I’m not going to lie — I regret going to college.
Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot of stuff, sure. But that was years of my life spent in a place I didn’t enjoy. I went to college with the hopes of getting a “real job” when I graduated, after doing temp work for years.
After graduating, I got a job as a tech writer at a security firm in DC. Literally three days after I started the job, I walked out, told my boss I wasn’t coming back, and cried the whole way home.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to wake up at some god-forsaken hour to battle DC traffic. It wasn’t that I hated tech writing, although I kinda did. It wasn’t even that the girl who was training me was being a bitch.
It was that this was not what I wanted to do with my life.
Years ago, before I even thought I could get into my dream school, I remember thinking about being a freelance writer. It sounded so dreamy, so completely out of my grasp, that I didn’t even think to pursue it.
I was successfully freelance writing within a year of graduating college. No 9-5 job got me here—just a little bit of training that cost about .010% of what my college education did (and yes, you read that percentage right).
My friends aspire to do what I do—not necessarily writing, but just to work freely, from anywhere, at any time. No borders. You can live and work anywhere in the world.
It might seem out of reach, just like it once did for me, but it’s actually a lot easier than you think.
So how did I do it? And how can you do it? Here’s how you can truly become a digital nomad.
1. Learn a Skill You Enjoy
You don’t have to write like I do to earn a living on the internet. Over 30% of the American workforce are freelancers, with the number expect to keep rising. With so many people unhappy in their jobs, it’s no surprise that learning something you enjoy to earn money online can seem hugely freeing.
So what’s available to you?
If you don’t already have an area that you know you enjoy—design, for example—it’s best to dabble around a bit to see what you do like. Here are some options:
· Learn to code for free. You can learn to code for no cost at Codecademy. If you decide to take your skills to the next level, you can learn web design, software development, and cyber security skills at Pluralsight , which not only offers free trials, but also offers courses for as little as $29 a month.
· Learn web design. Interested in design as well as coding? Play around at Team Treehouse, where you can get a free trial for 7 days or courses starting at just $25 a month. You’ll learn design, coding, and even how to start your own business.
· Leverage technology. There are a lot of current technologies you can leverage to start making money faster.
– If you’re building a website, you don’t have to start from scratch. You can gain skills with tweaking and setting up WordPress sites with minimum coding experience by following YouTube tutorials.
– If you’re building ecommerce sites, you can use Shopify to setup a fully functioning store at $29 a month.
– If you’re into mobile apps, you can build and maintain apps through BuildFire, where you can build an enterprise-level app with a fraction of the coding experience you’d need if you were to do it from scratch.
Many of these places offer free trials, so you can begin exploring a skill without any risk or cost to you. For the ones that do cost money, such as Team Treehouse for $25 a month—seriously? How much do you pay in student debt?
Your next step after you begin working on your new skill is to start reducing expenses. I don’t care what they are; get rid of anything you don’t need. This may include:
· Gym memberships. You work out. At a gym, really?
· Material items. Sell it on eBay or craigslist; you don’t need it.
· Cars. If you have more than one vehicle, you’re racking up unnecessary costs. Can you drive both of them at the same time?
· Coffee runs. Stop buying coffee out. What are you doing?
· Buying lunch. Stop buying lunch out. Seriously, what are you doing?
Do your best to eliminate debt while reducing your expenses. Anything you make from getting rid of stuff, put it towards any debts that you have. If you have a home, sell it or rent it out. If you have student debt, pay it off as aggressively as you can.
This is going to free up not only your cash flow, but your mind as well. If you’re living what many call the American Dream being held down by things, let them go and watch how you soar.
3. Plan and Achieve Goals
Ok, I said you don’t have to be a writer to do this, and you don’t. But you do have to be a self-starter.
You need to have the ability to set goals and meet them. Spend time realizing what you want, where you’ll go, and be sure to have a Plan B and a Plan C. Traveling may be your ultimate goal, but first, you’ll need to get things set up. So have a vision on how to do this.
If you plan on being able to travel shortly after you secure your source of online income, research extensively. Think about where you want to go and what it costs to live there. Never be unprepared. Traveling to a foreign place will throw you off enough as it is. You need to be ready.
Now that you’ve acquired some skills and put them to use, it’s go time.
Build up a portfolio; do some projects for free. You can utilize sites such as Upwork, Guru, Dribbble, Contently, and Toptal to begin. If nothing else, look at what the other freelancers are offering. By doing work for cheap or for free, you can quickly build a portfolio to show to prospective clients.
For me, building my portfolio was one of the slower parts of the process. It took time before sites would publish me under my own name, but gradually, I gathered enough experience and work to have a solid stable of pieces to show to clients.
Once you have a portfolio, reach out to clients. Many of my clients are clients I cold-called in the beginning via email and have stuck with me ever since. A primal process, but for me, it was one of the most effective.
After getting a few clients, continuously working to improve, building up my portfolio, and growing my client base, I now get referrals and people actually find me through my website, which brings in more of the type of writing that I want to do.
Once you do your research (and some math) and figure out if you can survive doing the things you want to do (whether you’ll be renting, traveling, whatever), you can go. Just go!
Leave behind that crap you didn’t need. Leave behind that job that made you want to die. Leave behind the burden of a house, a car, and student debt. Leave behind your fears that you’ll never make this work. You can and you just did.