As an already established Content Manager, who didn’t come from a Marketing background, I knew I needed just a few more lessons on overall Digital Marketing and how to use different types of strategies for different types of businesses. One of my friends told me about Udacity’s Digital Marketing Nanodegree Program, and after a few days of contemplating, I said “F it” and signed up.
Digital Nomad Guides
Welcome to the freelance club. Now sit back and watch the money roll in. Take it easy and enjoy the amount of free time you now have. Put up your feet and fall in love with working to your own schedule.
Wait. Not happening?
Freelancing is a tricky business, there are many positives and many more negatives which come with this work adventure. And if you know me, I talk all the time how this is NOT a shortcut to get money. Like for real, work is work, and just because you can choose your own hours, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to do the work. Things will hit the fan if you don’t discipline yourself and create a productive routine.
1. Create a space. And actually work there
If you are anything like me, then you are easily distracted by your surrounding area. You are sat on the couch, but the cat walking through your yard is acting very suspicious. You try your room, but Netflix has been left on from this morning and, wait, THERE’S A FRIENDS EPISODE YOU HAVEN’T SEEN?!
Take the time to create your own space, hire an interior decorator or do it yourself, but designate a space where you can work and do nothing else. A desk, a lamp, paper and a pen, your laptop, a coaster for your coffee mug and an adequate view. Now when you sit down (or stand up) in this space, you are here to work. You will notice the distractions less and will be more focused.
2. Eat, sleep, and be enthusiastic
As a freelancer you need to be aware of your health. We usually work from home and do not leave the comforts we have created for ourselves (I sometimes don’t even roll out of my bed all day unless I have to). The health or a freelancer can suffer. Don’t let it happen.
- Eat well. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean protein, fibre and all the other stuff like nutrients and minerals, etc, etc. Eating well = healthy body = healthy mind = good freelancing.
- Drink lots of water. Or drink lots of water based drinks which are also low in sugar. Keeping hydrated means our brains are working well.
- Sleep. Take the time to wind down at night and get 6-8 hours sleep. A rested freelancer is a productive freelancer.
- Meditate. Take the time out of you work day to focus on yourself for a few minutes. Clear your mind and achieve a sense of wellbeing. It has been shown that people who meditate are happier than this who do not.
- Be comfortable. If you are going to be sitting for long periods of time then invest in a chair which will support your back,. Your health should always be the number one priority.
- Exercise and stretch. Sitting for extended periods can be detrimental to your health. Take five minutes every hour to either walk or stretch. Together we can show pain and fatigue who is boss.
3. Create a schedule and stick to it
You were working a nine-to-five job, but now you have left the rat-race, so why should you conform to working hours?
So often as a freelancer you will find the distinction between work and play becoming blurred. When you are working you will stop and play and when you are playing your mind will drift towards work. By setting defined work hours you will be more productive, focused and energized within those hours, and you will be able to enjoy the ‘me time’ guilt free. There’s a good chance your clients will be from all around the world and sometimes you’ll have to stick to different working hours. Make sure you have a clear idea of what those hours will be to avoid ugly surprises.
*Pro tip: take the time to plan a commute for your work day. When working at the office you would not get out of bed and begin work straight away. Take the time to wake up, grab some breakfast and perhaps even take a walk around the block to ready yourself for the working day ahead. Believe me, it works!
4. Utilize productivity tools
Productivity = good.
Tool = helpful.
Productivity tool = Invaluable (or good helpful if you’re a math person).
- Management and productivity tools will help to integrate your work and calendar to better manage your day and help to set a task-based schedule.
- Time management tools can help you to keep a record of all the tasks and activities completed throughout the day.
- Make sure to set some overall goals for yourself. If you can set and visualize your goals, you can become more focused, motivated and time conscious.
- Writing is an enormous asset as a freelancer. Writing tools can help to proofread, edit and format your work. Your grammar so bad? Bad, writing, style? Productivity tools will help.
- Cannot make a decision? Or can you? No? Don’t worry, there are apps for that.
