Interview with CreativLink: Digital Nomad

I was invited by the French freelance agency CreativLink for an interview about my experience as digital nomad.  Working with renders, exports and deadlines on road trips, in combination with backpackers result in an interesting way of living
The original article was in French and can be found on their website. On their blog, On My Way, they do more interviews with freelancers from the creative sector.

Mats at Uluru, Australia

How were you able to make the switch between a settled life to a nomadic one?

My original plan was to leave on a world trip for about a year. After having worked as a motion graphics designer at studio Sleak, in Strasbourg for two years, I quit and left in september 2016 for South-East Asia. After 5 months in Asia, I continued my trip towards Australia with a working holiday visa. I travelled with my macbook, so I was able to update my travelblog and organise my pictures.

When I arrived in Sydney, I tried some classic backpacker jobs, but I knew that I had a couple of potential clients.  After some research, I announced that I was available to freelance fulltime as a motion graphics designer. I immediately had work for clients from Belgium, Vietnam and India.

Describe your daily life

As I travel around and stay in hostels most of the time, I don’t really have an office. I’ve tried to work from my hostel, but there will always be someone interested and come over to chat. In general, lots of distractions. I spend a lot of time in the public libraries. They tend to have proper wifi and a good work environment. I was a regular visitor from the libraries in Melbourne, Alice Springs, Darwin, Brisbane and Auckland. The other regular visitors from these libraries became my “office colleagues”.  When I wouldn’t have any work to do, I try to visit, explore or travel to a new destination. Or jump in the pool from the hostel when I had to wait for video export or file transfer to finish. Trying to keep my projects running and travel at the same time, is a big challenge.

As most of creative freelancers, there can be periods with lots of work and weeks with nothing. There has been a moment that I would leave for a roadtrip in Australia for a week, and I received a big amount of work the day before we were supposed to leave. It did work out in the end, but that’s part of the game…

What are the challenges coming with your choice of living? Which assets did you create as a digital nomad?

The biggest challenge of being an oversocial digital nomad as myself, is to say no every now and then. I’m staying in hostels most of the time, so invitations for the beach, bars, and other fun activities you do while travelling are always really tempting. It’s up to me to be strict, take my responsibility and get my work done. As I can kind of choose my own hours, other travellers tend to take my work less serious sometimes.

Another big challenge of working remotely, is the time difference. For example, I was working during the Vietnamese office hours while being in Sydney. This was a four-hour time difference, so I ended up working +12 hours/day. Being flexible is definitely a plus!

Communicating with such a time difference with people from India and Vietnam gave some interesting skype calls. I definitely improved my way of communication over projects and corrections.

Following online trends and catching up on what’s happening in the motion graphics world, is also really hard to combine with work and travel.

The state library of Victoria, my office for two months
The state library of Victoria, my office for two months

What is your best story? Funny, emotional or challenging meetings or moments?

In the beginning of my trip, I travelled through Vietnam and used to the platform Couchsurfing (CS) to catch up with other travelers or locals. CS is mostly used to host travelers or getting hosted for free, but you can also use it to meet up. My CS friend, Kane from Ho-Chi-Minh, worked for a video production company. We stayed in touch, and four months later we worked on a big project together for his company.

Uploading the last exports before heading to Hamilton
Uploading the last exports before heading to Hamilton

 

What are your goals for 2018? What’s next?

During the month of August, I’ll be travelling through New Zealand without having any running projects. My clients know that I’m not available during this time, so I can enjoy New Zealand for 100%.  In the beginning of September, I’ll be flying to Fiji and Los Angeles. From here on, I’ll be available again to work on projects while I make my way down to Mexico City. For the moment, the flight to LA is the last flight I have, so I have all the time afterwards. In Mexico City, I’ll be able to stay with family for a longer time. This will be the perfect moment to work on personal projects, update my portfolio, learn Spanish and salsa.

For 2018, I have many ideas to do but nothing has been decided. Maybe travel all the way to Vancouver and find work in a motion graphics company. Or do a career switch towards photography. My Indian client is offering to fly me over to India, to work locally. Everything is still open for the moment…

Projects finished... Up to Hamilton!
Projects finished… Up to Hamilton!

What would you advice to someone who would consider the same path?

Inform yourself what the paperwork includes to become a freelancer, before you leave. What responsibilities you have, or which things you can use an expense 😉 This was a little bit tricky as I had a working holiday visa for Australia. On top of that, the law for backpackers recently changed according the taxes.

Besides this the only advice I can give is to go for it! If you have the possibility to do this, take the step. We’re living in 2017, so there will be (almost) always a way to connect. You’ll be inspired by other cultures which you can use for your work.

2 Comment

  1. Troy says: Reply

    I just came across this post (and your site) after pondering the Digital Nomad lifestyle for some time. I’m also a Motion Designer (San Francisco, Ca) and recently went freelance. I think this is a great chance for me to take a chance at the digital nomad lifestyle, though it’s difficult to figure out how I can get the right clients/somewhat consistent work to pay my bills/taxes here in the US, all while being able to enjoy the atmosphere.

    I typically use a desktop computer to get my work done, but would definitely need to pick up a sufficient laptop when the funds come in. How do you manage only using a laptop for work while traveling? I would expect an animation based career would require a more powerful setup? Or am I completely overthinking this? Then again, I’ve been shifting towards a more 3D (Cinema 4D) based direction. Cheers!

    1. matsnmiles says: Reply

      Hey Troy!
      Sorry for the very late reply, but I don’t monitor these comments so often.
      I think one of the advantages that I had, is the fact that I don’t have any expenses back home. (rent, house, car…) Except for income taxes, which you’ll never be able to avoid.
      Regarding the digital nomad lifestyle, I kind of rolled into it. I needed money half way my trip, I had my 2011 macbook pro with me and 2 clients who needed work to be done.
      ANd voilá, I started working. Learning the hard way, invoicing, different time zones… I don’t do much 3D as it indeed requires a much more powerful setup.
      Also the kind of work I’m doing, wasn’t creative or revolutionary. When you travel, you cannot always count on a good workspace or decent wifi.
      One thing is for sure, you have to be very disciplined and flexible! So many distractions while you travel and working with different time zones can be very exhausting!
      Let me know if you want to have a call or something.

      Cheers!

      Mats

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