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.
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.
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.
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.
*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.