web designer

The Story of My Business (So Far) – Part 2

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If you haven’t yet, be sure to read Part 1 of My Business Story

When we last left off, I was working full-time for an online publisher in Seattle and had recently taken another job for a health and wellness blog on the side. I was starting to get the entrepreneurial itch and the notion that people would pay me to do this kind of work outside of the traditional employment model was starting to sink in.

I took my first solo trip abroad in 2015.

As you may have read on my About page or Instagram profile, I’m a devoted traveler. This is the point in the story where I began making moves that allowed me to make travel a huge and sustainable part of my life. 

The more I work I did for the health blog, the stronger the pull to begin freelancing became. Seeing how they ran their business inspired me to take the tools I was learning and apply them to my own content and offerings. 

About 6 months after I began working for Autoimmune Wellness, my number of working hours per month had increased to the point where I had the financial flexibility to go part-time at my office job and free up the rest of my schedule to work on freelance projects. I started putting out feelers to my mom’s colleagues (I had built a website for her the year prior, which proved to be a great source of referrals) and I ended up cobbling together another few web design projects. I was overjoyed!

Traveling abroad had been on my mind ever since my life-changing study abroad trip in college, so I quickly took advantage of my newfound schedule freedom and registered for a month long yoga teacher training course in India. To do this, I was able to cash in on my vacation hours at my office job and continue running my freelance projects from India.

It was an amazing month, and of course, all I wanted to do when I got home was travel again! My dream of running a location independent business had officially taken root. 

Then I took my biggest leap of faith yet.

Six more months of my part-time freelancing setup passed before I finally felt ready to take the leap into full-time freelance work. To be honest, my decision to quit my office job wasn’t a 100% confident one. It truly was a leap of faith. I moved forward with the belief that in order to take on more personal clients, I needed to make space for them. Once the space was there, I would fill it. And that has proven true again and again ever since. 

By this point, I had completed a handful of website design projects, to the point where I was confident in marketing myself as a web designer as well as a writer. I was continuing to receive referrals via former clients and I felt optimistic about my ability to grow. That’s when I decided to take my next leap.

In August 2016, I sold all my furniture, packed all my belongings into storage and moved out of my house in Seattle to take my show on the road. I didn’t have return ticket or a timeline in mind, but I knew I wanted to experiment with the idea of living and working abroad. I flew to Italy to spend 6 weeks backpacking around with my best friend, and later flew to Southeast Asia where I would spend another 6 months traveling and working. 

On this trip, I wasn’t focused on business growth. I was spending about 60% of my time working and 40% exploring, so my business was in maintenance mode. But once I had determined my budget and realized that I didn’t need to work a full schedule to support myself, my intention became to try on the location independent lifestyle to see if it was something I’d want to do long term. 

In 2017, I moved from “freelancer” to “business owner”.

Today, I type this to you from Chiang Mai, Thailand where I am currently enjoying my second extended trip abroad. This time, my focus is less on adventuring and more on business growth. While I am still hopping around a bit, I’m largely visiting countries that I’ve already been to, where I know my way around and I can comfortably post-up to do my work. 

I’m keeping up a full-time work schedule, though my hours rarely fit the typical 9-5 schedule. I’m very fortunate that my clients are flexible and my projects don’t require much verbal communication. 

Along with this latest move abroad has come a renewed mindset around my business as well. I’m settling into calling myself a business owner, as opposed to a freelancer, which has not only enabled me to more securely devote energy to my business growth, but also interact more confidently with clients. This has been huge!

I’ve been in Thailand since late December 2017 and I expect I’ll be here for 4-5 months. If there’s one thing I’ve gotten good at with all this travel, it’s tuning into my needs, so my plan is to remain in Southeast Asia until I feel the pull to come home, which I always do eventually! Then, 4 or 5 months later when the travel itch inevitably sets in, I’ll probably do it all again.

So there you have it! My business story, so far at least. It’s certainly been an unconventional ride. I wanted to take the time to explain each step so that I could not only give you a glimpse behind the scenes, but also illustrate the way a location independent online business comes together. (Sometimes it seems like a magic – or a scam!)

