my first 6 months as a digital nomad


As I sit at our dining room table on a gray Fall day in Chicago, I remember the warmth and salty breeze of the sun-filled shores of Crete Island, in Greece. Can you believe that I got work done in this place?

Let me tell you how I got here...

Since April of this year I have been balancing work as a self-employed digital nomad. A digital nomad uses technology to make remote work possible almost anywhere in the world. I am a creative consultant and graphic designer, so I can do all of my work via computer, phone line, wifi and sometimes Field Notes sketchbooks, all highly portable tools. 

I'd been mostly happy at my 9-to-5 job, so why did I make the jump to self-employment? For me, it finally came down to a simple reality. I wanted to spend most of my days without restrictions on my time and space. I love travel and wanted to be able to work from anywhere in the world. And I knew I could still be productive – possibly even more productive – with these freedoms.

 Half Dome from Glacier Point at Yosemite National Park, taken by  Keith Mokris  on our trip in September.

Half Dome from Glacier Point at Yosemite National Park, taken by Keith Mokris on our trip in September.

And, although I am still refining the day-to-day of this remote lifestyle, in these first 6 months I have made it work pretty well. As my husband Keith says, I am "doing it." And even though there are cons to the freelance/self-employed/digital nomad life, for me the pros carry significantly more weight.

Being a digital nomad has made it possible for me to enjoy a little extra time traveling in 2016. In the last 8 months alone, I have been to Thailand, Greece, Hungary, France, Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area, Louisville, and spent lots of time in coffee shops all over Chicago. And in every spot, as long as I had my computer, I could keep ongoing projects moving and communication with clients open. 

Being in new places and adapting to them keeps my mind open and agile, my inspiration flowing and my purpose strong. 

 San Francisco coastline

San Francisco coastline

These first 6 months as a fully remote worker have been my best yet. I am finally in my element.

I am not saying that this lifestyle is for everyone, right away. I had geared my efforts toward being a digital nomad for a while before finally getting to be one. 

I had begun freelancing on the side years before, so had established some client relationships, best practices for working with those clients and referrals from new clients. I had saved up. I had collected hard graphic design skills to build my portfolio to attract new work. My team at my 9-to-5 was remote, so I had time to learn which remote collaboration tools really worked and which didn't. I questioned friends who were making freelance work, and took their advice to heart. 

2016-06-17 09.58.00 1.jpg

In the last few months at my 9-to-5, when the urge to become self-employed was finally becoming too strong to ignore, I began introducing my existing freelance clients to the idea of working remotely with me, in preparation for an overseas vacation. To my delight, I found that they were just fine with the arrangement. And the possibility became more real!

So when I was 90% ready, I did it. (I think it's tough to be 100% ready for most big decisions. That extra 10% is the leap.) I turned in my notice and, once I had a comfortable client base, I began making travel plans without as many bounds.

(Lots of folks wonder about budgeting for travel, and I'll talk about how I do it in future posts.)

 Cafe Loustic in Paris

Cafe Loustic in Paris

It wasn't easy, but it was worth it. Once I set my mind to becoming a digital nomad, and knew that was my goal, I got there. In case you are interested, I plan to share some of the steps I took more specifically in future blog posts. 

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Also, read about my rich sensory experience of visiting Crete Island in the new issue of Revamped Magazine!