Solving For Big Dreams
So when I use the word dream, I’m always afraid of being condescending. Usually I’ll follow up with seductive stories about foreign countries or passion projects. But dreams come in all shapes and sizes and there is no such thing as dream that isn’t big enough if it truly rings true for you. That said, if your dreams do come in size XL you might need some extra help to pull it off.
If you’re someone who just wants more time to relax and rip the bong on the couch without having to work 5 days a week, then amen. But you probably don’t need my help figuring out how to do that. If you are someone who wants to adopt a cat named Herman and sequester yourself in your bedroom for more hours every weeknight, same deal. BUT if you want to traverse the globe with nothing but a backpack and a laptop while still holding down freelance jobs and keeping customers satisfied then that’s a dream that requires some expertise to execute. And I’d love to help.
Becoming a Digital Nomad
Finding Clients Easily and Anywhere
As far as finding clients abroad and landing gigs that will take you abroad, I asked my panel of experts what their experience was. I myself have limited experience with this but many of the people I reached out to had some more exposure under their belt. Here is their advice.
“Almost all of my clients are 100’s of miles away from me. Mostly on the coasts (LA,NY) and some overseas. I have mainly developed my relationships with just good ole’ fashioned talking. Truthfully, most of the opportunities I have been given in my career so far has been by just asking for it. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for what you want if you see value in yourself.”
“Who do you know in cities you want to be in? For example, I decided I’d like to be in LA right now, so I tried to find work in LA. For me, this process has been 95% been word of mouth and connections I already had. Surely you know people who know people there and they might need your services.”
“I would say its totally possible in the digital age to find work outside of where you physically live. You can text, email, whatever, so I don’t think your location is a huge roadblock unless you have to be in the office. “
“I do/get very little work in my city, most of the gigs I get are through people who’ve found my work online, seen and old tutorial of mine or maybe caught one of my few talks that are now online. My reach has been quite organic and I believe having a very focused type of work (FUI) and style to match went a long way in paving a path for me. I’ve been fortunate with the projects I’ve gotten which have led me to getting other similar work, each time compounding into an exponentially growing network of people, studios, and companies that reach out looking for my guidance where user interface meets motion graphics.
There will be luck involved, a dedication to the craft of learning new skills, and then your ability to socialize through your work.
I would imagine if I did want more work in my city, I would start looking at who works at the places I would like to do business with and somehow reach out to start a dialog. Its not that people don’t want to work with you, they just don’t know who you are and if they do then either your work isn’t good enough (practice harder), they forgot you (you need to curate your online presence better), timing has been an issue (time for another beer)”
“I haven’t, don’t really know people. People have reached out to me. If you want to work at a place, specific client, shoot an email, the worse they could do is say no. Tricky to work remote, just a matter of making a case that its more efficient for them. Making them feel like you are giving them more value. Just reach out. Having more GPUs at home, GPU rendering allows me to work alot faster than a typical studio. I haven’t seen too many studios that have invested in GPU rendering tech.”
Online Job Boards
A quick Google search for an area should tell you what the motion graphics presence is pretty quickly. If there are no studios to work for in an area all hope is not lost however. Today there are multiple options for finding gigs online that don’t require you to work anywhere in particular.
Remote Work Job Boards (job boards with exclusively remote gigs)
Job Boards: (job boards with the occasional remote work gig available)
School of Motion
Can’t Find Work? Try Learning While Abroad, Take A Traveling Sabbatical
Worst comes to worse, if you can’t find work abroad, it can be an amazing time to develop your own skills. Ever wanted to learn ZBrush modeling? Start a personal project? When you are away you can use the time to buckle down and improve yourself, still adding value to your career without relying on gigs to occupy your time. There’s always a way to be productive in this career even when there’s no work available. Sites like Digital Tutors, Learned Squared, FXPHD, CGTuts and more all offer amazing courses to help you learn literally anything you want. Reframe your trip as a sabbatical where you’re there to grow and learn.
Working While Abroad
Enlarge Your Computer Monitor Without Bringing One
Most hotel rooms and apartments you’ll work at have a TV. If you bring an HDMI cord you can plug it into any TV and boom you have yourself a large computer monitor to work off of instead of the limiting size of your laptop monitor.
Wifi Finder Apps
If you want to get a lay of the wi-fi landscape in a new place, there’s an app for that. Wi-fi finding apps exist that locate the strongest signals in the immediate area so you don’t have to waste your time zig-zagging the area till you find one that works. The best ones vary depending on whether you have Android or iOS so google it and find one that suits your needs.
Buy a Mobile Hot Spot
If you need heavy duty wifi access for accessing video files (like most motion graphic artists do) then you might want to invest in a mobile wifi hotspot. You buy your own wifi that won’t let you down no matter where you are. These can be a bit pricey, ranging from 50$ – $250 but if you’re serious about working remotely, it’s a no brainer. FYI if you are traveling internationally you might need to swap out SIM cards for different countries.
You may have a great laptop but in this industry, there’s never enough horsepower. If you are into 3D rendering then you have a few options. You can always access your home computer using apps like LogMeIn and then grab the renders from the cloud. Or you can pay for cloud-based rendering services like Rebus and RenderStorm (great customer service) if you/ your client have the budget for it. Lastly, if you want a local power-boost you can always append your current rig with external GPUs to bring your horsepower with you.
This platform is a godsend for posting renders of your work for clients to view. It gives them the ability to scrub through your clip and leaves comments/ doodles at specific time markers so they can give crystal clear feedback on what changes they’d like you to make.
