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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!
Brandon and Becca talked about nomading for years. They planned, saved, set a date, and booked a flight. Then the pandemic changed everything. They’re now experts on navigating how to create a life of fulfilling remote work while nomading (and during covid times!).
Thank you for sharing your story with Freedom Is Everything, Brandon and Becca!
Key takeaways from Brandon & Becca’s interview:
“We’ve learned that there is another way to work, live, and exist. A commitment to living sustainably is more important to us than ever before. We’ve also realized that living outside the norm does require lots of saving, preparation, and massive amounts of privilege to be able to make the “jump.” That has helped us understand and imagine the ways that our society can change. Life is about so much more than working all the time, but there are still really real constraints that society puts on us to live.”
“In our experience, being flexible and letting go of expectations, and a bit of control is necessary to be successful digital nomads. So try to remember, there is no rush or timeline, only the one in your head! This has been one of the biggest benefits I’ve (Becca) experienced since living this lifestyle: completely surrendered and trusting in the universe.”
“Find your enough. Find out how much money you need is enough to feel secure, how much work you have to do to make that amount, take care of yourself in the best possible way, and enjoy the rest of your time because life is short.”
“Pay attention to your breath, and write to yourself. The experience of life will pass us by in bursts, and moments, and memories. Following your breath is like slowing down time. Keep a journal of your day’s doings and thoughts. It is an invaluable record of all the amazing things you do with your time here. “
Introduce yourself! 🙂 Who are you? What do you do for work? And what is your nomadic story?
We are Brandon and Becca Rich, digital nomads since July of 2020. Both of us grew up in Maryland, but we’ve lived in Louisiana for eight years prior to July. Brandon and I have talked about starting our own businesses, selling everything we own, and backpacking around the world for years before finally deciding to go. That was before the world of travel changed.
In April of 2017, we began plans to start nomadic life. During the time leading up to our departure, we began taking online business courses, networking, and attempting to figure out how to make money while on the road. Also, at this time, Becca was working in a cubicle as a petroleum engineer. Brandon was hustling as a restaurant server and freelance writer.
Two years later, in November of 2019, we bought a pair of one-way tickets to France, booked for September of 2020. We celebrated our last Mardi Gras in February of last year, and when the coronavirus broke out in the US, we were some of the first to experience lockdown quarantine. Everything in life was unsteady except one thing: life was short, and we were more certain than ever that working for ourselves (and becoming nomads) was what we wanted to do. We just had to figure out a way to do that was responsible, financially possible, and still within the US borders.
We began nomadic life in July of 2020, leaving our home in New Orleans to travel West through Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho. While our gig jobs and businesses were not completely financially independent before embarking on this journey, we had saved a year’s worth of expenses in preparation for world travel. And we had family members willing to accommodate housing for us, so we had time to transform our side-hustles into successful businesses that allow us to keep the nomadic dream alive. It’s been nine months, and we’re so glad we’ve made the jump. As we write this interview, we’re back in Maryland with plans to return west in a few weeks.
What inspired you to start nomading? And how has nomading changed your perspective on life?
Neither of us had traveled outside of North America and have always been very interested in getting to know the world outside our known experiences. We never felt satisfied with a lot of the American cultural norms around work and life. We wanted another way to live, and digital nomading became a route for us to find our own unique balance.
Before nomading, Becca was an engineer in the oil and gas industry and part-time yoga teacher. Brandon was a restaurant server and hobbyist writer. But we were both tired of living the same day over and over again, working long hours in industries that our hearts weren’t fully in on. We felt that there had to be something else that was possible. While nomading, we’ve spent time off the grid, trading a helping hand for room on an organic veggie farm. We’ve left cell phone service behind to hike through bison-scattered plains, bathed in natural hot springs, climbed knee-deep snow to the top of mountains. And we changed our lives in the process.
At nine months into this experience… We’ve learned that there is another way to work, live, and exist. A commitment to living sustainably is more important to us than ever before. We’ve also realized that living outside the norm does require lots of saving, preparation, and massive amounts of privilege to be able to make the “jump.” That has helped us understand and imagine the ways that our society can change. Life is about so much more than working all the time, but there are still really real constraints that society puts on us to live. We’ve got to figure out a way as a society to do both.
Please tell us the detailed story of how you started your business.
Becca: In 2018, I started taking courses online on “how to start my own online business,” knowing I wanted something I could take with me around the world. I had no idea what business I wanted to start, and I felt like I had a hodgepodge of skills with no idea how to put them together.
I was an engineer, yoga teacher, reiki healer, and passionate about helping people find more time for themselves during their busy lives. I started teaching yoga on zoom (granted, this was PRIOR to the pandemic), as I also continued to search and receive support from coaches to find my thing. After buying flights to France in November 2019, I started to get stressed out because yoga on zoom wasn’t working out, nor did I feel like it was 100% for me.
In January 2020, I was having a conversation with a coach, and she asked me, since I was helping my yoga students find time for themselves, why wasn’t I a holistic time management coach? Someone who helped people manage and spend their time more balanced–in all areas of their life. It was an immediate “yes” in my gut.
