Making money while travelling
Now 29, when Sabrina Bos finished high school all she wanted was to go far, far away. Before starting the Bachelor in International Business in Maastricht, she spent a year travelling around Australia, Spain and France – a year in which she discovered her wanderlust. Currently the alum works out of her Renault Trafic van as a freelance project manager, blog writer and online business entrepreneur. Her income covers not only her travels, but also her startup accessART. She spoke about her experiences during the recent Global Entrepreneurship Week.
“Thanks to all my travels, I’ve learned that I definitely don’t want to be stuck in an office any more. After three years in the corporate world, I started my own consulting firm ‘Like A Boss Consulting’. Because I want to combine work with travel, this year I bought a Renault Trafic and converted it into a camper. It has a nice table to work at, which can fold down and turn into a comfy bed. I do almost all my work remotely. You can get a lot done via Skype, WhatsApp and email. Many people think you can decide just like that to become a digital nomad, but that’s not how it works. You need certain skills that allow you to work remotely. When I realised that’s what I wanted to do, I taught myself online marketing and writing and registered on a platform for freelancers. That’s how I got my first small assignments. They didn’t pay well, but they did help me to build up my portfolio. From there it got easier to find customers who pay decently.”
Following the CEMS Master in International Management in Rotterdam, Bos had the luxury of being able to choose from multiple job offers. Eventually she decided to join a large consulting firm as an IT consultant. “I learned a lot there, but I quickly found out I couldn’t really put my creativity to use.” Visiting friends, she saw a lot of IKEA art or empty walls in their newly purchased houses; most of them found art either too expensive or too ‘difficult’. This was all the prompting Bos needed. She quit her job and launched accessART, an online platform to help first-time art buyers buy affordable art. When things started to take off, she brought in two business partners to take accessART to a higher level.
A bold step
accessART sells art by artists who are not affiliated to a gallery. “It doesn’t matter to us if they’re 60 and well-known or 20 and just starting out. We find them through Instagram, among other things, and these days they’re starting to find us too.”
Launching accessART meant making the switch from a well-paid job to a startup with an uncertain financial future. “As a consultant I’d bought a place in Amsterdam, which I rented out via AirBnB on weekends in the first year of my startup to make money. It was tiring, but necessary. Unfortunately, after having worked on it for a while full time, we still weren’t earning enough to pay ourselves a salary. I currently do project management and support tasks remotely to bring in enough cash to live off and invest in accessART.”
Part of 'Like A Boss Consulting' is the blog site 'Backpacking Like a Boss'. “By blogging about my travels I earn money in different ways: through ads and sponsored posts from companies and by selling an e-book via my website. I currently earn €2 a month from Google ads and hope to increase that to €100 or more within a few months. Google has to get to know your site, realise you exist, and visitors need to find it. I learned how all that works with accessART, and now I’m applying the same to my blog site.”
To the pub
“I usually meet nice people on the road, but sometimes I can go a few days without meeting anyone. I’ll be alone in my van thinking ‘what am I doing here?’ At times like that I’ll usually call home or go to the local pub. Or I find other travellers via Couchsurfing and that way come across nice people to do things with.”
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Want to travel for work or work while travelling? Tips by Sabrina Bos:
- Build up a portfolio
“I work as a project manager for a large multinational company. Because of the structure of large companies, it’s not always easy to work for them remotely as a freelancer. It can be hard to get a company email address, and colleagues often find it strange that you’re never there. But because I’d already worked in-house as a consultant for this company, they knew me. So it’s important to build up a portfolio and a list of regular clients before you leave, so they’re happy to put their trust in you.”
- Know which skills you want to use
“You have to decide which skills you’re going to use: writing, programming, graphic design? Choose something you are or could be good at – that way you have the best chance of success.”
- Find a good mentor or coach
“Fortunately, I have a few of them. Especially for the online side of things, which is so all-encompassing. It’s nice if you know someone who’s done it all before. It’s not rocket science, but if you have to figure it all out for yourself, it can take years. That’s a waste of your time. I’m glad I’ve found good people.
- Take the plunge
“Once you’ve made the decision, do it!”
Read the expert blog by Sabrina Bos for the Alumni Office, in which she explains her view of the difference between having a startup and a starting business.
Working without wi-fi
After spending three and half months travelling around France in the van, she plans to head south again in the new year. “Maybe even outside of Europe. It’s a dream of mine to drive to Africa or China.” But first she’ll be flying to Myanmar for a month. “It’s a family trip, so I won’t be working, also because there won’t be much in the way of wifi. Of course, I’ll be able to spend bus trips and things like that writing blog posts. And I’ll have time to make strategic plans.”
She works an average of six hours a day. “One day it’ll be 12 hours and the next none at all. If I’ve done a lot of driving I don’t have the energy to work in the evening. But if I’m spending four days at a campsite somewhere, or in some other place with good wifi, I take the hours I can get. It’s very different to when I was just backpacking; then I’d work in trains and on buses. Now that I drive myself around, I lose those hours.” During her tour through France she drove no more than 100 km per day. “Just ‘slow travelling’, so that I really get to know the environment. The evening before I leave, I get my Lonely Planet and my camper guide and check out where I’m headed.” During her trip around France she would sometimes meet up with acquaintances from the Netherlands, although that sometimes caused frustration. “I’d have to work on an assignment while the other was on holiday.”
text: Denise Vilerius en Joyce Larue
Bos has fond memories of her student life in Maastricht. She learned a lot “thanks to the PBL system, and the city is beautiful”. She looks back with particular pleasure on her time as a board member of the MUSST sports council. “Not only did I learn a lot during that period; with the other board members I also got to know Maastricht’s nightlife.” During the third year of her bachelor’s programme she spent six months on exchange in Peru. “A beautiful country with sea, mountains and jungle. I spent at least half of the weekends on the road.”
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