Chrys Tan is a 29-year-old Singaporean freelance marketer who spent the last year growing niche sites while traveling across the globe as a digital nomad.
As a fellow Southeast Asian, I was thrilled to talk to Chrys about her transition from an advertising nut in the Little Red Dot to a location-independent traveler who is currently based in Mexico City.
So how did Chrys find herself a new home in Mexico?
Leave Your Job, But Don’t Forget to Pack Your Experience With You
Chrys started backpacking around the world after graduating from school in 2009. She would save up two years’ worth of her salary to travel for a year, and then go back to Singapore and repeat the cycle. Yet it was a buzzkill for Chrys to come back to her stressful 9-to-5 marketing job.
With little flexibility at her job, Chrys grew tired and wanted out of the high-pressure advertising life. She started searching for ways to earn money remotely while traveling. So in 2015, she taught herself how to code and slowly started working on her first startup, which was called Yo!Fit Pass. The idea came about after noticing that there weren’t many local startups which featured health and fitness spots around Singapore.
Yo! Fit Pass provided a monthly membership to a number of diverse fitness studios and gyms in Singapore. While most fitness passes simply focused on exercising, Chrys decided to include great food too: her pass allowed members to have a big healthy meal after workouts. While it took some time, more and more people started signing up.
Seeing the early success, Chrys decided to quit her job and focus on Yo!Fit Pass full time. From then on, she started working from various coffee shops in the island – and that’s when the idea of being location independent struck: “I realized that I could be working out of any cafe around the world. And especially since Singapore is an expensive country to live in, I decided to pack up my stuff and bought a one-way ticket to Mexico City.”
Being Active in Digital Nomad Communities Can Help Land New Clients
After landing in Mexico City, Chrys realized that relying on her startup wouldn’t be enough to sustain her lifestyle. But with a bag full of experience, Chrys immediately thought that she could earn extra money from freelance digital marketing work. So she joined several Facebook groups for entrepreneurs and digital nomads to learn how to acquire customers.
One day, she stumbled upon someone who was looking for a digital marketer to help kickstart their new business. Without any hesitation, Chrys drew up a marketing plan suited for the client and pitched the idea. The potential client was clearly impressed by Chrys’s marketing plan, as well as her experience with digital marketing in Singapore, and she got her first freelancing job.
Chrys later used a very similar model to attract even more clients. She would scour Facebook groups for people looking for various relevant services and then send her proposal to them directly. She said that the tip that she has always been relying on is to be present where your target audience is. It worked – Chrys started getting more and more clients, and got more and more seriously involved in freelancing.
As Chrys juggled her time between freelancing and her startup, she also realized that there was a lack of information which catered to the needs of female digital nomads, so she decided to create a platform of her own called Women Digital Nomads. The blog featured tips, guides, and resources for digital nomads about female-friendly places to stay, work, and also tips for safe travel.
With millions of websites on the Internet nowadays, it’s extremely difficult to make any money from running a blog. However, Chrys kept on persistently adding great content to her website, until she started getting some pretty good rankings, and turned the project into another income source: “Every article I write, whether for my website or my clients, is either optimized to rank on Google or to be extremely informational that people will want to share it. With Women Digital Nomads, I lean towards the latter and it has served me well. All these are done to increase traffic to my sites as it increases my chances of getting the affiliated links clicked on.”
How to Freelance Your Way Across the Globe, As Told By Chrys
It has been a year since she changed courses and became a digital nomad, and one of the privileges Chrys really seems to enjoy is the fact that she could take full of control of her own schedule and working environment. Instead of living a stressful, demanding life in Singapore, she now works in Mexico City where she only spends 4 hours working a day and exploring other cities in Mexico during her free time.
And despite having her hands full, she still manages to stick to her deadlines by getting into routines: “I am most productive when I have a pretty set routine to follow; for example I’ll be working on a project in the mornings, working out or sightseeing in the afternoons, and chilling out or working in the evenings. If I want to change cities, I prefer to stay for at least a couple of weeks or longer because I would need to spend some time finding a new place to work, a new place to exercise, new restaurants, and I’ll get distracted!”
While it may seem like an easy transition, it took Chrys some time to get herself prepared to live the digital nomad life. If you’re seeking to freelance your way out to travel the world, here are her tips:
- Make sure you have an income stream coming in before you travel and make a plan before you leave;
- Think about how you’ll earn money while traveling, or try to convert your current job as a remote work role;
- Start looking for freelance work if you can’t convert your current job. If you don’t have any skills needed, try for customer service jobs or take up some courses on programming or designs;
- Go to meetups, get on LinkedIn and be proactive by talking about your services to as many people as possible.
- Never burn your bridges and network! Have a plan to “steal” clients away from your current agency, or to offer freelance services to your current clients.
Interested in Following Chrys’s Footsteps?
Check out these online courses to learn how to become a successful freelance digital marketer, just like Chrys:
- Digital Marketing Masterclass;
- The Complete Digital Marketing Course;
- SEO & Social Media Marketing Strategy.