Back in the late 90s, Connie Brentford and her husband discovered the potential of making a living online by writing and publishing books. Their work made them a consistent six-figure income and allowed them to raise a family of six without “regular” jobs, and to start traveling the world.
Read on to see how this mom of six became a digital nomad.
What did you do before becoming a digital nomad?
Before I became a digital nomad, I was a stay-at-home mom. I have six children and really didn’t have a plan to start a business. My husband, also an author, had an online business and I helped him with proofreading and editing. We homeschooled our children as well, so saying we were busy was an understatement.
Our family was the Brady Bunch type. The children were all close together in age so when they started leaving the nest it was fast. We were determined not to suffer from empty nest syndrome. My husband and I knew we always wanted to travel, so in a matter of eighteen months, we sold everything we owned and started traveling the world with three suitcases. We’re down to two now. That was in 2007.
I’ve been essentially homeless since then and I’ve had the privilege of living in some beautiful countries. It’s a very different lifestyle going from running a household of eight to living in a hotel overlooking Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong. We meet a lot of vacationers as we travel and one of the hardest questions I have to answer is, “Where are you from?”
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your freelance journey.
Because we were traveling full-time I knew I needed a portable job. My freelance journey started a with failed travel blog. Like most new bloggers, I was sure I could make money blogging, so I created a travel blog and made zero dollars. It’s a story that’s been told many times. I was happy to have that failure because I realized if I wanted to make a living writing, I needed to sell my words in some form. I started ghostwriting for other people’s travel blogs and writing travel descriptions for online aggregator sites similar to Expedia.
I was a freelance writer for a couple of years before I wrote my first book. It took me a while to build the writing confidence I needed to come from behind the mask of a ghostwriter to a scrutinized published author.
How are you making money?
I have several streams of income that I’ve built over the last few years. My company, Moonlighter Media publishes my books so I have monthly royalties from that and I also privately coach authors and small businesses on how to effectively use social media to promote. Social media management is so hot right now that I barely have to market my services.
Coaching is only scalable to a point, so I’ve started creating online courses for authors. I’ve only been doing this for a few months but I have several hundred students now so I’ll continue creating courses in the near future.
I still take on the odd freelance writing project just to keep my head in that game and I continue to network with other freelance writers because many of them have written or are writing books so they are part of my target market.
How many hours do you work a week and how much is spent in your “home” office?
I work about four hours per day but I work every day. My home office has been on the Eurostar train from London to Paris and in a waterside cafe overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. I’ve worked while at a beach bar in Belize and at the airport in Sri Lanka. It’s hard not to love your home office when it’s in exotic places.
What has been your biggest business struggle as an author?
I’d say my biggest struggle was learning the technical aspects of publishing, like book layout and formatting. I taught myself how to do all of it because as a self-published author, I wanted to control as much of the publishing process as possible. My books need to be updated frequently as new work from home opportunities presented themselves and I didn’t want to pay someone to reformat each time I did a book update.
What advice would you give to a new freelancer?
If you’re just starting out, get your portfolio ready quickly. Offer to do cheap work or even free work to get the clips or other proof that shows you can do the job well. This is going to net you the higher paying clients and help you hone your skills. Body of work matters and so many freelancers take forever to build it because they have a set price in their mind of what they’re worth and won’t work below it. They usually give up because they can’t make a living.
What tips do you have for other aspiring authors?
You’re an author when you say you are. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t finished and published your book yet. If you’re showing up each day to write your book, you’re an author. Own the title and be as professional in your career as you would be if you already had five books out there.
What marketing strategies work best for you?
I’m a natural marketer. I think all moms are good marketers. You’re selling vegetables to children all day and selling your husband on an idea to do something.
I’ve sold over 70,000 books mainly using social media. Twitter is fantastically powerful for authors if they know how to use it.
I also have a deep understanding of the Amazon ecosystem. I know how to position a book so that it gets seen and bought. Many authors have great books that languish simply because they don’t know how to leverage the Amazon ecosystem.
I use my lifestyle as a marketing strategy. I’m a social person, so I chat with people about my lifestyle on Twitter and Facebook. It’s unique and I take advantage of that. My books are about all the different ways to get out of the cubicle and live life on your own terms, so showing my latest photo album from my travels in Spain reinforces that I don’t just write about it, I do it.
Thanks to Connie Brentford for sharing her story! Be sure to check out her book on Amazon: