Today we talk about an important topic, how to take time off work as a digital nomad girl (guilt-free!).
This past month has been quite turbulent as I’ve moved from Munich to the UK after 3 months, did a pit stop Disney vacation in Paris, then off to the International Rebellion in London for a week. I also onboarded 2 new team members at the same time. Oh and did I mention there was Oktoberfest?
Needless to say, I had to take some time off work.
Now the good part is that I feel less and less guilty for taking time off. Although it’s taken me years to get there and I’m still not 100% guilt free and consistent. Baby steps amirite?
So the other day I mentioned struggling with this and asked whether any of the girls had some advice for me on how to take time off as a digital nomad girl.
As usual, our brilliant members came to my rescue and sent me some brilliant advice, which really, would be selfish to keep to myself.
So I put together some of the great tips I got for you. I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful for the next time you take time off work as a digital nomad girl!
Simple, Practical Tips on How to Take Time off as a Digital Nomad Girl
Ines had some short but sweet advice: “I find that planning your come-back before actually taking time off is really useful.
I already set a to-do of the things I will have to tackle when I get back (including some extra time for new stuff that will come up while on vacay – and to remember all these without actually working on it, I just dedicate a note to that where I can dump them). This reduces the overwhelm.”
Plan in Advance
Lyda Michopoulou who is a business coach and trainer shared some brilliant tips that she’s learned over the years:
“In the past let’s say that I didn’t take time off and was afraid that if I leave, my clients will prefer someone else to continue and not me. In the last two years, I’ve got over this unreal fear/self-doubt.
So now, before taking time off I go through a specific process.
First of all, at the beginning of each new year, I figure out my vacation days & digital detox weekends and put them in my calendar. Then, I inform my clients two months ahead of the vacation week/digital detox weekend so they know that I won’t be there to reply to their emails/posts/requests/DMs/whatever.
For my personal work, I try to finish all urgent and important things before I leave and finally, I leave my laptop at home, with friends if I’m travelling or at a safety deposit box, if I haven’t made such close friends at the location I am at that moment.
And then, off I go!
Important here, during that week/weekend I don’t check my email accounts or any related work chats so I don’t have to think about work. Cause our brains need a vacation too!
And when I come back, I take it slowly. Easing myself back to everyday life and not trying to answer to all my emails on the first day back. Having specific time-slots where I answer my emails, helps a lot.”
Create a ‘Status of Projects’ Document for Clients
Ashley Scoby who is a freelance writer had some awesome advice which highlights the need for a good process:
“Something I started doing for one of my clients and that I do now for almost everyone I work with before I take time off is creating a “status of projects” document.
This is a list of everything I’m working on, what the status is (waiting on review from X, will be working on when I get back, ahead of schedule so on hold, etc), as well as any other info that someone would need to know (who to contact in my absence, if it’s a team setting; pieces of info I need from the client, etc).
At the top of the doc, I include the EXACT dates I’ll be gone, what days I’ll be completely 100% off the grid, what my availability is on other days (if I plan on working for an hour each morning, for example, this is where I would include it) + the time zone that I’ll be in.
I’ve found that this method helps me a lot not only stay organized with everything I need to do before taking time off, but it’s also a great tool to provide a client so they can have easy access to what’s up when I’m gone (instead of sending me emails or texts 🙂 )”
Underpromise, Over Deliver!
Sally Townsend, co-founder and editor of The Bride’s Tree, had some great advice for me, specifically about the Christmas holiday season: “My clients are small-medium business owners, they’re advertisers. Advertisers are demanding, man!
But I have found they all generally want to take the time off, or at least slow down, as well. I schedule content ahead of time and I make it really clear in advance that I’m taking some time off.
Personally I feel most challenges in business relationships can be solved by following this one principle: under-promise, over-deliver. So I’ll sneak in an unexpected e-newsletter and/or schedule some helpful advice content in our private Facebook group as well.
So not only do they get their promotion to my audience, they still hear from me personally about their business and it shows that I’ve not forgotten them and I care. I also sometimes write them a Christmas poem, because I am a cheesy geek ?
