Get good grades. Go to a good college. Pick a major. Get good grades again. Get a good job. Work your way up the corporate ladder. I was sick of the status quo. I was sick of working a corporate job, sick of arbitrary hierarchy, and sick of sitting in a cubicle. I dreamed of traveling and working for myself for several years. December 1st, 2015 I turned my dreams into a reality and quit my job. Over the next year I traveled to 11 countries and made more money than I’d ever made in my life.
How it All Started
In 2014, I was manager of advertising operations at a marketing agency in Hollywood, California. I was overseeing the management of campaigns with millions of dollars in monthly ads spend. One of my best friends, Vanessa, was the ecommerce manager of an ecommerce clothing company. The company had recently moved into the US market and were working with an advertising agency that was netting them zero dollars in sales. Vanessa asked me to take a look at their campaigns to see if I could figure out why. When I looked through their campaigns it was easy to see why they were failing and I let Vanessa know. She turned to me and asked if she could just hire me to run their advertising, but the caveat was that she needed to hire a company rather than an individual. I went out the next week and got a DBA. Over the next six months, I helped them to grow their revenue 200%.
View from the top of Machu Picchu in Peru
I left the marketing agency in Hollywood to work as a Data Analyst for DirecTV. I wanted to quit and work for myself full-time, but my desires were met with logical resistance from my friends and family. Would I make enough money? Would I be lonely working by myself? Would I be motivated to work each day without a boss? I decided I wanted to accomplish three things for myself and then I could quit.
- Save up some money just in case I lost my major clients.
- Consistently make a salary I could live off of
- Establish that I could regularly self-motivate
I got to work growing my business. I was commuting 1 hour to and from work, spending the bulk of that commute time speaking with clients or pitching potential new clients. I was working 8 hours a day at DirecTV and making phone calls and checking advertising campaigns during my lunch breaks. Then I’d drive the hour home to do CrossFit, cook dinner, and work 4-5 hours before going to bed.
By November 2015, I’d accomplished my three goals and I was completely depleted of both energy and time. My work was starting to suffer both for DirecTV and for myself. I could not grow my company any further while continuing to work for someone else.
A passing ship in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Photograph by Alex Golick; source: Instagram @alexmadeyoulook
“Oh wow, where did you get new job?”
“Nowhere. I’m going to work for myself.”
“What? Doing What? Are you sure? Good luck…?”
It’s amazing how this blew people’s minds. December 7th 2015 I woke up smiling. I can still remember the feeling of elation. I didn’t have to drive the hour commute in LA traffic to work. I could go out to breakfast, work out in the middle of the day, or, I could travel.
One of the major factors that allowed me to travel was that I was providing an online service. If you are interested in working for yourself, starting with what you know makes for a quick and easy transition. Also, it is much easier to start a service-based business than a product-based business. You have a way lower overhead and can make money immediately by signing up clients rather than having to go through the challenges and money-draining of product development, production, and distribution. Not having to deal with a physical product also allows you to achieve location independence as quickly as possible.
“If you are interested in working for yourself, starting with what you know makes for a quick and easy transition.”
Getting some late night work done in Taipei, Taiwan
Photograph by Jordan Zipkin; source: Instagram @alexmadeyoulook
Traveling While Working
In 2016, I spent over 17 weeks traveling. I went to Machu Picchu in Peru, saw giant tortoises in the Galapagos in Ecuador, rode motorbikes through Vietnam, visited Angkor Wat in Cambodia and went scuba diving in Koh Tao, Thailand. I bonded with family and friends and met other travelers intent on exploring a different way of living. However, I did not meet many backpackers who were working while traveling. Most were traveling for a defined period of time before returning home to work. Backpackers were shocked when they saw me on my laptop working late at night in the common areas of hostels. “You have to work?” people would exclaim in disbelief. “No, I get to travel,” I would reply.
Even though traveling and working is extremely fun and rewarding, it can be very difficult if you don’t plan accordingly. For example, I was on a cruiseship for a week in the Galapagos (the most amazing place I’ve ever been) and the internet was terrible. It made working near impossible and I missed deadlines. I realized that I could not plan travel that required me to spend that much time without internet. While traveling at a rapid pace with a friend through Vietnam and southeast Asia, I also learned that overnight buses and constant activities made it extremely difficult to get client work done let alone pitch new clients. I quickly realized I needed to regularly schedule down days where I did nothing but work somewhere with high quality internet. I had several potential clients in the pipeline when I arrived in Asia, but the challenge of constant travel and time zone differences proved too great to sign any of them.
After completion of our custom blue suits in Hoi An, Vietnam
Photograph source: Instagram @alexmadeyoulook
Want to travel and work successfully?
You’re going to need the following:
Internet – Make sure you are going to have regular access to high-speed internet. If you are going to travel somewhere sans internet, make sure you schedule a subsequent internet workday.
Communication – This is an area I really screwed up. Schedule regular calls with all of your current clients and make sure you are reporting results to them regularly. Check email at key times of the day. Taking these key steps will ensure that clients do not feel like you’ve abandoned them or that you’re neglecting them or their work.
Time – You cannot travel too fast. If someone tells you you can do Bangkok in a day, schedule two. You need extra time in case something big comes up work-wise or a fun activity you cannot pass up presents itself. Also, you’re not in a rush. Normal travelers only have so long before they have to get back to their jobs and their “real lives.” You’re already working and you have nowhere you have to be.
Where would you travel if you could go anywhere tomorrow? Let us know in the comments below!