From the first day I started working in the travel space, the term ‘digital nomad’ has been flying around. And while I have the utmost respect for people who live and work on the road, I have pursued a different path - a path of location independence.
If you Google the meaning of location independence, here’s what pops up:
“Location independence is the freedom to work and live from wherever you want. It is a lifestyle. This lifestyle is born out of a desire to be an architect of your own destiny and to have the ability to live life on your terms.”
Sounds pretty good hey? I first read that Google description two years ago when I returned from a six month trip to South America. While I didn’t know how, I knew I wanted to become location independent as soon as I could. So for the last two years, I have been working day and night towards that goal, and as of August 2020, I can happily and wholeheartedly say, I have achieved it.
Location Independence Vs Digital Nomad
While both phrases are often used interchangeably, they are in fact different. Location independence isn’t about traveling and it isn't necessarily about being nomadic, but it is lifestyle. It means having the freedom and choice to live and work from wherever you choose. 'Digital nomads' also enjoy freedom, but unlike those who are location independent, digital nomads don’t associate with a permanent home base. For me, I choose to combine the two. I am at a point in my life where I would like to own my own home, but I will never stop travelling because of that. I enjoy working remotely, and whether that is at my future home or on the road, the choice is mine.
For both digital nomads and those who choose location independence, not being tied to a specific geographical location is critical. I personally feel, especially given the current pandemic, the days of the 9-5 and commuting into the office are over… if you choose them to be.
Enjoying my location independent lifestyle gives me the freedom to:
Work where I choose
Travel when I choose
Work when I choose
Get out of bed when I choose
Have a home-base rather than being on the road constantly
Why do I choose location independence over being a Digital Nomad?
I travelled a lot in my 20’s and I loved it, I still do. But the days of being on the road constantly for longer than six months at a time are over for me. I enjoy four months of immersive travel but I also enjoy coming home to my partner, my family and my friends. I want to set up a home, get a dog and settle down in the next few years. Being a digital nomad is exhausting. Not only are you working constantly, but you are always on the move, travelling non stop. For me, I now enjoy embracing my travels at a much slower pace, and taking a little break from work when I do. With location independence, you have a much better work life balance and enjoy those home comforts you crave when you have been on the road for a while - like a nice hot bubble bath and fluffy towels!
How I became location independent:
It has been a journey of two years since I set my mind to being location independent. And it has been hard, frustrating, confusing, difficult, lonely, but also incredibly rewarding and 100% worth it.
My background is Recruitment and Business Psychology, working for large corporates in the centre of London. I knew it wasn’t the right path for me, so I took a break to travel around South America in 2018. It turns out that six months of headspace was exactly what I needed to create a future that was totally inline with who I was becoming.
When I returned from South America I knew I wanted to start Go Travel and Talk but in order to do that, I had to leave everything I knew behind, including my friends, my job, my income and London. I moved back in with my parents and started to work on the Go Travel and Talk website. I didn’t have a plan or a strategy, I just knew I wanted to share with the world what I had learnt from my travels so far, with a goal to help the travel industry on a much deeper level.
Despite what some people say, unless you are really lucky, starting a blog does not bring overnight success. It takes time to build your website authority, for your articles to rank on Google and for your audience to build and to trust you.
I learnt so much in my first six months of creating Go Travel and Talk; from social media to SEO strategies, website design, marketing, email marketing, lead generation and sales, but I knew I would need a source of income to keep building on the Go Travel and Talk platform. So I started interviewing for part time roles in social media and marketing close to my parents house. My plan was to gain exposure to things I still needed to learn when it came to building an online business and it has worked ten-fold.
I secured a part time role as a Marketing assistant (3 days a week) and worked on Go Travel and Talk on the other days, putting everything spare hour I had into building the brand. While doing that, I continued to take courses and learning as much as I could in social media and digital marketing. I networked with other social media managers and joined amazing Facebook and online communities. I stayed home when my friends were meeting up. I worked from 7am until 8pm and often over my weekends. I spent every waking hour I had on learning and growing. It was hard but within four months months, people started to approach me to help them with their social media and then the ball started rolling. Fast forward to today and I now work with five awesome freelance clients alongside Go Travel and Talk, making more money than I have ever done. And it is all on my own terms and no longer in a stuffy office.
How to become location independent:
While there are countless different ways a person can become location independent, they usually fall within the following categories:
A freelance performs a service based role for various clients, such as a social media manager or coach. They are self employed and trade their time for money. While I run Go Travel and Talk as its own business (making me an entrepreneur) I also work freelance as a Social Media Manager and Digital Marketer.
This is one of the easiest ways to become location independent or work as a digital nomad. You can choose from a vast array of jobs such as a freelance writer, web developer, digital marketer, nutritionist (check out Melissa's story here), coach, virtual assistant, the list is endless.
To increase your reach and build your business, it is useful to have your own website but not necessary in the beginning. Start by taking stock of the skills you have and do your research on what kind of project work requires your skills. Once you have identified the type of work you would like to do, you can start building your online presence. Create your social media accounts, guest post on sites like Medium, network inside of Facebook groups and on Instagram and go from there. You could also use the resources listed below to get your started.
An entrepreneur starts a business or creates a product as the answer to someone’s problem or to fill a gap in a particular market. As an entrepreneur you are your own boss and have complete freedom over your business and all the decisions that come with it.
This is definitely the riskiest method of location independence since you must take full responsibility for all decisions for running the company, but without risk, there is no reward!
To be a location independent entrepreneur, you need to start a business that operates entirely online, or one that generates passive income streams. Or if you already have a business, you could start moving it to a remote based operation by getting rid of the traditional office structure and moving your operations online.