Since then, I’ve honed my experience, became a certified Time Management Coach, and am currently working towards an International Coaching Federation accreditation. Since the clarity of finding my thing, my business has been able to take off in ways I couldn’t have ever imagined. In February 2020, just a month later, I signed my first paying client through a Facebook group and have continued to sign clients and grow sustainably while only working three days a week. And I love the work I do so much.
I help my clients, other successful business owners create a healthy relationship with time, make time freedom a reality, and get back to their families and other things that really mattered to them.
As of today, my business model is solely 1:1 work with clients, and I have big dreams for the future 🙂
Brandon: I have been a lit-geek for as long as I can remember. I grew up reading epic fantasy tales like the Lord of the Rings, Redwall, and Harry Potter. As I got older, I moved on to writing comic books and short stories, but I lost sight of that passion in high school and college.
I had been convinced that writing wasn’t cool, reading was only for homework, and English wasn’t a real degree. So, I studied Business Management, and I began to work in restaurants. Food is my second passion. I spent some time in operations management at a few small start-ups. During that time, it was always during collaboration with the marketing team that I felt most energized. Sharing and informing through blogs and social media posts sparked a renewed interest in the language arts.
I started to look for opportunities to write about the products and lifestyles that I loved. At first, it was a hobby. I wrote for a life and culture blog in New Orleans. As I gained experience with the professional side of the media business, I was able to add another client, this time in the travel industry. Fortunately, this client also takes a vested interest in helping their freelancers develop their digital marketing skills.
As I learned more about marketing and SEO performance, Becca started The Holistic Time Coach. I agreed to help as her content and copy editor. From there, my own freelance writing service, Brandon Rich Writes, has grown. In addition to The Holistic Time Coach, I now manage freelance content and commerce writing for several clients as I work to continue building the business that sustains our nomadic life.
What are the 2-3 favorite places where you’ve lived/traveled to and why?
Since we’ve been Digital Nomads for nine months, limited to staying in the US due to COVID-19, this one’s a little trickier! Here’s our top two:
- Victor, Idaho is number one. We stayed for four months, from July to December of 2020. We arrived among acres of wildflowers and clear blue snowmelt lakes and left as two feet of snow fell in just as many days. We love it so much that we’re returning this spring, with plans to stay until the winter. We love it because of how close it is to several national parks and the way that outdoor living is a part of life there. Table Mountain overlooking the Grand Tetons
- Number two is Berlin, Maryland. Berlin is a historic town only miles away from Assateague Island National Seashore. From the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, we are in love with the natural world. Berlin has a super quaint downtown area, a great seashore to watch wild ponies roam, and a great food scene. It’s a quiet place, though, and that is a draw for us.
What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about nomading?
Since we became digital nomads during COVID times, our original expectations of backpacking in Europe and Asia weren’t possible… but we still went for our dreams because we let go of plan A and went with plan D (because B and C didn’t work either). In our experience, being flexible and letting go of expectations, and a bit of control is necessary to be successful digital nomads. So try to remember, there is no rush or timeline, only the one in your head! This has been one of the biggest benefits I’ve (Becca) experienced since living this lifestyle: completely surrendered and trusting in the universe.
While preparing to embark on our (potentially lifelong) nomadic journey, we were pretty fearful and unsure, especially with the state of the world. So, if you’re a little scared or unsure of nomading right now, that’s totally legit! We were and often still are. Finding a compassionate way to navigate your journey towards nomading will make your experience much more fulfilling.
Some of the things we were fearful of were leaving our life and friends behind in New Orleans without not knowing how to meet new people. We worry over health insurance, making enough money, balancing time off with the work of starting our own businesses, and how to separate ourselves from exploitative social norms–nomading is a long way off from being the norm.
Since we’ve been traveling, we’ve been able to meet new people on hikes and campgrounds and through family members. We also made a commitment to regularly reach out to friends back in Louisiana for connection. We’ve managed our stress and fear so we can listen and be open to new opportunities. We’ve accepted support from family members (which is a huge privilege to have). And talked to other digital nomads for support.
As for the rest of the fears I mentioned and any others you may have, they are valid. However, what we’ve realized over this time is that trusting that you will be able to handle and take care of whatever comes up is much more important than having everything figured out (which is actually impossible).
This time has also taught us how short and precious our lives are. Whether you’re a digital nomad for a year, or 20, enjoy it. You can spend your whole time as a digital nomad worrying about what’s next and what if’s or you can try to cherish it. We only have one life, and that one is so short.
Since launching, what has been most effective to acquire/retain customers and scale your business?
Becca: When getting started with an online business, the typical advice is to write blogs and post on social media a bajillion times a week to get new clients. And that, quite frankly, is a waste of time. It’s more important to build rapport and trust with the tangible results that you create for your people. In order to do that, I had to hone my skills and then use my experiences to help others solve a problem they really, really need help solving. Once they sign up to work with me, giving my clients the best experience so that they refer me to their networks is hands down the most effective way to acquire and retain customers when you’re a 1:1 service provider.
