Alright guys, I’ll admit it, I got a little too excited there about my new life as a digital nomad. So excited, in fact, that I pretty much wrote that entire last article of mine as a giant humblebrag which focused primarily on my accomplishments instead of providing you with any real value… #Whoops, sorry about that.
Anyways, if you haven’t read that one and you’re interested in hearing about my personal milestones then by all means check it out… But, if you’d be more interested in learning how I came to make my transition to island life, then you’re in luck. I’ve written this post to help answer all of your questions.
So, here it is… My guide to location independence: in this post you’ll learn how I made my transition from full-time employee to full-time freelancer… And then again from freelancer to digital nomad.
I’d say there’s only one thing better than living my dream as a beach bum while traveling the world with my best friend, and that’s living my dream while still growing my business… Okay, well, perhaps winning the lotto and never working again does sound even better, but for those of us who don’t yet have our income on auto-pilot I’d certainly say this is the next-best thing.
And that “next best thing” just so happens to be the life I’m living these days as a non-lottery-winning digital nomad… One foot in the water, the other firmly planted in freelance WordPress development projects.
The story of how I came to take up residence on an island oasis in less than two years is really a story of two transitions… As you may know, I started my journey in the same place many of you are in right now. Tethered to my cubicle in a nine-to-five job that just wasn’t stoking the flames of passion I’d wished it was.
Maybe it’s that your daily tasks aren’t directly aligned with your interests, or that you’re being pulled in too many directions to concentrate on what you’re truly passionate about? Maybe you’re not being paid enough for what you do, or maybe you’re like me and it’s a combination of everything I’ve just mentioned?
No matter where your motivation stems from, I’d be willing to bet we’ve got at least one thing in common. You’re looking for a way out that will open the doors of greater opportunity for you… Right?
Right… So, that’s where I was just a few short years ago, and that’s what ultimately led me to make my first transition, from full-time employee to full-time freelancer. This was definitely the more difficult transition of the two, since I was basically working two full-time jobs for several months.
But, once you’ve mastered the steps necessary to bust out of your nine-to-five gig, you’ll be well on your way to the life of your dreams. The life of a digital nomad.
Before you read on, I should add one caveat here. In several of my previous posts, I’ve touched on making the transition to full-time freelancer in a more generic way. The strategies from those posts could apply whether you’re a developer, designer, copywriter, or really any other freelance position. But, the strategies in this piece are meant to be directed more specifically towards WordPress developers.
Now, if you’re not a WordPress developer that’s okay too… You’ll still find some universally applicable advice here, but, my goal with this piece is to inspire my fellow WordPress developers to follow their passion.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s move on to the fun stuff!
Here’s how I was able to fire my boss (AKA quit my job) and become a full-time freelancer.
Before you reach the ocean as a digital nomad, you’ll have to join the sea of developers on various outsourcing platforms to grow your network of clients. This is the single most important step to begin charting your own path as a full-time freelancer.
When you first start making this transition, it’s wise to stay at that unfulfilling desk job of yours until you’ve built up your finances and until you know the work will consistently be there for you.
Keeping your “real job” means you won’t have as much time for networking or lead generation… Or, at least not as much time for the more traditional, time consuming, networking processes which most of us find frustrating anyways because these non-billable hours start adding up fairly quickly.
So, how can we solve this problem? By joining outsourcing networks.
Outsourcing networks are the perfect solution for freelancers because they can feed us with a steady stream of inbound leads for free… This probably goes without saying, but, inbound leads are everything.
Now, the transition I made a couple years ago (from employee to freelancer) wasn’t my first crack at it.
I’d failed the first few times I tried to become a full-time freelancer because I didn’t have the system figured. At least not when it came to the importance of inbound leads. If you’re a struggling freelancer today, you can probably relate to the massive amount of unpaid time that goes into prospecting, networking, cold-calling, cold-emailing, etc., most of which ultimately turns up as a dead end anyways. I promise that once you join an outsourcing platform (or two), this problem starts fading away quickly.
