Like most of us, I’ve never had any certainty about what it is I want to do with my life. I’m not sure if I envy those who seem to find a set direction from an early age, or if I’m actually happier as I am, with no idea what the future will hold. Having decided I was going to be an astronaut (before I realised you have to have a basic understanding of physics), then a vet (until that fateful dissection class) and countless other things, I settled on studying languages at university because, well, I enjoyed them, but without any set career path in mind.
Having returned from my year abroad in Brazil with vastly improved Portuguese and an even further heightened sense of wanderlust, I settled into my final year of university and promptly freaked out. It had finally dawned on me that come the following May I was going to be heading out into the big wide world, and I still hadn’t the foggiest idea what I was going to do with myself.
I was lucky enough to have some wonderful cousins who have a copywriting agency and put a bit of writing work my way, which made me realise that freelance writing might be something worth pursuing. Having got into writing for the Wessex Scene, Megan asked me to write a piece on easy ways for students to make money, promoting a job she had on offer. My research led me to the sites Fiverr and Upwork.
Fiverr seemed the less scary of the two at the time, and I set myself up offering 400 words of writing for $5, or 400 words translated from Spanish or Portuguese to English. Fiverr is a site where you sit back and let the clients come to you, and they started coming in dribs and drabs, perfect for a busy final year student. I got both writing work and a few translation jobs, although these were entirely Portuguese.
Spurred on and having made myself a few hundred dollars and been approached to do a few bigger jobs, once I’d finished my degree in the summer (and got over the hurdle that was my TESOL course), I put my energy and spare time into building my Upwork profile.
With Upwork, you are presented with a feed of relevant jobs and have to bid for them, having a limited number of bids per month. After sending out countless bids I started to get some very low paid jobs, which gave me some five-star reviews, meaning people were more willing to hire me. This took up a huge amount of time to begin with, but it paid off. From writing articles about massage chairs to translating full academic papers, things were going swimmingly.
I had just been awarded the contract for translating a full eBook from Spanish into English (Latino in London will be available for purchase very soon!) when I was unceremoniously chucked off Upwork, as in my innocence I had started speaking to a few clients on skype and Upwork decided that this meant I was ‘circumventing’ them, which they do NOT take kindly too. A word of warning to new Upworkers: never mention a word about payment outside of Upwork on Upwork chat, because they will hunt you down and tell you where to go. Charming.
The book and another extended translation project, and a weekly blog translation job kept me busy for my first month in Mexico, back in October (read all about what I’m up to here). Once I was free again I looked at other freelancing sites like freelancer.com, but they just didn’t cut the mustard. Upwork may have its downsides, and it may charge 20% commission, but the interface is beautifully simple and, in my opinion, it’s far easier to build a profile.
So I swallowed my pride and opened a new Upwork account (minus all of the reviews I’d worked so hard for, sob) and started from scratch, although with a lot more experience to put on my CV. Three months later, I’m no longer actively looking for work! I am currently editing a book in English, doing weekly blog translations, writing travel articles and various other blogs, alongside a 20-hour-a week editing job for health and wellbeing site, offered to me by an Upwork client.
I won’t be sharing my exact earnings on here (as that would be terribly un-British) which are still very modest, but more than enough for life in Mexico, which is beautifully cheap. The day I’m raking in thousands of dollars from the comfort of my sofa, I’ll do a breakdown of how I’m managing it (she says optimistically).
I’ve been incredibly lucky to have the chance to put large amounts of time into building my portfolio, as the placement I’m doing in Mexico is only about 10 hours a week and the Christmas holidays were a whole two months long, giving me plenty of time to travel and work as I went.
I won’t be back in England until the summer, which gives me a few months to put plenty of hard work in and start earning a little more, as the dollars I currently earn won’t go too far in the mother country…
The big question is whether or not I will be diving into a translation masters degree come September, which remains to be seen. Whatever happens, having had a taste of the digital nomad lifestyle I’m in no hurry to get myself a job which involves actually going to an office. Seeing what just 6 months of hard work (combined with the right circumstances and a healthy dose of luck) can do, I’ve got my sites set on full ‘digital nomad’ status. From now on, interspersed with my travel diaries, I’ll be keeping a record of my journey towards being a fully paid-up member of the digital nomad club, and sharing the lessons I learn along the way. Watch this space!
Are you a digital nomad? Do you have any tips for a fledgeling? Would you like to have a location-independent job?