Copywriting in Paradise: Meet Cyril
Based in Calabarzon, Philippines, Cyril is that digital nomad we all envy. Living in a country with over 7,000 lush tropical islands, her life really is like what you see in stock photos. One can frequently find her crushing blog articles while sitting under a palm tree on an endless, white, sandy beach. But paradise still comes with its own challenges.
I sat down with Cyril on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines to learn more:
How long have you been working remotely?
Around 5 years! Yesterday, I received an email from Upwork telling me that it was my 5th year anniversary working on the platform. In that time, I've worked with various clients ranging from travel agencies to non-fiction writers.
How do you make money? What’s your brand?
I write for internet marketing companies and individuals who don’t have the time or skills to produce their own content. I mostly produce guidebooks, blog posts, and other web-based literature.
At first I didn’t know how to define my brand and services because I was afraid of limiting my potential client base. However, I got to a point where I realized that I wanted to focus on writing mainly travel-related materials.
Discovering and exploring new countries is one of my biggest passions in life, so I wanted to spend more time writing about those experiences. I started by specializing in travel guidebooks and blogs. It was going well, but I was still receiving requests from past clients to work on other projects. For example, a previous client once offered to double my rate to write an article about Adult Dog Training.
I believe its important to find a specific niche as a copywriter, but it can be hard to turn away certain projects, especially when it pays well. So, I decided the best strategy would be to offer a wide range of services, but select only the projects that fit my personal scope of travel writing. I will still take on non-related projects but only if my pipeline allows it.
Getting more projects done is not necessarily more productive for your personal brand if it distracts you from writing about your specific interests. That’s why I’m trying to find a good balance in accepting projects that are necessary for me to make money and those that will grow my brand as a Travel Writer.
How did you decide what to charge for your services?
Like most freelancers, I started by offering my services at a really low rate. Since I’m not a native English speaker, it was a little difficult to find my first gig. However, by building an extensive profile and portfolio on Upwork, I eventually landed my first client! I worked hard at delivering quality content so that I would receive the best reviews and recommendations. From that point, my profile rating and portfolio began to promote itself and continued to get me the gigs I needed.
Walk me through your day. How do you prioritize your tasks?
Many people think that working remotely means having the time and freedom to do whatever one wants. Sure, sometimes I have the opportunity to work on a crystal clear beach while sipping on a piña colada, but that’s not always my reality. Dealing with distractions are typically one of my biggest challenges. Writing blog posts on a beach chair under a palm tree seems like a great idea until the restaurant’s wifi disconnects every 15 minutes or friendly foreigners try to start a conversation when I’m focusing on a deadline.
When I have the luxury of exploring a new place, I try to enjoy the day with some sightseeing and other daytime activities first. Then when night comes around, I make sure to shut out all distractions and work until I sleep.
I definitely find it is easier when I work from home and not when traveling. Normally I’ll sit down at my computer at nine, and write for as long as I feel productive. I typically don’t put too much pressure on a specific schedule. I prefer to work when I feel the most motivated, and as long as I meet my deadline, it doesn’t really matter what hours I work.
I choose to work away from an office mainly because I have a hard time dealing with the pressure of office politics. I much prefer working on my own. So as much as possible, I avoid accepting hourly tasks. I usually get paid by the number of words I produce and this allows me to set my own deadlines.
I work almost every day, but still have plenty of time to socialize and focus on other interests. Most of my employers are very considerate and easy to communicate with. They are typically fine with me taking a personal day during the scope of a project as long as I meet the agreed deadline.
What's the best way for someone to get started with remote work?
1) Outline what you are good at and what interests you
2) Research and develop additional skills you need
3) Get started!
One of the best things about working online is that you can be whoever you want to be. I don’t have a writing degree or any formal copyrighting training but still decided to take the plunge into the freelance world. You just have to believe yourself and take the first step!
While some employers may ask for a resume, most simply ask for a portfolio, so build one! If you haven’t been hired to do copywriting in the past, find an old essay or thesis paper from college and use that. If you want to be a writer, create a blog showcasing your writing skills; if you want to be a web designer, build a website or two; or if you want to be a graphic designer, produce as many designs as you can.
There are tons of freelance opportunities and directories online, you just need to get your name out there.
How did you get started with remote work?
My interest in working remotely started when I was studying computer programming in college. I’ve always been interested in technology and knew that computers would continue to be a big part of my future. One of my professors told me about a colleague who made money online through oDesk (now known as Upwork). I did some research of my own and immediately knew it was something I needed to be a part of.
I was initially looking for web design gigs but noticed that copywriting jobs were in higher demand. I applied to a few and finally got my first gig! Over the next two years in college, I began my freelance career and transitioned from computer programming to copywriting full time.
What excites you the most about working remotely and being able to work from anywhere?
I believe one’s 20s should be spent doing things that are exciting and worth loving. It’s fine if one wants to spend those years working in an office making money and saving for the future; but, not if it means sacrificing opportunities and relationships that one can never appreciate again. For me, it's all about experiencing what the world has to offer. I like being my own boss, working at my own pace, exploring new places I haven’t been to before, and meeting new interesting people everyday. That’s what life should be about!
What is your 3-5 year plan?
Like I always say, I LOVE doing freelance but it is not necessarily something that I plan to do for the rest of my life. I’d really like to own my own business one day. Since I’m good at copywriting, I’ve been brainstorming about opening my own digital marketing agency. My experience in freelance over the past five years has connected me with a lot of great clients and writers, so I’d like to leverage my network to work on bigger travel focused projects.
What has been your favorite country so far in your travels?
Thailand, mainly because of the food. 😃
Advice for other remote workers?!
Limit your distractions! Close all your social media tabs while working and thank me later!