One of Google’s many amazing free tools that lets you video chat with up to 8 people at a time. Great for client calls especially because you can share your screen at any point letting them view your RAM previews in real-time, saving you the time it takes to render out.
This chat platform is in the industry standard for communicating with teams. You can share conversations, pics, video, links and most importantly GIFS with individuals and teams in real-time.
This project management tool is great for blocking out project timelines, storing important assets like scripts in a central location that’s easy to find and making sure you’re on track to meet your responsibilities and deadlines.
An alternative to Monday.com, this site has a fun visual interface where you can map out different milestones in a project’s lifecycle and move your card along as you complete each one. It’s a great tool that makes your progress feel satisfying as you need to update it yourself.
I use this more for personal to-dos than projects but its essentially a big to-do list that lets you check off items as you accomplish them.
Getting People to Pay You For Traveling
If you’re going to chasing your dreams off somewhere else, odds are you’re going to need to handle some affairs first before you take off. Namely, what do you do about your current housing situation? If you’re a homeowner then you can leave whenever you want. If renting out your home is something you’re comfortable with then you have the ability to do so. But if you are living in an apartment and your in the middle of a lease then you need to sublet or rent out your rental to someone else while you’re away. Alot of contracts forbid renters from subletting so check your contract to find out if yours is one of them, but even if it is forbidden it’s up to you whether you want to roll the dice. If you take the chance, then you can potentially have someone cover part, all or even pay you extra to live in your rental while you’re away which makes traveling much more affordable.
Seek Out Friends and Family
The first and the best is to go inside your own network and find people you know. If you can have a friend or family move in, then at least you know someone you trust is occupying your space so that you don’t have to worry about them causing problems with the landlord or your roommates. But the stars don’t always align on this one so sometimes you need to find just find somebody.
Gypsy Housing Facebook Group
This is an awesome closed group where people post their living spaces, price and time they’ll be gone and other people fill in the gaps and live there. It’s a great community for everything from shorter term sublets to months away.
AirBNB/ Roomi/ Couchsurfing
These services are also really great for finding people to live in your place but they’re public so there’s a higher chance that your landlord is looking on here. I’ve heard of people getting evicted from their apartment if the landlord finds out they’re subletting against contract so use carefully. If subletting is fine legally speaking then these are great options for finding people to pay you to travel abroad.
Finding a Place to Live Abroad That Meets Your Needs
+ meet locals you stay with so you make contacts organically
+ can find places that are extremely low cost and unique
+ usually a TV is standard in each room which can serve as a monitor if you’re trying to work
+ wifi is likely
+ good isolated place to work
– price is usually higher than Airbnb
+ totally free
+ meet people
– literally sleeping on a couch most likely
– likely no spot to work
Finding a Network in Other Countries
Don’t Stay At Hotels
Hotel alternatives like AirBnB and Couchsurfing are great options for meeting locals while you’re staying abroad. Hotels offer you a place to live but don’t offer any social benefits. Renting out someone’s home, houseboat or couch guarantees you’re going to get to talk to someone who knows the area personally and maybe they might even be interested in showing you around in person.
SoFar Sounds is a site that lets you attend a concert in the homes of musicians across the world. Instead of going to big venue and being one of hundreds, you can have an intimate experience that’s truly one of kind.
AirBnB now offers something called AirBnB Experiences where locals can offer classes, tours and other services they have an affinity for that you won’t find in the Lonely Planet handbook.
Hostels Are a Community
Hostels are a great waterhole to instantly find a group of like-minded travelers. People who stay at these are looking for a cheap place to stay so they can save their money for the real experiences that matter. If you can find a place to work besides your room (you’re usually sleeping in a room with a bunch of other people) then these are amazing springboards for finding friends on the spot, and getting more out of your living space than just a bed. Also alot of them have their own bars!
Internet Meetups Exist Elsewhere Too
If you’re in motion graphics you’re probably already well versed in the Internet so sites like Meetup.com might not be new to you. They exist all around the world, so if you look up hobbies, sports or activities you’re interested in, chances are there are people meeting up wherever you are and doing those very things too. For international travel there’s also a variant called Internations.com which is a godsend.
With this guide I wanted to try something different. Usually I’m focused on finding advice from professionals who have concrete advice about what they did to achieve success and how you can follow in their footsteps to do the same. Those rules don’t apply to finding your own happiness. If you want to get the most out of freelancing you need to decide what you want to do and realize that you have the complete freedom to do that as often as you want as long as you cover your bases financially. If money is super important to you and your goal is to be filthy rich then you can make way more money as a salary employee working your ass off and do it. But for those who have other priorities you only need to work enough to cover your bases so that your lifestyle comes first. Putting your happiness first is a concept that is frowned up in the American workforce and at the risk of being labeled a communist or a hippie (by my father) I reject that notion and ask you to do the same. Lots of the people I talked to are like me and their definition of happiness includes their work but that definition is entirely up to you. Welcome to freelancing at a philosophical level, I hope you take it as seriously as you take every other part of your craft because it is a consideration that can radically alter your lifestyle if happiness is a priority for you. And it really should be.
I give thanks and credit to the amazing talents who lent their insight and experience to me to cover this topic properly: Mike Winkelmann, Sekani Solomon, Mitch Myers, Lorcan O’Shanahan, Nate Reininga, Mike Puleo, and Salima Koroma!