Today, my the network I prefer to work for is Codeable, and if you’re familiar with my blog you know I’ve been singing their praises for quite a while… So, if you’re serious about becoming one of the worlds best WordPress developers, then you should set your sights on the worlds best outsourcing platform.
And simply put, that’s Codeable — The worlds best outsourcing platform for WordPress developers.
Once I was accepted into Codeable’s network of certified expert WordPress developers, I had access to a virtually unlimited supply of high-quality inbound leads. So many, in fact, that there’s absolutely no way I could never handle all of them single-handedly. And as a freelancer, this is an amazing problem to have.
Okay, so now that you’ve got this influx of leads coming your way, how do you start landing projects?
Fortunately for us developers, Codeable has a brilliant way of tagging each new project that comes in so we can quickly segment the master list into our favorite types of projects to work on. From there, it’s all about honing in your communication, something that comes with time and practice.
I’m sure you’ll develop your own systems quickly, but if you’d like some tips and tricks to help get yourself started then please take a look at this series I wrote about identifying red flag clients quickly.
Or, if you’re already an expert communicator then you can click here and apply to work for Codeable too.
Keep in mind that Codeable is looking for the creme-de-la-creme of WordPress developers.
They hire only the top 2% from their pool of applicants. So, if you’re the type of WordPress developer who doesn’t just think they’re the best, but actually knows it, I’d certainly encourage you to apply today.
You know that stereotype about developers having no friends or social life? It’s true. Well, at least it’s true when making the difficult transition from full-time employee to full-time freelancer… A transition that will require you to hold down two jobs at the same time if you’d like to make it as quickly as I did.
When I say two jobs, I mean TWO JOBS… And two full-time jobs at that.
The first is your “real job”, you know, the one that you have to go into the office for… And the other is your freelancing work which will be there from the moment you wake up until the second you go to bed.
Every. Single. Day.
Now, I’m certainly not saying that you have to do it this way, but my goal was to get out of my nine-to-five gig within six months, so this is what was necessary for me to expedite that process. If you’ve got a similar timeline in mind, then you’re going to have to make some choices with regard to your priorities as well.
Here’s what a typical day looked like for me: I’d wake up a couple hours before my agency shift and communicate with my freelance clients, responding to any messages I’d missed while I was sleeping. I’d also look through the new tasks posted and start conversations with any projects that interested me.
On my breaks (yep, including lunch) I’d check back in on my freelance projects as well, keeping up with my communication as often as I possibly could. Then again when I clocked out for the night I’d take another peek before leaving the office and then again pretty much the instant I got home. If things were busy or I’d been hired into any new tasks I’d work on them until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. There were weekends where I’d work from sun-up to sun-down on these projects to ramp up my numbers as well.
If you’re interested in seeing more detailed statistics from my first six months you can find them below;
Does this sound like a bit of a miserable life? Yeah, it does, and yeah, sure, it was a little bit… But, right now it’s hard to remember those sacrificed hours or missed TV shows as I’m looking out at the ocean from my condo in the Virgin Islands.
Trust me, it’s worth it, working your ass off for a few months is going to pay off.
Let’s switch gears for a moment and take a look at what this crazy work ethic looks like in terms of income.
Within my first 8 days on Codeable I’d completed 21 (small) tasks and earned just under $2K. That’s probably better than or at least comparable to your bi-weekly paycheck at your full-time gig (it certainly was for me). It was at this point that I knew I’d stumbled onto something great and that I really needed to dedicate every possible waking moment that I could to this platform.
By the end of my first month (30 consecutive days) on Codeable I’d racked up $9,521 and I was ready to leave my day-job. But, being ready and actually pulling the trigger are two different things…
Leaving my “real job” wouldn’t have been a very smart decision at that point because I’d only committed to saving 50% of the money I’d earned from freelancing. As much as I wanted to go, I knew it’d be smarter to stick around and continue building that cushion. The $5K I’d saved wouldn’t last long if things went south.
