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 meet Marissa Pedersen, a blogger and freelance social media manager with an unstoppable hunger for travel, not to mention a passion for adventure. In just a year and a half, she’s gone from working an office job to having an office anywhere she wants, and in our interview, she gives actionable advice for others looking to do the same.
Marissa is the travel blogger behind Postcards to Seattle who’s lived in Seattle for over 20 years. She focuses on exploring the outdoors when she’s in the Pacific Northwest and staying active when she’s abroad. She recently got certified in scuba diving and is in the process of learning Spanish for future trips to South America.
First, please tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your background, and what are you doing now?
My background is in health and fitness, and I started doing personal training right after college. I ended up wanting something more, so I went back to school to become a physical therapist assistant. A few years after that, I started traveling more and wanted a job that could be done remotely.
After creating my travel blog and building my own social media channels, I began to help other bloggers have success with their social media accounts.
Editor’s Note: Ready to start your own blog? Check out my detailed guide.
How often do you travel? Do you have one city that you consider a home base?
I travel at least once a month, if not more. I’m based in Seattle right now and love calling it home, but it’s hard to beat invitations to trips or cheap flight deals that pop up last minute!
Where do you plan to travel next?
I’m in Seattle right now after a whirlwind few months of being in Europe and Central America; next, I’ll be traveling to Ireland for a friend’s wedding, and then heading to Iceland to explore the outdoors (and hopefully see the Northern Lights!).
How do you typically choose your destinations?
I love adventure activities, so I often choose places where I know I can scuba dive or participate in any type or water sports. I’ve been lucky to make friends around the world with all my traveling, so sometimes trips are decided based on them going somewhere awesome and me tagging along.
When did you realize you wanted to become location independent, and what were your reasons behind that decision?
I realized that planning last minute trips wasn’t going to work with a traditional office job, and started to feel anxious about the feeling of being “trapped.” I also realized that two weeks off for the entire year was nowhere near enough, and started to look into how I could work online.
Related post: Why Become Location Independent? Here Are 5 Good Reasons
What were some of the first steps you took toward achieving this lifestyle for yourself?
I started my blog in April 2015 and was blogging for five months before I got my first social media gig. I started working for my first few bloggers being their virtual assistant and helping schedule content and increase their engagement.
From that, I got a job with a travel company as their social media manager. I slowly started getting referrals and gaining more clients until I felt confident enough to quit my full-time job.
It wasn’t easy, though–I was working 40 hours at a physical therapy office as a physical therapist assistant, and 25-30 hours at home for online clients at night and on the weekends. It took six months from when I got my first online client to when I actually quit my physical therapy job and started working completely online.
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 found Kraków, Poland a very easy place to be when you’re location independent. The cost of living is quite cheap, so I was really able to stretch my money. There were plenty of small cafes with Wi-Fi available so I was able to get all my work in, plus it’s such a fun city to explore at night.
Tell us about your work. What is your primary source of income?
I do a combination of freelance writing, social media management, and being a virtual assistant. My main source of income is from managing other people’s social media accounts, whether it’s companies or bloggers. I often create content and schedule content for all their social media channels, monitor spam, and increase their growth and engagement.
How did you find work when you were just getting started?
I got my first job by applying to a posting in a Facebook group I’m in for a blogger asking for help with social media. I only had my own social media channels to use as an example at that time, but she was impressed enough that she hired me.
Editor’s Note: The Travel Blog Success Opportunity Board has been a great resource for finding paid work as a VA, social media manager, or freelance writer! Marissa and I are both TBS members.
If someone else wanted to become a social media manager, what advice would you give them?
My advice would be to showcase your skills with your own blog and social media channels. Work on posting relevant content, knowing what hashtags to use, and growing your engagement and following. Put together a small report you can use if asked for more details when applying for a job, such as how many new followers you gained in a certain period of time.
How much could someone expect to earn as a social media manager when just starting out? How much do you earn now?
I started out getting paid $10 an hour but was able to quickly increase that when I could prove my worth. I now earn between $20-$30 an hour depending on how advanced the skills I’m working on are. When I perform tasks on blogs such as improving SEO or fixing broken links, I’ll charge on the higher end.
What are some of the other ways you earn a living?
Freelance writing provides a quarter of my income. I have regular articles I do for publications like Mapquest, Adventure Junkies, and Sierra Trading Post that I enjoy writing for. It’s nice to mix up the social media work with writing sometimes.
Related post: Earn More Money as a Freelance Writer
In your opinion, what is the hardest thing about living a location independent lifestyle?
The biggest fear I have when being somewhere foreign is the internet connection being poor. I often need to be online for long periods of time when I work on social media and upload photos, so a slow internet connection is the worst. It can make a job that should only take an hour take several hours instead.
What are some of the things you like about it the most?
I haven’t had to turn down a single trip since I started working online. The freedom of constantly being able to say yes to new adventures or snag last-minute flight deals is completely worth the stress that comes with it at times.
How did becoming location independent change your relationship with travel? Do you do things differently now?
I do look at travel differently now because making sure my accommodation has Wi-Fi is my number one priority. I often wake up early to work and prefer to do so in my room instead of having to wait for the cafes to open. I have to plan my trips more than I used to, as I still have Skype meetings with clients that need to be attended, no matter what time zone I’m in. Unfortunately, there are no vacation days when you work online.
What do you think are some of the necessary traits or skills someone should have if they plan to pursue a location independent lifestyle?
Being organized is extremely important. You need to keep track of everything that’s due, any meetings that need to be attended, and respond to emails in a reasonable time frame. A few of my clients were a little hesitant when I started to travel, but once they saw all the work was still getting done on time, they relaxed.
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.
Turn off your email! Believe me, I almost had an anxiety attack the first time I did by worrying an urgent email might come in. Every little ping that your inbox gets is so distracting, but most likely they’re never urgent. I check and respond to email first thing in the morning, and then turn it off until lunch, and then again have it off until the end of the day. I’ve been much more productive since doing this.
Do you have any location independent role models who have helped you or motivated you to achieve your goals?
Leah Davis is a great example! 🙂
Editor’s note: I swear I didn’t tell her to say that!
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 learn or improve?
Not something that was purchased, but convincing myself to spend the time watching webinars on social media and marketing has been really helpful. Trends are constantly changing, so it’s important that I keep up with them to be able to help my clients’ accounts.
Tell us about one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made so others can avoid it.
Not having a plan when I started was a horrible idea. I wrote everything down that needed to be done for the week, but didn’t specify what days. That meant some days were very slow and some were extremely busy because I was trying to fit everything in. Now, I know how long each task will take me and schedule them out each day based on how many hours I actually have to work on it.
Finally, if you could offer your younger, less experienced self one piece of advice for this journey, what would it be?
Stick with it! At times it’s stressful–you might lose a client, or your internet connection will be painfully slow. It’s completely worth it, in the end, to be able to work anywhere you please. A few weeks ago I was in Costa Rica and thinking how even though I had to work, I was in such a beautiful location. The freedom of being location independent is worth any struggles along the way!
Many thanks to Marissa for sharing her experience and advice with us! Still have questions about becoming a freelance social media manager? Leave Marissa your questions in the comments below!
Do you have your own Location Independent Success Story to tell? Get in touch!
All photos courtesy of Marissa Pedersen.