I didn’t plan to become a writer.
My writing wings fell open after I took the leap, two years after realizing I would never be able to mold into the person the corporate world wanted me to be.
The idea of restrained time off and mandatory hours working from a computer in an office never sat right with me. In 2017, I quit my waitressing job, bought a one way ticket to Costa Rica and jumped into the trenches. My goal was to become become a remote writer.
My trenches were a mixture of travel and entrepreneurial loneliness. Both were a separate emotion, branching off of the same trunk.
- I was lonely because I was traveling alone. Not to be confused with physically being alone-I was living in hostels and around people all day long. Yet, each person was a passing season. I’d get to know them for a few weeks, and then we’d say goodbye, wondering if our paths would ever cross again in this lifetime.
- I was entrepreneurially lonely because I was starting a business on my own, and didn’t know another person doing the same. I had to make the mistakes, learn from them, pivot and apply within my own mind, and as any entrepreneur will tell you, that can drive you near insanity.
For four months, I tried to soothe that loneliness by traveling with other backpackers. Kindly, my bank account reminded me that I had initially set out on this journey for more than the pretty views.
I wanted to have a profitable remote business.
In October of 2017, I settled down in Split, Croatia. The reason I chose Croatia?
It’s where I ran out of money. I couldn’t afford to go anywhere else. I met my first digital nomad and we settled down to work together for the next two months in Split. I rented a desk at a co-working space for $150 a month, opened my computer, and didn’t close it again for about 60 days.
I barely made enough money to afford my desk, food and apartment. I went on a weekend trip with my friend where he placed all of the funds on his card, in agreement I would pay him back at the end of the trip. Sitting on the bus home, we totaled the trip and he casually asked me for $80. I opened my bank account, transferred him $80 and looked at my remaining balance of $100.
Those two months were pivotal in my writing career. I didn’t have the money to travel or, really, do anything at all. This was a blessing because it forced me to hunker down and figure out how to become a paid writer. In this sixty days, I created the first few centimeters of momentum towards my goal, using Upwork to connect with clients.
I picked up every job that came my way, writing landing pages for trucking companies, educational video scripts about boat safety and copy for a vitamin supplier. This is when I learned my first foundational lesson as a writer.
The content world is hungry, and if you can feed it faster than the competition, the client will choose you.
I discovered when I applied for a job and offered a 24-48 hour turnaround time, I almost always won the bid. I started to offer 1-2 day turnarounds on every single project I could.
I still use this mentality to date, handing projects in as quickly as I can, depending on my schedule.
After two months of saying yes, I was able to cover my bills for the two months I lived in Croatia. I landed home, in Rhode Island, with $150 to my name. I was teetering on the ledge, wondering at what moment I would have to close down my account because it didn’t have the minimum balance in it.
I spent the next few months with the same mindset, say yes to everything that comes your way and deliver it within two days.
It was here that I started to realize the true potential of being a writer. I saw a need for digital marketing articles and started to apply for as many of those jobs on Upwork as I could. Each time I landed a job to write a marketing article, I was paid to learn about how to market myself as a writer. I was particularly lucky when I landed a project to write a 30+ page handbook on SEO and Google Adwords. I was paid to learn, extensively, how to get a website to rank on Google and how to use Adwords for varying budgets. I picked up a few jobs ghostwriting articles for entrepreneurs and was paid to learn how to run a business.
Find a way to get paid to learn about what is going to help your business grow.
Using Quora backlinks, I have placed my website as the first result when you search my name, Eva Gutierrez.
I grew up in a small town in Rhode Island. I knew that staying there was never going to give me the connections I needed to be a real success story. I try to avoid writing fluff in my articles, but the only way for me to put this into words is, I felt like I had to leave. It was an all knowing feeling and all signs pointed to Bali.
I booked another solo, one way ticket and landed in Bali at the beginning of March. Again, I hunkered down and worked about six days a week but this time it was different. I finally set a bar as to how much I needed to get paid for an article to be worth my time ($50) and I started to become more picky with my clients. I prioritized sending proposals to entrepreneurial clients and veered away from writing website copy. I met three more digital nomads and started to feel less lonely about my life choice. There were other people here doing this!
I spent six weeks in Bali, ended up in Bangkok for five days with a friend I met at my Bali hostel, and then lived in Sri Lanka for a month.
In Sri Lanka, I became aware of how inhibiting my travels had become to my business goals. Traveling was a full time job and working was another. I was still struggling to make ends meet and having to top that struggle with unreliable Wifi and the distraction of fun backpackers was slowing down my progress.
I decided that it was time to stop traveling full time and to seriously focus on my work. At the end of May I flew back home to welcome my new niece and celebrate my nephew’s second birthday. I spent the next three months, again, hunkered down and working on as many projects as I could.
At this point, I had several long term clients who I had impressed with my writing and quick turnaround. I noticed just how pivotal these clients were to my income, as they consistently kept coming back for more work without me having to pitch them or onboard them. In short, they were easy. The reverse, keeping an inflow of new clients, was hard.
Big projects and long term contracts are your best friend.
I have entirely stopped picking up one article writing jobs. If a client wants to work together, they must be interested in writing at least five articles. In many cases, most clients want much more than that.
I’ve always known Upwork was a platform, but not a permanent residence. About nine months into my writing career, I had the portfolio and reputation to start acquiring new clients in person. I decided to start transitioning away from Upwork and towards an independent freelance writer career.
Again, I knew that staying in Rhode Island wouldn’t put me in the right place for connections.
Three weeks ago, I moved to San Francisco. I indulged the traveler within me with a one month road trip across the USA, with a fellow digital nomad I met in Budapest, and then put my foot down. No more overseas travels until 2019.
While trying to find a place to live, a co-living space asked for referrals from my employers. I emailed three of my clients and told them I was moving to San Francisco and asked if they would mind sending a 1-2 sentence referral.
One of those clients, answered with excitement. She asked me if I wanted to come to a female entrepreneurial conference happening the weekend I moved in. That event was my first taste of California and the potential of a freelance business when you are in the right place, surrounded by the right people. Between speakers, I talked to seven people. All seven asked me for my contact information so we could work together.
Go where business is thriving.
In honesty, I was shocked at the amount of people who needed a writer. I had viewed the writing world as a saturated marketed, with more sharks than fish for us to eat. It’s not true. The opportunity was there, I was just positioned where the competition was the loudest, online.
In person, it was so much easier to get somebody to understand my value and skill set. This was the key to establishing a successful network outside of Upwork.
In one week, I’m going to move to Los Angeles and then stay put. My goal is to continue to grow my personal network and to find a community of like minded, driven entrepreneurs.
I didn’t plan to become a writer.
It just came to me. Just as I believe the right job will come to anybody willing to take the leap.
If you open the door, an adventure will stand waiting.
You can follow my journey through my Instagram @TheRandomLifeofEva. DM me with any questions you have about writing or traveling. I answer every DM and meet in person with any of my followers who are around the area! You can read my writing on Medium, where I post several articles a week.
Eva Gutierrez is a writer and digital nomad. While traveling the world, she has amounted over 1M+ views and written for over 100 businesses. You can find her reluctantly climbing volcanos, in the corner of a coffee shop, and on Instagram at @TheRandomLifeofEva.