I’ve read so many blogs that say nonchalantly – hey quit your job and become a digital nomad. As though it’s super easy to find work online.
If you are like me and don’t have a technical skill (like coding, design etc), this world can feel totally out of reach.
When I left the UK 6 months ago, I didn’t even know this existed. Since then, I’ve been shown the menu, had a bite of an entree. And now I’m hungry for the main course.
Here’s my journey so far.
I left my job in the UK – December 2016
After 5 years of working in London advertising agencies, I was burnt out. I was working 12 hour days (with no overtime pay), with loads of stress and abuse from clients that made me cry in the toilets. Spontaneously, I decided to go away & have a break.
I wanted to do something productive while traveling
I didn’t want to bum around traveling, so I decided to learn Spanish. But if you’re not a natural linguist like me, it takes a lot of effort and is expensive.
So I set off, nervous but excited, off on my trip that began in Guatemala. Day 1 my bag was stolen which included my passport, phone, money, bank cards and ID. (If you need tips on how to cope in a similar situation, click here)
I refused to let this ruin my trip; I couldn’t go home on day 2. But it did cost me a lot.
I arrived in Medellin. I had no idea what to do.
As I couldn’t work in the country without a visa, I thought I had only one option if I didn’t want to spend a load of money living here:
- Get a job on workaway.com (the website that offers accommodation in exchange for some work)
Lucky break number 1. I started chatting to a random Aussie in a cafe. I ended up living with him and his Portuguese designer friend for a week. They opened up my eyes to the world of remote work. Australia was a screen writer and Portugal was a UX designer.
However, I still didn’t believe that I could join this world. I’m not a UX designer, app developer, etc. My background in account management gave me client-relationship building skills but I didn’t think this gave me skills to work remotely. So when I found a workaway job advertised in a boutique guesthouse in Cartagena, I booked a flight immediately to go there.
I worked in a hotel in Cartagena. It was awful.
8 hour shifts, and I was micro-managed, patronised and generally treated like “mierda”. 💩.
However, I didn’t have any other options at the time, and ended up working here for 2 months, while I got my life back on track. I got a new passport sent here from the UK, took Spanish lessons every day and had free accommodation.
Lucky break number 2. One of the guests in the hotel worked as a virtual assistant and transcriber. She was paid in dollars and could work anywhere – i.e. from the pool in the hotel. This started to put things into perspective; I was working for free in a stressful hotel for 8 hours a day. I was already lukewarm to the idea of remote work from my Medellin friends, Australia & Portugal.
So I asked her if they needed any more workers, sent her my CV, and pretty instantly…
I was hired! My first remote job!
I started transcribing interviews with people in the American navy. Random as fuck.
I know I was very flukey, as the company had just won a new client so they had a lot of work. But it also made me realise, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Yes it was boring but it provided me with constant work for about 6 weeks. Anything from 4-8 hours a day, at my set rate of $20 per hour – working my cafes or sometimes even my bed, I couldn’t quite believe how easy it was. And how relaxing! It funded my trip to Providencia, my exploration in Medellin coffee and views, and more. I’d had a small taste of the remote working life…
And then that project ended.
I didn’t want to go back to the days of working in a hotel, for bosses that shouted at me, or clients that treated me like pants. I was desperate to keep the flexibility of being able to work in my favourite cafe at whatever time of the day took my fancy.
So I looked online to see what else I could do and I found Upwork, the world’s largest online workplace.
The Upwork journey begins
I’m not going to lie – I felt pretty intimidated by Upwork. The amount of jobs is great, but blimey there’s a lot of competition for every role. I applied for virtual assistant and transcription roles.
With no reviews, I found it hard to bank my first job. However, I kept on searching and applying. I found someone who wanted his grandma’s handwritten diary transcribed, and applied with a personal cover letter pointing out minor grammar mistakes in her diary, and along with a low fee…
Lucky break number 3
I was hired AGAIN!
It took about 6 hours and I only earnt $30, but I didn’t care; I was off. I got a glowing 5* review so surely, they were all going to flood in now. Again, I was wrong.
And I’m unemployed again.
So I apply for more Upwork jobs… so far I have applied for at least 20, have got through to the interview process of a few, and have dodged some scams too.
If you want to follow my journey and learn some tips along the way, click here.