My buddy Carlo Cretaro runs a content writing business exclusively over the web. That means he has the freedom to travel the world, going wherever he wants whenever he wants, so long as he’s got his laptop and an internet connection handy. He’s currently spending 3 months in India and recently made 5 figures in a single month (and that’s euros, not dollars, so it’s even more impressive. Maths!). And the insane part is, he outsources everything, so he doesn’t even do any of the writing. Just in case you weren’t already jealous enough.
Carlo was awesome enough to answer a few questions about his business and lifestyle for me. Here’s how it went:
What do you do?
My girlfriend Florence and I run a freelance content business where we outsource 100% of the writing. We created this small business back in January 2013 as a means to travel the world and work from anywhere.
Together with our blog — NextStopWhoKnows.com — things have worked out pretty well for us.
How did you get started?
I started out writing $5 articles for a travel blogger mate of mine. He then referred me to a few more travel bloggers and before I knew it I was able to make about $1,000 a month.
After a few months of contacting marketing companies and other businesses, I had a steady flow of clients who were in need of content for their websites.
What was your previous life like?
Before embarking on this online lifestyle, I owned a small poker club back home in Ireland where I hosted poker tournaments from 2006 until 2013 [KM: I DID NOT KNOW THAT]. Florence worked in a crèche. We’ve travelled together for the past 10 years, but we just wanted to be able to work from anywhere and so freelance writing seemed like the perfect opportunity to create a location independent income.
What are your favourite parts of your business and lifestyle?
The freedom. It’s all about the freedom that a lifestyle like this affords you. Yeah, there’re some tough days but that’s par for the course.
We also get to travel around the world whenever and wherever we want to, which is always one of the positives.
Our favourite parts of the business are the micromanaging elements. Currently we have over 30 writers to interact with and having to figure out a system to keep things running smoothly is something we enjoy immensely.
And your most hated parts?
The uncertainty that comes with a freelance business is something we particularly don’t like. While it’s that exact thing that sets us free, it’s also the one thing that keeps us on our toes.
We’ve worked hard to prevent the ship from sinking, but you never know what’s around the corner in business.
I also hate bad WiFi. Searching for WiFi as we travel has seen me froth at the mouth. I think I may have created a new psychological condition: WiFi Rage Syndrome (WRS).
Most people who read Untamed Writing want to be writers — and actually do the writing! What made you decide to outsource, and how do you make it work? Are there any downsides to it?
I’m the first one to hold up my hand and state that I’m not a good writer. Not by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I hate writing. In fact, I hate writing these answers (joking) [KM: SCOUNDREL!].
I’m good at what I do, and that’s building relationships with potential clients and keeping a team of writers together.
Seriously though, I knew straight away that if I could pay someone else to do the writing for me and take a percentage then I’d be able to just proofread the articles and still make some money.
So after doing this for a while with one writer, I started to outsource more and more. Our business model is based on huge volumes of content at ‘bulk rates’, so we need to have a large number of writers to take the workload.
I knew that if I could find enough reliable writers that were native English speakers, I’d be able to grow the business as time went on.
The downsides are that you give away a huge chunk of money to the writers each month. But this isn’t really an issue, because without the writers we wouldn’t be able to scale.
The other downside is that there’s tons and tons of proofing that needs to be done. However, we’ve been using external proofreaders to help take the heavy load off our shoulders.
The key ingredient is a good solid team of reliable writers.
Rumour has it you recently cracked a 5-figure month! Congrats! What advice would you give to someone hoping to do the same?
I love rumours, especially when they’re true! Yes, last month was our best month to date. We hit our first 5-figure month after a few months of hitting the crossbar [KM: I had to Google this reference. Sportsing!]. If anyone would like to sign up to receive our monthly income/expenses report, they can do so here.
The best advice I would give is to keep focused with small, short-term goals. That way you can consistently tick them off the list as you go. Be prepared to put in a ton of work along the way. Nothing worth having comes easy as they say, and that’s definitely true in the freelance writing world.
Our business model isn’t a glamorous one. We put in a lot of effort but the rewards are there to be achieved.
The next goal for us is a 5-figure profit month!
What does a day in your life now look like?
We never set the alarm nowadays – unless of course we’ve a deadline or something we need to be awake at a certain time for.
Emails are cleared straight away after breakfast. Then it all depends on whether we’re in one of our travel trips or based somewhere. If we’re travelling then we’ll do a tour or go walk around our new surroundings.
After lunch we dig in for a few hours and do any editing/proofing that needs to be done. New emails will also need to be looked after.
If we’re travelling full-time (like we currently are for 3 months in India), then we schedule things in advance so we can travel on long distance buses and trains without worrying about missing deadlines, etc.
I hate going to bed early, so I’ll drift off whenever the body tells me to!
You recently called me out after I claimed that it’s impossible to become a successful freelance writer without a website. How have you made your business work without a website?
I do have a freelance website, but it sucks ass big time and I don’t even point potential clients to it any more. In fact, I would be embarrassed to send clients to it in fear it would scare them off!
The reason we’ve been able to do so well for ourselves without a decent website is that we work hard to build relationships with potential clients. Most clients want high quality content at a rate they’re happy with and from someone they actually enjoying working with. That’s where we come in!
We provide them with exactly what they’re looking for (in most cases) and we talk with them through email just like we would if they were in front of us. No formal bullshit. Just everyday conversations.
Of course it’s business at the end of the day, but if you can get along with a client then they’re going to give you more work – it’s as simple as that. That’s the way I am with writers as well, so it works both ways.
What’s next for you?
Initially, we set out to travel the world and the freelance business was a means to that end. Now, after doing it for nearly 3 years, we’d like to take the next step and maybe create an actual media company of some sort. Maybe, that will mean we actually need a professional-looking biz website ;)
Carlo and Florence are travel/lifestyle bloggers over at Next Stop Who Knows. In 2013 they left home to pursue their dream of being able to travel the world while working from their laptops. Their blog focuses on travel, lifestyle and location independence.