How Sarah Aldrich launched her freelance career and moved to a new country
We’re excited to introduce this week’s Freedom Creator, Sarah Aldrich. Sarah is a writer, editor, marketer, and PR professional with international awareness and expertise in all forms of media. Previously the Communications Manager for Founders Brewing, Sarah launched her freelance business when her boyfriend was offered a job in Da Nang, Vietnam. She’s had quite the journey since. Learn about it below!
How and why did you get into freelancing?
I had been working at Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for five years when my boyfriend was offered a two-year teaching contract at an international school in Da Nang, Vietnam. I had a great job at the brewery, but I’d already accomplished a lot during a period of remarkable growth and was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to make as big of a difference over the next two years. Plus, I’d always wanted to live abroad and experiment with working for myself. It seemed like the right time to make the move. After a couple of years at Founders, I had set up a business so I could help my mom’s company with some marketing on the side, but it was nothing compared to creating enough work to be a full-time freelancer.
What’s been your proudest personal moment so far?
Moving to Vietnam required a lot of humility — I was dependent on others to help me with simple things like getting my mobile phone to work and how to get hot water in the shower when I first arrived. Getting around was a pain without a motorbike because there’s very limited public transportation in Da Nang, and the city isn’t all that walkable.
Asking friends for rides gets old, and as a freelancer, I often wanted to get around during the day, while many of my friends were at work. I made it a goal to get comfortable on a motorbike. Learning how to drive one and to adjust to the traffic patterns here — as well as finding and purchasing a secondhand motorbike, with the help of a friend — afforded me so much more independence. I wrote an essay about the experience of driving from Da Nang to Hoi An that got published by Wanderful, a women’s travel website, which was pretty cool. I feel proud when I’m able to give driving directions to someone who’s lived in Da Nang longer than I have. I even took a motorbike trip out to a remote waterfall with some friends last week — that’s something I’d never have done a year and a half ago.
How do you stay motivated and productive when flying solo?
Coffee! I’m only half joking. Vietnam has an awesome cafe culture, and I usually work from a different cafe every morning of the week. It gets me out of the house and gets my day started, plus it helps me feel as though I’m experiencing the city even as I’m sitting behind a laptop.
What’s the hardest part about being an indie worker?
One of my favorite parts of working at Founders was the sense of community I had there — awesome coworkers, a brand and product that I believed in, and the sense of legitimacy that comes from being part of something bigger than yourself. It can be hard to build that for yourself; it requires more soul searching and intrinsic motivation. But it’s also a fun challenge to create a community and a sense of purpose all your own. Plus, I make lunch dates and enjoy talking to people I know at the cafes I frequent, to keep from getting too lonely during the day!
What advice do you have for others taking the leap?
If you have a full-time job, try to build up as much freelance work as you can before taking the leap. It will allow you some comfort to have consistent projects while you’re selling and building your business — and will keep you from taking on work that doesn’t pay well or that doesn’t feel right. Building up my savings and living cheaply here in Vietnam has allowed me to turn down a number of potential clients…and trusting myself to know when to say no has kept me from wasting plenty of time and effort.
Where can we find you?
You can connect with me through my CloudPeeps profile!
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