The digital nomad dream.

How I make a living as a digital nomad

 

I’m never going to tell you how to make a go out of it as a digital nomad/location independent freelancer/travel blogger. Often I feel such advice is misguided because if you do have a creative spin, or a new approach to doing something, you should pursue such ventures. The world needs more creative souls, not more sheep.

Rather, this post is to tell you how I do things. And if it helps you, great. I mean, I get at least two emails a day asking me how I do what I do, never mind the questions I get from family and friends back home. My poor mother has no idea what to tell people when they ask her. “Tell them I’m a stripper,” I usually instruct. It’s actually easier than explaining how I’m able to travel and work freely from the road.

If you’re already knee deep in the freelance/nomad scene, this post probably won’t help you in the slightest.

Bottom line: there’s no one right way to do anything.

How I Became Location Independent

First of all, there was no big life altering decision to make when it came to pursuing this route. I didn’t quit my job – I was laid off. If I had never been laid off, I honestly don’t know I would have had the balls to leave, even if I was miserable.

But I knew I wanted to travel, and I knew the office life was no longer the life for me. It was all a blessing in disguise.

So then I was kinda launched in unemployment and I spent a few months divulging in “The Summer of Candice” where I mostly drank a lot and stayed out every night until sunrise. And then I grew bored of that too, so I started writing more and eventually things picked up.

It also really helped that I was considered an “expert” in Newfoundland travel writing. I still do get many publications approaching me for stories. Being an “expert” in something really, really helps. (It’s true, About.com even hires hammock experts.)

I had picked up some freelance jobs even while working full-time. Sometimes I even picked up stories for no pay (gasp!), but they helped me bolster my portfolio. I still hate that this scheme exists. But it did help me, initially.

Freelance Writing

Writing is very near and dear to my heart. I take issue with some bloggers who don’t feel quality is as important as numbers (never mind the ethics). I get it; blogging can be very different from narrative writing. But it’s disheartening to see forums filled with questions about “How can I optimize for numbers?” rather than “How can I write better for my audience?”

I’m an old-timer in that regard. I studied English and Professional Writing. I read like a mofo. Being a writer was always my dream; I worked hard to achieve it. I always wanted this space to be a storytelling space.

I started out by writing for MatadorNetwork. I was one of the first students to enroll in their Travel Writing program. The one-on-one feedback with the editors was so valuable – I had been writing my whole life, but journalistic travel writing was a whole different ball game.

It’s all well and dandy to be trained in writing, but no one ever taught me in university how to find publications, write pitches, follow-ups, etc. (Fortunately, since I started this journey, Travel Blog Success launched a Bloggers to Bylines course to do exactly that.)

From there, I started using sites like UpWork.com to find freelance writing gigs. I still hate those sites so much I don’t even want to link to them, because most of the employers are dickheads looking to hire someone for $5/hour. But I did what I could to get by.

The thing about success is that once it starts happening, things tend to take off from there. A few published stories, a couple hundred new contacts, and I’m finally getting paid more for my work.

 Copy Writing

Having said that, most of my income comes from copy writing. I LOVE copy writing. It gives me creative flexibility, and I LOVE the fact that most employers very much understand the value of good copy writing. It really, really exercises your writing skills.

(And if you’re unsure what copy writing is, Wikipedia has the answer: Copywriting is written content conveyed through online media and print materials. Copy is content primarily used for the purpose of advertising or marketing. This type of written material is often used to persuade a person or group as well as raise brand awareness.)

I started copy writing thanks to a few local marketing companies like m5i. They hired me on a freelance basis, and then liked my work so much they invited me back. Again, with the contacts I’ve made, things started picking up from there.

Copy writing is also one of the few types of writing work that’s often available in abundance. I learned the fundamentals of copy writing on my own, mostly, but copyblogger has an excellent (and free) content marketing course if you’re interested.

Where I work all day everyday

Blogging

I haven’t made a huge go at monetizing my blog over the years. I’m just starting to do this now. I’m not overly business minded – I prefer to work on the content. It’s been exhausting. After six years I feel I’ve finally got to the point where at least one third of my income comes from blogging.

Unfortunately, you really do need some sort of business sense when it comes to managing your site. If you don’t know anything about SEO, you’re probably not going to get all that far. Travel Blog Success does have a course to teach you all this as well.

