How I Became Location-Independent and Moved to Belize with a Family of Four, Part III: Becoming a Bona Fide Digital Nomad


New Leaf Writing Digital Nomad

If you’re reading this, chances are good you want to move abroad, either as a digital nomad or to settle (semi-)permanently in a foreign country.

Well, friend, I feel you. In fact, I feel you so hard that I picked up and left the United States not long ago, and moved to Belize with my hubs, two kids and two dogs. It was a BFD, I’ll tell you that much, but I’m so glad I did it. So yeah … I getz what you wantz, because I wantzed it myself.

Okay, I took that too far.

Anyway, if you want the quick recap on what this location-independent blog series is about or how I became a full-time writer, head to those links. Here’s the quick recap: I started writing professionally six years ago, realized five years ago I hated going into offices and transitioned online, made enough three years ago while working at home with two babies to send them both to daycare, and today have a reliable enough income that I’m the primary earner and can afford to take my whole family abroad to live.

I’m a full-on digital nomad, y’all.

Today we’re going to take a look at how I not only built reliable online income, but digital nomad proofed my business so I wouldn’t run into any unsavory situations. In all of these posts, we’re taking the approach of examining what makes an international working move sustainable. Because, come on, if you’re independently wealthy … congrats, but this blog series isn’t for you.

Let’s get started.

How Did I a Digital Nomad Writer?

New Leaf Writing Digital Nomad

I’m not going to spend too much time answering this, because again, I explained it in great detail in the previous post in this series. The basic rundown is that I work for an online content platform, love it and make a lot of money there. However, there’s one significant point I didn’t go into in the previous post, and that is I don’t count on it as my only source of income.

Why? Because I think of it like any other job: something I can lose. I don’t think I will, given my great relationship with them, but I could, and then where would we all be? Well, in Belize, without much income other than my hubby’s part-time gig as a tax preparer. Don’t get me wrong, that’s good money; but it isn’t enough. I knew that before we could safely transition to a foreign country, I would need other reliable sources.

I used a few approaches to put myself in a better position, both work-wise and logistically.

Get Good at Direct Marketing Copywriting

A lot of people are really unclear about what this is, which is why I covered the definition of direct marketing pretty thoroughly in a recent post. In a nutshell, though, this is the type of copy that speaks directly to prospects. While there are quite a few sub-niches, the three I focus on include blog posts, email copy and ads. (You can learn more about how to make a career out of learning this skill in Overnight Direct Marketing.) Not only do I really enjoy writing this type of copy, but it seeeeeellllllllls.

Think about it: Every business these days needs to build an email list, run a blog and attract clients. They receive the message each and every day that if they’re not doing it, they’re leaving money on the table. Which is absolutely true. Once they finally decide to wake up and do something about it – and they will – you can be right there, waiting.

Personally, I’ve built some really reliable client relationships this way. Having my own clientele apart from a large corporation puts me at ease, because it means I wouldn’t have trouble finding work even if I lost that job.

One caveat, though: Just because you have a few amazing client relationships does not mean you’re set. I’ve had awesome, high-paying clients for more than a year (sometimes more than a few) who suddenly dropped off the face of the Earth … for months, or forever. You can count on an average of these clients, and you can count on being able to bring in new ones with some hustle, but you cannot count on the clients themselves always being there. They probably won’t be forever.

Why the Digital Nomad Should Put Passive Income Streams in Place

New Leaf Writing Digital Nomad

This is one of those things that takes a second to understand but a lifetime to master, and I’m not going to spend much time on it here. If you aren’t ready to try passive income – or if you’re just frankly uninterested, which is fine – then feel free to skip this section.

I, however, wanted to stop trading my time for money. The whole idea behind passive income is that you make something once, and then you can just put it out there and let people do their thing with it. A download, a book, a course. If you use a coaching model along with your course, you might be a little more involved, but the main content has still been created, and the bulk of the work is behind you.

Personally, I chose to make two courses, which I then combined into my Overnight Copywriting/Overnight Direct Marketing Package. The experts I follow say you don’t need more than that, and I believe them. If your courses do well, there’s no point having a million. I also wrote a book, Get the Hell Over It: How to Let Go of Fear and Realize Your Creative Dream. But honestly, that was more for fun than anything else. Eventually I’ll build up an Amazon catalogue, though, and that should be pretty lucrative in time.

Mind the Logistics

I’ll do this quickly, since you either already know it or need a much better guide on the subject than I. Basically, though, you need to make sure you’re on top of the logistics before you move abroad. Here are the basics:

  • Set up PayPal: If you use another form of payment, I advise you switch to this one. I know there are other methods, but I recommend this one for two reasons. Firstly, because it’s so reliable, and is used all over the world. Secondly, because when you tell people you live abroad, they might get sketched out, but PayPal is a known quantity. They won’t have trouble using it.
  • Be sure to keep track of your taxes: My husband is a tax guy, so I get a free ride here. But if you AREN’T married to a tax babe, you need to be careful. Lots of creatives think, “Oh, I can handle it,” but chances are good you cannot handle it. Anything beyond a simple W2 is probably too complex to deal with on your own. People look at that statement and scoff, but I can’t tell you how many freelancers my husband has had to console, crying in his office because they didn’t plan and now owe the IRS like a jillion dollars. Don’t let that be you.
  • Get your gear in place: Make sure you plan to have EVERYTHING you need before you move abroad. If you’re moving somewhere like London, this is less of a concern. But even then, if you have equipment that can’t be serviced abroad, you’ll be sad you didn’t make a backup plan, so do so.

As a final note on that subject, you might also consider bringing equipment you’re not quite ready for, but will be while you’re there. I live in Belize, where there are very limited services. I think there’s like, one store in the whole country that services Apple products. I said SERVICES; they don’t sell them anywhere. So I was careful when planning what to bring.

Also, I plan to start a podcast while I’m here as well as do webinars eventually, so I thought I’d better get that equipment too (mic, cord, stand, etc.). Otherwise I would be stuck needing to have people bring it to me, and might not get everything I wanted on the timeframe I set for myself.

Lastly …

Consider Digital Nomad Options for Other Fields

New Leaf Writing Digital Nomad

I talk about writing on this blog. Duh. Because I’m a copywriter.

However, I’ve listened to tons of podcasts and read tons of blog posts, and everything I’ve heard leads me to one conclusion: These tips all work for fields other than writing. You can become a digital nomad in any professional industry, though you may need to do some backbends to turn, say, a wedding planning business or physical paper goods shop into the online sphere. It can be done, though, either by moving to consulting, by turning your products digital or using an order-on-demand platform such as Society6. It’s up to you.

My final advice on this subject is this: Don’t give up. Whether you’re days away from making your digital location-independent dreams a reality, or feel unbearably removed from the possibility, it can be done.

I believe in you.

And writers? I’ve got your back especially, so head to the Free Resource Library and more about how to become a rockin’ writer today.

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