Alexandra Gorova

How a chance email led Alexandra to a dream career on the other side of the world
December 20, 2019

Tell us a bit about your journey so far, from what you were doing before self-employment, to now

My name is Alexandra, and I'm turning 30. Usually girls don't tell their age, but I don't mind. I'm from Ukraine and I’m living in Kiev at the moment, but for the past seven years, it's been Netherlands. Before that, Greece, before that, a little bit in the US and UK, so a little bit all over the world.

But the longest has been in the Netherlands, and there for the past four years I've been doing a corporate job, you know, 9 to 5 in an office (well, 9 to 5, more like 8 to 8!), doing event management for a big corporate hotel; organizing all different types of events, contracts, negotiations, clients, phone calls, thousands of emails per day. I mean, you probably know the drill.

After coming back from long-term traveling, beginning in 2019, I was like, “Okay, I'm not doing this anymore. I'm done.” I stayed for another half a year doing the same job, but constantly thinking, okay, I have to change it. I have to change it, I can’t do it anymore. And it was, I think that it was November, 2019 when I was like, okay, I'm quitting.

And I decided that in the morning as I entered the office and I realized “I don't want to enter these offices anymore. I went straight to my manager and I said Look, I have to go. I'm quitting. Sorry. Like, but that's done for me. And they're like, Oh, so you found a new job. Where are you going? I'm like, No, I don't have a new job, but I also can't do this one anymore.

And I dunno, it's probably the Dutch mentality; they were all shocked. Like, how is it that you don't have a new job anymore? You are quitting and either have anything else? How are you going to pay your bills? How are you going to leave, what are you going to do? I just knew that for me, it was done and I didn't care what will happen.

I tried applying for different jobs. They didn't hire me. So I was like, Well, okay. So that's when I decided I want to move from the Netherlands, go travel a little bit and try to set myself up as a, like in the digital moment lifestyle. And I think it worked pretty well. I'm not where I want to be yet, but I'm happier with where I am now.

At the moment I'm in online marketing, copywriting, SEO, all that drill, like having different clients and doing different projects for them. So I would say online marketing, digital marketing is my main focus and my main occupation in the moment.

How did you learn everything you needed to know to do the work you're doing now?

I was learning pretty much as I went. My four years in the university didn't really bring a lot of knowledge to me, and that was international tourism and hospitality. So, my attitude to study: you have to have the knowledge, but you also have to know how to put it in practice.

So I was like, I have to find a job and, just do it in real life, and not just read about it in the books and following the courses. So, as probably a lot of other people I've been inspired by other creators, other digital nomads that are out there in the world, they have Instagram accounts and all the social media platforms that I was following, and I was like, yeah, I also want to do this.

Somebody once to gave me some advice; only follow the advice of those who are already where you want to be, those who made it, who are already there and they know like, that's what you want to do ask them how to do it.

So I thought, okay, who are the people that inspired me the most? There was one particular couple on Instagram, and I contacted them and sent them an email. I explained to my situation, I told them how inspired I was by their story. I offered my services to do some administrative tasks for them and whatever they need my help with in exchange for teaching me online marketing, digital marketing, and all the background story, I guess, of how to make it and the whole process of living this lifestyle.

It took a while before I got a reply and it took a couple of tries trying to reach them, but at the end, they answered me and we had a phone call and I sent my CV and my portfolio, and six months later, we’re still working together.

They took me in as a part of the team and I'm managing, well, I'm helping to manage their website, doing SEO, also a little bit of first steps in UI/UX design, and also quite a lot of analytical stuff working with the Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, all those things. And they helped me learn basically everything. And I had a real website to practice everything I was learning on their website.

I did a couple of courses, but I would say I gained the main knowledge from putting it into practice right away. And let’s say one book I read about it; that's SEO 2019, just to get, you know, your basics, like the terminology, what it means, and that helped a lot. But the rest just came with just by doing it.

What's your favourite thing about being self-employed?

I think the best thing and the first thing that comes to mind, and I think a lot of people will say it when you ask them this question is independence, freedom. You are not locked to any specific location, not an office or your house or your country or your city. You can be anywhere and do your job from anywhere, and that is the best part by far.

Also making your own schedule! I mean, I can work at night, I can work in the weekends, I can work in the morning, whenever I have the time. And if I feel like working on a Sunday and I don't have any plans, I'll do it. And if some friends offered me to go out and do some fun things on a Monday afternoon, I can still do it and just work in the evening instead. And that's just beautiful.

