In our monthly Digital Nomad Girls interview series we will feature interviews with Digital Nomad Girls from around the world with interesting location independent jobs.
This month we chatted to lovely Natalie Howard, UX/UI designer, and plus size model.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I was born in Fort Worth, Texas, USA but my family moved around a lot. I’ve lived in Texas, California, Washington, and Ohio. I’m 26, and living in Columbus, OH. I’m saving up some money before I go on my next big trip.
What is your location independent job or multiple jobs?
I am a freelance UX/UI Designer and professional plus size model. UX stands for User Experience, which means I plan out and architect apps & websites and make them better and more enjoyable for people to use. UI stands for User Interface which is the visual design side of things.
How did you become a UX/UI designer? How can others do the same?
I got my first two-year degree in Visual Communications in Los Angeles- which I deeply regretted after entering the very difficult job market in 2010. When I decided to go back to college for a bachelor’s degree- I wanted to make a more informed decision. I started researching companies that I really wanted to work at and seeing what jobs they were actually hiring for. I came across a position for “Information Architect”. I had no idea what it was, but the description sounded fun and interesting, so I began researching it. I decided to go back to school for Interactive Media Design, which included some elements of user experience design and information architecture. To get into UX, requires a lot of self-direction, research, and networking skills to snag an experienced mentor. I’m apart of a Beginner’s UX group on Facebook which has been really helpful for getting feedback on my portfolio and connecting with others in the same boat.
And how did you become a location independent model?
For modeling, my experience goes back to age 15. My parents sent me to a modeling school called Barbizon, and I signed with an agency shortly after. I did small local projects like fashion shows and modeling wedding dresses for editorials. I gave up professionally pursuing modeling while I was in college, but kept on doing time-for-trade shoots for fun with local photographers. I started posting my work on social media and my fan base grew larger and larger. Eventually, a fan suggested I try applying to some agencies again for plus size modeling. I reached out to one of the top plus size modeling agencies in the country and heard back within 10 minutes! I signed with them soon after and was able to get some projects with big retail clients and a national TV commercial. Since then, I’ve branched off and found more success being my own agent and boss, since I found the agency requirements to be too restricting.
To get into modeling, you either have to 1. Build up a large social media following (a lot of agencies won’t consider you unless you have at least 10k fans/followers) 2. Research industry requirements for height and measurements- make sure you fit them. Research modeling agency’s current rosters of models to see if you have a similar look to any of their talent.
How do you manage to juggle both jobs?
I always let my UX clients know about my modeling situation and that flexibility is really important to me in case I want to take on a job. Usually they’re pretty understanding about it. The way I work with clients is based on weekly rates with deadlines for deliverables, so as long as I get the work done by the time I say I will, they trust me.
You use Patreon for your model job. What would you recommend to others if they’d like to get started with that?
With Patreon, you want to already have an existing fanbase on other platforms- it’s not a good place to gain new fans. When I started out, I looked at what other models in similar industries were doing and took notes. Then kind of mixed and matched some of their ideas with new ones I came up with. It takes a lot of time investment up front to define goals and rewards, but it’s so worth it!
What made you pursue a life as a Digital Nomad?
A friend recommended a book to me called “The 4 Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss. That was a massive inspiration to me. When I was younger, I was homeschooled- so I was used to being self-directed and autonomous with my work. The 9-5 work schedule never worked for me. I’m happiest when I don’t feel confined to any space in particular.
Did your friends/family/colleagues think you’ve gone crazy? Were they supportive?
Nope, everyone has been really cool about it. I’ve had some confusion from people if working remotely is a totally foreign concept for them, but usually when I explain it they get excited too.
What is your favourite city/country/beach/mountain destination to work?
I love working on trains, especially through Europe. The amount of “flow” that happens for me is just incredible- they’re so peaceful. Really allows me to dig into a deep pool of creative ideas and problem solving. I worked on an app prototype while riding from Berlin to Prague earlier this year.
What do you struggle with most when you travel and work?
Staying disciplined and focused 😀 It’s tempting to want to go see all the attractions of an area. Can be very distracting.
How do you connect with and meet new people while travelling?
Recently, I’ve started chatting up people at restaurants or coffee shops who are sitting alone, because I often think…. nobody (especially if they’re a traveler) came all this way to this new place to sit alone, they want to meet people too. So that’s been fun- and sometimes I meet people through mutual friends, networking events, Magpie, Digital Nomad FB groups, or even Tindr 😉
What item should every Digital Nomad Girl pack?
I have an expandable, waterproof hip belt I bought from Target that I love. I just put the bare minimum in there- credit cards, keys, etc. Was great for when I was riding a lot of scooters and easily hides under tshirts.
What advice would you give a girl friend who wanted to start out as a digital nomad?
Research! I think logistics are the scariest part- What am I going to do with my apartment? My stuff? How am I going to make money? There’s a lot of people asking the same questions in Digital Nomad communities, so it makes you feel more encouraged and less lonely to meet like minded people.
What are your future travel plans?
I would love to do 3 months in the countryside of France 🙂 Have a slow life by the pool, ride scooters, buy fresh produce and baked goods, drink wine, and seduce and be seduced by Frenchmen.
And last: Do you have a favourite inspirational (cheesy optional) quote you’d like to share?
“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” -Tim Ferriss
Have you ever considered being a location independent UX/UI designer and/or model? Please share in the comments!