Hey Dean, thanks for agreeing to the interview with me. I’m excited to hear about yours and Hannah’s adventures! You’re a star! You are currently doing so much… I couldn’t resist inviting you in for an interview. Where are you at the moment?
Hey Dina. Thanks for inviting me to chat! I’m currently in the Murcia region of Spain with Hannah (my girlfriend) and Hugo (our cat!). We have been here for just over a year. We drove here from our hometown in the UK (Bristol) with our cat in our tiny Vauxhall Corsa, driving for two days over the weekend with a stop in a pet friendly hotel in Lyon, France. We had landed jobs as English Teachers in Spain and training started on the Monday, but our jobs in the UK finished on the Thursday/Friday so timing was quite tight in terms of the move! It was quite a challenging and tiring drive, especially with the cat, but he behaved extremely well and I love driving, luckily! We were so happy to finally arrive after the long journey. We spent around 3 weeks between hotels and AirBnb’s before we successfully found a suitable flat, not easy with a house cat and having already started work!
So, what prompted your change of lifestyle?
Well, Hannah worked for a digital marketing agency in Bristol, on the usual 9-5 and I used to work as a Homelessness Support Worker with long shifts and varied hours. We had quite comfortable lives, a 2-bedroom flat, we felt very settled in Bristol and in our house. Although we both loved our jobs, we wanted some adventure but couldn’t bear the thought of saving for more than a year to fund our travel dreams, so we found inspiration in a friend that moved to Madrid to teach English. I remember a specific text I sent to Hannah saying ‘’we could do that, you know?’’. What started as a little seed grew into an adventure that has changed our complete outlook on life. After completing TEFL training (while still working our full-time 9-5’s) we interviewed via Skype while still in the UK for a lot of teaching jobs. It was tough going as we were first time teachers fumbling our way through new lingo and terminology, but we finally accepted a job in Cartagena, Murcia and it’s the city we’ve been in since.
What was the biggest struggle when moving?
I think one of the biggest struggles was the language barrier. It was really difficult when we first arrived as all we spoke was broken pigeon Spanish. Everything you take for granted in the UK is suddenly very new again and I think the culture shock is something that can take people by surprise. The first time you go to a pharmacy, the doctor, the gym, all these things are very challenging in another language. Not a huge amount of people speak English here, which is great for our Spanish learning as you’re pushed with new experiences every day. Our Spanish is so much better because of it.
I’d say another struggle was knowing who to trust, especially when you first arrive. When you’re looking for a flat and you’re trying to communicate with your basic Spanish it’s much harder to understand and read people in so many different situations, not just when flat hunting. You have to keep your wits about you and go with your gut feelings.
How is your Spanish coming along now?
You need to be strict when learning a language and sometimes we’ve both struggled with the motivation to practice and learn. Speaking can be very intimidating when you’re learning a language but my advice (if I could only take my own!) would be speak, speak, speak. Our Spanish has improved so much now, but it would be far better had we built up the courage to make more mistakes when speaking early on in the learning process. One thing that has really helped is doing Cross-fit entirely in Spanish. I definitely recommend it.
Tell me about the changes you’ve gone through over the last few months, you have an online business now? How did this come about?
Well, a few months ago, we realised that we’d got very settled again in our lives in Spain. We’d got ourselves into another routine of steady work with lots of teaching hours and decided that to be able to have the freedom to go where we want when we want we’d have to be working for ourselves. Hannah managed to secure full-time work with her UK based digital agency, only now she’s working remotely! I started to learn about Wordpress, affiliate marketing, and setting up your own digital business as a way to earn us some money in the long term. I still taught English part-time. After much learning and experimenting with failed affiliate sites, we decided to stick with something we know a lot about and that we love...we’ve put together a website inspired by Hugo, our house cat! We had to learn so much about looking after house cats and how to keep them stimulated and happy that we just started writing on topics to share with other indoor cat owners, and http://www.indoorpaws.com was born!
I learned how to build the site myself using WordPress, and have learned lots about SEO, marketing and business models. We launched the blog in March, and it’s grown into a quality resource for house cat owners in that time.The blog (and our following) grew month on month and we’ve been able to start selling various items on our site that benefit indoor cats. I’ve partnered with suppliers in the UK and the list of suppliers is slowly being built up so that we can provide more value to our readers. We’re steadily building ourselves a business that delivers real value to other people. I really wasn’t a computer whizz when I started and have been learning about S.E.O and Wordpress along the way. I’d definitely recommend starting a blog for anyone wanting to leave the 9-5. You never know where it could take you, the sooner you start, the better!