Productivity tools can be an essential part of a freelancer’s repertoire.
5. Reward the good & embrace the bad
There will be many times throughout your freelancing career that will be incredibly positive and rewarding. Celebrate these times for you have deserved it. Acknowledge the good work you have done and it will become more motivating to put in the effort to do this again and again.
There will be also many, many, many, many times during your career that you will face rejection, heartbreak, and clients disappearing before they pay you (AND STILL USE YOUR CONTENT AFTER *cough* *cough* not putting anyone on blast, but karma will come and get you…). Happens. All freelancers have faced rejection and negativity at many points of their life. The best of us will take this rejection, accept it, use it to better ourselves, learn about ourselves and move on. If this was complete and reasonable injustice, karma will take care of the rest. Don’t beat yourself over the bad.
*Pro tip: get used to rejection. Interviews are a fun way of socializing and networking, don’t always expect a positive outcome.
6. Hold yourself accountable
Working from home and for yourself can be hard and demotivating. If you are finding it hard then set up a network or community of accountability around you. Your family or friends, other freelancers online or just your cat. If you have someone watching, waiting to see you complete your work then you will find a natural drive to not disappoint.
One thing you can also do, if you’re really struggling (like I did a month ago), is hire a life coach to smoke out the bad habits out of you and really hold you accountable to your stuff. Trust me, it’s working.
If you have read this far then well done to you. You are ready to be a productive member of the freelancer community. So what are you waiting for, go on get out there and do some work. 🙂
All my life, I only had one goal in mind – to move to Santorini. The thought wouldn’t let me sleep and when it did, I dreamed of sunsets. 2016 was the year I decided to do something about it and here’s how it happened.
How I became a digital nomad and moved to Santorini
Everyone needs a certain push to make a huge decision, right? At the time of my decision, I have been working at a startup as a Head Copywriter (and later Content Manager) for a little over a year. The company was facing huge changes and I was given a position of the Content Manager in the Marketing department. I was running the blog, had a Creative Writing degree, did an editorial internship before that and blogged in my free time – it was the role that suited me.
Little did I know that this was the role that I was going to become extremely passionate about. For almost a year before I decided to become a digital nomad, I made a plan and absorbed in all knowledge I possibly could. I signed up for a bunch of Udemy courses (Copywriting, Social Media Marketing, Instagram Marketing and Safe SEO Techniques) to boost my Content Management skills, and Gary Vee’s content advice is practically running through my veins. I was ready.
Around the summertime (6 months before my move), I signed up on Upwork. Because of my past experiences (and courses I have outlined in my cover letters), getting clients was actually quite easy, although truth be told, I had to work some pretty horrible jobs for low rates to kickstart it all. My first feedback was actually negative (I’m now almost top rated) – so I had to make sure I worked at least 4 short term jobs to receive a positive feedback. I worked 24/7 for almost 6 months, doing Upwork and my office job, to see if I could earn a sufficient income from Upwork once I would leave. This was probably one of the craziest times ever, but necessary – I’d never recommend plunging into the freelance role without seeing whether you can actually do it first.
How many ongoing clients do I work for?
I still work with the same awesome clients as I have when I switched to the freelance role. 4 ongoing people, which makes about 50 working hours per week all together.
I would disclose exactly how much I earn, but for privacy reasons, I can only tell you it’s about $400 per week (on a good day). When I need extra money, I work extra hard or look for fixed writing projects. More than often, my clients will actually have extra work available if I ask.
What are my working hours like?
I have everyday availability or my clients, but taking into consideration that I also run this blog, I would say I work about 7 hours per day. I do try to take at least one full day off and at least one waking hour away from my laptop, but the truth is, my work doesn’t feel like work to me – it’s what I love to do. More than often I’ll wake up at 5am, do work for 5 hours and then take the entire day off and work on my personal blog or explore the island.
You can schedule your own working hours, but if you want to make money, you’ll still need to work.
The best thing about freelancing is taking breaks and coming back to your task whenever you want – it’s your call. I can take a walk to town when I feel uninspired, breathe in the sun rays and come back feeling amazing. I can blast my music or listen to productive audiobooks (or work in a weird yoga pose…). Stuff you can’t really do in an office setting.
Did I save any money before I went traveling?
No. I just made sure I moved after payday. Money saving is still one thing I’m desperately trying to learn. My landlady allowed me to pay my last month’s rent with my deposit, so my rent money could go towards my accommodation on Santorini – this helped a lot a lot a lot.
Did I ever drop clients?
Just recently – otherwise all my clients have been absolutely fantastic to work with (and I’m not just saying that because they read my blog :P)
Would I do anything differently?
One thing I probably should do, but also probably won’t, is set my working hours with each client. I’m a people-pleasing person – if you message me at 3am and need something done, there’s a chance I’ll be on it even though I was asleep just a second before your message. I love watching businesses succeed because it makes me subconsciously work towards my own business and develop my own tactics.
Will I ever go back to office life?
I am playing with the option to do short term internships since my freelance role now allows me to have a sufficient income no matter what. I also love the idea of working for a media company I love, but at the moment, being a digital nomad is probably the best thing I can do for myself and my work experience.
This is an old Upwork guide on how to stand out from the rest that got deleted along with my other blog content 🙁 Enjoy!
I’m not sure whether to start a new blog for my freelance ventures or just expand Soulful Mandy as a no-niche blog. But because I’m too lazy for updates, I now declare this a complete mix of everything kind of blog, so here you go.
I’ve been an Upwork user for the past almost year. I have 86% of clients who would recommend me and 11% long-term clients. I’m currently an ongoing virtual assistant and a copywriter, tracking 30 hours on Upwork every single week and earning $600 per week on average.
My niche isn’t exactly unique – about 40 freelancers apply for a virtual assistant job ad and probably twice as more for a copywriter / article writer ad. So how is it that a foreigner managed to get attention from clients who usually want a native English speaking client?
Upwork 101: How to Stand Out from the Rest
1. Be Quick
Upwork might be a side hustle, but applying for projects is a full time job. Enable notifications but check your job feed a few times every single day – apply as soon as you see a job being posted. Top tip: pay for that Upwork membership for your first few months – it’ll pay off.
2. Have a sense of humor
I’ve been on both ends – applying for a job and posting a job on Upwork. And I really appreciate freelancers with a sense of humor – they’re the ones that usually stand out from the rest. This shows your client they can be completely comfortable when talking to you and you’ll motivate them when they want to give up – unless it’s a large company, most people use Upwork for their small busineses. Having employees that make their job fun is a huge bonus.
3. Include samples in your cover letter
Make sure your samples and relevant job experience are added in your cover letter. And keep your cover letter short. 70% of the time, people don’t read cover letters and ask you the same questions you’ve already answered later on. Including samples of your work is a quick-to-the-point way to show them what you got.
Get online certifications from Udemy. Many will appreciate you are trying to learn something, even though you’re not yet a pro at it.
4. Take interest in their work
One of my pet peeves is people who don’t have any questions when asked at job interviews. Dude.
Ask questions. Ask them who their audience is. What their vision is. What their mission is. What they expect from you. Ask questions and take interest in their work – it’ll help you create a connection with your client and an opportunity for
Ask them who their audience is. What their vision is. What their mission is. What they expect from you. Ask questions and take interest in their work – it’ll help you create a connection with your client and an opportunity for long term work. One of my biggest advices is to work for the client, not for the money. The money WILL come. Just not for the first few months 🙂
One of my biggest advices is to work for the client, not for the money. The money WILL come. Just not for the first few months 🙂
5. Arrange a Skype call ASAP
Don’t wait a week – arrange a Skype call ASAP. Most of these employers are just looking to hire people FAST. I have terrible social anxiety and the thought of Skype calling complete strangers seemed absurd. Upwork actually “cured” that anxiety for me and I now really enjoy talking to my clients and getting to know their companies.
Questions you should ask during your Upwork interview:
- Who’s your audience?
