In this article, I’m going to share the 5 steps we personally took to go from budget backpackers with no jobs, to fully location independent business owners — while learning a variety of useful skills along the way.
It’s been 8 years since we became location independent, and we’re incredibly grateful that we took the leap into a life of remote work and financial independence back when we did.
It seems that now in 2020, remote work is becoming the norm rather than the exception.
These days, more than ever, it’s imperative to have financial freedom and the ability to work from anywhere in the world. I hope this information gives you some tips and ideas while shedding a little light on the current climate of remote work.
This is our story and our experience, with actionable steps and information to help you on your journey as well!
1. Teaching a Language
Changing someone’s life by showing them the gift of language is a very rewarding feeling.
Our first teaching experience came when we were in the Southeast Asian country of Laos in 2009. At a cafe, we saw an ad posted for volunteer work and jumped at the opportunity.
In between exploring the historic city of Luang Prabang in the morning and wandering the vibrant night markets in the evening, we would sit with children and teenagers and help them with their English conversational skills — through chatting and reading books.
They welcomed us to join, and the next 7 days were spent in the village teaching everyday vocabulary words to our students through physical objects, drawings, games, and songs.
Evenings were spent dining with the villagers while enjoying the homecooked meals they prepared for us.
The lessons took place on a tarp on the dirt ground, with pigs and chickens roaming through the classroom. The excitement, interest, and giggles from the Burmese children were priceless.
Those two volunteer jobs that we took on really gave us a love for teaching. Aside from travelling, this became our new passion. But, in order to live and travel around the world, we needed to earn an income from this profession.
So, we moved to China in June 2012 and got a job in a private school.
Teaching English and Living in China
Yangzhou, China would be our home for one year while we taught children aged 4 – 16. By actually moving to China rather than teaching online, we were able to be fully immersed in the culture and made many lifelong friends along the way.
Finally, we were earning an income, and returning to our home in Canada for work wasn’t necessary.
At the time, we were able to make around $1,400 per month each from working 20 hours a week. Housing, healthcare, taxi costs, flights to and from China, a year-end bonus of $1,000, and our TEFL certification were included in our contract.
We were happy with the position and enjoyed our year in Yangzhou! Teaching English really was the catalyst that sparked our life of fulltime travel and remote work, and we’re forever grateful that we decided to give it a try.
Actionable Steps to Take
These days, teaching online (rather than in-country) is a much more common way to teach. With many schools, you can work from your laptop, while living anywhere in the world.
Teach students from your villa in Bali, or your house in the USA, it’s up to you!
If you want to move abroad and have a more immersed cultural and teaching experience, you’ll want to make sure you get your TEFL certification through a company that offers job placement and assistance.
There are many reasons to get TEFL certified, but knowing you’ll receive help with finding work is a big one.
Here are some of our best teaching posts to get you started:
- 7 Best Online TEFL Courses For Aspiring English Teachers
- 10 Best Companies To Teach English Online
- Teach English Online Without a Degree: 10 Companies That Pay
If you’d like to learn more, have a look at our teacher interview series:
- Teaching English in China and Cambodia (and online!)
- Teaching English in Nanjing, China
- Teaching English Online While Living in the USA
2. Starting a Website
Creating this website was the best thing we ever did.
As teachers, we worked for someone else, but by becoming digital marketers, travel bloggers, and content creators, we’ve been able to generate income through our own sources and be our own boss.
Starting Goats On The Road
Back in 2012, we read an article from a fellow blogger who said he was earning around $2,500/month from his travel blog. To us, this was a lot of money and we couldn’t believe it was possible to earn an income from sharing travel stories!
We bought the domain name, www.goatsontheroad.com, while travelling in the Philippines, but it wasn’t until a few months later when we were teaching in China, that we used much of our free time to actually build up the website.
We shared musings from the road, information on how people could travel to the places we had been, and photos and blog posts on what it was like living and teaching in Yangzhou.
Goats On The Road is our baby and our flagship site. Everything (well, almost everything!) that we’ve gone through in our lives since 2012 has been written about here. As our travel style and lifestyle has evolved, and as we’ve grown, so too has this website.
