Behind the Scenes at My Location-Independent Business, May 2017

by Gigi Griffis

This post is part of a series about how I make money while traveling the world. For a deeper look at how I started my business and began traveling full-time, start here.

Welcome back to the monthly behind-the-scenes peek at my on-the-road freelance business, in which I discuss how I make money while traveling full time.

In May, as usual, I spent most of my work time on copywriting and content strategy projects. I also kicked off my first-ever DIY Website Workshop and continued to do a little website consulting and travel writing here and there.

Here are the more in-depth details:

May 2017 Income Sources

:: Copywriting and content strategy (64%)
This is my primary income source (and has been for most of the last 15 years). I develop content strategies and write content for websites, brochures, billboards, headlines, etc.—mostly for companies in travel and tech.

:: My unique series of local-centric travel guides (14%)
Every month, I make money from my 11 travel guides. I don’t spend much time promoting them these days, but happily they continue to be a fairly steady source of income. This month, they’re my second biggest money-maker.

:: My new DIY Website Workshops (12%)
The DIY Website Workshop is a seven-week course where I walk small business owners, entrepreneurs, and creatives through the process of creating and launching a smart, beautiful website for their business or blog.

We kicked off the first session this month, but since I charge 100% up front, most* of the actual income came in in April. Now, I say most because one workshop attendee asked if I would do a payment plan for her instead of the one-time fee and I agreed, which is why the above number is 12% instead of 0% this month.

:: Travel writing for magazines/websites (5%)
This is not income I actively pursue anymore, but I still have good relationships with a magazine or two, so I somewhat regularly write travel articles for those.

:: Website consulting (2%)
From time to time, I help clients with everything from WordPress customization to SEO questions or even build start-to-finish websites. This month, I had a tiny bit of consulting with one ongoing client, but otherwise have been focused on the workshop and my content work.

:: Affiliate sales/advertising here on the blog (2%)
This month I didn’t have any affiliate income, but I did have one advertiser sign on to sponsor one of my monthly link round-ups.

May 2017 New & Ongoing Business

This May, clients I was actively working on projects with included:

:: A US-based content marketing agency (writing work)

:: An Australian travel magazine (writing)

:: A UK-based tech website (content strategy + writing)

:: A US-based orthodontics office (web consulting)

:: A US-based non-profit (content strategy)

As for new business, I started conversations with six new prospective clients:

:: A US-based hospitality company (who I did some strategy work for about five years ago and may need some writing help now)

:: An Ireland-based consultancy (who I found on a Facebook copywriter job board)

:: A US-based SEO company (who I found on that same job board)

:: A US-based travel startup (who found me through an interview I did about my nomadic lifestyle)

:: A US-based outdoor industry company (whose founder I did some work for many years ago when she was starting a different business)

:: A US-based ad agency (referred to me by one of my Facebook friends)

None of these clients have signed on for projects yet, but it normally takes at least a week or two of back and forth (and often longer) before anything gets signed. So that’s very normal for me.

So, in summary, this May that’s:

:: 5 content strategy/copywriting proposals or estimates sent to new prospective clients (the sixth client and I still need to hop on the phone and talk about their business needs before I send any estimates)

:: 1 new client signed (for reference: it took about four weeks of back and forth before the client was ready to move forward on the project)

:: 0 proposals requested and not yet sent

:: 5 existing clients with ongoing work (in wildly varying amounts) + the ongoing DIY Website Workshop group (those clients are not listed above)

DIY Website Workshops

In May, as you know, I also officially started my first DIY Website Workshop class. So far, it’s been a blast. This first session is with two amazing lady business owners – one a musician and another an orthodontist.

We’re currently wrapping up the strategic and content pieces of their websites and are about to dive into design and development in June. The course is seven weeks, so by the end of June both should have beautiful, professional sites launched and live. Halfway into the course I’m pretty convinced that I will be offering another session later this year, so if you’d like to get on the waiting list, hop over here.

