When I think about it now, I realise I have had many jobs. I started waitressing when I was 16. I’ve managed restaurants, done events coordination, I was a cocktail waitress, I worked as a political risk analyst. I’ve been a journalist, an account manager, a writer, a creative director. I’ve also worked as a tutor and a nanny. I’ve been the one who fetches the coffee and I have been the one that gives the orders. I’ve worn so many professional hats in my working career thus far that some might say I don’t know what it is that I really want to do with my life and they would be both right and wrong. Right now I want to write but in the future, I may want to teach, be a lecturer or make movies or even possibly be a mother (because that’s a whole job in itself right?). I think the reality of today’s world is that everything changes so fast, especially with how quickly technology changes and evolves that thinking you will have just one profession in your life is a bit of a foolish thought. Basically, what I’m modestly saying is “Thank fuck the world has finally caught up with me!”
In the past, and I mean the very recent past, girls and women like me were considered whimsical at best but generally thought of as capricious, impulsive and unfocused. In today and tomorrow’s world, girls and people in general who have the ability to change and adapt who they are and learn new things will be the ones leading the world. I truly believe that! But when I quit my job 4 years ago we were still in the recent past and the idea that I would quit a perfectly good job, with relatively decent pay and decent hours to go do God knows what again, seemed like an impulsive decision. It wasn’t though. I had been planning this since the previous year and I had worked towards an exit strategy ever since I had met my first digital nomad at a UX conference in November 2016.
Support is important
I’ve been lucky. I am lucky. I have a good support system. I have people who love and care for me and for that I am grateful. While things have not always been easy and sometimes I have felt so alone, I have always known that there was a home to go back to and friends who would not see me fail. This has given me all the courage I’ve needed at times to make the riskiest decisions I have ever made. Yes, if things went badly wrong I’d have to start all over again but I’ve started from the bottom so many times that even that seems immaterial these days.
So by the time I had told all the people I needed to tell and asked the advice of those I knew would question me the hardest about this big move. I put a date to my resignation. I had to be in Colombia in May so I would resign on the 1st of April and give my month’s notice and then hop on a plane.
The truth of the matter was that in January of 2017 I didn’t have any clients. I was making a little money on the side from doing the odd freelancing job but certainly not enough to support myself in South Africa, nevermind travelling the world. But I had faith that this was the right choice for me and I knew if I was smart and worked hard I could make this plan a reality.
I was in contact with a previous boss and mentor on almost a weekly if not daily basis. I shared some of my ideas for a business I wanted to create and he was giving me a great deal of support in how to really map out what it was the company would do. We also looked at whether or not there was space for it in the market. I started thinking about the business I am running now, way before I was ever ready to really make it happen. Again I am grateful that had this person in my life at that time, helping me to believe that all of the things I wanted to in my life professionally were possible.
I’m not sure if the things that happened in those three months leading to my resignation were happening because I had opened myself up to be more receptive to good things in my life or if the pendulum had just swung in my direction after swinging away for many years. Either way, I look back on those months with gratitude as I’m sure you’ve picked up.
7th of March 2017 – the day I quit
It was around 8:30 in the morning when my mentor called me and said: “Quit your job today”. I remember feeling flustered and saying quite dumbly “I don’t understand.”
“Write up your resignation letter and come work with us!”
He had been speaking about me coming to join his agency for a while, but at the time it was looking like it would be closer to May or even June. I could hardly believe my ears but I was beaming. He had spoken to his partners and they had agreed to bring me in earlier. I was overjoyed. The company was based in The Netherlands and the role would be fully remote.
I typed up my resignation letter, approached my boss almost immediately and announced I was resigning. I had no way of knowing how this decision would affect my life but as it turns out it was the best decision I ever made. During the first 6 months of my nomad journey, I was a full-time employee but as I began to spread my wings I realised that I want more freedom so I spoke to my mentor and explained that I appreciated all he had done for me but that I wanted to really try and pursue my business idea. I reduced my hours for them significantly and went about looking for new clients and setting up all the systems to run my own agency.
I spent a lot of time networking within my nomad community and this was how I managed to grow my business quickly. I was exposed to different opportunities through collaboration and the connections I made also referred me to others. I personally believe that referrals are the best way to actually find work. This means you need to look after your reputation carefully. For me, that means delivering quality work on time and in budget. By the beginning of 2018, I had a team of 4 remote workers under me and we had retainers from 8 different clients from all over the world. I had also travelled to 15 countries at that time. (I’ve been to 50 now). I had found the lifestyle I had been dreaming about. I was running my own business and I was in full control of my life in a way I had never been before.
Taking the bad with the good
This path is not easy and I have failed and stumbled so many times. I trusted people I shouldn’t have. There were times when work was limited and money was scarce. Given the year 2020 has been, I am sure many people know exactly what I am talking about. But not once, even on the darkest days I’ve ever had, did I think that I should go back and find a ‘normal’ job and I don’t believe I ever will.
Being a remote worker doesn’t mean you need to travel. Travel is my version of freedom but everyone has different ideas of what freedom looks like for them. What remote work has done for me is give me the power to choose the course of my life. I am completely responsible for my successes and failures. While that may sound scary it is also incredibly freeing. I’m guessing if you made it all the way down to here then you’re yearning for something more in your life too. Well, I just have one thing to say to you. Go for it! Find your freedom and then hold onto it with all your might.