My favourite way of leveraging my blog is working with brands that I love, especially via social media. I very carefully select which brands I want to work with. I’ve worked very freaking hard over the years to build my following, and so there’s nothing I would do to jeopardize that relationship and trust.

I also occasionally publish sponsored posts on Free Candie, as long as it stays true to my brand. From time to time, readers do get upset about this. I like to remind them that even your favourite magazines follow the same principles. The difference is that I make 1/100th of the profit. I make shit all, to be frank, but it’s still better than my life before now. And girl’s gotta eat, amiright?

Diversifying My Income

There’s never just ONE thing I’m working on. Right now I’m working on three commissioned articles, a fact-checking assignment, an upcoming Twitter chat, some copy writing, and of course, blogging. I’ll even pick up odd jobs, like helping my friend clean his photography. I’ve transcribed interviews for major Canadian television shows. I’m always saving up for my next trip, and eating out is a total guilty pleasure.

Balance is key. Unfortunately, I have the grace of a camel trotting across a desert.

On that note…

Maintaining This Life

Is hard. None of this is easy.
There are a lot of things you don’t think about before you get started. Like taxes, and international banking, and the best ways to get paid, and how to stay connected when you’re travelling, and what to do if the world is on fire and you STILL HAVE THAT DEADLINE.

That’s why I’m writing this gear guide to location independence. Yes, I’ve taken on another project. If you’re interested, you can sign up to the newsletter with your email so I can notify you when it’s nearly ready.

I work far harder now than I ever have before. I still wouldn’t change a thing.

(Except I’d like more money. That’d be nice.)

How You Can Get Started as a Digital Nomad

Here’s my ulterior motive for writing these 1500 words. If you are genuinely interested in living a life on your own terms, there are so many good people out there who can teach you how to do so.

I know I said at the beginning that you need to pursue your own journey, but having some help along the way is necessary. Vital. I certainly didn’t get this far without it.

I’ve been using Travel Blog Success forever now. Admittedly, I’ve been in the game long enough to know most of this stuff already. But if you’re new, this course is absolutely valuable. If you’re not new, perhaps you’ll want to take advantage of the amazingly helpful community, and the ongoing webinars.

If you’re more interested in freelance writing, the Bloggers to Bylines course is excellent for kickstarting your freelance writing career. I’m currently involved in their pitch challenge, and after having sent off four pitches last week, I’ve already had a pitch accepted from a publication I highly respect. I’m also now writing for Elite Daily. WOOT. CELEBRATION.

If you’re already blogging and are clueless about working with brands, you might want to take advantage of the newly launched Bloggers, Brands, and Tourism Boards while it’s still on sale for less than half the original price. I’ve had a chance to get a sneak-peek preview and it’s really useful if you want to start launching social campaigns, etc. I fail really terribly at negotiating these sorts of things and so I look forward to putting my new knowledge to test.

Giveaway Alert

*Winner has been selected. Congrats, Brooklyn! 

If you’re interested in the Bloggers to Bylines course, just leave a comment or send me an email at hello[@]free candie [.] com and I’ll add you in for a random contest draw for a free course.

If you DON’T win a free course, I’ll let you know before next week so that you can take advantage of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale dates.

As always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions. I’m no expert, but I’ll happily lend an ear and some advice.

  • November 16 2015

    Great post! As a new-ish blogger looking to understand the ins and outs of connecting with brands, I’m interested in that Bloggers Brands and Tourism course, but couldn’t find it on the site. It says “content restricted”. Hmmmm…..

    My fiance and I also are digital nomads, though as yet 0 income come from our blog. Instead, I’m a copywriter and he’s an editor. I too started out on Upwork, and honestly, it has always treated me well! I was lucky to get a ton of projects on there and be able to slowly raise my rates, so now and then I go back and take a good project off their if it sounds worthwhile.

    I like your approach. I want to keep blogging about the storytelling and about high quality writing. I got my Master’s in English and I love the written word! lol

    Lately I’ve been feeling a little despondent, because it seems like so many bloggers focus on numbers and influence and it stresses me out. I haven’t got the time to spend all day sharing my posts. Any tips for taking that next step?

    Again thanks for the post! :) xx Amy
    Amy (Two Drifters) recently posted…Why Your First Travel Experience is Like Your First Love

    • November 16 2015
      Candice

      D’oh! Try again? Might be an error because the course literally launched today, so you need to just try again.

      I love hearing about other freelancers’ experiences. I hated Upwork SO much! Haha. But you’re not the only one I’ve heard about who has had some success with it. And kudos to your Master’s in English. I think there will always be room for we sticklers who love writing, haha.