Key to success for this: I start basically now, adding a little scheduled content each week so it’s not a big rush before I take my time off. Definitely do it – it’s so important to take a break yourself and recharge! You started this so you could design your life, right? Well, make sure that you’re taking care of you by design.
Schedule and Automate
Also – automate EVERYTHING. Email responder on and forget. REALLY forget. It’s like this thing I heard once early on in my working life: there’s no point taking a personal day if you’re going to spend it feeling guilty. Make the call, then push aside any associated guilt, because it’s done now, and it’s a waste if you ruin it for yourself.”
Thank you to all the girls who sent me their great advice. What I’ve learned over the past few years is that the key to taking time off successfully and guilt free as a digital nomad girl is to allow yourself to actually do so fully (no checking emails, no quickly posting on Instagram etc) and to plan ahead accordingly.
We’re in this lifestyle for the long run, so we definitely need to learn how to take time off to recharge and come back to our businesses with new inspiration and energy.
If you’ve got any tips on how to take time off work as a Digital Nomad Girl, please comment below and I might add them.
We asked and you answered! Find out how these girls got their first online client!
One of the goals of the Digital Nomad Girls Community is to educate and inspire other ladies to join us on our Digital Nomad journeys. We aim to provide you with relevant, useful and inspiring content about what jobs are available and how you can get them. That’s why I decided to ask the group how they got their first ever online clients!
Facebook posts can get totally lost so I wanted to then turn that into a blog post that can inspire others to put themselves out there and know where to look for those online jobs they dream of. It was interesting to hear the results and I am going to share a bunch of those with you today!
I will start with my own story, I got my first ever online freelance gig through friends I met in Chaing Mai. I was hanging out with a bunch of travel bloggers at the time and two of them ran their own media company. They hired me to write SEO articles (they were $7 a piece, but after a little while I could write 3-4 an hour). It was not the most glamorous, but I was so so happy!
We have a post about pricing yourself as a freelancer which you can read here.
Justyn got her first ever client through Upwork but was then able to grow her business from the many referrals of a girl she ended up living with and working for in Bali. She has since gotten over 20 clients from referrals of friends and family members and has been able to grow her own business this way!
Marielien got her client by asking around in her own network. “Do you know anyone who has XXX need and may need my help to achieve XXX.”
Esther got her first client face to face through a skillshare event.
Esther’s first online client reached out to her out of the blue after she read a post reply in a Facebook group.
However, Leah’s answer might have just been my favourite! She found her first ever client on Okcupid. “My first client was a guy I had previously dated. I met my business partner on OkCupid too, but we never actually dated.”
Mia told us that her first client was found through a Facebook ad. “I was just looking for something to do for couple of months until I move to Greece to do my Master. I wasn’t really passionate about it but I just wanted to move. After I resigned from 9-5 job and two Skype interviews later I got a long term project which made me go to Asia. I never looked back”
Ina shared with us that she used the platform Meetup to find out about get-togethers and conventions that interested her. She looked for things like Sustainability in fashion and simply got chatting with people once she was there. She was just originally just looking to connect with likeminded people and find her tribe. Someone she met there later called her and explained that she was planning to set up an online shop for her fashion brand. She wanted to know if I knew anyone that could help her with that. Ina’s response was simply, “Oh sure, you’re talking to her”.
Lastly, Susan offered to share her story. She told us, “In 2010, I was watching one of the morning talk shows on TV, and they were discussing this new “freelancing” movement, where people were working from home as independent contractors, rather than employees. They discussed various freelance websites and the different projects available – and Virtual Assistant was one of the careers mentioned. That perked my ears up, as at that point, I had over 25 years of office management/administrative experience.
I started looking at Elance (no longer exists, now part of Upwork, which I don’t use) and within a week of putting my profile out there and dropping some proposals, I had my first client – and then another, and another. My first project was simple web research, but it branched out from there. In January of 2011, I was laid off from my full-time job. Within 2 weeks, I had built my client list to a full-time level. I never went back to my job. Now, over 6 years later, I’m a full-time Virtual Assistant. I help coaches, authors, small biz owners and entrepreneurs find more time in their day. I take the social media, marketing and other admin tasks off their hands.”
Where else do ladies find their clients?!
While those are a few of the personal stories that we got from the ladies, the rest tallied up to be a mishmash of Referrals, platforms like Upwork and various other remote work platforms. Once you know what you want to do, all you have to do is put yourself out there. Create an ad, or even just let people know what you are doing now! You never know who could become your next contact! I know someone that once got a huge client just from going to a family Christmas party! There’s plenty of places to get your first online client!
If you have any questions, just comment below or add a post in the Facebook community!
Save this post for later!
This is the first part in our new Freelancing 101 series where we’ll talk about all things freelance. Part one is a guest post by the lovely Thalassa van Beek, a freelance social media & content manager and long-time DNG member. How to price your freelance services is one of the most common questions asked in our Facebook Group and Thalassa took the time to share different freelance pricing strategies for digital nomad girls.
Freelance Pricing Strategies for Digital Nomads
‘Where do I find my clients?’ is probably the question I hear most often about starting as a freelancer. The second must be ‘How much do I charge them?’ Finding clients has never been a big issue for me. The answer is simple: ‘everywhere’.
But deciding how to price your freelance services, that’s a whole other ball game. The most important thing is that you understand which options are out there, so that you can decide what suits your services best. Let me help you by breaking down the different freelance pricing strategies for digital nomads…
Perhaps the most obvious way to go is by simply charging an hourly rate. This is probably your best option when there is no way to know how long something will take you – and when the client understands that.
Some examples of this include doing work that may require lots of revisions because the client doesn’t exactly know what she wants just yet, or when you’re working with startups and plans change almost daily. You may want to consider if you even want to work with those clients in the first place, but if you do, make sure you communicate clearly.
If they change plans half way, it may mean that all your previous work has to be re-done and they will still have to pay for that. However, if they realize that they need the flexibility to change their plans, they will be ok with an hourly rate.
One of the downsides of having hourly rates is that you’re never quite sure how much money you will make in any given month. If your rate is high, you’ll be able to balance out months when you have less work. But if your rates are average or even low, a bad month can be a disaster. That’s one of the reasons why you may want to charge fixed prices.
One way to get a somewhat-guaranteed income is by having retainer agreements with your clients. This basically means that they buy a fixed amount of hours of your services each month, usually for a discounted price compared to your hourly rate.
For example, you charge €50 per hour, but offer a monthly retainer of 10 hours. If they agree to a 6 month retainer, you charge €450 per month, saving them €300 over the full period while you can be sure you will have that €450 each month.
When they need you only 8 hours, you’re getting paid 2 hours to go for a hike or watch netflix. Be sure though to agree on your rate for any overtime!
Even though this is a fixed-price strategy and does guarantee you some income, it is still an ‘hourly mindset’. Again, in some cases that’s simply the way to go. But there are also a lot of situations where hourly rates just aren’t ideal for you as a freelancer.
I will tell you why when we look into the other options.
Monthly Packages & Fixed Project Prices
Monthly packages and fixed project prices are my favourite way to go. When talking to a client, I make sure that I fully understand what he or she needs and expects, that those goals are realistic and that we are all on the same page.
When that’s the case, I send them a quote, exactly outlining the tasks that we agreed on that I will carry out. I’m a social media & content manager, so often it would look something like ‘Daily posts on Facebook & Instagram, Facebook Advertising, answering questions coming in via social media, weekly blog post & monthly newsletter.’
I then give them a monthly price for the full package. More one-off services, like setting up an ad campaign, building a website or giving a training are done with a fixed project price. In both cases, it’s very important to write down exactly what’s included in the price. If small things are sometimes added to it, I won’t complain, but if they expect something bigger, I simply send them a new offer. Here are my reasons why this is my favourite way to go.
The better you get, the less you’ll earn?
One thing I’ve noticed during my time as a freelancer, is that you become much more efficient the more experienced you are. This is both in general – you implement better systems, use better tools, learn from previous experiences – and for each specific client.
