As curious creative humans, we are always trying to find our dream balance between work, play, and exploration. But is it really attainable? For one of Creatives On Call's amazing freelancers, it sure is
Do you want to feel happier with your work, become a more authentic version of yourself, and spend your days exploring new destinations? If so, traveling and freelancing may be the gig for you. Today more and more workers are finding freedom and happiness by freelancing and being location independent. A 2017 Gallup study found that a whopping two-thirds of American workers are disengaged at work. 1 On the other hand, ReportLinker found that 84% of workers find a real purpose working the gig economy, while a study by McKinsey found that 97% of contractors reported they were much happier than their traditional corporate counterparts. 2 The reality is that it's possible to find a fulfilling, prosperous, and flexible career freelancing, whether permanently or part-time.
My experience closely mirrors the story the above statistics tell. After I graduated from university, I took jobs in consulting firms, government, and eventually at a financial institution. I was making a six-figure salary at a top bank in the US, but I wasn't happy. I spent hours of my day commuting to a job, where I wasn’t empowered to work on projects that were meaningful to me, with stringent sick leave, vacation, and telework policies. About 8 months into my employment, I took some time off to go on vacation to Costa Rica. The tour group I had joined was filled with mostly Europeans, all of whom were traveling for a much longer time than me. They either had more liberal vacation policies or had quit their jobs to travel for an extended time. I felt a sense of calm and purpose talking to them about their lifestyle and exploring the beauty of the country. When I got home, I knew I had to make a change.
Exploring the cloud forest in Monteverde, Costa Rica
At the one-year anniversary of my employment at the bank, I gave my notice, and got on a one-way flight to Mexico. For the next year, I supported myself by teaching English online, and traveled all over Latin America, improving my Spanish. My background was in cybersecurity and technical writing, so while I used English teaching to pay the bills, I also tried to break into the freelance technical writing space. I would feel good about the effort I was putting in each day sitting in my house in Mexico overlooking the beach and scouring forums for job opportunities that matched my skills, and sending out resumes, cover letters, and writing samples. However, for all the time I spent, I couldn’t find projects that were a good match for my skills.
Enjoying the sunset in Puerto Escondido, Mexico
After a year on the road, I returned home to the states and started to think about what my next move would be. While teaching was rewarding, it just didn't pay enough to support this lifestyle long term. That’s when I found out about Creatives On Call. I was contacted by a recruiter about an opportunity to join a project creating content for a website aimed at global job seekers interested in learning more about cybersecurity careers. The opportunity exactly matched my skills and I started right away. The recruiter told me "I felt like a light was shining on me when I found you." I couldn’t have agreed more!
Working freelance enables a sense of freedom: it allows you to set your own schedule, be your own boss, have a better balance of work and personal life, express yourself creatively, and even demand better compensation. With Creatives On Call, I’ve been able to travel around Europe, all while still working hard on my project. I work best first thing in the morning, so I typically do most of my writing then. This leaves my afternoons free to explore the different places I travel. I have time to go for a walk in the park in the afternoon, enjoy the sunset on the beach, or grab a coffee with new friends in a café. My client is flexible with my schedule as long as I meet our deadlines. Once or twice a week we check in in the evening my time to make sure everything is going well.
While the project I work on is technical in nature, my job is to write content that's engaging, witty, and that makes learning fun, which allows me to be creative. I’m also able take ownership of the project, pitching new ideas for how to organize the content and weighing in on the site design. This gives me a sense of purpose in my work and allows me to use my skills at writing, project management, and technical expertise. Whereas previously I spent a lot of time and energy searching the typical freelance websites for gigs, Creatives On Call matched me with a reputable client, proactively communicates with me about the project, and pays me a competitive rate, always on time, and on a weekly basis. Having that peace of mind allows me to focus on my work, and on planning my next trip!
You may be interested in getting started in this type of lifestyle but aren't sure where to start. The following are some steps you can take to embark on your first freelance gig and eventually live the life you want working and being location independent:
Get clear on what you want. For me, I wanted more freedom in my work, the ability to travel and learn a new language, to have more time to spend outdoors, to meet new people, and to discover new cultures. With Creatives On Call I was able to base myself in Spain for two months. I practiced my Spanish every day, worked outside at cafes in the sunlight, explored new cities and hung out with friends on the beach. These things were much more important to me than what a 9-5 corporate office job could offer me.
Discovering the thousands of years old palace at the Real Alcázar in Sevilla, Spain
Act! Make lifestyle changes to position yourself to have the life you want, and the job will follow. When I knew I wanted to make a change, I started looking for online jobs, began learning Spanish, and researched where I wanted to travel. I slowly gave away my possessions and got rid of my apartment so I wouldn't be burdened by things like rent payments. Maybe you're not sure if you want to give up your location yet. If that's the case, still try new things to see if the career you want is right for you. I started by taking language classes and volunteering teaching English to immigrants, and eventually I found my way to a freelance gig writing online and traveling in Spanish speaking countries full time. When you start taking steps to put yourself into the life you want, the rest will follow.
Be available. When you're starting out, it's important to be willing to jump at new opportunities, to be open to non-conventional paths, and to try your best to make new connections. Traveling is a great way to do this because you will meet many people from around the world who are living similar lifestyles to yours. Constantly asking people about their own experience can spark new ideas, and there are tons of online communities available for people living this lifestyle. Creatives On Call also provides newsletters to help you stay connected. By being willing to try a new approach to job hunting, or to try a new type of work that leverages your strengths but in a different way, you just might find the right gig for you in a place or industry you didn't expect to enjoy before.
Be okay with uncertainty, but have a safety net. One of the great advantages of Creatives On Call is that they provide me with peace of mind during my travels, so that I don't have to worry about where my next paycheck is going to come from. But in this line of work, it's always a good idea to remain flexible and adaptable. A lot of people don't understand the lifestyle of location independence and freelance work. They want to know where you'll be living and what you'll be doing a year from now. But it's perfectly okay not to have the answers; that's part of what I love about this lifestyle. It enables me to travel and spend time in new places I want to explore or with people I love. I can do all this because I'm flexible about where I want to travel, and because I can rely on the income I make with Creatives On Call, as well as the savings I put away each month. The statistics say that freelancers are happier because they have more freedom, purpose, time, and money. For me, all of these have been true, and I feel lucky to have become part of the Creatives On Call Community.
Enjoying a sunny afternoon in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Mariel T. is a freelance cybersecurity consultant and content writer. She spent over 5 years in traditional corporate roles working in data analytics and cybersecurity policy and strategy for consulting firms, the Federal government, and financial institutions. She now develops e-learning content for aspiring cybersecurity professionals, with a focus on diversity and inclusion in tech. In her free time, she enjoys improving her Spanish, connecting with new friends around the globe, and traveling.