Christopher Dodd is a 25 year-old freelance web developer from Australia who has spent the last 17 months traveling all around the world while also running the most popular digital nomad channel on YouTube (with over 30,000 subscribers).
As glamorous as Christopher’s life seems right now, just a few years ago it was, as he says, quite boring…
How Boring Studies Can Lead to a Location Independent Lifestyle
Before becoming location independent, Chris was studying a degree in accounting back in Australia and he wasn’t too happy with the life he was leading: “I wasn’t too excited by the life I had at home and after a study abroad experience in the USA in 2014, I became really interested in living abroad. Around 6 months after returning home from the USA, I discovered that I could work online and become location independent. It was then that I had all the motivation I needed to go after an online career.”
After reading an article about a fellow digital nomad ‘This Guy is Launching 12 Startups in 12 Months’, Chris became convinced that a career in web development could not only be a pathway into interesting work but also a way to earn a living while traveling the world. It was then that he became fully committed to learning web development and becoming a developer himself.
When I asked Chris how he managed to learn software engineering from scratch, he had some useful tips to share:“There are tons of resources for learning code available for free or for very cheap, such as CodeAcademy, CodeSchool, FreeCodeCamp and hundreds of others but I started learning PHP (a back-end programming language) with Lynda as I was able to get an account for free using my university login.”
Since hundreds of people have been asking Chris about how to become a software developer and find remote work in as little time as possible, he decided to write a book: “How I Learned to Code: Lessons From Teaching Myself Web Development and Becoming a Paid Programmer in Only 3 Months” that you can find on Amazon.
How to Acquire Your First Customer as a Freelance Web Developer
A few years forward Christopher has two different sources of income that allow him to travel the world indefinitely:
- Freelance web development;
- Creating content about the digital nomad lifestyle on his YouTube channel and blog.
I was interested to learn more about how he acquires customers as a freelance web developer, since the space is incredibly crowded: “I use a platform called UpWork. A lot of people are divided about UpWork and while I do agree that your freelance business should not rely solely on one platform, it was a huge help for me back when I was getting started”.
Speaking of finding customers inside UpWork, Chris had some good tips to share for anyone just starting out: “I used to take a shotgun approach to UpWork. I would apply to a lot of jobs and be copy-pasting for the proposals. This was a hugely inefficient practice and now, I’m very selective about the clients I apply to work with. This means that I spend less time applying for jobs that aren’t a great fit anyway and give myself more chance of attracting a quality client.”
As much as Chris loves being a digital nomad, he told me his main drawback as a freelance web developer is that a lot of the high-paying contracts for web developers are generally based in certain locations. While he could work completely online, there seemed to be many more opportunities to become a highly-paid contractor for those who are willing to work with clients in person.
Typical Day In The Life of Chris The Freelancer
Every time I talk to a fellow digital nomad, I’m always extremely curious to learn about their typical day in the life, because it’s completely different every single time. Chris seems to have come up with a fascinating weekly structure that works for him just fine: “As a digital nomad freelancer and content creator, I don’t have to go to work at any one time or work during certain hours of the day. However, I like to create my own structure and treat Monday to Friday as work days and relax a little on weekends. A typical week day right now in Belgrade (my current location) starts with my morning routine of stretches, meditation and answering emails followed by client work, web development study, building my own apps and working on content for my YouTube channel and blog. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I walk over to the gym for a workout and on weekends, I like to sightsee in the city that I’m in or go on weekend adventures.”.
Be Realistic About Becoming a Digital Nomad
A lot of people are turning a blind eye when it comes to the realities of becoming a digital nomad and living as one. However, Christopher was very down-to-earth when I asked him what tips he could give to anyone willing to become location independent: “There are a lot of people online that are selling the digital nomad dream, but you need to be practical and realistic about it. Don’t expect to build a business in a day or that the whole thing will be easy… but at the same time, don’t dismiss the digital nomad lifestyle as pure fantasy. It’s hard to know all the realities of the digital nomad lifestyle until you actually go live it but for now, I would get started laying the groundwork, building skills and determining how you will build a location-independent income stream before you buy that ticket to Thailand (or wherever else).”
That’s some next level advice right there!
Interested In Following Christopher’s Footsteps?
Check out these online courses to learn how to become a successful freelance web developer, just like Chris: