Financial Case Study: Joanne Amos, Wandering Wordsmith

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Joanne Amos is a travel writer, travel blogger and digital nomad from the UK, who packed up her home and set off on an open-ended adventure in January 2015. She’s been on the road ever since. An art and archaeology graduate, she loves cultural adventures, immersing herself in nature and wildlife, learning foreign languages, and sampling local food and wine. Jo supports her lifestyle with her travel copywriting business, The Wandering Wordsmith, she blogs about her adventures on her travel blog, The Road to Wanderland, and has a bit of an Instagram obsession. Learn more about Jo’s lifestyle and income here, as she shares some very honest observations about this lifestyle (for better and worse).

Financial Case Studies

This post was originally published in 2018. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content. 

How long have you been living/working on the road, and where have you travelled?

I’m just coming to the end of my third year travelling and working online. I set off on my nomad adventures in January 2015, shortly after my 40th birthday.

I’d flirted with a travel lifestyle before – first on a seven-month stint as an island manager for a holiday company on the tiny, unspoilt island Greek island of Tilos, and then on a 14-month working holiday in New Zealand followed by a two-month jaunt around Southeast Asia. But it wasn’t until I joined Location Rebel in 2013 that I figured out to build and run my own location independent business. It took a further two years before I was ready to take that business on the road.

I’ve mostly bounced around Europe these last three years, living in Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Malta, Cyprus, Greece, Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, and passing through other countries including France, Bulgaria, Sweden and Israel.

Describe what you do for income.

I’m currently running two businesses that are closely intertwined. My main business is The Wandering Wordsmith. I started by writing SEO articles, then outsourced my SEO work while I moved on to blog posts and copywriting. This carried me through my first year as a nomad, but it was only paying the bills – I wanted a business that fits my travel lifestyle and that I love working on. I set out on this path because I wanted to pursue my passions for travel writing and photography, so I switched my focus to providing specialist travel writing, travel copywriting, and proofreading and editing services.

In my second year on the road I also set up my travel blog, The Road to Wanderland. At the moment, it’s a bit of a passion project and a way to show off my travel writing and photography skills. But I’m building it up, slowly, slowly, and aiming to start monetizing it properly next year (I made my first few pounds on it this year!). (See also: Want to Make Money Blogging? Start Here!)

How many hours do you work a week on average?

This really varies (and I don’t track it as well as I should). I aim to work about four or five hours a day on client projects, five days a week. But I spend longer than that hammering away on my Mac doing admin, marketing, etc. (especially since I’ve changed my focus, so have been building up a new client base). Then there’s the time I spend writing blog posts for my websites, sorting and editing photos, working my way through business courses and books…

I’m a terrible perfectionist so it can take me ages to write a blog post for my websites. Plus I can get caught up working for hours on tiny details on my sites that nobody probably notices apart from myself! I have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes this year, though – I’m hoping it will really start to pay off next year!

How much money do you make?

Again this varies. Since I’ve been travelling my best month has been around £3,000 and my worst just under £1,000.

My first year on the road was my best year financially, but I didn’t have the balance right. I generally stayed in places for a month, which sounds a lot but it isn’t when you’re working full-time. As soon as I finished my client work, I ran out to explore as much of my new home as I could. By the end of the year, I’d had a brilliant adventure, had seen loads, and done OK for money, but I hadn’t done anything to grow my business and I’d hardly given myself any time to relax – I felt like I had to make the most of every second. Which can get tiring. (See also: Travel Fatigue)

In my second year I slowed down – I now spend between two and six months in a place, with a few shorter trips in between. However, money inevitably trailed off, as I hadn’t worked on my business, at the same time as I took a step back to work on my travel blog and market for a different clientele. So I ended up working more hours, but doing less client work and therefore earning less money.

I dedicated chucks of time in 2017 to working on my business and things are heading in the right direction again. I had a couple of great jobs in November and December, which were my most successful months of the year.

Do you make enough money to support your lifestyle?

Yes and no. I’ve ticked along happily enough these last few years. However, my drop in income coincided with the disastrous Brexit referendum, so I took an additional hit thanks to currency woes – I earn GBP but generally spend Euros so my average rent went up c. £150 a month overnight and everyday spends instantly became about 20% more expensive.

I didn’t adapt well to the change. I’d finally started on my dream of travel writing and blogging, and I didn’t want to stop, even though it wasn’t yet bringing in any money. So I stubbornly ploughed on and ended up building a bit of debt on my credit cards.