As I mentioned, coming from a corporate job where I had to commute one and a half hours, one way, five times a week, it's just, I can't even describe how good it feels to make your own schedule and to be able to open your laptop at home in your bedroom or in the cafe or anywhere, and just start working. That's it, hundred percent.

On the other hand, what's the hardest part of being self-employed?

I like people, I like socializing. I consider myself an extrovert and I would say the social part is the one that I'm missing. You kinda, you can have it both ways though, I guess. So once you are getting into this digital nomad style or like self-employed, thanks to your website or to other apps or communities on Facebook, you can meet people who are also doing it and maybe join some co-working spaces.

But I haven't done it at the moment, and there are days, especially like this year, you know, with the quarantine and self-isolation and everything, it has been particularly hard.

I think the first three months [of this year] from March to June, I stayed home most of the days just working behind the computer. It can be fun when everything's alright with our world, you know, and the normal situation. But I have to admit sometimes it can be quite lonely. And especially if you are used to being around people.

And the other thing that comes to mind is, again, I think it's like self discipline too. Nobody's there to tell you, okay, you have to work on this and this those are your tasks. And you know that nobody's there to check the quality of the job you've done. You are your own boss. So I have to set my own goals, I have to make sure that I get the job done and I'm not just procrastinating most of the days doing nothing and like lunching in my pajamas all day.

So you have to keep yourself motivated and disciplined and that can be hard sometimes, but not if you enjoy doing what you're doing.

What's been a high point of your self-employed career so far?

I'll just answer with the first thing that comes in mind: it’s just working with the people that I'm working with. Like this couple I've been following them for, I think, four years online. And they've always been like, you know, those perfect people on the internet that you look up to them and you think, Oh my God, they have everything figured out (which they don’t, by the way, they're still human beings). But, you know, reaching out to them and getting a reply, finding a job, working with them for like over half a year now. I started, let's say as, what's the word, an intern? Like a free intern, but that lasted maybe only first month, maybe two months. And after that, we just felt so happy working with each other, that they offered me a salary, and I have my percentage from the brand deals and collaborations that we are doing.

So, you know, from that moment on it’s just been always going up. So that's the thing that I'm happy the most.

And, you know, I didn't think about it like that when I contacted them, I was just like, what do I have to lose? Nothing! If I get a rejection, well, I got like 20 rejections from all the employers I applied to, and I mean, you know, whatever that would be just the other ones, but they didn't.

What does your average daily work schedule look like?

It changes. I don't have a routine, that's for sure, and that's one of the reasons why I also like doing what I'm doing. But I would say most of the days I will start working not sooner than like 1:00 or 2:00 PM. I am more productive in the afternoons, and the freedom of being able to do so and carry on working like in the afternoon to later in the night is just beautiful.

I need the time in the morning to wake up and to slowly start my day. So that is the time that is dedicated for me. And I just take my time, you know, I'll have breakfast, shower, workout, and all that. And once that's done, it's usually about 1:00 PM. I will open my laptop and, the people that I'm working with, they are based in Bali for the past six, seven months, so I have to calculate also the time difference.

So Bali is five hours ahead, and a lot of times I'll wake up and I will already have some messages and tasks that I need to do. And I'll check that, and if there's anything urgent, I might start working straight away and then move my morning routine into the afternoon, but that depends, every day is different.

I try maybe once or twice a week to get out and go with my laptop to the cafe, to just, you know, change of scenery, maybe meet some other people, have something different to do. And that's especially the days when I have a specific project to get done, because then the chances of me procrastinating are less, you know, I'll just go in the cafe, I'll set a timer, I'll have like two or three hours, Okay, you have to get this done and I'll work nonstop until that's done. And then I'm like going home with this feeling of accomplishment.

What advice would you give your past self to help with your self-employed career?

Easily. Do it sooner.

Because I waited way too long, in my opinion. But that comes, I think, from self doubt, like all those questions; will I be able to do it? Am I good enough? Do I have enough knowledge? Who will hire me? WHO will hire me? Because I wanted to do it, for years, years, that it has been on my mind over and over and over again.

But I've been living in the Netherlands and life is expensive there. You have to take into account you know, all those; paying rent, paying insurance, buying groceries, your, I dunno transportation, and also having some fun along the way. So you can't just quit your job and have this gap of, if you are lucky, just a few months, but you don't know, it can be also half a year to a year before you will find a new job and be able to make your own income.

