Phil, a dedicated FBTS reader, had an interesting question in the comments last week. I’m re-posting it here:
“One question that does intrigue me, as I have dreamed of following this Really Minimalist lifestyle for quite some time. With having so little, and moving around a lot, how do your friends and family know where you are? I suppose having a minimal of monthly bills means you do it all online, but how do you get mail, or do you? How will anyone rent to you without solid long term histories? has your credit been affected? I guess along those lines, does it matter? Without a Base of Operations, how do your customers get billed? Ok, these are way more than one question.” – Phil Huffstatler
I’ve been dropping a lot of clues about how much I’ve been moving around lately –I flew from New York to Portland OR in September, I’m leaving Portland for Chicago in a week, and then I intend to return to New York for a few weeks, at which point I’ll be going somewhere else.
I’m able to do this with very little money, because I live such a minimalist lifestyle. If I was moving more than I can carry on my back then I wouldn’t be able to support this life.
Here are the gritty details on how I’ve been traveling, in the interest of complete transparency:
1, I don’t intend to keep moving forever. Eventually I will settle down somewhere — my girlfriend and I visited Seattle this weekend, and after being there it’s high on our list of places to move. We’ve both been in New York for six years, and while New York is awesome, it’s time for a change in scenery.
2, I’ve been preparing to live and work in a non-geographic setting for awhile now. I’ve put a lot of time into developing freelance clients that don’t want me to come into an office, and my skills (photography, web design, writing) don’t require me to be in any one place.
3, I’m currently in a fair amount of student loan debt from going to college at NYU (this isn’t a lot, a lot of my fellow students have much more debt than I–the cost of education is outrageous and just keeps growing). I’m currently paying this back for an unknown amount of time. It was a difficult choice to leave my well paying full time job and start traveling. I knew if I waited until all of my debts were paid to start to explore the world I’d wouldn’t be staying true to myself and my ambitions.
4, Let me answer the rest of Phil’s questions: This excursion isn’t negatively effecting my credit. It’s pretty easy to rent for short periods of times in most cities, as long as you’re willing to reach out to the right people and compromise in some situations. You have open to everything that’s available. Most of my clients pay me via Paypal, but if I get an inflexible client I just have them send a check to a friend in New York who can do a deposit for me.
It’s not a perfect world, but it’s the world that we live in.
I’m trying my best to live a freer minimalist life, to travel around a bit, and still keep the money flowing. The advice I give on this site is the basis for my survival, quite literally.
I have known a few people who’ve traveled the United States in a much different fashion than the way that I’m traveling. These are the kids you see on the sidewalks begging for change in ratty clothes with cardboard signs saying that they’re ‘just trying to get back to Ohio’.
I’m not interested in traveling like a homeless vagabond kid. I need a roof over my head, the security of knowing where I’m sleeping at night.
Any of these homeless vagabond kids have the skills, if they put their minds to it, to travel while supporting themselves with non-location specific income. Gathering freelance work is hard, but because of developments in the internet over the last few years, it’s might even be easier to find non-location work on the internet than it is to find work in cities at brick and mortar locations.
In the past people had to work hard to find a job that would pay them to stay where they are.
Now we have option to work hard and find jobs that don’t care where we live.
The internet has changed everything, and it’s time to start embracing that change.
Here’s how to start engaging in post-geographical society.
1, Live frugally.
This is obviously the point of this blog, but I can’t stress it enough. Freelance jobs aren’t always there, and you never know when work is going to come and when it’s not. When I have an abundance of work I save as much as I can, because I never know when there is going to be a drought. When money isn’t coming, then I know it’s time to start working on awesome projects for free in order to build my portfolio and my reputation.
2, Be a good, friendly, awesome person.
Don’t be a downer, don’t be one of those people who expects the world and doesn’t give anything in return. There is a lot of trust involved in doing business over the internet, and people who are writing you checks want to know that you’re a good person. Be happy, be friendly, and most of all be generous with your time and your abilities.
Make your work shine and the people with jobs will be more than willing write the checks and recommend you.
3, Learn to love having less.
I really enjoy living a simple life, I like knowing that I won’t need a U-Haul to get my stuff to Chicago. I’m love freely parting with my possessions. I love cooking inexpensively at home, and cooking this way is a lot healthier and you can make a lot of really awesome dishes at home, once you learn. I love knowing that I can afford simple things like a bottle of wine, because I’m not spending on things I don’t need.
4, Do the work. Provide value and deliver quality to your clients and your colleagues.
A lot of people have this expectation that they shouldn’t be doing any work unless they’re being paid for it. This is one way of approaching business, and it works if you already have a steady full time job that’s all nice and cozy (or so those who have full time jobs would like to think, in reality full time jobs are the first thing to go when times are tough.)
Being selfish just doesn’t work when you’re freelancing and trying to engage in work on the internet. You have to give in order to get, and you have to do the work before you’ll get paid. I commonly will submit stellar mock-ups of my work to perspective clients before I even give them my quote. This way they know exactly what they’re getting, which is quality.
Also, I do a significant amount unpaid work for friends in order to build my reputation and get referrals. This might sound like madness to some, but it’s not. Giving free services is the best way to get paid gigs. I always start my client calls with ‘what’s your budget?’ and if they’re a poor artist with a big idea, I’m more than willing to do everything I can to make it happen.
The best example of this that I have is my work on GHOST Magazinerecently. My friend Kendall Herbst, who recently got laid off from Lucky Magazine (those full time jobs aren’t as secure as you think.) started this awesome magazine to appeal to twenty-something readers, and we decided to self-publish it via Magcloud. I did all of the design and layout work, some illustration work, and photographed a fashion spread for the magazine. I did this all for free, because the project was awesome and is great material to show clients.
You can download a free PDF of GHOST Magazine here:http://issuu.com/evbogue/docs/ghost_magazine or you can order theprinted version here (we make no profit off the printed version, the cost is just for printing.)
I could have said no to this project because it didn’t pay, but then the magazine wouldn’t have looked as phenomenal, and I wouldn’t be able to show it to anyone. By agreeing to work for free on these kinds of awesome projects, you can set yourself up for future work.
So, what’s the secret?
I guess after all of that you’re wondering where the secret is, how do you find this work? There is no secret. It’s different for everyone. I have specific skills that land me specific jobs online, you aren’t me and you have skills that are completely different than mine.
The important thing to know is that you can live this lifestyle. You just have to trust that the work is out there. Do the work, show what you’ve done, make everything you do online remarkable, and be brave enough to reach out to people who might need what you can offer.