11 Painful Steps In My Journey To Work From Anywhere

My Journey To Work From Anywhere
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Last updated May 14, 2020

Back in 2013, I was at the height of my career in terms of salary. With salary and bonus, I was making around $140,000 per year.

I was 28, working as an energy trader and valuations specialist at a large utility company. I also had a side hustle selling investment and insurance products that were earning around $40,000 per year.

But I hated every moment of my office job. I felt so trapped. Every day, I would dread going into the office. And the worst part was, I couldn’t pinpoint why.

It wasn’t a stressful job. The company gave me a very generous six weeks of vacation per year, and I never had to work more than eight hour days. My boss and colleagues were easy to get along with, and we would go to social outings together.

I wasn’t particularly interested in energy though, and never really felt a passion for it.

It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted.

Today I’m finally at a place where I’m happy with my career and can work from anywhere. But I made a lot of mistakes getting here, and maybe the steps I took can help you learn.

Step #1: Identified The Wrong Problem

I had convinced myself that the root of my unhappiness was that I had to go into an office every day.  After much thought, I decided to quit my job and focus on building my side business of getting more clients for my investments and insurance business.

After working about a year and building my client base to over 80 people, I still felt trapped, but in a different way. I started to think about the long-term future. As you’re building a client list, you have to be in the city where you started for the rest of your life, and that was a commitment I didn’t want to continue.

Feeling dejected and unsure of what to do, I looked back to corporate life. I completed my Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 2016. It was the hardest exam I ever wrote, and was relieved to pass it.

Step #2: Changed my environment

I thought that maybe it was the city that was making me unhappy. After working as a financial advisor at a large bank, I decided to move to Vancouver, which in my opinion is the most beautiful city in Canada.

After applying to about 30 jobs, I got a job as an investment wholesaler and moved to Vancouver. I didn’t like the work at all, but I loved the city and the people I worked with, plus the company was a smaller boutique firm, and it treated us well.

Step #3: Crash and Burn

After about a year, everything started going wrong at work. A much larger company bought the small boutique firm I worked at. They merged us with its existing employees. Tensions were high, and the pressure and stress were increased on us significantly. Morale was low, and management handled the changes poorly. People were fired and quitting left and right.

The company then proceeded to cut our pay by 40%. This was when I knew it was time to go.

Step #4: Learned About Digital Nomads

Around this time, I had read up on the digital nomad community, and it fascinated me. It was about people who had given up the traditional 9-5 lifestyle and could work from anywhere around the world from a laptop.

Even when work was going well, I fantasized every day about doing starting something for myself. Vancouver was an exciting place to be in, with a vibrant tech startup scene. I began to dive deeper into the tech world and meeting more people in the industry.

I had taken a break from traveling for awhile and thought I would be settling down. But things with my girlfriend at the time didn’t work out. I went on a trip to Africa with some friends, and it started my love for traveling once again.

Step # 5: Decided I Wanted to Learn How To Code

One of the more popular career paths in the digital nomad community is in coding, more specifically as a web developer. It’s easy to see why: it pays well, is in extremely high demand, you can work remotely, and it’s relatively quick to learn and get started.

The reason coding is quick to learn because there are now courses called coding bootcamp. These are 10-week programs where you live, eat, and breathe code. By the end of it, you will be an employable and sought after developer making a decent salary.

I started trying these practice coding sessions online and realized I enjoyed it. I liked creating things, something that none of my previous jobs in finance had.

I decided to bite the bullet, pay $10,000, and got accepted into Lighthouse Labs, the best bootcamp in Vancouver. I quit my finance career shortly after.

Step #6: Travel Asia Round 1

I went to Indonesia before I started the bootcamp, and it was awesome. While I was there, I met a lot of other digital nomads and got to see all the exciting things they were doing. I made a list of what I wanted from a career:

  • To be able to work from anywhere
  • High-paying job
  • Passion and interest in the work
  • Highly in-demand work with sought after skills

I was excited because my new coding career would provide all these things.

Step # 7: Attended a Coding Bootcamp

I went to the coding bootcamp, refreshed, and motivated to learn and become a great coder.

