While traveling and spending heaping helpings of time with my children are the side effects, creating financial independence for myself was the key ingredient to crafting exactly the life that I wanted.
I have spent the last fifteen years working from home–sometimes in one location, sometimes from an RV or a van, traveling wherever I’d like–and have been more or less able to make as much money as I want, or spend as much time not making it, should I choose. It’s quite literally given me everything, from time to spend teaching my boys to ride their bikes, seeing much of the world, even my dream girl. I’m thoroughly convinced it is the only way to live this one short life. Even if you don’t want to travel full-time, being an independent contractor frees you up to little things, like taking Friday off for a long weekend camping or not needing to beg a supervisor when your kids need to go to the dentist on a Tuesday morning.
It was by becoming a freelance web designer, and later writer, that I was able to work from home (wherever that may be for the day). This was the first domino in a row of financial independence that led to as much freedom as I’ve found possible in this modern world. Once I could earn on my own, I could then decide how much time every day I would spend watching my children’s first steps, taking a Wednesday off to spend walking around a lake with my lady, or make sure I was available for any impending doctor’s appointment or Marvel new release matinee. You know, the important stuff.
There was a time when all of this seemed quite impossible to me. I was working two jobs–full-time during my days as a graphic designer and evenings delivering pizza–raising a son on my own, paying a mortgage, car payment, the usual stuff. I had taken my first road trip across the county and realized that there was so much more than Western Pennsylvania for my eyes to see. But how to make it happen?
I can’t tell you exactly what you’ll need to do, what remote career will fit you best, but I can certainly give you the tools to make it happen for yourself. This article will cover both the abstract and concrete ways to find that work.
Change Your Mindset
While it may seem like some hippy dippy cheese and bologna sandwich stuff, this is the first and therefore most important step. I have found that we manifest what we desire, if we simply want it enough. Not because dreaming of having a convertible Mustang will instantly make one appear in you driveway, but because when something is constantly on your mind, at the forefront of you every thought, then more and more of your actions begin working toward that end goal.
While working your existing job or career, look at ways it might be able to launch you into doing something similar for yourself. If that’s not the case, then spend your evenings looking at ideas. What are other people doing to make a living for themselves? What is you ultimate goal? To travel the world? Spend more time with your kids? Sleep until 10am every day? Focusing on the end result also helps pull the dream off of your pillow and into real steps you can take to make this all happen.
Figure out What You’ll Do
When I showed up for work, fresh out of college, to be a graphic designer, my boss also told me I’d need to manage the company’s website. This changed my life, because I not only discovered I enjoyed coding, but it would catapult me into a world of financial independence, and ultimately location independence.
This was the year 2001 and the Internet was still fairly novel, so I had that advantage. You won’t, if you’re just getting started today, but every industry has newcomers that disrupt the old-timers, and new opportunities are always blooming.
For example, a friend of ours started a quilting business–and quilting is nearly as old as cloth itself–which now supports her entirely. She was in customer service beforehand.
Subscription programs–while sometimes difficult should you want to travel, given inventory needs–are a great way to create recurring income and people love them more and more.
The old adage, do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life, holds true as well. This couple loved being outdoors, and so created an outdoor business. On the other hand, you may not know exactly what you want to do, and need to discover that. This family worked after many an endeavor before discovering a niche that would give them exactly the work-from-home business they’d dreamed of.
Just as I was fortunate enough to be around at the beginning of the Internet, and get a foothold early, the travel industry–from RVing to vans to AirBNB type pursuits–is still relatively young and can provide a way to combine the lifestyle you want with the work that you do.
Freelance on the Side
I don’t want to encourage anyone to quit their job with absolutely no plan. When I got started, I did so with small steps at first. I learned how to code websites, and already had the design skills to combine into some freelance web design work. While finding time to freelance between two other “real jobs” and spending time with my son was not easy, it was important enough to me to make happen. I woke up early, stayed up late, researched things on my lunch break.
Soon, I was adding $100 to my weekly income, then twice that. Soon enough, by doing good work and being clear and communicative with my side hustle clients, I was able to quit delivering pizzas and focus on building my freelance business even more.
Specifically, I came up with what I thought was a clever name for my business, bought a domain name, built my own website, and had the essential marketing tools to keep things going. This was largely before Facebook and Twitter, sometime in 2002, so getting the word out was so much more dependent on word of mouth, but the concept remains the same.
Aside from supplementing your day job’s income, freelancing–in whatever field you choose to pursue–will help you build essential skills you’ll need when you finally go full-time with this endeavor.
- How to communicate with clients when it’s your business on the line.
- Manage your time. Spending the afternoon kayaking is great and all, but only if you’ve earned that time by working enough the rest of the day (or week, etc.)
- How to find new work and convince strangers you’re the one for the job.
- Build confidence in your ability to make this all happen!
Find a Mentor
As I was freelancing on the side, I happened across a website where a woman was already an independent freelance web designer. I complimented her work and read along with he blog. Soon enough, she was happy to give me advice now and then. I still did the research on my own, but when I got stuck, having someone to seek counsel from helped me quickly overcome hurdles and provided insights I never would have even thought of.
Finding someone like this will be one of the harder tasks, since not everyone is going to be interested in providing you with free advice, and not all advice is equal, but leaving comments on potential mentor’s Instagram accounts or sending friendly (not SPAM!) emails to people you admire can go a long way.
Look for Work
I found much of my initial work on a website by the name of Guru. I spent a lot of time bidding on projects I never even got, and working for smaller amounts of money than I should have for the work I was doing. But, commensurate with my experience, and due to my desire to make grow this little seed of a notion into a forest of possibility, I was willing to do that.
Taking a pay cut, as compared to your day job for example, in order to build an income stream that will eventually give you something closer to infinite possibilities, is worth it. Or it certainly was for me.
Still not sure of what you want to, or can, do? Here are seven more travelers and what they’re doing to make a living on the road.
Just remember, from that first freelancing gig (or customer service request, depending on what you’re trying), make sure to do an exemplary job. Give them a reason to tell their friends, and come back the next time they need the services you provide. This is so important, because your reputation will become your business card. Clients and customers will be annoying, you just have to learn to deal with it, at least until you get to the point where you can pick and choose them.
Take the Leap
Remember how I said I wouldn’t encourage you to quit your job? Well, now I’m going to. The best and fastest way to build a business is out of necessity. If you’ve already started earning enough to at least keep you from disappearing into the ether of dead concepts and cardboard box homes, I would absolutely recommend you quit your day job and focus 100% on your new enterprise. The entrepreneurial spirit will, if you’re determined enough, grab you like a baptized baby and thrust you into the throes of needing to do whatever it takes to make it work. You will fail and succeed in varying degrees, but when your focus is solely on taking control of your own paydays and becoming financially independent, and not on what your boss is making you do or being at a job you no longer want for 8 hours a day, you’ll have more time to make it all come together.
The crazy thing is, if you need it more than you simply want it, it’s more likely to come true. And yes, this is the part where you could fall flat and lose everything you have and need to start from scratch. But if Step 1: Change Your Mindset went well, this should be both avoidable and something you’ve known might happen all along. Even if you have to “start from scratch,” you have the tools and experience to avoid the mistakes of the past and keep on keepin’ on.
Best of luck!