Noëlle works as a web designer and developer from anywhere in the world, having embraced the Digital Nomad lifestyle last year. Check out how she’s grown a career from scratch in just 3 years, and why she’d never go back to a ‘real’ job!
1. Hello Noëlle, thanks for the opportunity for an interview. Firstly, can you tell us and our users a bit about yourself and what are you up to these days?
It’s my pleasure! I was born and raised in the Netherlands, where I lived until early 2012 and worked in customer-focused industries.
I then immigrated to South Africa (for love… which didn’t work out in the end) and started an online drop shipping business from an Afrikaans farmers town. I knew nothing about web design or digital marketing and had no capital whatsoever – just an idea I was crazy excited about and a 2MB/s internet connection. I spent countless hours reading expert blogs, and built my first website. Before it launched I had grown a big Facebook fan base, which got noticed by a Capetonian marketing agency. They employed me as a web designer and digital marketing specialist. After working for them for a year-and-a-half at a low hourly rate (well, at least for Dutch standards) I decided to take things into my own hands and go freelance.
I’ve been freelancing for almost 3 years now and mostly focus on web design and development. Last December I gave up my apartment in South Africa and became a digital nomad. I now travel Europe; I’ve visited Gran Canaria, Germany and Mallorca and have confirmed trips to Sicily and Malta.
2. In your opinion, which are the main benefits of working as a freelancer? And the challenges?
I really enjoy the freedom of being a freelancer; free to set my own standards, free to work at whichever days or hours that suit me, free to set and grow my hourly rate. The biggest challenges are definitely planning – as I cannot fully control the time it takes to go from accepted estimate to project start, for example – and maintaining my work/life balance.
3. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting a freelance career?
Become a sponge – absorb all the knowledge you can… and never stop learning! If you commit to studying for just 1 hour a day you’ll be a step ahead of the rest. And don’t be shy to tell everyone what you do. Network, network, network.
4. You are a web designer with a digital marketing background. What kind of services do your clients generally ask you to provide? And what kind of tasks do you enjoy most doing?
I have two types of clients: business owners and other web designers. The first I provide with a new website or redesign (both design and build) and digital marketing integration. The latter often requests assistance with a specific element of their project, like more complex styling or configuring an online shop. Writing CSS and structuring a website are my favourite things to do.
5. Now tell us, how do you find new clients that are interested in your services? Do you use freelancing website? Do you have your own website?
Most of my leads either come from past clients or are the result of engaging in Facebook groups. I don’t have my own website yet – terrible, I know! I find myself continuously occupied with client work. Definitely a luxury “problem”.
6. How do you keep your skill set sharp and your portfolio up-to-date? Any tips?
To keep my skill set sharp I aim to study 1 hour a day and take on projects that challenge me to get out of my comfort zone. My portfolio is actually horribly outdated. I realize I need to make work of this soon!
7. Your social media networks told us that you are in The Netherlands right now and soon flying out to Sicily. How is it being a digital nomad? When and how did you realize that was what you wanted?
It feels incredibly freeing to be a digital nomad. Spending time in different countries and meeting people with different backgrounds than my own energizes me and stimulates my creativity. I do feel this lifestyle sometimes is portrayed as a fairy tale though – it’s not. Every lifestyle comes with its own challenges and the digital nomad one is no exception. It’s incredibly rewarding though!
I’ve had a craving for freedom for as long as I can remember and a dear friend planted the seed when I was still living in the Netherlands. He said: “Imagine being able to use your laptop to make money from anywhere in the world.” I guess the seed was nourished and then sprouted! I was already working remotely when living in SA, and then somehow stumbled upon the digital nomad community on Facebook… so I went for it!
8. What are your future plans? Will you continue freelancing or would you consider working full time again?
The chance I’ll ever get a job again is ridiculously small. I’ll keep freelancing – perhaps partner with experts in other areas (copywriting, marketing automation, etc.). I’d also like to start a new drop shipping business when I spot the right niche.
9. Last but not least, is being your own boss what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
Ha ha ha… nope! It’s been quite a ride, but I have never wished I’d done things differently. I work a lot, but that was something I expected. I do get to take a day off randomly, when I feel like it and workload allows it, so that makes up for those crazy-busy days.
10. Freestyle! Is there anything you would like to tell our readers?
Yes! If you think you need formal education or start-up capital to become successful, then scrap that belief RIGHT NOW! All you need is an incredible drive to learn, time and an internet connection and you too can reinvent your life.
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