Welcome to Location Independent Success Stories, the newest interview series on The Sweetest Way!
In each new post, I’ll be introducing you to someone who’s using their unique skills and talents to kick ass as a digital nomad and live life on their terms.
This week, I’m pleased to introduce you to Leah Shoup, a little firecracker of a chick I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know in recent months through social media (you MUST check out her fabulous Instagram account!).
Leah Shoup is a Spanish-English translator from Atlanta, Georgia. After spending two years living in Santiago, Chile, she is currently back stateside planning out her next adventures. You can typically find her with a nose in a book or petting every dog she passes on the street.
First, please tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your background, and what are you doing now?
My name is Leah and I’m a 24-year-old from metro Atlanta. I was born and raised in Georgia but always experienced wanderlust and had a desire to travel outside of the United States. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the University of Georgia (class of 2013) and a Master’s degree in Translation and Interpreting Studies from Wake Forest University (class of 2014).
After graduating, I moved to Santiago, Chile to try to get some experience in the real world. I ended up spending two years there traveling and working as a translator. I’m now back in the United States working remotely and planning my next destination!
How often do you travel? Do you have one city that you consider a home base?
For the past two years, Santiago, Chile was my home base. I am now based in Atlanta, Georgia at the time being. I travel pretty sporadically, but at least once every two months.
Where do you plan to travel next?
I’m headed back to Chile in February for a road trip to the South of the country to do a bit of exploring. I also have plans to go to Lisbon, Portugal at the end of April. Everything else is up in the air 🙂
How do you typically choose your destinations?
Due to my interest in languages, I typically travel to countries where my second (Spanish) or third (Portuguese) language is spoken. I love that I can mix my love of learning and practicing a second language with traveling.
When did you realize you wanted to become location independent, and what were your reasons behind that decision?
I have never been able to picture myself sitting behind a desk in an office. Nevertheless, I didn’t necessarily choose the location independent lifestyle. Honestly, it just kind of found me and I’m so glad that it did. I have been extremely blessed in being able to be home and work remotely the past couple of months as my Dad has been sick. Location independence has given me both the opportunity to travel as well as to be home and support my family when I need to while working at the same time.
What were some of the first steps you took toward achieving this lifestyle for yourself?
Getting my Master’s degree. In translation, it’s really important to either have a degree or certificate so that agencies and clients take your skills seriously.
Of all the places you’ve lived and worked so far, which one was the best suited for people living a location independent lifestyle and why?
I would have to say Floriánopolis, Brazil. It’s perfect because there are plenty of places to work with WiFi, but you also have the beach nearby for the perfect break.
Tell us about your work. What is your primary source of income? How did you get started doing what you’re doing?
I translate academic research papers from Spanish to English. As it is important to publish in English to reach a larger audience and to publish in journals with higher impact, I’ve kind of found a translation niche. I actually found my first translation job through a connection on Facebook. Networking is everything in the translation field. Normally a company has you do some sort of translation test before they let you start doing work for them, but my Master’s degree helped me skip that step.
If someone else wanted to follow a path similar to yours, what advice would you give them?
Learn more than just one foreign language. You become even more competitive as a translator if you can speak three languages. For this reason, I ended up learning Portuguese after finishing school. In translation, experience counts for everything and is the only real way to learn. The more experience you can get translating documents, the most comfortable you will feel.
Related Post: My Favorite Free Language Learning Resources
How much could someone expect to earn when just starting out? How much do you earn now?
If you’re just starting out and don’t have a translation sample to be able to show a company or any previous experience, you’ll probably have to start with a lower price per word. This price will change depending on what country you are working with as translation prices can vary drastically from country to country. Before giving a client a price, always make sure to research the normal price per word in that country.
At the moment, I’m earning a little over $2,000/month doing translation. This price changes from month to month depending on how many documents I receive and if any freelance work comes in.
Do you have other income sources as well? What are some of the other ways you earn a living?
I work with two different translation companies that send me documents consistently. I also pick up freelance work if someone comes to me and asks about a translation.
Related Post: 6 Online Marketplaces to List Your Freelance Services
In your opinion, what is the hardest thing about living a location independent lifestyle?
A lot of us work as contractors so sometimes I feel like the hardest part is finding the benefits that an employer would normally provide (health care, etc).
What are some of the things you like about it the most?
I like setting my own schedule. I’ve always been very self-motivated and I definitely understand what times of the day I work the best and can be the most productive.
How did becoming location independent change your relationship with travel? Do you do things differently now?
Traveling is less of a vacation if that makes sense. It’s still enjoyable, but you do have to keep yourself on track and make sure that you are getting work done. Finding a good WiFi connection is sometimes harder than you think!
What do you think are some of the necessary traits or skills someone should have if they plan to pursue a location independent lifestyle?
I feel the need to stress self-motivation. If you can’t motivate yourself, you won’t get the work done that you need to get done.
Productivity is a major challenge for many digital nomads. Share with us one of your best tips for staying motivated and getting sh*t done.
As silly as this sounds, I have always been motivated by rewards. So, I set mini-goals for myself throughout the day. For example, if you get 1,000 words translated by noon, you can go have a pumpkin spice latte. If you pick up an extra translation, you can buy those shoes you really want. I’m not sure if this would work for everyone, but it definitely works for me! The rewards can be from anything as small as buying a cupcake to something big like booking a cheap flight you came across.
Do you have any location independent role models who have helped you or motivated you to achieve your goals?
What’s one of the most valuable purchases you’ve made for your business–something that wasn’t necessarily expensive, but provided you with a lot of value and helped you grow/learn/improve?
My flight to Chile. Taking the jump to work in another country for the first time, especially being a Spanish-speaking one, really pushed me to step up my game.
Tell us about one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made and how others can avoid it.
Selling myself short. I tend to doubt my abilities when it comes to setting a price and sometimes lowball prices when I should be charging more. Don’t doubt yourself if you have good results. Be proud of what you’ve done, and if you do end up making a mistake, own it and learn from it.
Finally, if you could offer your younger, less experienced self one piece of advice for this journey, what would it be?
Honestly, I think it would have to be “relax, and let everything fall into place”. I’m very type-A and am always trying to plan out my life, but plans are always changing! Do your best and things will work out even better than you could’ve imagined.
Read more interviews in the Location Independent Success Stories series:
- How to Travel the World as a Freelance Social Media Manager
- Working from Anywhere as a Self-Taught E-Commerce Marketing Specialist
- How One Couple Turned Their Travel Obsession Into a Lifestyle
Still have questions for Leah about working as a freelance translator? Ask away in the comments below! Liked this post? Pin it for later!
All images courtesy of Leah Shoup.