this totally not poisoned coffee first?
Truth is I’m a freelance writer. I spend my days composing all kinds of content, ranging from white papers to web copy to textbooks to travel guides, usually for clients scattered across the globe whom I’ve chatted or Skyped with but never had the privilege of meeting in person.
The fancy term people bandy about these days to describe people like me is “digital nomad”, folks who work from their computers and are thus location independent: writers, coders, translators, graphic designers – the list goes on and on.
Typically, digital nomads are people who don’t really thrive in an office environment, who can’t imagine spending decades behind a desk, who prefer to keep moving and stay comfortably out of range of the corporate crosshairs; men and women of all ages and backgrounds who know how fun and educational and mind-blowing traveling around the world is and can’t ever seem to get enough of it.
But the main reason I chose to start my own business as a country-hopping freelancer is because I made a fundamental decision in my life: I chose time over money. Which is to say I chose the flexibility of making my own schedule over the security of a regular paycheque. I chose the freedom of visiting the Colosseum or the Louvre any weekend I wanted instead of putting all my hard-earned pennies into a white picket fence. Most importantly, I realized that money is something you can make more of as you go. Time, not so much. See that minute? See that hour? See that day? Great. Now wave bye-bye because it’s gone for good.
Newsflash: copious amounts of cash will not buy you happiness. But spending what little time you have on this planet working your buns off doing something you love will.
I love writing. I love traveling. I may work one hour a day or 12 hours a day. None of it ever feels like a chore, or (gasp) a job, because I do it out of love and I do it for me.
And guess what? If you love what you do and you hone your craft and you devote your energy to bringing value to your clients and keep grinding no matter how tired or frustrated you might feel sometimes (and you will feel tired and frustrated), then living the life of a freelancer can actually become pretty darn profitable. And the money you make and save and spend on whatever your heart desires will taste sweeter than your mama’s homemade chocolate brownies because you did it all by yourself, doing something you’re truly passionate about.
For anyone out there who’s reading this and starting to wonder if a nomadic, self-employed lifestyle is the right fit for them, ask yourself the following questions:
Do I like to travel? Do I like meeting new people? Would I like to make my own schedule? Can I live without Netflix, my favourite restaurant, [insert creature comfort here]? Can I handle adversity? Do I want to be in complete control of my life, profession and income?
Did you answer a resounding yes to all those questions? Then becoming a freelancer may very well be the path for you.
If that’s the case, and you happen to be a writer, coder, graphic designer or anyone else who can work remotely from their computer, then here’s how you can begin your rewarding new career:
- Set up a profile on freelance sites like Guru and Upwork.
- Apply for lower-paying jobs at first to build your skills, contacts and portfolio.
- Join any forums, Facebook groups, etc. that are relevant to your skill set.
- Apply for higher-paying jobs once you’ve established a reputation.
- Work hard.
- Make more contacts.
- Always provide more than the client hired you for. Not only will they appreciate it, they’ll keep you in mind next time they need something done and will recommend you to all their friends.
- Rinse and repeat.
- Pack your bags.
There you have it! The freelance formula in a nutshell. It might take a bit of time to get the first few assignments and contacts under your belt, but hang in there. Work like this is akin to pushing a car that’s having trouble getting started. It’s really hard at first, but once you manage to get the car moving, it begins to generate its own momentum, allowing it (i.e., YOU) to go as fast and as far as possible. And that’s when you’ll realize that the road is open and accessible and altogether yours. See you out there!
Tom Dirlis BIO
Tom began his freelance career back when Madonna was still relevant. He’s usually too busy working or travelling to bother with social media, though readers are welcome to send questions, kudos, love letters and hate mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.