When it comes to scaling and growing, what I mentioned is going to stay at the center of everything I do. However, hiring outside help has been key to my personal time freedom and growth. I know I cannot do everything myself, nor do I want to. I became a digital nomad and online business owner to have time freedom. So, I hired a VA 3 months after my first client, other contractors along the way and plan to keep hiring to keep growing sustainably.
Brandon: So far, scaling my business has been about persistence and trust. Stepping into the online business world and the copywriting industry was nerve-wracking at first because I’ve mostly been self-taught. And– the world of content creation, copywriting, and digital marketing is *stacked* with talent. In order to acquire new clients, I had to trust in the skills that I did have, rather than what I felt was lacking. For me, that was people skills. Working digitally hasn’t changed the fact that you need em!
Consumer-facing jobs in retail, restaurants, and the grocery business all taught me how to cultivate a customer experience. While the mission of my service is to now do that for brands using the written word, I am also focused on cultivating a good experience for the client in the process. Being timely about deadlines, taking learning opportunities, and providing consistency & coachability have been key to scaling my business.
For someone interested in becoming an entrepreneur 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?
Becca: There are SO many things out there that just waste time and slow service-based online entrepreneurs down (courses galore and specific advice on where to get started…websites, content, etc.). For service-based entrepreneurs, talking to people and creating an offer for them is all that’s needed to start a service-based business. Like seriously, you don’t need to do anything else, so simplify everything and don’t waste your time worrying about a decked-out content plan, big ole’ website, or really anything other than talking to people and honing your skills.
Brandon: I agree with Becca’s answer. I think it starts by taking action. And those don’t have to be big actions or some colossal move. I’ve always worked best in incrementals, and that really helped me tread water as I left the location-dependent restaurant industry for nomadic life. So the best advice I could give is to just start doing whatever it is you want to do. The internet is deep and, at first glance, feels like a scary, loud, and easy place to get lost. But when you sift through that static, there is an abundance of opportunity. So reach out to your connections, read up, and then do.
And (as always) remember the value of organized labor. I get a lot of resources from the Freelancers Union, but there are other great organizations out there.
What scale is your business at today, and what are your future goals?
Becca: My business is currently at consistent 4-figure months, projecting to be around $50,000 USD in 2021. I have around 800 people on my email list and 1700 followers on Instagram. My future goals are to create an agency of virtual assistants to help my clients manage their calendars, write a book, and train others in holistic time management coaching.
Brandon: At the moment, I am providing writing services for three clients, covering topics in the travel, wellness, and e-commerce industries. In particular, my commerce articles have an audience reached of 310 million per month. Like Becca, I am also seeing consistent 4-figure months. I currently write and publish an average of 11 bylines a month, with the goal of increasing that to an average of 37 by the end of 2021. That considered, an additional goal of BRW is to continue growth by adding a new client in Q4 of this year.
What is one of your favorite travel stories/experiences?
A couple of months in, we were driving to hike up a mountain while talking about how we really wanted to meet new friends. When we parked, a couple did at the same time. We decided to say hi and sparked a conversation as we walked towards the trailhead. We ended up hiking together to the peak, talking for six hours. We exchanged numbers and are excited to meet back up with them out west this summer.
If you only had a few minutes to live, what are the most important life lessons you would share with the world?
Becca: Find your enough. Find out how much money you need is enough to feel secure, how much work you have to do to make that amount, take care of yourself in the best possible way, and enjoy the rest of your time because life is short.
Brandon: Pay attention to your breath, and write to yourself. The experience of life will pass us by in bursts, and moments, and memories. Following your breath is like slowing down time. Keep a journal of your day’s doings and thoughts. It is an invaluable record of all the amazing things you do with your time here.
What do you travel with that you couldn’t imagine traveling without?
Our MacBooks to work on and to watch all the Netflix. Brandon can’t go anywhere without a notebook and a good pen. Headphones for when we want to be in our own worlds, and our Subaru Forester (plus good boots) for when we want to explore things together.
What digital tools do you use for your work/business?
Becca: I keep it as simple as possible! Google workspace–email, drive, calendar (what I help my client really utilize) to manage almost everything in my life & business. I use Calendly to schedule and Zoom to meet with my 1:1 clients. Mailerlite for my email service provider. Later to schedule social media posts and social media to connect and engage online. My website’s on Squarespace (highly recommend). Lately, I’ve been loving Workona, a google extension that manages tabs & projects online.
Brandon: I have a pretty good thing going with both WordPress and Squarespace blog sites. I like to say that I am the wizard of the Yoast plug-in. In all actuality, great keyword research tools (KWFinder, and especially Clearscope) makes that easy. My projects are managed through several different sites: Airtable, Shortlist, and Trello are primaries. I communicate through Zoom or BlueJeans, except when I’m working with Becca. Then, I just ask what’s up from the other side of the couch.
What’s your favorite book and why?
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. It is a sacred text for anyone who wants to relearn the intimate and innate connection that humans have to the natural and living world.
How can people learn more about you and your work?
Becca: If you’re looking to reclaim your time and make time freedom a reality, check out my website/free content online:
Portfolio and Contact: https://linktr.ee/b.randonrich