Digital nomad Helen Lim has taken on the challenging and exciting world of travel and freelance. She works as a writer, editor, and change coach. Her work is about collaborating with clients and fellow DNs and overcoming the mental challenges and fears of launching an online business or creative project.
HELEN LIM - FREELANCER & DIGITAL NOMAD
YOUR CAREER BEFORE BECOMING A DN?
I became a registered pharmacist in 2012 and landed a job in the industry soon after. For five years, I changed jobs several times. Though I enjoyed every new job when I was hired, eventually, I would come face to face with the realization that I craved to do more than my position allowed. But, though I knew I wasn’t feeling fulfilled in my job, I kept working in healthcare since I felt a sense of financial security in it.
In January 2018, through lots of reflection by journaling and discussions with friends, I realized I wanted to travel, write, and explore the world. So, about a year ago I took a leap of faith and headed for the unknown, exciting world of digital nomadism.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU THE MOST TO THE DN LIFESTYLE?
The ability to follow my own schedule. The hustle is mine to manage and own.
WHAT HAS YOUR DN EXPERIENCE BEEN LIKE SO FAR?
Once I’d saved enough money and had the courage to follow my dream, I did a lot of research and found Remote Year. I liked the concept of traveling in a group and having my accommodation and flights arranged for me; so I signed up for their 12-month program. It was one of the best decisions I have made so far in my life. I’ve already visited Canada, Portugal, Spain, Croatia, Ireland, France, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Marrakech, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Finally, my dream of traveling and writing is my reality!
HOW DO YOU FINANCE YOUR DN WORK-LIFESTYLE?
I write and blog about my travels and work as a freelance writer, editor, and change coach. My work with clients is about coaching them through their fears and forming habits to make a change and launch their projects. Once clients sign on to collaborate with me, we work together via video calls to explore the changes they need to make.
WHAT ARE THE BEST METHODS FOR FINDING CLIENTS IN YOUR NICHE?
I use Facebook groups and LinkedIn to message potential clients. Personal connection is the best way for a client to understand how collaborating with me is in their best interest. Word of mouth is also helpful. I will talk about how I love to write and edit and coach, then people connect me with whoever they know would benefit from collaborating with me.
WHAT IS THE WORST PLATFORM IN YOUR OPINION TO WORK WITH?
I hate to say this – Upwork. Clients rarely respond to the applications I put out on there. Perhaps I need to apply to many more jobs to increase the work I get. A cover letter takes a lot of time to write, and not hearing back can be discouraging.
I work fewer hours compared to my days as a pharmacist, but this is because I choose fewer hours. Nowadays, I can get more done in a shorter amount of time with intention and deep focus.
DO YOU THINK THE DIGITAL NOMAD LIFESTYLE IS SOMETIMES REPRESENTED ERRONEOUSLY?
Yes, in a few ways. For example, people often think a DN life is all fun and little to no work. Of course, I chose this lifestyle to have fun and travel. However, the majority of us are committed to working at the same time to continue to finance our lifestyle.
Another misrepresentation is that the lifestyle is glamorous. That’s not always the case. There are struggles with unstable WiFi, which affects the work and client experience. There is also the stress of frequent travel between countries. The adjustment period is tiring.
ADVICE TO ASPIRING DIGITAL NOMADS?
Find what you are passionate about and practice that skill or craft. Then offer your talent to others for income. Fear of the unknown is normal; know that you can overcome the fear by facing it. Find the courage within yourself and take a leap of faith. Believe in yourself and know that whatever struggles you come across as a digital nomad, you will face them and take action as needed.
COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID TO BECOME A SUCCESSFUL DN?
Beware of enjoying travel to the point where you’re working less than needed to meet your financial requirements. Every successful DN dedicates a set amount of time per week to their online business. Use those hours to do quality work. If you don’t spend that time working, you won’t be able to continue living as a DN.
YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES SO FAR?
It is hard work! The most challenging aspect of the DN lifestyle is being responsible for your income and recognizing that what you earn is determined by the effort you put in. If you want to do a lot of activities during your travels, you will need the amount of effort you put into your work to match what you spend. Another challenge is managing different time zones – mistakes happen.
IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT ARE THE TOP 3 BENEFITS?
1 – Freedom! The ability to roam around the world.
2 – Creating my own schedule.
3 – Meeting people from different backgrounds.
WHICH COUNTRY IS THE MOST SUPPORTIVE OF THE DN LIFESTYLE?
Thailand, by far. It’s affordable, the WiFi is good, and there are many other DNs.
TOP 5 ITEMS EVERY DN SHOULD PACK?
1 – Laptop
2 – Plug adapter
3 – Journal
4 – Headphones
5 – Extra charger
TOP MONEY-SAVING TIPS FOR FELLOW DNs?
1 – Eat where the locals eat.
2 – Explore tourist areas on your own rather than going with an organized tour. These often cost more.
WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT THE FDN WORK -LIFESTYLE?
The FDN lifestyle allows me to work from any place in the world, and it gives me the freedom to choose my working hours at my remote locations.
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