Alexandra, Creative Director

Alexandra Guavabean

Hi! I'm Alexandra and I'm from Barcelona. 

I studied Audiovisual Communication.  When I finished University, I went on a trip to Southeast Asia and without even looking for it, I found my dream job in Vietnam as a Creative Director! 

I stayed there for two and a half years working remotely, traveling, and falling in love with this lifestyle. I never imagined that one trip could change my life so much!

What do you say when people ask "What do you do?"    

I always get stuck for a second or two before answering that question. I need to think first and adapt the answer depending on who is asking. Funny but true.

For example, if my uncle who is a doctor asks me that in front of all my family, I will try to keep it as professional as I can so they don't end up thinking I’m just homeless. 😂 But if it’s people from my same industry, then I say I work on what I love while I travel. 

Why did you get started with online/freelance work?

When I was thinking about my professional future, I was very doubtful of what I wanted to do, so I decided to pose the problem differently. The only thing that I knew is that I liked to travel, so I started focusing on jobs that would allow me to do that, and those were online jobs.

How many years have you been freelancing? 

I started freelancing 6 years ago, but I was working on freelance projects at the same time as my regular jobs for a while. Now I've been purely a freelancer for two years.

How long did it take for you to feel like a "successful" freelancer. Until you were able to pay your bills regularly without worrying? 

Two years, when I finally found a long-term remote job with a fixed salary. Working on a project-by-project basis causes me emotional instability and anxiety, because I never know how the next month will go financially. So I only felt really secure once I had a stable salary.  

Where did you find your first paid freelancing job?    

A friend of mine called me to work as a production assistant in a short film. I earned only 50€ for two days of work but I was very happy. It was not a remote position, but it was kind of a freelancing job. From there, other remote paid projects started to come in, all through contacts.

How did you price your services when you were just starting out? 

Almost all the independent work that I’ve done came with a fixed price so I didn’t have to decide my own prices. At the beginning they were small amounts but I took them because I needed experience.

Now that I have experience, the jobs pay better, but it is still a headache to know what the fair price is because it depends on many factors, like for example, the country of the company that's hiring you.

Most freelancers try several jobs before settling down. What jobs did you try before choosing your current occupation?    

I’ve done a bit of everything: restaurant waitress, bartender, private teacher, babysitter, etc…

But these were just ways to earn money while studying. Even before I finished my studies I was already looking for freelance projects to participate in.

What are your favorite things about freelancing? 

It may sound typical, but I would say that my favorite thing about freelancing is the freedom that this job provides. Managing my own time, being where I want, working during the hours that I’m most productive, having time to learn new skills, not wasting time with transportation to the office, and on and on.

What's your LEAST favorite thing about freelancing?    

Loneliness. Sometimes you would appreciate having someone with whom to develop a project with since you can learn a lot from teamwork.

Looking back to when you were just getting started - what tool, tip, or resource do you wish was available to you back then? What would've made your journey into freelancing MUCH easier?    

What would have made my journey into freelancing much easier would've been not having a mental limit. At first I thought it was impossible to have this lifestyle, so I did not take it seriously and that made the transition slower.

What's your favorite way to find new clients and job opportunities? What worked the best for you?    

There are many remote work websites and I use them, but what has worked best for me so far is finding work through friends and people I know.

What are the top 5 tools you use most often in your daily work?    

Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere, Slack and Dropbox.

What would you say to someone who asks "How can I find freelance jobs if I don't have much experience yet?"    

There are freelance jobs where you don't need specific skills or experience. For example: data entry, transcription, translating, etc... 

You could start there while doing other free or low-paid freelance projects in your interests until you build a nice portfolio. 

Actually, I'm against working for free, but I have done a bunch of videos for free for my friends and I've enjoyed doing them. I took it as a hobby but now when applying for new projects, I show those videos as examples of my work and they've opened many doors for me.

In your opinion, what's the most important quality or trait for a freelancer to have?    

I think it’s almost mandatory to have self-motivation and adaptability.

What does your average Monday look like?

I wake up at 8 am, make my breakfast and a coffee, open my computer, write down everything I want to do that day and start working. 

At lunchtime, I usually eat in front of the screen while studying for an hour in an online education platform called Platzi to level up my skills in the areas that interest me.

After that I keep working until I finish all my tasks and then I get ready to go surfing, visit the city, or have coffee with my friends, depending on where I am!

On average, how many hours do you work on a regular weekday?

It depends. When I was fully employed I had to work 8 hours a day. The good part was that I could work mornings or nights, on weekdays and/or weekends, and I could take a break in between if I wanted or work on everything in one shot.

Now I work much fewer hours because I work for projects, but I would like to work more!

How do you stay motivated and focused when you don't feel like working?  

If I don't feel like working I turn off the computer and go out to play watersports. This way, when I return to work after a few hours I’m completely fresh!

What was one of the biggest challenges or roadblocks that you had to overcome in your journey to be a successful freelancer?    

Getting paid on time, the need to be continuously learning new skills, and the increased importance of competency.

Now that you've experienced all the ups and downs of being a freelancer, would you go back to a regular 9-5 job?    

Never! Sometimes, when I find it difficult to find my next freelance project, I start to think that getting an office job would be easier. One time I even applied to some office jobs, but when they called me for an interview I realized I couldn’t do it again.

If you could work from anywhere, what would be your dream work location?    

I've been working for 2 years from a Vietnamese village and I love it! Now I would like the next destination to be somewhere in South America.

Do you have any work routines or habits that boost your productivity?   

Wake up early and make a list of what things you want to get done that day. When you finish them, you are free for the rest of the day!

Working from home needs a lot of willpower because you have to establish your own routine, so at first you may feel you are on holiday and you may like it, but at the end you will start feeling guilty and unproductive, so it's important to set your working hours and be strict with yourself.

However, on the flip side, it can also happen that you work too much and you get burnt out, so you have to find out what habits work best for you and find a balance.

Your best interview tip?    

Be confident. I don't know how it is in your country, but the employment situation in Spain is ridiculous. You have to apply for hundreds of jobs until one of them contacts you, and usually it's the worst one. This causes you to start slowly undervaluing yourself.

However, when I started traveling, I noticed this doesn't happen in other countries. Usually it’s you who decides who you want to work for and for how much. The confidence I gained suddenly allowed me to find many more jobs.

What do you wish other people knew about freelancing?

I'm sure many will already know this, but freelancing has two sides, good and bad. On the negative side, you'll be leaving your comfort zone and this will unbalance you in some moments. 

You'll have to deal with terrible Wi-Fi conditions, you'll struggle finding projects at the start, etc.

On the positive side, you'll experience a freedom you’ve never had before. You'll meet new people, go to new places, and you'll grow much faster professionally. It's up to you to decide if it's worth it.

What advice would you give other people who are just getting started, but are still unsure about freelancing? 

Just try it. You won’t lose anything. On the contrary, you will have tried something new and then you’ll be more free to decide what you want for your life.    

If you could go back to your early days as a freelancer and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

As I mentioned earlier, I would tell myself not to limit my mind. When we’re growing up, we’re often taught there’s a single lifestyle, but when you go out into the world you realize that there are millions more and you can choose for yourself.

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