Any tips for our readers?
A couple of articles went viral in our first months- our best performing piece has had 4.6k shares and is still shared across social media now. This helped during early stages to get targeted email subscribers and social media followers - our tip would be to research the types of articles that do well in your niche using Buzzsumo.com and create something that is better than current content out there. It helps when you first launch your website/blog or business! Since then, we've had 21.8K users on the site since launching in Feb/March and have had 30K page views - Social media is our main traffic driver.
It’s been a really inspiring journey learning about how to work for ourselves. We were inspired to take this road because we know that with hard work and determination, it’s possible! It’s a good idea to read all sorts of stories from people who have left the 9-5 and who are working for themselves, or remotely for someone else. It can give you some great inspiration and motivation to keep going when the going gets tough.
Ever since we discovered the term ‘digital nomad’ and ‘freedom lifestyle’ it’s basically all we’ve wanted!
Ok, so what are your plans now?
We want to continue creating high quality articles through our website, and scaling the website up into a profitable business. It’s a continuous learning curve, but we’ve made some great contacts along the way who are on similar journeys so there is lots of support out there. I’m also continuing with some teaching hours while in Spain, it’s a good little earner! Hannah is now working remotely as a digital marketer full-time.
There is lots within Web Development that I’d love to do myself, rather than having to outsource bits and pieces, so the next logical step for me is to learn how to code! I’ve started a course online as an introduction to coding and I intend to continue until I am familiar enough with several different coding languages. It is a big mission, but I’m determined!
Ah, AMAZING STUFF! Sounds like you really have a strategy and are moving forward with quite the pace. So, what advice would you give to our readers who want to start a blog and get business partners?
My best advice to anyone wanting to start up a blog is to get on social media as soon as possible and create your ‘tribe’. This could be in the form of a Facebook group or your own forum, to share tips and photographs. The ‘We are Freedom Seekers’ group is a great example! It’s full of help and support from people in the same position as you and has a great community feel, rather than a sales pitch feel.
When starting with affiliate marketing we signed up with the Amazon & Affiliate Window networks. Give them a google to learn about the types of businesses you can affiliate with through them. There are tons of other affiliate networks out there.
Now we’ve stepped away from affiliate marketing in an effort to scale up our business, and we’re using the drop shipping business model. It gives you much more control over your business, but you’re still relying on other people to ship your items to your customers. We partnered with our current suppliers via phone calls, research, emailing and negotiations!
Great! And what is your advice generally for people looking to leave the 9-5?
Have patience, always keep your options open, but focus on one thing at a time and don’t be too scared! We had our fair share of problems when planning our journey across the water, so being adaptable and flexible is important. Things don’t always go right, but if you roll with it, you’ve got a better chance of enjoying the ride which will keep you moving forward. We’ve got a long way to go before we’re totally location independent, but with clear plans and goals you have a better chance of achieving this.
It is also important to have someone in the early stages that supports your endeavours. A lot of people around you will put up a barrier when you suggest living this type of lifestyle or moving abroad. I think it comes from people having their own fears about your situation. It’s hard for people to imagine that you can live a life away from the 9-5 ‘rat race’ because it’s what we’re told we’re supposed to do. Lots of people have shared their opinions on our lifestyle and what we’re working towards. Some say we’re ‘just dreamers’ and others have told us to go for it. You need people around you that let you explore what you want for your life, not people who project their own fears and barriers on to you in an attempt to discourage you. It can be really easy to get swallowed up in other people’s opinions and not listen to yourself. On the other hand, be realistic. Maybe right now isn’t the best time for you to be packing up your life into a Vauxhall Corsa with your cat and moving abroad! But you should be the one to decide that.
Any regrets on the move abroad?
Moving to Spain, learning Spanish & being in challenging situations have all helped us improve and grow as people and it’s definitely been worth it. I think fear is always there of new situations and experiences. It’s difficult not seeing family very often, but I think the desire to see another culture, learn new things and expand is really important to us. All of those things are worth that temporary sacrifice, especially as we have Skype and WhatsApp to keep in touch! When we go back to our hometown, we find that not much changes! I’m certain that had we stayed in the UK we would never be in the position we are in now, on the search for the freedom lifestyle! Life as it is now always reinforces the reasons why we left, no regrets so far.
Thanks so much for sharing your story and taking the time to talk to me. I look forward to seeing more from both you and Hannah, and www.indoorpaws.com!