How Our Mission Inspired This Woman To Quit Her Job And Travel The World
A few weeks ago I was out to dinner with a friend, and while we were waiting to be seated I refreshed my emails to see if anything new popped in from work that I could handle in our 15 minute wait window. By complete and utter surprise, I recognized a name I haven’t seen in years; my old friend from sleepaway camp Sam Ligeti.
I was overcome with memories of my silly friend Sam, who I’d crack up with ‘till the morning hours with our hilarious antics at 13 years old. Though we stayed connected through Facebook, I haven’t actually seen or really spoken to her for about 10 years, so to see her message in my inbox had me rushing to open and respond.
It turns out Sam came across a blog post I was featured in by At Her Desk where the topic revolved around my decision to “quit” the status-quo expectations of society for a structured life and begin my own travel company. My message and success spoke to her in a language unique enough to push her to make the switch. This is her story:
Sam posing during a hike in Patagonia
“After a few years of office life, I started to feel ready for something new. I enjoyed the work I was doing and loved my co-workers as well, but I couldn’t ignore my growing desire for change.
I quit my job and went on a three-month backpacking trip through Southeast Asia, where I met a ton of digital nomads (people who travel around while supporting themselves through online work).
One friend inspired me to try freelance writing when we met on a hippy island in Southern Thailand, and I noticed that she had so much free time and flexibility that she could partake in every jungle treetop yoga class and sunset meditation with me, while still managing to write enough to support herself.
I loved the prospect of a work/life balance more focused on life, on lived experiences around the world. I wanted the ability to work from anywhere, and the challenge of being my own boss.
A year later, I am happily supporting myself as a freelance writer while adventuring around South America. I’ve been living in Santiago, Chile for months now, and only need to work twenty hours a week to make more than enough to support myself, even while renting a room in a beautiful area downtown.
Sometimes I really miss my office life back in the states. I miss the constant companionship that comes with an office environment, the combined creative powers of a team, the guidance of mentors. I will likely return to being an employee one day.
For now though, I am so happy to have this chance to learn about myself and trust that if I work hard to create opportunities and follow through on them, I will be just fine. It’s empowering to take a look at my life and realize that I have consciously chosen and cultivated everything about it. I am proud to call myself a freelancer!”
I have clocked in my work hours while overlooking turquoise waters in Thailand, sipping wine at a vineyard in Argentina, and tasting Colombian coffee right where it’s made. Freedom, flexibility, fewer work hours… it’s all true. Traveling to new destinations, roaming with the wind, experiencing different cultures and languages… it’s all terrific. It can get lonely sometimes, and striking the right balance between work and travel can be tricky. But once you get into the groove, you will be so happy you’ve given yourself this opportunity to see the world.
How Do You Find Work As A Freelancer?
Start by mapping out exactly what services you want to offer and the ideal clients you’d like to attract. Come up with an elevator pitch that explains why you’re great for the job and how you help people/businesses. Determine the fees or hourly rate that will meet your budgetary needs as you work and travel.
Then, start telling people. Tell your close friends and family back home what you’re doing (choosing only people you know will be supportive) and ask them if their company or anyone they know is looking for freelancers. Reach out to contacts who work in your field, and don’t forget to inform your social butterfly/master networker type friends that you’re looking for clients.
YOUR OWN NETWORK
Don’t be afraid to reach out to anyone in your network! It all comes down to being bold and putting yourself out there. If you can summon the courage to sell yourself as a hot commodity even when you don’t totally know what you’re doing and you’re scared as hell? That is what will bring you success.
FREELANCE JOB WEBSITES
A whole host of resources have sprung up on the interwebs to help you transition to the freelance life of your dreams. Sites like Upwork and Fiverr show you a feed full of projects that you can apply for, while taking a percentage of your pay. The ideal goal with these sites is to win loyal clients who continually come to you with their projects, so you don’t have to keep hunting around and paying high percentages to the platforms for finding those connects.
Right now, our economy is in a point of transition where even small businesses are realizing they need an online presence to make it in their industry. That is where you can swoop in, digital nomad that you are, and take some of that work off their hands.
You can contact potential clients via LinkedIn or even cold emailing. Just do some research first about how to pull off those approaches. You will need a website or online portfolio, something to point them to so they can learn more about your work.
What Is The Most Difficult Part About Switching To Freelancing?
The hardest part for me was starting. It was really difficult to find the confidence and bravery to say HEY WORLD, I’m a freelancer now, and boy do I have some incredible services to offer that you don’t want to miss out on.
I studied Literature in college where I spent four years writing essays. I worked on a marketing team where I spent two years writing content. And still felt like… who is going to actually pay me, Sam Ligeti, for my writing? Who am I to venture out on my own and call myself a one-woman writing business???
Who am I? A good writer, that is who. Who am I? A qualified, capable person! And you are, too!
Imposter syndrome is REAL, and the best way to combat it is to dive into the work as quickly as you can. Once you sell that first piece of work, then the second, then the third, you will show everyone, especially yourself, that you can do this.
Don’t be a perfectionist, either. I thought I had to make a fancy website to attract clients, but actually the second I believed in myself enough to sit down one day and spend an afternoon hammering out my business plan and value proposition on a Google Doc, I got a call a few days later from a contact back home asking if I’d write freelance for her.
I didn’t even have to publish my services, I just had to throw them up in a doc, and I’d already attracted a client?!? I couldn’t believe it.
I’ve come to see that once you have a little faith in yourself and put your intention out there into the universe, the universe will provide hundreds of little ways to help you along.
I’m not saying it will be as easy as a phone call out of the blue like that, but once you start acting like you have something to share with the world, the pieces will start falling into place.
Where Should I Go If I Want To Be A Traveling Freelance Writer?
Sam practicing her yoga splits on a stand up paddle board in Thailand
It really depends on your interests and intended lifestyle of course, but I’d say the best places offer a trifecta like this: a wildly different culture from your own, lots of natural beauty to explore, and a standard of living that’s much more affordable than you’re used to. That way, you can go on lots of adventures and get to know another culture without needing to work a ton of hours to afford it.
Mix up big cities, small towns, and nature spots. Losing internet is a big issue for freelancers, so here’s a trick: make sure your phone is unlocked before you leave home so you can buy cheap local SIM cards and then use your phone’s hotspot to power your computer in case the WiFi is scarce.
There are websites you can explore like Nomad List that rank destinations on how favorable they are for digital nomads. I’d also recommend finding some travel bloggers you identify with and checking out their suggestions. I like to read blogs before going to a new city to find out what area should be my home base (I am partial to the bohemian/hipster vibe, and I want a safer neighborhood to keep my computer). I choose hostels if I want to be social and meet other foreigners, and choose Airbnb if I want to meet locals right away and see what it’s like to live in that place.
How Do You Manage Your Budget On The Road?
If you’re jumping from client to client a lot, your money situation can get shaky real fast.
Try to nail down at least one client who will give you a steady paycheck for continuous work. In the marketing world this is fairly easy to find. Lots of agencies are looking for people to write weekly articles, post regularly to social media, create graphics, improve SEO.
You may want to create packages for your services, but make sure you know what your hourly rate will work out to be as well. As you start working, track how long things take. It can be really easy to get carried away and work so many hours that you could have been making $30/hour but instead you made $10.
As you’re determining your price point, research other freelancers and see what they’re charging, read about it, and don’t sell yourself short! Ask for more, and clients will usually give it.
Remember that contractors are typically paid more because they don’t get employee benefits and have to pay all their own taxes.
Often the exchange rate will work in your favor, but sometimes it won’t. Plane tickets, Ubers, and Airbnbs will take a big chunk out of your budget. Be smart with your money, but also remember that you’re doing this so that you can work fewer hours and see the world. It’s all about that balance.
Do You Ever Feel Lonely While Working Remotely And Traveling Solo?
Absolutely! It can be totally overwhelming to feel suddenly untethered from all things comfortable and familiar. When you no longer belong to any particular place or group of people, you’re free but also floating, a tiny spec in a wide, wide world.
When this feeling starts to get to you, it can be a good idea to stay in one place for awhile and ground yourself. Go to the same café every day to work, Join a co-working space, look up events that interest you and actually go, get to know the locals in a certain part of town or hit up the expat community.
You can easily connect with other travelers through Facebook groups, Airbnb Events, Couchsurfing Events, free walking tours, happy hours, bar crawls and activities hosted by hotels/hostels. Travelers are way more open to connect with you right away than any other group, so the travel community is a great place to turn to when you’re looking for some human interaction.
How Long Do You Typically Live In Each Location?
It is totally up to you! When you love a place, stay longer. When you’re ready to move on, move on. That’s the beautiful thing about this lifestyle--you practice getting more clued into what you actually want, and then get to actually act on it! You’re in an empowered position where you get to steer the course of your life according to your inner voice.
I’ve been in Santiago, Chile for months now, and I’ve appreciated what this extended stay has brought to light about the city and the culture that I wouldn’t understand if I were just passing through.
I have a Chilean roommate who has a killer taste in music and shares my interest in brewing our own kombucha. I attend a dancehall (urban dance) class every Wednesday outside a metro station by my apartment where a teacher named la Sole shows up with a boombox and we give the commuters around us a nice show. I get invited to house parties where I am the only foreigner, and I’ve celebrated the holidays with a Chilean family.
There is definitely something to be said for staying in a place an extended length of time. You stop being an onlooker and you start getting involved. You make deeper connections and notice more details. You give the place more of a chance to challenge your preconceptions and change you for the better.
No matter how long you stay in a place, part of the key to being a welcome guest and beneficial part of the community is adopting the mentality of a traveler, not a tourist. Travelers are humble. They visit a place to learn, not to judge, label, or gawk. Travelers are aware of their own biased and limited understanding, and are ready to be transformed by the incredible diversity of our world.
Want to keep up with Sam and her writing?
Visit her website here