How I Freelance to Fund a Life of Traveling and Living in Bulgaria (Melissa Giroux’s Story)

This post is brought to you by a few essentials Melissa always travels with: a kindle and noise-canceling headphones.

This is the latest interview in a series featuring digital nomads talking about their lives and lessons (click here if you want to be interviewed). The goal is to help demystify the process of making money online, wandering the world, and living an unconventional life!

Melissa is an entrepreneur who left her job in Canada in 2014. She currently runs A Broken Backpack and is a freelance SEO writer. She shares our thoughts that the conventional life isn’t the only path.

Thanks for being here, Melissa!

Table of Contents

Introduce yourself! 🙂 Who are you? What do you do for work? And what is your nomadic story?

I’m Melissa Giroux, a Canadian nomad. I’ve been on the road since 2014 and became a digital nomad in 2015. I’m currently based in Bansko, Bulgaria, since the end of 2020. Over the years, I lived in Australia, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Thailand, and Bulgaria. I also traveled to Southeast Asia and Europe. I own multiple blogs, and I work as an SEO consultant. My two main projects are A Broken Backpack (a long-term travel blog) and Nomad Life 101 (everything about working online).

Melissa on a cobble street

What inspired you to start nomading? And how has nomading changed your perspective on life?

I always wanted to travel the world, but in my early twenties, I was only able to travel around one month per year. Eventually, I sold everything and went to travel full-time. After being in Australia for a few months (and not liking the job opportunities there), I started my first blog and learned everything about social media and blogging.

Eventually, I started freelancing as a social media manager and content writer. I was able to support myself while the blog was slowly taking off. I quit my job in Australia and started to work online full-time.

I never expected being able to travel for this long – and being a digital nomad gave me the freedom to work from anywhere. I really can’t imagine myself going back to Canada and work a “normal job.”

Nomading has shown me there’s not only one way to live. The 9-5 doesn’t have to be the only way. I’ve met so many entrepreneurs over the years, and I learned that if you are dedicated, you can be successful.

Connecting with fellow nomads from different destinations was insightful – and the same applies to locals. I had wonderful conversations with locals during my travels, and I learned about their cultures, about myself, and about what’s really important in life. I feel lucky to be able to have this nomadic lifestyle.

For someone interested in becoming a freelancer in your field, what’s the best advice that you would give? And what books, podcasts, thought leaders, or other learning resources do you recommend?

SEO is a well-paid skill and is very useful if you want to launch your own website. As a freelancer, having a website is also great to generate more leads. I have my own online SEO course made for bloggers, but some of our students are copywriters and freelancers.

On Nomadlife101.com, you’ll find plenty of tips for digital nomads and freelancers, including tips to pitch and land new clients. That said, if you’d like to launch your own blog, there are also lots of guides and step-by-step articles that walk you through the steps to become a successful blogger and content creator.

Please tell us the detailed story of how you started your freelancing business.

I started working online as a blogger and as a freelancer. Nowadays, I only freelance for SEO services. All my other projects (blogs) are my own. 

Learning how to blog helped me get skills like social media managing, SEO, and content writing. I used my blog as a portfolio when pitching new freelancing clients.

Melissa Giroux on a safari

What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about nomading?

Nomading is not for everyone, and in order to find out if it’s for you – you got to try it.

When picking your next destination, make sure to look for places that have a community, good coworking spaces, and fast internet. It can be hard to meet people if you’re traveling solo, so events and coworking are the best way to meet friends abroad.

If you’re worried that you’ll miss your friends and family members, keep in mind that you’ll get used to it. The first month is the hardest one, and then all the first holidays abroad will be tough. Eventually, you’ll make friends abroad, and you’ll get used to it. This is one of the main reasons people can’t do the nomading thing – you must be willing to put yourself out there and start from scratch every time you move to a new destination. That said, if you like changes of scenery and challenges, you’re going to love this lifestyle.

Also, I’d recommend you save money before you start your journey. Having savings will put less pressure on you, and you’ll be able to enjoy your time abroad without stressing out. I’d suggest you create a plan to make money online or apply for a remote job before starting your journey.

What are the 2-3 favorite places where you’ve lived/traveled to and why?

My two favorite places to live as a digital nomad are Thailand and Bali. I lived in Bali for almost two years and in Thailand for around 1.5 years. I love these destinations because there are big digital nomad communities, and the weather is definitely better in winter.

Traveling-wise, I really enjoyed my travels in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Morocco. Although, there are places where I often go back to – like Prague in the Czech Republic. It’s incredible during summertime.

Melissa Giroux near a lake

What is unique about the way you travel, and what advice do you have for someone that wants to travel with a similar style?

I’m all about long-term travel, and I tend to stick to destinations for a few months. I don’t like changing destinations every month, and I like to be productive – so staying in places long-term helps me boost my productivity. It’s also easier to have friends if you’re not always moving.

Since 2019, I travel with my partner (we met in Thailand). We’re both digital nomads, so it was easy for us.

As a woman, what should other people who identify similarly (and who haven’t traveled much) know about traveling/nomading?

As a woman, I always research destinations before I go somewhere new. I want to respect the culture and dress appropriately so I can feel safer. That said, it’s important to know if there are dangerous neighborhoods, scams, etc. You can join Facebook groups that are specifically made for digital nomad women for each destination. Usually, in these groups, you’ll find out more information about safety.

If you had debt/student loans when you started nomading, how did you handle or think about this, and what advice would you give to other people with a similar situation?

I had debts and student loans when I left Canada, and it took me years to pay them off. I managed to pay everything in 2019, and let’s be honest; this slowed me down with business for two main reasons:

  • The first few years, I was very anxious about money.
  • I wasn’t able to invest back into the business as much because I had so much stuff to pay.

I’d recommend paying your debts first and leave with savings to avoid any stressful situations. It’s not fun to be broke or tight with money abroad.

Melissa Giroux

What scale is your business at today, and what are your future goals?

Over the years, my online business has grown a lot. Especially since 2019, when I finished paying my debts and was able to reinvest more into the business.

I hit my first 5 figure month in 2020.

Since launching, what has been most effective to acquire/retain clients?

The best way to keep your clients is to be good at what you do. Even better if you can over-deliver!

Nowadays, I only do 1-2 clients at a time because I mostly focus on my own projects.

What digital tools do you use for your work/business?

The digital tools I use the most for my business are Keysearch, Ahrefs, CognitiveSEO, Tailwind, Loom, and Slack. 

If you only had a few minutes to live, what are the most important life lessons you would share with the world?

Stop making excuses, and start taking action. Success won’t magically happen without actions.

Melissa Giroux in a helicopter

What’s your favorite book and why?

The Fastlane Millionaire. It’s a great book that will inspire you to think differently about your business.

I’d also add The Compound Effect. This is a book about habits and how small changes can dramatically change your life long-term.

What do you travel with that you couldn’t imagine traveling without?

I always travel with my laptop, a kindle, and my phone. As part of my work setup, I have a second screen and an ergonomic mouse. I also love my sound-canceling headphones.

How can people learn more about you and your work?

You can learn more about me on my blog Nomad Life 101. There are lots of free resources to help you get started as a digital nomad and/or blogger.