I used to be tied to a single location because I had to go to an office every day. I’m not now.
I used to have a steady paycheck and health insurance from my employer. I don’t now.
I used to have an easy job to explain to baby boomers. Grandmothers never understand what I’m doing now, but I’ll keep trying
About 2.5 years ago, I said goodbye to all of those things and probably work more hours than I did back then.
Good news? I love my life so much that people say I smile too much sometimes.
So, what do I do?
Short story: I am a vlogger.
More accurate story: I am a vlogger with 728 other projects or gigs going on at once.
Let’s backtrack for a second. This 5-foot, brown Panamanian had always wanted to be in TV. After going to college in the US, I landed a job as a TV News Reporter in Tampa, Florida. While being on TV and getting your pantsuits paid for by the news station sounded kinda’ fun, covering depressing local news on a daily basis wasn’t what I had in mind.
After leaving this career, I took a sabbatical year, and then went back to college at my dream school and received a Master’s Degree in Entertainment Business in 2012. This is when I decided to start vlogging as a creative outlet.
My first 40 vlogs were comedic pop culture vlogs and I made them as a hobby. I was vlogging about things like “How To Be A Good Girlfriend.” Six months after posting my first vlog, I was nominated for the 2013 Shorty Awards and became a finalist in the Best Video Blogger category. They even flew me to New York and I participated in a cool ceremony. Although I didn’t win, that experience is what inspired me to be more consistent and keep creating content.
A few months later, a lady on LinkedIn reached out to me to make vlogs for her teenage girl fashion brand. I had never charged for a vlog, but you better believe I was excited to write funny scripts and talk to a camera…AND get paid for it. Now, keep in mind it takes me about 10 hours to make each of these – from writing to shooting and editing. I ended up only charging $400 for 4 vlogs. LOL. Bless my heart.
If you’re all reading this blog, you’re nosy and you want to see those first vlogs. I got you: Here.
Here comes lesson 1, though:
Be consistent making vlogs about whatever topic it is you’re passionate about. If someone thinks your style aligns with their brand, you can start getting opportunities or pitching to brands.
Also, your personal branding needs to be on point on every social media platform possible. See how my first client found me on LinkedIn after watching one of my vlogs on YouTube?
Later that year, I got my first major vlog project. This resort found me through my website, and hired me to make 4 vlogs in Spanish and 4 in English. Here’s one of those.
Then, a moment I will never forget. I got this check that read “video blogs.” That’s when it clicked: “I can do what I love and get paid for it? OMG.”
One week later, I ran to the tattoo shop and got a “do what you love” ink. That was going to be my reminder to always try to do just that.
Once you find a hobby that you can get paid to do… start working as hard as possible so you can do it every day.
Learn about digital marketing, get better at storytelling, collaborate with people you look up to, try different things, invest in knowledge (a webinar, a book, a course). If you don’t work on your craft, it won’t magically make money for you.
A short time after, I got seduced into a fancy corporate job with a title that sounded good on my resume. For 2 years, I lived in Hawaii and worked for that photography company. I learned a lot about business and management, which was pretty great. I wasn’t being true to that tattoo, though, so something had to change. Thankfully, my bosses allowed me to start working remotely… so I packed up and moved to Argentina!
That’s when I started being location independent. I took that opportunity to rebrand myself and start ‘it’s a Travel O.D.’ – my current vlog and love of my life. I’m not kidding. I live for this project.
For about 1 year, I worked full time for this company – while living in Argentina, Mexico, and traveling every chance I got. Of course, the flexibility of a remote job gave me time to work on my passion project. I would work about 12-14 hours every single day – eight hours for my actual paying job, and the rest trying to build up ‘it’s a Travel O.D.’
Those 14 hours went up to about 20 hours for a few months, when I started getting opportunities with ‘it’s a Travel O.D.’ On top of that, I decided to start a cleaning business to operate remotely. However, it got to a point where I was working too much. I realized it was time to scale back the full-time job to have more time for my own 2 projects.
I didn’t quit my job and start traveling the world. I made a super slow transition from a regular 9-5 to full-time remote to part-time remote. During all of the time I was remote, I worked (or shall I say overworked?) to build up my side hustles.
Once my side hustles were matching the salary I was making before working for that one employer, I became an independent consultant for them.
Notice how (even to this day), I haven’t left that job? That’s because a steady income is always cool. Go after your passions, but know that you still gotta pay the bills.
In my 2.5 years as a digital nomad, I’ve lived in 4 cities (and traveled to many others in between). Most importantly, I’ve continued to work on different projects and adding to my portfolio.
And now for the past 9 months, I’ve invested countless hours in writing, brainstorming, editing, graphic designing, and learning about self-publishing. The whole process of writing and publishing my first book was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.
Now, while a book eventually means passive income (yasssss), it means putting in a lot of hours, which you are definitely not getting paid for. Oh, and a financial investment upfront for a graphic designer and editor!
Let me give you a quick summary of the gigs I’ve had:
- Opened a fiverr account and offered “I’ll comment on 3 of your IG posts for $5.” This only made me about $100, but I had to try it.
- I have freelanced with a creative agency, which involved writing Instagram captions, making memes, and creating Instagram stories for huge fast food chains, public figures, and other brands.
- I sold that cleaning business I wrote about earlier.
- Social media audits/consulting/vlogging coaching.
Plus, all my projects around vlogging (the meat and potatoes of my income!):
- Vlogs for ‘it’s a Travel O.D.’ that contain sponsored content. Like this destination one or this feature of a person doing cool-travel related project or this travel-sized one.
- Vlogs for brands and companies that they use internally or for their social media.
- Vlogs for travel-related brands and other digital content.
- My first book about how to get started vlogging.
Travel slow! At the moment, my priority is my professional life. I completely move to a new city about every 6 months…otherwise I’d be spending too much time planning moves.
Traveling is exhausting, and if on top of all my projects, I was visiting more places, I’d get burnt out quick. Oh, and I also move to affordable countries to keep expenses low.
Have multiple sources of income. That way if something falls through, you’re still getting money from somewhere else. It also gives you the flexibility to work on other projects that don’t immediately generate revenue… or might never do if they fail!
By the way… let me shameless plug my book here, so you can help me breaking even. I promise you’ll learn all my tricks about personal branding and vlogging if you read it!
It’s called ‘So You Want to Vlog?’ and it’s available on Amazon. You can buy it here:
So, yeah, I overdose in travel, have a flexible schedule, get to meet a ton of creative people that inspire me and get all-expense paid trips… but, it’s not because I got randomly lucky. It’s because I work my peach emoji off to be able to keep doing what I love.
It’s also a little easier to ‘be a workaholic’ when it’s your passion… and when you’re fueled by knowing you’re not even halfway there yet!
Please, steal all of these lessons…but, don’t come troll me on my Instagram comments if something didn’t work for you, OK?
I’m just out here doing my best to share while being a work in progress myself, ya’ feel me?
Here’s where you can find me online:
To watch my vlogs, it’s a Travel O.D. on Facebook.
I eventually respond to all comments and DMs on my Instagram.
Buy my book ‘So You Want to Vlog?’ here.