Updated: March 2017.
This is the story of how I transitioned from working for someone else to working for myself from anywhere in the world. Location independence is freedom! There is no going back.
I’ve been living in Costa Rica since 2010. Before I left the US, I had a job working at a University with multiple bosses and an hourly schedule Monday through Friday. My schedule was somewhat flexible as long as I put in at least 35 hours a week and was present at meetings. I loved my coworkers, the campus, and the work itself. A dream job for me in the world of 9-5 jobs. I thought that was living.
I left my job to live in Costa Rica, not to escape the job. In Costa Rica, I found a level of freedom working for myself that I had never imagined existed. The number one question I get from everyone is about money, how I support myself.
I support myself mainly through freelance gigs: graphic design, writing, and tech consulting. I’ve been a graphic designer for a long time, but the other skills and those which I need to promote myself were learned through starting and maintaining this blog and joining online groups and courses for bloggers and digital nomads like Travel Blog Success.
Through these courses, I learned about marketing, storytelling, and best practices for online businesses with blogs. More about them later…
But how exactly did I transition from working for someone in an office setting to working on a laptop from anywhere in the world?
In my case, the first thing I did was prepare for not being employed. I saved up enough money to cover for a year’s living expenses in Costa Rica. At the time, I thought I was only going to be in Costa Rica for a year, so I was assuming I was going to return to the US and get another 9-5 job. I had a long term freelance design gig lined up to start immediately after leaving the office, so the amount of time I was not bringing in any income was actually only a few months. A few months is plenty of time to build the foundation and start generating income in an online business.
While working on the freelance gig, I started my blog. I initially did it for family and friends back in the US, and I was having a ton of fun doing it. It quickly picked up the attention of strangers, including other bloggers, and I started paying attention to other blogs. I was drawn to travel blogs and studied them, noting that many claimed to be making money. I was energized by the attention my blog was getting and the prospect of making money from it and I took steps to monetize it, making sure it was optimized for search engines, that the code was clean, and the design user-friendly.
Monetizing a blog can mean many things. In the beginning, I was being paid to place ads and links on the site, but not much. I didn’t want to link to something unless it was something I would’ve linked to anyway without compensation and I hate sites cluttered with ads, so that income revenue was very limited and I could see it was not sustainable or viable unless I was getting like a million hits a month.
The way I did bring in significant revenue was through writing and photography gigs. Because my site was optimized and the content was sharable, people were discovering my site and then sending me requests to write for them and/or photograph for them.
It was awesome. The blog served as a real life example of what I was capable of creating and I was having fun doing it. I discovered a formula for promoting myself and attracting clients without initially intending to do so.
With the money coming in and my freedom to work from anywhere, I realized I didn’t need to go back to the US to get another 9-5 and could continue my adventure in Costa Rica. I did teach English for about a year, which was a great experience, but suffocating compared to working for myself. Plus complicated and expensive with a Costa Rica work visa and all the hoops I had to jump through to get that.
Seven years later, I’m still working for myself, untethered.
Join a professional network and learn from those who have been there and done that
Once I discovered the potential of never having to tie myself to a cubicle again, I invested in joining a professional blog network, which offers courses for how to get to the point where I was already and how to pass it. The true value in this network past the courses, in my opinion, comes from the community who freely share new ideas and solutions to problems as well as the organizers who are constantly updating the materials to reflect current trends in technology, in blogging, in working remotely, with search engines, and a plethora of other helpful things.
The blogging network I joined is Travel Blog Success founded by David Lee, who turned his 20-month trip around the world in to a new career. The course actually formed after I started my blog, so I feel like I’ve grown up with these guys and I’ve seen many members go from figuring out how to use WordPress to bringing in 4 or 5 figures a month.
I don’t really have a travel blog, but I still access the community at least once a week for updates on blogging, tech, social media, and internet news. The members post several times throughout the day and I often hear about relevant blogging, internet, and travel news there before I even read about it in traditional media outlets.
They’re also adding new courses all the time, which expand on the info learned in the Blogging Success course. This is the current course offering beyond the membership:
- Blogger to Bylines: A Guide to Freelance Writing
- Videography for Travel Bloggers
- Bloggers, Brands, and Tourism Boards: A Guide to Successful Partnerships
- Affiliate Marketing for Beginners
- The Complete Facebook Marketing Course
- Travel Writing for Bloggers
Travel Blog Success is very focused on building a business through a travel blog. Although the focus is travel, I find a ton of the material relevant to this blog and even to my online design business! The course and resources will save thousands of hours in research and trial and error and it comes with a 30-day guarantee. There is no risk in trying it out, check it out here.
So that is the most useful tool that has enabled me to successfully work online. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time, years. I was inspired to finally sit down and pound it out because you guys keep asking me how I do it and I thought it was time to share some of my secrets! If you are serious about starting an online business or blog and you don’t have the time to figure it all out on your own, I highly recommend signing up to learn from people who have many years of experience already running an online business.
And please, one last very important point – do NOT sign up for a course that guarantees you any amount of income per month or that claims they are making $10,000 or more a month. Ultimately, your monthly income is going to be determined by your niche’s market and the amount of effort you put in to your business. There are people out there who have blazed internet business trails and are super rich from it, but they cannot guarantee you an income and it’s super shady to use their income as a carrot stick to entice you into joining their course. #RantOver
So, this basically sums up how I transitioned from working for someone in a very “normal” prescribed version of life to working for myself and financing a life unscripted, full of adventure, from anywhere in the world.
Now it’s your turn! Questions?