- How many hours per week are you looking for?
- (If you’re not on the same timezone) Are you okay with me working on a different timezone?
- Where do you see your company in 2 years (1 year if it’s a startup)? This is super important because it’ll help you see whether this will be a long-term job and how long are they planning on keeping you.
- What are you expecting from an [insert job title you’re applying for]?
And that’s it! Don’t worry – this is the first of the Upwork 101 series, stay tuned. If you have any questions, please comment below and I’ll be more than happy to answer them! 🙂
How do you stand out on Upwork?
If you landed on this article, you’ve probably Googled ‘how to become a digital nomad’, huh? Welcome to my website, a resource for digital nomads mixed with personal stories from my travel life. My name is Mandy and I’ve been living in London, Madrid and Santorini. I work as a digital nomad and in this article, I’ll try my best to explain how to become a digital nomad. Ready? Vamos!
1. Can you handle it?
One of the biggest misconceptions is that you work less than you do when you’re in your typical office job. The truth is, I never worked this hard before in my life. There are days when I don’t even come out of my apartment. There are last minute Skype calls I have to take that completely change my work plans. There’s so much self discipline involved I sometimes feel like my life is set in this amazing power productivity routine that helps me get work done and learn a lot. The truth is, the digital nomad lifestyle’s not for everyone. No matter what kind of job you have, you’ll have to work hard to sustain yourself – this job is not a shortcut.
Characteristics of digital nomads:
- Good communicators
- Amazing work discipline and hard working
- Time management and organizational skills
- Adapting to various tools requested by your clients
- Technology savvy
- Patience – can you handle the terrible upload/download speed of some countries?
- Stay calm under pressure
- Planning in advance (especially when you want to take holiday – your client won’t be happy with paused work from your end)
- Accepting and learning from bad feedback
- Working for your clients
I want to address the last point. The truth is, “being your own boss” as a digital nomad is a myth. You’ll need an ongoing job to sustain yourself and this usually means having a boss. The only difference between being a digital nomad and not being a digital nomad is the location of your work (and getting 100% more work experience and often having to work weekends).
2. What do you want to do?
Forget about “where do you want to go”:
The first step of becoming a digital nomad is looking at your skills you can bring to the table – what are you 100% good at and what are some things you’d be willing to learn? Can you work remotely with your current job? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Write them down.
If you don’t have much experience, get a few certificates to show off your skills and willingness to learn. Udemy and other online course websites make this a bit easier. Do this while you’re still at your full time job to make for an easier transition.
3. Start freelancing on the side
Before I became a digital nomad, I spent roughly 6 months freelancing on the side to determine whether or not I can actually make a full time living from it. One thing I learned is that clients come and go, so you have to get used to the flow and figure out what you’ll do during the time when there are no clients. It’ll happen.
Where to find freelance jobs for digital nomads:
Read also: How to stand out on Upwork
4. Adjust your location to your jobs
This is important. While living on Santorini is one of the most magical experiences ever, I struggle with weak internet on a daily basis.
If your job requires you to upload videos on a daily basis, you need to scour locations that have generally good Wi-Fi and an amazing upload speed. You’ll need a decent download speed to do work no matter what, so probably a lot of dreamy abandoned locations won’t work.
5. Work hard and enjoy it!
In my opinion, being a digital nomad is one of the hardest jobs you could have. Once again, this is not a shortcut way to make easy money. It’ll test every part of your work ethic, but it ultimately shapes you for whatever you’re looking to do in the future – your work skills will be appreciated by big companies once / if you’re ever ready to come back to an office job. Or, if you’re anything like me, it’ll give you entrepreneurial passion to start thinking about having your own business.
It hasn’t even been a year of my digital nomadism and I’ve learned a lot more and got amazing work experience. What I love about being a digital nomad is having the chance to work on things normal 9-5 companies often overlook. It gives you an excellent canvas to develop your skills and work with a wide range of tools. On top of all that, you will network with companies from all over the world!
But I really mean it when I say being a digital nomad will test every part of your work ethic.