Earning an Income Through Blogging
We earned our first money in 2013, and from there, this website has grown to be one of the top travel blogs online, with a large and loyal readership.
There has been a wide variety of ways that we’ve diversified our income streams through blogging. Our most profitable ones are affiliate marketing through SEO, in-content advertising, sale of digital products that we’ve created ourselves, and press trip opportunities.
We’ve been fortunate to earn enough money from this website to travel full time, live abroad, and save money for our future. We’re proud of the business we’ve created and are grateful for the continued support from our “Tribe” (that’s you!).
Actionable Steps To Take
Think of a topic that you’re knowledgable and passionate about. Are you into fashion and beauty? Cooking and meal prep? Tech? Animals? Golf?
If so, start a website around that topic and share your useful, first-hand information with the world — while earning an income along the way.
Do you have a skill that you want to turn into a business — construction, landscaping, pet sitting, hair styling? If so, you’ll want to start a basic website to show what you can offer to your clients.
Many people think that having a website is simply for blogging and telling stories, but as you can see, that’s not the case!
If you’re interested in starting a website today (in any genre), you can get your website up and running in around 10 minutes. If you use this link, you’ll receive our Beginner Blogger Course, and blogging tips ebook for free.
By starting a website and creating content in the way that the course outlines, you’ll see an audience grow over time and you can earn money from your site in as little as just a few months (as Nick has proven with his newest website).
3. House Sitting & Pet Sitting
Can you imagine living in a penthouse in New York City, on a vineyard in Italy, or a beachfront bungalow in the Caribbean? Well, it’s possible through house and pet sitting, and those are all job opportunities that we’ve personally received!
Our Experience House Sitting and Pet Sitting
While we were on the road, we started to hear about house sitting but didn’t really think much of it. After our teaching contract in China was up in July 2013, we travelled on the Trans Mongolian and Trans Siberian Railway into Central Asia and Iran.
We weren’t sure what to do when that 5-month trip was over. So, we set up our house sitting profile with Trusted Housesitters and crossed our fingers.
Within a week, we had received an offer to “Take care of a Divine Dog in the Caribbean”. We took the job and spent a good portion of 2014 in Grenada. And yes, he was the most divine dog.
While we haven’t utilized the house sitting platform since 2016, it was a great way to supplement our income when we were getting Goats On The Road off the ground.
The best part, however, was being able to have a pet for a while — something that isn’t conducive to our nomadic lifestyle.
Why House Sitting?
When a homeowner goes away for a holiday or other reasons, they need someone to take care of their beloved fur baby and property. Most of the time there is an animal included in the job, but there are some cases where you’ll just be there to take care of the home.
In exchange for loving and caring for the pet(s), you’ll receive free accommodation in the owner’s home. Depending on the job, you may also receive a vehicle for you to use and payment.
The perks of this job are endless. Live and travel around the world for free while fully immersing yourself in the country and living like a local, rather than a tourist.
And, of course, enjoy the company of a furry friend!
Actionable Steps to Take
If you love animals, travelling around and are a responsible individual, then house and pet sitting may be right for you. Not all gigs are in exotic, tropical destinations — many are in the UK, USA, Australia, and Canada.
Create your house sitting profile with all of the required information (and video). The homeowners will contact you, or you can reach out and apply for the job.
4. Freelance Writing
A great way to make an income from writing is through freelance work — either in print or online. This is another one of the stepping stones we utilized along the way to earn an income remotely.
Our First Freelance Writing Jobs
During our house sitting and pet sitting job in 2014, we were growing Goats On The Road. In order to get our name out there, we decided to reach out to a few online travel magazines and companies to see if we could share our travel stories with them.
Our first freelance gig was with a well-known travel website where we received a twice-weekly column! We were over the moon. At the time, we earned $50 per article from them.
A couple of months after that freelance job, we received another consistent offer with a credit card and finance website. We wrote 4 posts a month for them while receiving $250 per article.
Our articles were also published in the Southeast Asia Backpacker Magazine, The Globe & Mail newspaper, and the Vancouver Sun newspaper in Canada. We were thrilled to see our names in print!