      Don’t give up on the blog! Sometimes it just takes awhile. Like, years, haha. If you haven’t tried Travel Blog Success though, I do recommend it. Just wait until it goes on sale. ;)

  • November 16 2015

    Thanks for sharing some of this info Candice. I’ve been trying to break into the Copywriting side a little bit, but it’s harder to find companies than I thought it would be. I’d love to enter to win the Bloggers to Bylines course to learn a little bit more about freelancing. Thanks!
    Laura recently posted…Monday Favorites

    • November 16 2015
      Candice

      Consider yourself added!

      As much as I don’t like Upwork, you might want to give that one a shot for copywriting gigs. (Or PeoplePerHour, etc.) Enrolling in a content marketing course will better your chances as well. Some people seem to have great success with sites like Upwork, including Amy who commented before!

  • November 16 2015

    Funny how most people think digital nomads and long time travellers must be sitting on a gold mine when in reality we probably work more than anyone just to keep a few bucks in the bank.
    The Bloggers to Bylines course sounds interesting as well.

    • November 16 2015
      Candice

      I’ll add you to the list! Haha, yes. I work more or less for freedom these days, not profit. If I have to work my butt off for a few weeks to in order to travel freely, I’m totally okay with that.

  • November 16 2015

    Aloha Candie,
    First off, love the new website. So mature and professional, I’m still getting used to it. I would love to enter the Bloggers to Bylines online course giveaway to help me become a stronger, more consistent blogger.
    Like you, I believe quality over content will eventually set my blog apart from the masses, but over the course of four years I have begun to have my doubts. The interwebs love to regurgitate the same images and ideas and I have made a point only to use content created by myself. I am on my moral high horse, but it certainly does not give me a wider audience.
    Mahalo for doing what you do and sharing it with the world.
    Vinny

    • November 16 2015
      Candice

      Thanks for the kind words, Vinny! I appreciate it. I’ll happily include you in the random draw.

      I think Google is increasingly getting smarter at know what kind of content is high quality and well written…at least that’s what my sources tell me, haha. Definitely keep doing what you’re doing.

  • November 16 2015
    Tom

    This is deadly! ha, I can relate to so much of this, it’s wonderful. These days I spend about six or seven months of the year living nomadically throughout Gros Morne, spending about 70% of that time searching for cliffs and magic, aaaaaand the other 30% searching for decent wifi and tea. haha! You quickly get used to not having a home base, and then it feels so awesome.

    Love that it’s working out for you!

    PS — the new branding is !
    Tom recently posted…17 awesome fall photos from Gros Morne on Instagram

    • November 16 2015
      Candice

      Thank ya Tom! Good to see you here! Haha. I had no idea you were entirely freelance as well? And you don’t have a home base anymore?! I’d kill for an office like Gros Morne. Haha.

      • November 16 2015
        Tom

        I’m sorta full freelance and I’m sorta without homebase, at least for part of the year. I’m running Old Crow Magazine, which is part of my life and then some freelance on the side from that. And so for the spring/summer/fall season I’m based in Gros Morne, so I have a whole bunch of different bases here, depending on where I am in the park (I’m usually in Woody Point, which is obviously the best). In the winter (like, now) I’m mostly in Corner Brook but I’ve been in St. John’s a whole bunch and all over. It’s a little cray.
        Tom recently posted…17 awesome fall photos from Gros Morne on Instagram

        • November 18 2015
          Candice

          I love your life. I ultimately plan on settling in Gros Morne. Because GROS MORNE.

  • November 16 2015
    Zoe

    It is so interesting to hear about how different people make location independence work. There are so many options to make that most of the time I’ve never heard of. That course looks really interesting. Please add me. :)

    • November 16 2015
      Candice

      I will happily add you! And you’re right, there are so many different ways to live this lifestyle. :)

  • November 17 2015

    The Blogger to Bylines course sounds like the kick I need to improve my freelance writing skills. Thanks for the advice, Candice :)
    Hayley Simpson recently posted…Where to Stay: California’s Top Independent Hotels

    • November 18 2015
      Candice

      I shall add you to the list!

  • November 17 2015
    Britt

    I am interested in the Bloggers to Bylines course giveaway! Thanks for the resource ideas!

    • November 18 2015
      Candice

      No prob, added you to the prize draw!