Like anything else, it’s just been a series of small but intentional steps, guided by a clear commitment. Mine has always been to freedom in work and life, and at this moment, I’m happy to say I’m embodying it. 

So, did I leave anything out? What questions do you have about how I have built my business? Leave them in the comments below! 

Cheers to freedom (in work and life).

The Story of My Business (So Far) – Part 1

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Most people I meet on the road are awestruck when I tell them I have my own writing and web design business. I get it. It’s an unbelievable setup – I explore the world and get paid to do creative work that excites me. I’m super lucky!

And I also worked hard and made some very intentional choices to make this my reality. 

I thought it would be fun to dive into my career story today, both to give you a better picture of my background, and to show you the steps I took to realize my dream of location independence. 

First, I learned to write and coach.

College is a good place to start. I majored in English at the University of Puget Sound and while there, I got my first few jobs that made me realize that I wanted writing to be a big part of my career.

I worked as a writer and an editor of our campus newspaper, but even more influential was my job as a writing advisor. This is where I learned how to embody the role of a coach in the writing process, and also that I loved doing so. I loved the collaboration and partnership, and I got such joy out of helping someone make their creative vision come alive on the page.

In college, I also participated in a 9-month study abroad program that took me and 24 other students to 9 different countries in Asia. To say that this changed my life is an understatement! This is obviously where my wanderlust was born, and it was here that I gained the confidence and skills to travel on my own. (More on that later!)

Then I got my dream job, or so I thought.

After college, I pretty quickly got hired as an editor of a cake decorating magazine. It was my absolute dream, and it’s here that I learned about how to write for online audiences. The magazine ended up going under 6 months after I started, which left me with a lot of unwanted time on my hands.

I knew that online media was where I wanted to be, so I decided to take the opportunity to build my own website on Wordpress. My mom soon requested that I build a site for her as well, and not long after that I started my food/wellness blog, Gracefully Primal. 
 
These few months of unemployment were highly stressful and angst-ridden, but they proved to be a time of great creative freedom and learning. By building my blog, I learned how to grow my own audience online and how to transfer my writing skills to social media. It also helped me realize that I could find work outside the traditional employment model.

A few months after I lost my first full-time job, I got my second one at an online publishing company in Seattle where I was hired as a Content Coordinator. This company published a lot of content related to charity, human rights and other delicate topics, so it’s here that I learned how to garner attention and support around a topic while still infusing my writing with soul and human connection. These are important lessons that have served me well. 

I hopped around a bit at this company, eventually being promoted to a more strategic and editing role. It was in this position that I began to understand how to skillfully use content as a vehicle for business growth, something that is central to my client work today.

My mind never stopped wandering.

Even though I was writing every day at my dayjob and building my beloved blog by night, the dream in my heart at the time was to turn my blog into an income stream. I kept my eye out for other job opportunities that could open up my schedule and give me more experience with the blogging world. Lucky for me, in early 2015 the health website Autoimmune Wellness posted an ad for a part-time social media assistant and I got the job! 

I began working about 10 hours/week for them, in addition to my regular dayjob hours, so I was definitely busy. But this period was hugely informative for me. For one thing, it gave me the confidence that rather than stick to the full-time, 40-hour-per-week employment model, I could instead organize my life around freelance-style work. There were people out there who needed my skills!

It also gave me HUGE experience in the more mundane yet crucial aspects of running a business, like invoicing, making my own schedule, communicating via email, choosing my rates, writing contracts, etc. It’s here that I got my first taste of career autonomy and freedom, and I savored it. 

I still work for Autoimmune Wellness today (though my role has evolved) and it’s been the most fruitful and rewarding working experience I’ve ever had.

So, you may be wondering where all the travel fits into my story, and how I went from full-time work (plus an extra job!) to the self-owned business I’m running how. Excellent questions! And I’ll answer all of them in Part 2 of My Business Story (So Far).