When people contact me to find out about my long-distance course to build a portable career, they always say “I want to build an online career to be able to live wherever I want”. It actually makes sense to think that a career that develops exclusively online is ideal for those pursuing a mobile life. After all, nowadays we can connect to the Internet almost in every corner of the planet.
Moreover, if we make Internet our exclusive working environment, we save ourselves the whole tiring process of finding new contacts locally, making ourselves known in our new city, understanding the local reality to be able to work.
Unfortunately, however, not many professions can be carried out exclusively online and produce a satisfactorily income. Those that do usually stem from a previous solid work offline or from a vast and efficient network of contacts that takes a long time to build.
Experience has taught me that developing both the on and offline side of a career is the best approach to maintain it sound and healthy. It is also important to learn when and how to shift focus on one or the other according to the situation.
Whenever we relocate, we must rebuild a social circle, learn how things work, find our place in the new routine and make sure that the whole family (if we have one) settles in well. This takes time, and it is usually the task of the one member in the family who does not hold the official working contract in the country. A lot of time-consuming tasks and an overall sense of suspension suck up a lot of energy at the beginning, hardly leaving any time to maintain a decent rhythm in our portable careers.
This is the time when we’ll appreciate the online side of our job: The work carried out on the Internet is not affected by changes in climate, culture and circumstances; it allows us to give time to our practical and emotional adaptation, while carrying on our professional activity via our computer.
However, as we saw, few are the jobs that provide an abundant and steady income only through the net. And this is why the offline side of our job must be put on hold only for the time needed to settle down and understand how the market works. Once this is done, it is always wise to find a way to work locally and in presence, so that the online work can find a suitable complement.
I am talking about an ideal situation where we have no visa limitations and are able to handle our work at our taste. This means for instance, to be in a position to drastically change our approach and our offer, if we realise that it does not fit the new market. Or to keep on developing our online market, while we find new and creative ways to stimulate interest in our local surroundings.
I always like to give this example: you teach your native language both online and in presence. You relocate to a country where there is no interest in learning it (for whatever reason): while you keep on boosting your online market, you have to find a new and creative way to be present in the local market (for instance teaching your native language, but focussing on something that can interest the local market – gastronomy, art, cinema, writing or interview skills, whatever you feel you can offer depending on your professional experience and expertise. When you have found the right channel and need time to develop it, you can again slow down your work online.
Many professionals who have a mobile life, divide themselves between an online and an offline career, usually putting skills and passions in the online one, and approaching new professional scenarios locally (which also includes training). The advantage of mobility is that we get in touch with a variety of working systems, approaches and habits, and while it is not always easy to maintain a balance within this diversity, being exposed to it make us richer, more broad-minded and solid professionals.
Claudia Landini, November 2016