I believed in the stories.
You know what I’m talking about, and if you’re a freelancer, remote worker, or digital nomad, then you believed in it too.
You too probably heard about the crazy lifestyle that seemed unbelievable. The life of working from home in your pajamas, strolling to the beach whenever you want, doing shit on your laptop for a few hours, then calling it a day.
What a dream, right?
I thought that 12pm beer funnels after ‘work’ and sitting on the sand with the laptop would be my reality.
I was convinced. You may have seen the same vision.
The vision of hopping on a cheap train, plane, or bus taking you to some destination you’ve only dreamed of going. Working on your laptop in little French cafes, taking breaks on a Barcelona beach, or spending the rest of your days lounging in bed doing nothing killing time with Netflix. It was a dream that captured me, held me tight, and screamed at me to follow.
Surely, you see the images on social media too.
People are sitting on white beaches Bali, hiking in massive mountains in Medellin, drinking in ruin bars in Budapest, and all sorts of other fun stuff. I’m not going to lie to you — I’m living it and loving it.
Yes, I work from home.
Yes, I travel a lot.
Yes, I make a great income.
Yes, I have friends all over the world.
The good times are as amazing as the Instagram photos make them out to be.
Was it easy to get to this point?
No way. Hell no. No chance.
That’s the funny thing about the world today. You only see the highlights of people’s lives. You see the good shit that’s inspiring, sexy, dreamy, and makes you want to take the big leap too. But you don’t see the shitty parts of being a remote worker, digital nomad, freelancer, or whatever you want to call it.
The life of a remote worker has it’s drawbacks, and I want to tell you about some of them.
It’s Competitive and Hard AF to Make Money At First
You have to agree with me, those IG pictures are pretty freakin’ beautiful.
Everyone and their best friend wants pictures like those too. You bet your ass your application, CV, cold email, or whatever will be in a sea of other ones. This lifestyle isn’t a secret — everybody wants in.
Studies show that Millenials, who currently take up the most significant portion of the workforce, prefer a ‘work/life blend’ rather than a ‘work/life balance.’ What does that mean for you?
There’s a lot of competition, and it’s not easy to start.
When I started as a freelancer, I joined about 27 Facebook groups for freelance writers, copywriters, content writers, and digital marketers. I even joined a few remote workers/laptop lifestylers/digital nomad groups to see what other people do. It’s pretty much what everyone does.
Join a group and see what happens when a company is looking for a new remote employee or someone to take on a project.
People jump on that comment section and poster’s messages like flies to honey. You’ll likely spend most of your time sending emails, messages, and posting things that’ll never get read. Your competition is workers from all over the globe who have MORE experience, MORE references, MORE samples, and will do the job for LESS money than you could imagine. (trust me, I used to write $3 blog posts when I started)
The only real way to get work and work that pays well enough for you to live the laptop lifestyle is to be good.
When I say, “be good,” there’s a lot to it than you think.
You have to be good at things you may have never thought of:
- Be good at creating relationships with people you may never physically shake hands with.
- Be good at showing you’re an expert in your skills for FREE.
- Be good at not appearing creepy or a scammer when you cold message someone.
- Be good at being genuine.
- Be good at speaking with people on the phone for the first time (somehow a lost art, right?)
- Be good at showing people you’re actually pretty good at your job.
- Be good at showing up every day, no matter how tired you are.
- Be good at trying to work or find work even when the day or weeks before sucked.
- Be good at working around different timezones.
- Finally, of course, be good at the work you do.
All of these take patience and time that a lot of people don’t want to invest in.
They want lovely photos and stamps on their passport, not the work that comes with that kind of freedom.
I learned that one of the world’s best copywriters got his first paying gig 3 YEARS after he started freelancing — that’s crazy. Three. Whole. Years.