Remote workers work for a boss, but do it from their laptops with the flexibility of working from wherever they choose. The difference with this, is that you need to be available during certain hours and on certain days, much like the traditional 9-5 and what many people have experienced during COVID.
There are two ways to approach working remotely as a way to become location independent. First, you could propose turning your existing job into a work from home position (which I have done previously). Or you could find a new role that is completely location independent. Use the resources below as a starting point.
10 Location independent job and business ideas:
When you are thinking about jobs that you can do to suit your location independent lifestyle, start by identifying your skills and pursuing a career in an industry that not only suits your strengths, but that you are motivated to do as much as you need to.
Social Media / Digital Marketing / Affiliate Marketing
I do all of the above and it has worked out really well for me. I started out in social media because of Go Travel and Talk and then honed my skills even further with different online courses. And there are so many things you can do within these job roles - from social media management, to social media training, digital marketing advice, website design and affiliate marketing strategy. My friend built his business relying solely on affiliate marketing and now turns six figures a year.
Education is integral to any person’s upbringing and until recently, that only took place inside of a traditional classroom. But with the advent of WIFI and advanced digital tools, teachers have been able to take their skills on the road. I have done this by teaching English online (TFEL) as well as helping international students with their essays (which is 100% legal I promise). But because this is so easy to do online and remotely, it is a great option for location independence working.
Freelance writer / Content Creator / Blogger
The term Content Creator can be used to describe a multitude of jobs across a variety of industries. It could involve blogging, interviewing people via a podcast, taking photographs, video creation, writing Instagram captions, freelance writing for someone else etc.
Coaching could include a variety of things like life coaching, social media coaching, business coaching, health coaching (see Melissa’s article here) but because of the power of Zoom and video calls, you can literally do it from anywhere in the world.
The title ‘Consulting’ can cover a lot of bases which is why it is one of the most popular location independence careers. If you position yourself as an expert, you could be a consultant in just about anything and as the majority of a consultant's job takes place over the phone or email, it makes it the perfect option for remote work.
Accountants have the unique opportunity to embrace location independence as much of their work is done online. Whether you are a financial expert or a manager of a global account, there is no real need for you to be in an office. And everyone needs an accountant - especially small businesses or bloggers who don’t know the first thing about submitting invoice and year end reviews.
Website Design / Development
Other than discovery and catch up calls with clients, website design and development is a fairly solitary role, making it perfect for location independent working.
Virtual Assistant / Admin Support
This is something I have also done for a little while. The world of work is shifting and that is especially true for the support industry (trust me, I recruited in it for five years). And with the help of online resources like Upwork, there are plenty of opportunities out there for freelance assistants (see below for our location independence resource list)
House Sitting / Dog Walker / Pet Sitter
This is something I still do on the side of all my businesses because I love animals but I am not in a position to have one myself just yet. While it helps to remain in one location to build your business, you can still take it on the road with the help of websites like TrustedHousesitters. Read my article here for how I created a viable and successful business from house sitting around the world.
Sales / Customer Service representative
Customer service reps make a living by listening to other people's problems and providing a solution by way of sales. They are creative thinkers and enjoy working with people. While traditionally customer service reps worked in call centres, with the power of technology, there are plenty of opportunities allowing you to work from wherever you like.
Location Independent Job Resources:
While many of the below job boards offer a wide range of job opportunities, never undersell yourself and always know your value.
Upwork is a platform that connects freelancer professionals to varying projects, from SEO, social media, marketing, content writing, graphic design, admin help and thousands more. It is fast, simple and effective.
Freelancer.com is the go to place for finding freelance positions online. But with more than 13 million users, the competition can be tough. Make sure your resume has been updated to show all your recent acquired skills and experience. Expect to see plenty of jobs for web developers and content writers.
Cloud Peeps is another great site for freelance work. To apply for jobs, you must create proposals that will be reviewed by the hiring managers for a chance to work with companies such as Airbnb and l’Oreal. You can submit five job proposals a month for $9 unless you would like to upgrade to a premium account.
FlexJobs aims to help remote workers sift through the low paying roles to help them find exactly what they are looking for. For $15 a month you will get access to a huge database of hand screened jobs as well as skills tests, career content resources and checklists.
We Work Remotely
The We Work Remotely site posts new remote jobs daily. You can also subscribe to their daily job opportunities, sent directly to your email.
Working Nomads is another site that offers daily job emails so you can stay informed when looking for remote jobs. When you register, you will be asked to select interest categories so that the emails can be tailored specifically to you.
Location independent myths:
'Location independent working is easy' - It definitely isn't in the beginning when you are transitioning or building your portfolio. But the difference is that most of it is on your own terms and you are your own boss.
'I tap away at my laptop on the beach' - absolutely not. In fact if I was at a beach, I would rather be sunbathing. Also have you ever tried working on a laptop in the bright sunshine?!
'I choose when I want to work' - technically yes but as a freelancer, I still have deadlines to meet. And while I am building my own business, I also work on the weekends and in the evenings.
'I can take a day off whenever I want'- technically yes, but I don’t because there is so much to do.
'No expenses' - There are definitely expenses and overheads that you will have to cover and invest in, such as: Insurance, accounting software or hiring an accountant, platform investment, potentially building a website, technology such as a laptop, phone, headphones etc, training to make sure you are always upskilling.
So there you have it. There is my story and also everything you need to start your location independent lifestyle and journey. It is definitely not always easy, but take it from me, it is 100% worth it!