Maia founded her own digital agency to be able to live and travel all the year. She shares with us how did she get started into remote working as a digital nomad.
Hello Maia, what is your background and what are you working on?
I’m the founder of Cassiopeia Studio, it’s a web design and development agency catering to individuals and small-businesses. Three years ago, I was hired at Autodesk to help build their subscription platform. For the past two years, I have been traveling the world with my husband while working remotely with a range of different companies and clients through the agency I’ve created.
How did you decide to quit your job at Autodesk and how was it to get your first clients for Cassiopeia Studio?
When I met my husband we both knew we wanted to travel as much as we could. Becoming software engineers and saving for travel was part of the plan. We were living in San Francisco and all of our savings were going into paying our rent so we realized it was not sustainable to live in the city.
We both decided to start freelancing on evening and weekends to see if we could get consistent work and set up a deadline on when to leave San Francisco for Bangkok (our first stop). Getting my first clients was hard because I did not have much to show for so I built projects of my own to be able to feature them in my portfolio. But even with a portfolio, I still had to network a ton and promote myself aggressively, which I was not used to do at all. I got my first client for a very small project, then another one for a bigger project, etc… Most of my work now comes from networking, referrals, and word-of-mouth.
As soon as we both picked up enough work, I quit my job and started freelancing full-time. A couple of months later, we were in Bangkok. It was terrifying but we figured that if it did not work out, we could always come back and get a job.
Where have you been able to travel since you started travelling?
Since we started our remote adventure we had the opportunity to discover a lot of places and we are currently travelling around the Mediterranean sea.
Where do you usually get work done while travelling?
Most of the time, I work from wherever we are staying, any table will do. When I get antsy or want a change in scenery, I work from a coffee shop nearby. I have tried working from co-working spaces but it ends up being too noisy if I have client calls and I get distracted by other people around me.
What tools/website do you use to communicate/organise your freelance jobs?
I use Trello to organise my freelance jobs so that the client can also follow my progress and we avoid long email chains. Skype is another tool I cannot live without to communicate with clients. Finally, I use Google Drive to organise my files/folders.
Most of freelancer’s way to get job is from their network and word to mouth, what advice you wish you had when you started freelance?
Don’t wait to get work, start building websites/tools as soon and as much as you can. The more you have to show to potential clients the better it is. The beginning will be slow, you won’t be working much and that is why I would not advise you NOT to quit your job until you have enough regular work coming in. You need to be pro active! Don’t be afraid to sell your services. I used to be so shy and felt like a fraud (sometimes still do) but it should not be the case. You have a service, a skill to offer so why not promote it? There are so many tools to do that nowadays and you can automate it once you find out what works for you.
Also, don’t believe the glamorous blogs you see out there that show that you can only work 4 hour weeks and become a millionaire. It is rare and people don’t show how much work they put in before getting to that level.
Freelancing has a lot of challenges, it’s often a lot of work compared to a traditional job as you have to handle all the aspects of making a product from making clear what the clients wants to doing things. Do you have any plan to move to another activity as joining a remote company or getting bigger as an agency with employees?
Freelancing is definitely challenging and there are times when I wish I could have a 9-5 job that would guarantee a check every month. However, freelancing gives me a freedom I never had in an office:
- I get to choose my own hours which often leads to finishing more work than if I were in an office (no chit-chat or coffee breaks)
- I get to choose which projects and clients I want to work on
- I have my own small steps to get into the work mindset
- I don’t have a commute
- I get to travel the world!
I already have a couple of contractors that I reach out to when I have too much work but most of the time I do the work myself.
You’re always on the move, do you picture yourself settling in the future?
I will probably settle down in a city in a year or two but I can’t say that I won’t want to move to another city five years after that.
If you’re looking for someone to build your website, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Maia!