I’m not saying it’s going to take you that long to get your first gig, launch your store, or whatever, but I’m saying it’s not as easy it appears, no matter what any coach, guru, or mentor tells you. At the end of the day, it’s all about getting good at your work and getting DEEP out of your comfort zone.
It Can Get Lonely
One of the most beautiful and sexiest things about this remote worker lifestyle is that you don’t need to go to an office EVER.
No shitty commute.
No weirdo colleagues asking questions.
No higher-ups power-tripping and calling you in their office to berate you.
No lame small talk that makes you roll your eyes.
Actually, this part is really nice and it is an excellent thing about working from home. But that’s the tricky thing — you’re working from home.
Sure, you can quickly go to a cafe, work with another person, or even head to a co-working space. But a lot of times, these places are packed with people who have the discipline needed to live this kind of lifestyle. People who actually have the freedom shown on Instagram and aren’t bullshitting you are genuinely dedicated to their work or business they’re growing.
It’s no joke.
Freedom to live comfortably, to work anywhere, and travel freely, actually takes a lot of commitment and hard work.
That means working long hours, sometimes into the night, and completely alone. Being a freelancer or remote worker means that even though you can work on your own time, it also means that you may have to work at odd hours and face a little loneliness.
From time to time, I’m so busy with deliverables and upcoming deadlines that I might not even speak to anyone other than my girlfriend for days. (don’t worry, I’m working balance).
It’s no surprise that sometimes I have a call with a client at 10pm or later because it’s the only time available and it has to be done.
Most successful freelancers and remote workers I know don’t just love their work but know that good things take time and effort. The tricky thing is discovering that the freedom they want takes more time and effort that they could sometimes imagine. They do it because they love their lifestyles and would do anything to keep it — even it means working their ass off.
They make the sacrifice of working alone and lose a part of their social lives not just to keep food on the table but to live the life they want.
But most people don’t see that.
You Say Goodbye A LOT
I’ve been lucky enough to live in the awesome city of Budapest, Hungary.
As an extrovert, I totally win.
With it being Europe’s hub for remote workers and freelancers, I’ve had my fair share of meet and greets, good night outs, and awesome friendships through the years. Unfortunately, unless my new friend and I decide to stay in the Hungarian capital permanently, ‘goodbyes’ are inevitable and never really easy.
Call me sentimental, but I freakin’ hate saying goodbye to people, even if we’ve only had a short time together.
Maybe there is some whimsical romantic idea of traveling the world and meeting new people, but the thought of never seeing them again kind of sucks to me. Sure, there’s social media, but you and I both know that ain’t the same shit.
When you say goodbye to someone on your travels — that’s it, baby! Goodbye. Adios. Sayonara. The chances of seeing your old’ pal you met in Morocco or Phuket is small. Alright, I’ve met up with old friends before, but it’s not a regular thing, nor do I expect it.
Sometimes, I’m the one who goes somewhere, and I have to start over again. New city. New friends. New anxiety to put me out there. I’ll miss the old town. The old friends. And old memories.
But, that’s something most travelers have to deal with. That life moves on, and the people you meet are simply that, people you met for a little while a long time ago.
People do their own thing. Go to places you don’t. Or simply just settle somewhere you don’t see yourself going to.
I’ve probably said goodbye to hundreds of people on my travels and in Budapest at this point and a lot of them I still miss to this day.
I always knew I’d meet a lot of people working from home and traveling, but I never thought I’d meet so many people who’d impact me and whom I’d miss so much.
In the end…
Freelancing, remote working, digital nomading, or whatever is a lot of fun.
I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.
But there’s a lot of work involved too.
We all see those photos that make our mouths water, inspire us to grab our passports, and makes some people look more famous than they actually are.
We’ve all been fed the idea that working from home and having the freedom to live and travel anywhere is some vacation, and all you need is a little will and a website.
You need more than that.
It takes dedication, a little perseverance, and a lot of self-reliance.
If you want to experience the good, you also have to experience the bad — in the end, that’s what makes all the freedom worth it.