I met Darwin over beers in San Francisco, after we became acquainted online through the Location Rebel forums. I told Darwin about this new idea I had for a course to teach people how to become freelance writers in the quickest and easiest way possible — the same way I had become a freelance writer — by doing SEO writing. A couple of months later, Darwin became one of my first ever students — one of just ten people, most of whom I had been in touch with personally — way back in August 2013.
Darwin is now a big part of the Untamed Writing community, often chiming in on conversations in our Facebook group with encouragement and helpful tips for newbies. I love him. He is awesome.
So I interviewed him to find out about his freelance writing journey.
What course did you take and when?
I took the very first beta version of the course. I believe it was 2013… but I could be wrong. [KM: You are correct, sir.]
If you could pin down one main reason for wanting to become a freelance writer, what would it be?
I wanted to do something that gave me the mobility to work from anywhere. After 15 years of having my own health and wellness coaching practice, I needed a change. And I didn’t want to be tied down to one location. Writing has always come relatively easy for me (although working with Karen really helped refine my skills and taught me how to write for the web).
What was your life like before taking the course?
I had a successful coaching practice in San Francisco. I was making good money but growing restless. Wanting something new and to travel more.
What were you unhappy with in your life before taking the course? What did you most want to change?
I was unhappy with the monotony of my work. I was also looking to learn something new — something completely outside of the health and fitness industry. I wanted to change the level of freedom I had with respect to being able to move around.
I saw others leading location independent lifestyles, and I decided I’d learn how to do the same for myself.
What prompted you to finally make the leap?
The more I learned about location independence and digital nomads, the more I wanted to make it work. I found a valuable resource when I joined the Location Rebel group and used its blueprints to get started. But I didn’t really apply any of it until I took Karen’s course, which was much more hands-on than Location Rebel, and it gave me the guidance (and ass kick) to put it all into action.
What were your biggest hesitations, both in signing up for the course and in trying freelance writing at all?
The only hesitation was in investing the money. But my intuition told me it would be helpful and I trusted that. I knew I was struggling with actually getting things going, and I believed that having a more personalised guide would be useful.
How long after completing the course did you make your first money from writing?
I really can’t remember when I finished the course. But I would say it was about 4 months later that I began to make consistent money. That includes some time to relocate after leaving California, so it would have been a lot sooner than that had I not moved.
How long after completing the course did you quit your job?
I actually did things backwards. I quit my job first before getting paid to write. Probably not the smartest thing to do… but it all worked out. I had money saved as a cushion and just went on blind faith — trusting that it would all work out.
How has your life changed since completing the course?
I’m completely location independent. In the last year, I’ve been fortunate enough to live in Spain, Ecuador and India, while seeing Dubai, Germany, and Italy along the way. I learned a lot of lessons trying to run my freelance writing business from different locations.
In India, our router’s cable went all the way out the window to who knows where. Having the internet go down on a regular basis was not good for running a location independent business. Soon our bathroom ceiling caved in. That was my cue to exit and head back to Spain.
But these challenges are the things that made it a great learning experience. I’ve also been able to experience different cultures and see what things I want most (and least) out of the places I choose to live in.
Having that freedom was my goal from the very beginning. So I’m grateful to have achieved that. Being able to work from anywhere at any time is its own reward.
What does a day in the life of you now look like?
Over time I’ve been able to determine the best work schedule for me. How productive you are depends a lot on your own individual rhythm and pace. I find that I’m most productive early in the morning and again in the late afternoon. So I structure my day in order to maximise my ability to get things done.
Life in Spain taught me the importance of the siesta. Taking a few hours after lunch to unwind and relax is a habit I won’t be giving up anytime soon.
I also have the ability to take time off whenever I want to. This gives me the freedom to pursue other interests, such as getting to know the cities in Spain, like Seville, Malaga, Barcelona, and Madrid. I love just taking a day trip and wandering around the city, taking in the sights.
And then there are my ‘do nothing’ days. Days when I have no set plan, only the goal of doing nothing. This helps me get away from the computer and let my brain and body rest.
If you could go back and do things differently, what would you do? Any regrets?
I would have started earlier. There was a lot of procrastination on my part. I had a fear that it wouldn’t work out. That I wouldn’t make any money and would have to return to having a fixed job in one location. You really have to believe that it is possible. Thankfully, I always had that belief despite my hesitation. I knew that I could make it happen because I’d seen so many others do it.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m actually looking to return to the health and fitness industry by incorporating it into my freelance writing and consulting work. My goal is to help other health professionals build their brand by providing content and helping them develop their marketing campaigns. My fifteen years in the industry gives me insight into the needs of health practitioners and their clients.
Where do you see your future headed, both in terms of your personal life and your business?
I would like to expand my business into more of consultation practice, with freelance writing being one piece of a bigger puzzle. Businesses need to know how to develop strategic goals behind the content they publish. Blog posts and copywriting must be integrated into the entire mission of a business in order to get the biggest return.
I also plan to relocate to South America and continue my adventures in travelling. As long as I have my laptop, good WiFi, and good coffee… I’m good to go.
What advice would you give to somebody who’s thinking about signing up to become a Untamed Writing student?
If you really feel like freelance writing is for you, then I would definitely use Karen’s courses. There’s no fluff. She takes you step-by-step (practically holding your hand) through the process of building your website and creating an initial portfolio.
To be honest, those two things (along with the drive and persistence to reach out to your future clients) are all that’s needed to start a freelance writing career.
Karen’s also developed a strong community that is a valuable resource throughout the process. The Untamed Writing Facebook group lets everyone connect with each other and get the support and feedback that helps you keep moving towards your goals.
My final piece of advice is to always be open to learning, and to provide the absolute best service to your clients. There’s no point to any of this if you aren’t having fun. Be easy to work with and willing to hear the feedback of your clients. This will make you a better and more successful writer in the long run.