Housesitting has been my saviour this year, and I’ve also negotiated a few cheaper mid-term rents (for stays of c.3–6 months). But I still find that I’m partly choosing my next location based on what I can afford rather than where I really want to go. So I guess you could say I can just about support my current lifestyle, but I’m working on building my businesses and raising my income so I can support a better lifestyle!

What do you like the most about your career and lifestyle?

I love the freedom and flexibility! I love being able to run my business from anywhere I have a stable internet connection, so I have the freedom to travel and work wherever I like. Although I do work some long days, especially as I’m in a building and developing phase of my business, I can still down tools and head out for a walk and will always find something new to see, do and explore. Travel has always been the thing that feeds me, and I’m so much happier when I’m exploring somewhere different, meeting new people and learning about different lifestyles.

I love the creativity of my work – writing about travel, learning and improving my travel photography. I get a buzz when I’ve written something I’m proud of and sent it out into the world to hopefully inspire others to pack their bags and hit the road. (See also: The Ultimate Packing List)

Finally, I’m learning a lot about myself. Travel can spring some challenges on you and teach you to look at things in a different light. I’ve been doing a lot of personal development, especially in the last couple of years, and I’ve gained a much deeper understanding of who I am, and who I want to be. It’s a lifetime’s work but I love the process (even though it can be difficult at times).

What are some of the challenges you have with this career and lifestyle?

There are definitely some challenges with this lifestyle – it’s not all sunsets, hammocks and working on the beach! (See also: Brace Yourself: Travel Isn’t all Roses and Lollipops)

I think my biggest challenges are based around my work. I don’t come from a corporate background and I can struggle with some of the practical elements of running my own business. Essentially, I’m not really motivated by money; I’m driven by experiences. But experiences don’t pay the bills, so I’ve been doing a lot of work on money mindset this year (this is an excellent book).

Motivation and productivity can also be a challenge, as can finding a good work-life balance. This is especially difficult now that I’m working on building up my travel blog, which isn’t yet bringing in much money but is something I adore working on.

Building relationships on the road is a tricky one too, especially romantic relationships – I had a couple of disastrous attempts in my first year as a nomad! (Nora’s Note: Amen Sister! Here are my own Sordid Attempts at Finding Love on the Road)

What is your vision for the future of your lifestyle on the road?

My ideal lifestyle would be to have a home base somewhere in Europe and spend roughly half my life on the road and half at home – that’s always been my goal. I love my travel lifestyle, but I miss having a base to return to. A study of my own, a local community of friends… I think having a stable routine is better for your physical health and your business – you can work for dedicated periods of time and free up more time to travel.

I can’t afford that right now and my drive to travel beats my desire to settle. So for now, I’m staying in places longer to give myself time to meet people and work on my projects.

I’m also itching to travel outside of Europe again – back to Southeast Asia and over to Central and South America are top of my list. However, I want my business and my finances to be a bit more stable before I do (and if I’m being honest with myself, I think part of me is searching for my home base in Europe first…).

In terms of my business, I’m working on monetizing my blog, getting published in some renowned travel publications, developing some passive income streams to free up more time to travel, and building up my following (I’m not the best at self promotion!).

Any advice for the aspiring traveller about living and working on the road, and managing your finances?

I definitely recommend having a decent pot of savings before setting off in case of emergencies. I had a small pot of savings and was still in the process of building my business, so I’ve stressed about money a few times over these first few years.
(See also: Financial Planning for Travelers)

Having said that, I don’t regret setting off when I did – circumstances were right, the house I was renting in the UK had come to the end of its lease and I was ready to try the lifestyle. Building your business on the road is definitely tricky though (especially with the constant pull to explore!). (Nora’s Note: I agree! This is why I recommend having your business foundations in place before you start to travel – do as we say, not as we do!)

In terms of travel, I recommend travelling slowly otherwise you can burn out really quickly. Experiment to find the right work-life balance for you (which varies from person to person), and get started with housesitting ASAP – it’s amazing! (See also: How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World)

Anything to add?

Find your tribe! Travelling alone can be lonely, especially when you’re also building your business, so having a good support network is crucial. I belong to a female business academy with a group of incredible female entrepreneurs and from that I’ve set up an awesome mastermind of four women who are all at a similar stage of our businesses. We meet online fortnightly, support each other, hold each other accountable, set goals, give each other feedback and constructive advice, challenge each other – it certainly helps me to progress.

I’m also part of a secret Facebook group of travel bloggers where we knock around ideas and give each other feedback. And I try to focus on being proactive in a few Facebook groups of digital nomads, travel bloggers, writers, and female entrepreneurs. Being able to bounce ideas off people in similar businesses/situations and reach out for support and advice is so valuable, as long as you ensure you don’t fall into a social media black hole!

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