At the 2-month mark I was just over $20K, at 3-months I was pushing $30K, 4-months was over $43K, and after 6-months I’d earned $70,048.40 — more than an entire years salary at my life-sucking agency job.
That’s when I knew we had to part ways… It was time to focus solely on freelancing, full speed ahead!
For six months I’d stuck strictly to my 50% savings rule, it wasn’t easy but I’d manged to tucked half of everything I’d earned away and convince myself that didn’t exist… By the time six months had passed I’d managed to save over $35K which was enough for me to feel comfortable enough to fire my boss.
When you’re in a position to leave your full-time job, don’t do it with any bridge-burning intent. My transition out of full-time employment was empowering for me but I also handled it extremely professionally. I was even able to retain the agency I was working for as a client once I was officially gone.
That should be your goal as well — be so great at what you do that not only will your company be cool with your leaving, they’ll want to keep paying you.
Now of course, I understand that no two financial situations are alike. When I made the transition, I was 26 with no kids and no mortgage. Essentially I had no commitments, except to my career I suppose.
Anyways, what I’m trying to say here is that before taking the leap from employee to freelancer be sure you’ve tucked away enough money to keep your bills paid for a while.
Ask yourself this… If the proverbial “shit hit the fan” tomorrow how long would I have?
For me, $35K savings could have kept all my bills paid an entire year. Figure out what your cushion is and make a plan to get there (then actually get there) before taking your leap.
Take a look at my earnings chart below, each bar on this graph represents 1-week of work via Codeable.
Full disclosure: You should know these numbers represent gross revenue, which includes Codeable’s cut.
Once you find yourself in this position, as a full-time freelancer, you can now set your sights on your new transition — the transition from freelancer to digital nomad.
When you’re ready to make this leap, here’s what I can recommend from personal experience.
Let’s back up a little bit here and take a look at why I’d decided making the transition into life as a digital nomad was the right one. Like I’d said earlier, by this point things had been going pretty well for me as a freelancer… Heck, I’d even picked up a nice little R8 to help celebrate my achievements.
And to answer your next question… Hell yes, this car was fucking awesome! I have absolutely nothing to complain about with regard to the driving experience and I’d highly recommend you buy one. Seriously, they drive much more comfortably than any entry-level Ferrari or Lamborghini.
Anyways, the new-car sparkle eventually wore off and I came to the realization that having a car payment north of $1K (not including insurance) was probably not the best use of my money… I decided I’d rather put those hard-earned dollars into experiences as opposed to material things.
Once I’d realized I could afford rent and utilities in coastal cities around over the world for less than what I was shelling out each month to drive that thing, the next steps became obvious.
So, what did I do next? I sold almost everything.
Okay, well that’s not entirely true…
First I did quite a bit of research about what beaches I wanted to live on — then I sold almost everything.
I was fortunate enough to be in a month-to-month lease on my place in the states so once I’d decided to embark on my journey as a digital nomad the transition was fairly quick and painless. I kept only the most important things to me and tucked them away in a small storage unit.
Everything else I liquidated, including the car… Yes, that was a sad day.
From there I packed my bags and never looked back. I’ve been hanging out down in the Virgin Islands for a little over a month now and my life has never been better.
This wasn’t the goal when I started out, but even if it were, there would have been no way that I could have gone straight from full-time employment to digital nomad-ing without winning the lottery or finding a magic lamp… So whatever your big endgame is at this stage of your life, do things the right way and it’s certainly possible you’ll find yourself living the dream sooner than you realize.
And now that I’m a digital nomad, there are many things I’ve already learned that are unique to working and living abroad. In fact, I’ll be writing another post to share everything I’ve learned with other aspiring digital nomads very soon… Stay tuned.