The course was a lot harder than I thought. It was a 10-week intensive program, and the hardest education I had ever received.

I finished the program but decided to take some time to rest and travel again before starting my new career. Luckily I had a lot of savings and was able to do so.

Step # 8: Started writing finance articles and coding apps

One of my goals before starting my coding career was I wanted to find other ways to make money using just my laptop. I would tap into my existing profession in finance and quickly found a client doing freelance writing for a finance publication. At this time, I didn’t take it too seriously. I just wanted a little extra money while I was traveling.

I was 100% focused on my coding career. The thing I loved about coding was creating something from nothing. While I was traveling, I came up with two ideas that I coded from scratch, mostly to get some experience for finding a job when I got back home.

I coded a laundry business app that operated like Uber with automated pickups and deliveries, and also a pickup hockey game scheduler and payment system.

By the end of my trip, I was ready to go back to Vancouver, refreshed, and eager to start working.

Step # 9: Get Hired

I got a job within one week of arriving back in Canada. I was an intern web developer at a cybersecurity startup. Even though it was the least amount of money I’ve ever made, it was the most excited I’ve ever been to start a new career. Plus, I found the cybersecurity subject matter interesting.

After finishing my internship, the company hired me on as a full-time employee making $50,000/year. I was elated. Although it paled in comparison to what I made before, I knew that it if you were good at what you did, you could get to $100,000/year in a few years. And it would check off all the boxes of what I was looking for in my journey to work from anywhere.

Step # 10: Get Laid Off

Just one month after getting my full-time status at the startup firm, my boss pulled me aside. He told me he had to lay me off, and they didn’t receive the grant money or investors that they were hoping for. It was only a four-person company at the time, and they had to cut down to two to increase its run rate and buy it more time before going bankrupt.

I was stunned. I’ve never been let go of any job before, for any reason. I took a few days to myself, to think about my next steps. Do I want to get another job? Start something on my own? Travel again? I wasn’t sure. I had worked so hard to get that job and spent so much time and money. Now, I didn’t know what to do.

After a few days of thinking, I was sure of one thing. I didn’t want to work for anyone ever again.

Step # 11: Start My New Writing Career

I pulled up that same goals list I had before, and added to it at the very top in bold letters: “Work For Myself.”

I was fortunate that through all of this, I had kept up with my finance writing and was still earning an income from freelancing. I decided I was going to apply myself 100% to that and see where it takes me and if I would be able to work from anywhere.

I built a personal website, started doing more work for the existing client I had, and found a couple of other clients to work for. To my surprise, people liked my writing. Although I read a lot, I never thought of myself as a great writer. I slowly started to develop a passion for writing, and today, I love it!

I don’t view my clients as my “boss” but as my partners. I’m not reliant on any one of them and enjoy working with all of them.

A Word On Employment And Bootcamps

I’m not putting down having regular employment at all, but I genuinely feel that some people are just not meant to work in an office setting and that I am one of them. I met a lot of people who were perfectly happy with a stable job and career.

I don’t regret the coding bootcamp I took either and going down that path. I think coding is a great career path, especially if you want to start quickly and to be able to work from anywhere. It’s incredible what I’ve seen a ten-week education was able to do for people with no prior experience in coding.

I’ve seen bartenders make $80,000 after a couple of years they attended the bootcamp. There was even a story of a guy who went from being homeless to earning a six-figure salary shortly after bootcamp.

Going through all of these experiences also helped me pinpoint exactly what I wanted out of my career.

Final Thoughts

You don’t have to go through all these painful lessons as I did to work from home. Follow the tips on this website, and you’ll be well on your way to getting that freedom you always wanted, and to work from anywhere.

Today, I feel stable enough to take off and travel the world while writing full time for my clients, and this blog and have never felt more excited about my career.

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Work from home in Canada - 11 steps

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<a href="https://wealthawesome.com/author/christopher-liew/" target="_self">Christopher Liew, CFA</a>

Christopher Liew, CFA

Creator of Wealth Awesome

A Canadian CFA Charterholder with 11 years of finance experience and the creator of Wealthawesome.com. Read about how he quit his 6-figure salary career to travel the world here.

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