  • November 17 2015

    I love reading about how others navigate the digital nomad lifestyle. Thanks for sharing!
    Lori Henry recently posted…Pixelated Squid, Feasting and Steppin’

  • November 18 2015

    I am very new at the Blogging game (one post) and would be interested in the course Bloggers to Bylines.

    • November 18 2015
      Candice

      I’ll add you to the prize draw!

  • November 18 2015
    Élan

    As someone who is transitioning from a day job (also laid off) to a life of full-time freelancing, thank you so much for this post! It’s especially useful to hear the truth about your income from blogging, and how long it has taken to build it up. I’m mostly copywriting right now, which I enjoy. I’d love to add some more journalistic work to my portfolio, though. I’d love to be entered to win the Bloggers to Bylines course — it seems like just what I need right now!

    • November 19 2015
      Candice

      I’ll gladly add you to the draw, Elan! And GOOD LUCK!

  • November 21 2015

    Awesome post! It’s so interesting to hear how others live as a digital nomad. I can only dream that one day I will be able to.

    And I would love to please be entered into the contest please!
    Thanks :)

    http://www.justbeingbrooklyn.com
    Brooklyn recently posted…Future Friday- Johannesburg

    • November 22 2015
      Candice

      I will add you to the list!

  • November 23 2015

    Definitely interested in the giveaway, and I’ll be on the lookout around Black Friday. Thanks! As always, great post. I love your honesty.

    Happy travels :)
    Lauren Meshkin recently posted…Enjoying Autumn in Scotland with Borders Journeys

    • November 26 2015
      Candice

      I shall add you to the list!

  • November 28 2015
    Tom

    Thanks Candice!

    I love that there are more and more of these articles popping up to inspire people to take on a life that is more meaningful :)

    Furthermore, you are actually instructing and showing how you’re doing it making things more practical.

    Will add to our social sharing schedule!

    Thanks
    Tom

    • December 01 2015
      Candice

      So glad you found it helpful, Tom!

  • November 30 2015
    Myri Doyon

    Hi Candice!

    Is it too late? Can you add me?

    • December 01 2015
      Candice

      It is, sorry! :(

  • July 14 2016
    Ell Tee

    Hey! I came to this post from http://thethousandthgirl.com and like what you have to say. I’m already wandering around the Far East and looking to move into something similar to what you’re doing. Also, I’m inspired that you’re from the Atlantic Provinces because I am too.

    Anyway, nice site. I’ll be following.

    • July 18 2016
      Candice

      Thanks, Ell! Good luck with it all. It’s a fun career. :)

  • August 01 2016
    Jake

    Great read here and all over your site, Candice!

    I am looking to make the transition from teaching English (which I have done for four years now). In this capacity, I teach, assign, and review writing skills for my students. I have a strong background in reviewing and editing literary magazines and periodicals at collegiate and in the non-profit sectors.

    My current goal is to make the switch to copywriting, copyediting, and digital assistant work. I read the bit about Upwork and gave it a bit of a gander. I suppose I will need to look closer, but I can see how it might be a struggle.

    What other recommendations would you have? I am somewhat at a loss for where to begin. Help a novice would-be-nomad!

    As luck would have it, I am on a trip now in Istanbul, Turkey and tomorrow I leave for Berlin, Germany. Small world!

    Thanks for any suggestions or pointers!

    -Jake

    • August 02 2016
      Candice

      Hey Jake! I’m fortunate enough to be deep in the field already, so most of my job leads come from word of mouth. Start spreading the word on social media, for example. Set up LinkedIn especially. There’s also cloudpeeps, and yeah, Upwork. Although I fucking hate Upwork. Pardon my French.

      Other people suggest hitting up companies that interest you and sending them a resume/pitch about why they should hire you. (Website need reworking? Let ’em know and point out how you can improve their material.) A personal website is a must have, even if it’s an about.me page. Also try Nomad List: https://remoteok.io/ They have a huge list of remote jobs. Although most of them are tech, you’ll find a writing job here or there. Hope that helps!

      • August 04 2016

        I have a linkedin, I bet it could still be better, especially given my shift in direction. I have heard networking and word-of-mouth are basically the best way to go. I also heard Upwork is garbage. Not walking down that road!

        Thanks so much for the recommendations! This is gonna be a challenge, but now I have some grounding in where to start.

        • August 05 2016
          Candice

          I have a total hate-on for Upwork at the moment, haha. LinkedIn is great too!

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