We received a few more writing jobs back then in 2014 and 2015 and for a while, we were writing 30 articles a month. This gave us a great income boost, and combined with house sitting, we were able to travel around Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
Actionable Steps To Take
No matter what topics you’re interested in, there will be a company that you can write for. Freelance writing is a great way to promote your brand, gain links back to your website, and earn an income.
Of course, even if you don’t have your own website, you can still be a freelance writer.
We’ve compiled a list of the top websites that pay aspiring travel writers. The pay varies depending on the magazine (in print and online), but you can find a gig that pays upwards of $4,000!
Another great way to source writing opportunities (on a variety of topics), is through the company called Solid Gigs. They siphon through all the online freelance job boards and only send you the top 1% legitimate, well-paid gigs to your inbox each week. To find out more, click here and use promo code GOATS2 to receive the first month for just $2.
Finally, you could sign up for Upwork and see what sort of writing jobs are available on that platform.
5. Creating Digital Products
Why not create a useful product that you own and can sell to your audience?
After a few years in the blogging world, we started to realize that we were quite knowledgable on the topic and that we were able to quickly and easily grow and monetize websites.
So, we decided to teach new bloggers how to start a website, and how to then turn that website into a profitable business. We created digital products to share with our audience to ultimately help them on their path to blogging success.
First, we started with what seemed easiest at the time, an online book. Ebooks were really popular (and still are), but even more so back when we created them in 2016.
We chose to make our first ebook free for people who sign up for our weekly newsletter. It’s titled: 101 Ways to Earn Money and Pay For Travel and you can still get it for free if you sign-up.
That was our first ebook and once we got the hang of it, Nick decided to put all of our best blogging tips together into one place. The second ebook is titled: “The Absolute Best Blogging Tips: Advice For Making Money From Your Blog”.
Initially, we were selling that ebook on Amazon, but it’s now available on our site for $4.99.
From ebooks to online training! We kicked it up a notch and went from writing to video. Virtual courses and training are much more interesting, and valuable for students.
We remember all too well the mistakes we made when we first started our website in 2012. Our Beginner’s Blogger Course aims to help bloggers and website owners start their sites quickly, and correctly. We wish this was available when we started out!
It took a while to get it “right” and to figure out how to do a video course vs. just a simple ebook.
Nick updates the course from time to time to keep it current, and ultimately, it’s been our top product to date. We offer the course for free when people start a website through our link. Or, we also sell if for $69.
The second video course is more advanced. Once you have your website up and running, you’ll want to take it to the next level by learning how to monetize it and have your content seen. The best way to do this is through search engine optimization (SEO).
Nick created an easy to follow, useful digital course and has received amazing feedback from his students! Check out the free 1-hour mini-training, to see if it’s right for you.
Actionable Steps to Take
If you feel comfortable on camera and are somewhat savvy when it comes to computers and all things digital, then I recommend skipping the ebook stage and heading straight for online course creation. It’s more lucrative as well.
But, if you feel you want to ease into creating digital products by making an ebook first (like we did), then I recommend Canva. It’s free, easy to use and there are quite a few graphics and design options available to make a nice book.
You can create a course around anything that you’re are an expert on. You could show people how to build an email list for their company, how to cook bread, how to apply makeup, how to create a podcast…the list goes on!
When it comes to online courses, we use and recommend the program Teachable. It’s easy for you as the course creator to set up, upload your content, and manage. And, it’s really simple for the course students to navigate as well.
Initially, we had a membership plugin attached to Goats On The Road. It was very difficult to set up, and in the end, it wasn’t compatible with our website and we had so many issues! Stick to Teachable and save yourself the headache and to keep your own website running fast and smooth.
There you have it! The past 8 years of our lives in a nutshell. I hope you found our story and the steps we’ve taken to get to this point in our lives useful and inspiring.
As you can see, our journey to location independence started long before the creation of this website. Every step of the way we’ve learned something new, been inspired to try another creative outlet, and have always followed our Personal Legend and the path of least resistance.
If you’re searching for ways to work remotely and become more financially and location independent, give some (or all!) of the ideas in this article a try. You never know what you may discover. As always, thank you for reading.
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