The longer you work with a company, the more you know, the easier it gets to write articles, answer questions, etc. So what took me a full day in the beginning, now takes me maybe an hour, and the result is probably of even higher quality. But by charging an hourly rate, that would mean that I would earn less money now while delivering higher quality work.
That doesn’t sound right, does it?
Time tracking can be frustrating and impractical sometimes. Lots of work can be done from your phone nowadays, so it happens occasionally that I reply to a question while I’m waiting at the bus or schedule a couple of posts while I’m already in bed. I don’t want to be bothered with tracking 3 minutes here and 5 minutes there. With fixed prices, that’s not an issue anymore.
> > Need a time tracking tool? Download our FREE Digital Nomad Toolbox to access over 100 tools to help you succeed as a digital nomad.
Income Cap & Outsourcing
Another reason to avoid hourly rates is to avoid an income cap. Afterall, you only have 168 hours in a week and preferably you don’t spend all of them working. Of course, you can always increase your hourly rate, but at some point high hourly rates may get hard to defend.
One way to grow beyond your own capacity is by outsourcing.
When I’m too busy, I have a few wonderful writers who deliver great blog posts. All I need to do is edit them a little bit; saves me an hour per post!
Outsourced hours are hard to charge for with hourly rates, especially when the clients asks you to use tracking systems. With a fixed price, you can simply allow for a bit of outsourcing-wiggle-room.
Our guest blogger, Digital Nomad Girl Thalassa
Charge Your Value, Not Your Time
However, the most important reason for me personally is that you should charge your value, not your time. Facebook ads are in my case the easiest example to explain this.
Let’s say I run ads for a gym. A monthly membership costs €100 and members need to sign up for at least one year. Let’s say that with spending €100 on advertising cost, I can get them 5 new members each month. If I would charge €1000 per month, they would still make an extra €6000 – €1000 – €100 = €4900, and that’s assuming those people are only members for one year. If they stay longer, the profit will be even higher.
It will cost me a lot of hours to set up the ads and funnel, and even more to test the audience to get to the best target group. However, once that’s all set up, it can run itself for quite some time and I only need to go in everyday and check that everything is still running smoothly. But as long as it’s delivering value, there’s no reason I should get charged less once it’s all setup.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of which pricing strategy suits your work best. However, there is something else to consider: should you charge every project the same?
Whether you’re working with an hourly rate or a fixed price, you will often find situations where things are just a bit different, either for you or the client.
In my case, I charge each client something different, because each package is tailor-made for them. They all have different needs and requirements. There is some structure to it, but I could never really articulate it. However, not long ago I read a blog that almost exactly describes what I had been doing unconsciously already; add a multiplier for different factors.
The idea is that you set a basic price (hourly, or fixed per task/project). Then you look at certain factors: if it’s a super fun project with a cool team, the multiplier is 1.0. But if it’s kinda boring you may want to have a 1.3multiplier.
The next one could be about the financial state of the client; if it’s a cool startup, you may want to keep the 1.0, but when it’s a well-financed multinational corporation, you may choose to go with 1.5 or 2.0. You can add all sorts of multipliers, whatever is important to you. You can even decide to do a 0.75 or less when you want to support an NGO.
Obviously, this is not something you want to communicate towards your clients. But I believe it’s a good approach for yourself to make some sense out of why you charge what to whom.
Again, I don’t believe there’s a ‘one size fits all’ pricing strategy. You have to figure out what works best for your services, your way of work and your type of clients. All I can do is stress how important it is to consider all those factors and then decide how you want to structure it. Good luck!
Thalassa van Beek is a freelance social media & content manager. She has a home base, but all her work is location independent so she’s usually on the road discovering new places. To help others achieve a similar lifestyle, she organizes the Freelance Kickstarter training.
This is the first part in a new series on freelancing, so if you’d like to learn more about pricing, handling clients, and all things freelancing, then sign up for updates and inspiration here and get your FREE Digital Nomad Toolbox with over 100 tools to help you work & travel!