Here on the Blog

Finally, a fun fact: the blog’s readership just about doubled in the last month. I think it’s due to these monthly business reports, but I’m not 100% sure. (That’s one of the interesting things about online marketing: when you’re doing a lot of things, it’s hard to say which one created the result.) However it came about, though, I’m feeling rather thrilled. Welcome new readers!

My May workspace

Work-Life Balance & My May Workspace

Since I run my location-independent business from the road (as you probably already know), when you picture this month’s work, picture it happening against the backdrop of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina–a sprawling university town with a fairytale old center surrounded by foothills alternately dotted with green foliage and gray rocks.

Work projects probably took up about 15 – 20 hours per week and I spent another 10 or so hours each week on personal projects like my novel (a passion project that falls somewhere in between work and play for me), which was back from its first round of editors and scheduled to go out to beta readers on June 1st.

When I wasn’t working, I spent my time browsing the massive, beautiful, local fresh market, making daily smoothies, cycling to the hydroelectric dam, and wandering the too-cute streets of old town.

Savings, Expenses, & Long-Term Financial Planning

So, what do these percentages mean in terms of supporting my lifestyle of full-time travel? What do they mean for my ability to save for retirement?

In May, my expenses were only about 33% of what I made this month, meaning I saved 67% of my income. The combination of living somewhere very cheap (Bosnia) and having a good financial month put me above average (my average this year is 46%) in the savings category.

If you need further proof that full-time travel is sustainable, this is it. At its core, financial sustainability is all about making more than you spend. And long-term financial planning is about saving. In the simplest terms: the more you can save, the quicker you can reach whatever your financial goal is.

That said, keep in mind that my lifestyle isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. I’ve been working with websites and words for over a decade and I’ve been running my own freelance business for over six years now.

My first paid writing gigs probably came out to $5 per hour. My first website management gigs paid $10 per hour. My first year as a freelancer I was focused on just breaking even on expenses. And the two years I spent mostly working on my travel guides were tough on the break-even scale as well. Most business endeavors of any sort take time.

But next time someone tells you that your English degree or your travel lifestyle or your self-employment dream is going to make it impossible to find jobs, make money, and live a good life, go ahead and send them here.

Are you a freelancer or business owner? Tell us about your month! Feel free to drop any questions you might have in the comments. And you’re welcome to join my Facebook business group where we talk all things entrepreneurship, business, and web.

Is there something you wish I’d cover in these monthly reports? Please let me know! I want them to be as useful as possible, so if you have a suggestion, drop it in the comments or reach out to me on Facebook anytime.

Looking for more business talk? Read on:

:: How Do You Choose Which Passion to Pursue?

:: How Do Travel Bloggers Make Money?

:: Dear Creativity

:: On Freelancing: What To Do If Your Client Hates the Work

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Ali June 12, 2017 - 5:30 am

Sounds like you had such a good month! That’s awesome that your expenses were so low and you were able to save 2/3 of your income. Being location independent is definitely a realistic lifestyle for those who want it and work hard at it.

P.S. I love the disheveled Luna pic!

gigigriffis June 12, 2017 - 5:44 am

Yes, that’s Luna working hard. ;)

Rachel June 12, 2017 - 11:40 am

I loved this round-up! I’m a copywriter/author with location independence but I’ve been working really hard on getting my monthly income up and stabilized before adventuring significantly. Thanks for sharing your income breakdown! It definitely sparked some ideas for my own business.

Also, I’m guessing you did get a lot of new readers from the last post! I didn’t see it and just found this one on Facebook, but I’ve already shared it around with a few friends as a post they should check out :)

gigigriffis June 13, 2017 - 12:39 am

So glad it was helpfuL! And welcome and thanks for sharing!

Monique June 12, 2017 - 3:56 pm

Hi, to keep your expenses low, what sort of accommodation do you stay in? Hostels? Airbnb (can be expensive) etc. Thanks. Monique.

gigigriffis June 13, 2017 - 12:41 am

Ciao Monique!

Mostly we stay in Airbnbs. Stays for a month or longer in Airbnbs tend to be very affordable and I almost always write and ask the owners for a discount as well. Here’s a breakdown of all my expenses on the road:


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