So that is very scary, especially when you have obligations to pay bills coming in. I was really scared to do it. I wasn't like sure if I would be able to do so. And then I went traveling for like four months and I met so many people from all over the world that were living the lifestyle that I wanted to live.

And I was asking them all these questions and, you know, the funny thing, they were also scared! And they were still scared to that day. When you were already doing it for a few years, they were like, yeah, I mean, I have the job now, but I don't know if I'll have it tomorrow.

That will always be the case, but I mean, is it worth it? Hundred percent. So, you know, after hearing all those stories and other people’s experiences, I got more excited and motivated and I was like, okay, maybe it's not that scary.

But I have to say, like with the quarantine, I went to visit my family in Ukraine, in Kiev, and that's where I've been staying for the past half a year.

And the reason that I've been able to switch from the corporate self-employed style is the possibility of being home, living in my family house, not having to pay rent or any other bills for that matter. So my only expenses were, you know, my food, groceries, and meeting friends and I don't know, cafes and restaurants and stuff like that. For the rest I had zero bills to pay.

So that gave me freedom to try something new; I had nothing to lose. I'm like, I can live in Ukraine for maybe like €200 a month or €100 month, you know, just paying for my groceries and food. And, I could make that money easily. And that's such a huge weight off my shoulder and that feeling that you are scared.

I was like, if I ever gonna do it, that is the time. So I just went full on, dive in and it's doing well for me.

What are you working on at the moment; what are your current goals?

So I'm not planning on staying in the Ukraine forever. My plan was to move to Bali before, you know, all the quarantine and lockdown. So that is still the plan, and the people that I'm working with, they're also based in Bali and we actually haven't met in real life yet. So that is the plan.

And I still want to be a part of their team. I still think that I have, like so much to learn from. And we just, well, they just hired two more SEO specialists, web developers, and they can teach me so many new things. And as you mentioned, UI and UX design is also something I want to try and hopefully I can test it out on the website that I'm working on.

So just, you know, by little things. And Adobe XD, I think that's the program that I started learning. I can't even remember the name, but I'm learning it! And I know that a lot of designers are working with it. So that is something also on my to do list, maybe Adobe Illustrator, I’ll see.

But, you know, it's hard to make plans at the moment when everything in the world is so uncertain. I certainly thought I won't be in Ukraine at this moment, but here I am. And, you know, I'm not complaining, it's just the situation in the world, but for now I'm happy where I am. And I just want to keep progressing in the same field and keep learning more about digital marketing, SEO, UI/UX. I was thinking whether I want to go like fully self-employed and not to be working in the team, but again, I love being with other people and I love having people to chat with and to have some sort of remote colleagues. So at the moment, I'm just happy where I am and we'll see how it will turn out, Once the world goes back to normality.

Do you have any helpful resources you could recommend?

Well, the book that inspired me to start all this is by Tim Ferris, The Four Hour Work Week. That is the book that I started reading while traveling and actually met a lot of other travelers who are also reading that book. So I think it kinda is a must read for a lot of travelers. So I loved it. I absolutely loved it.

He gives so many valuable information and advice in there. And, as I mentioned before, the advice that I got that was from this book, when he said, don't be afraid to contact people that you are inspired by just send them an email. You have nothing to lose; if you get a reply, it's a win, if you didn't get a reply, you didn't lose anything.

So that was also like one of the reasons and motivations when I send my email to that couple. And once to set your mind on a particular field you want to work in, I don't know, marketing or design, I dunno, research, some books. To have a solid foundation is important. It's a, you know, it's a base that you can build on. And yet again, practice it. Don't just base your knowledge on theory. Yes, it's important, but practice is as important as having a good foundation. And I don't know, like just Google books that can help.

And what I've tried recently is Skillshare. I know there are also a lot of like Udemy has a lot of great free courses or some of them are super inexpensive. I think you can have a course on Udemy for like, $20 and it's a 40 hour course. It's good just to have your basics. I'm not saying that you can limit yourself to those resources, but it's good to start with, and after that, you will know, at least if that's something you want to deepen yourself in, or if it’s something that completely doesn't resonate with your interest and you will move on to something completely different. But just test it out, play around, give yourself time to make mistakes, to learn new things, and, you know, you will find something for sure that will inspire you and motivate you to work.

Note: Alex has temporary disabled her Instagram, so if you'd like to get in touch you can reach her at ✉️

Alexandra Gorova

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