Jennifer Lachs, 34
Founder, Digital Nomad Girls
This edition of “How She Does It” features a wonderfully talented female named Jennifer Lachs. She is the proud founder of Digital Nomad Girls, a freelance writer, and a web designer. Before getting to the good stuff, here’s the details of how Jennifer and I first crossed paths.
I have been a member of the Digital Nomad Girls group on Facebook for quite some time. I love the information, support, and fun that goes on in there. When I saw that DNG was holding a retreat in Las Palmas this past April, I immediately jumped on it. I really wanted to meet other digital nomad girls and see what could happen when we come together to collaborate. Jenny put on the most amazing 10 day retreat that I could have asked for. But something even better happened while I was there: Jenny and I became great friends.
As the founder of a large online community and remote freelancer, she’s got a lot to say about how far she’s come and what she’s learned along the way. Enjoy!
When did you first realize that you were destined for an online career?
I’m not sure I felt like I was destined, but after leaving my research career behind when I finished my chemistry PhD I knew that there was something else out there for me. I didn’t know what that would be but I knew I had to travel first and I’d eventually find it. I went on a round the world trip, then lived in Australia on a working holiday visa and after nearly 2 years abroad I knew I was still not ready to ‘go home and settle down’. I had heard of digital nomads and felt that this could be the perfect lifestyle for my boyfriend and I. So, we moved to Chiang Mai and it all happened pretty quickly from there.
To be honest, I should have known all along that I wasn’t cut out for a traditional career. I get bored quickly if I have to go to the same place for years on end. I love meeting people from around the world, I love traveling and I am not very good with authority. I hate nothing more than when I ask a question and the answer is “because we’ve always done it this way”.
How did you decide what kind of online career to pursue? Was it a no brainer? Or did you go through trials?
It was definitely not a no brainer. Being a chemist, I had no idea how to use those skills to get an online job. First, I wanted to get into drop shipping, but I quickly got bored of that. I researched what jobs were popular for digital nomads and it was always the same 10 or 15 jobs that came up. So I set myself a challenge to just try out all the different online jobs I could find, to see whether I liked them, to learn new skills, get experience and start making money straight away. I started freelance writing SEO articles for $7 a pop, did some translations, and got into social media and blogging. I documented my progress on my blog and reported how much money I made with each job every month. I taught myself WordPress and then started doing that on a freelance basis too.
It was definitely a lot of trial and error and I learned a lot. Now I only do writing, a bit of web design and am focussing on growing my business. It was a lot of fun to start out this way though.
When you started out on your journey to learn WordPress, what did that look like?
It was very much a trial and error type of situation. I started doing some research just to find out what all the different terms meant: hosting, domains, plugins etc. It was very confusing for me, but I slowly understood what everything meant and what I needed to be aware of. I started out with a free WordPress theme which I very quickly realised wasn’t really powerful enough for what I wanted to do. A friend of mine in Chiang Mai is a coder and he’d recommended the Divi theme to me. It’s not the cheapest theme, but it had so many advantages, mainly a very intuitive page builder and it’s really easy to use even without any coding skills. I bought it and have never looked back. I started playing around with the theme and learned how to create cool features on my website, it was so much fun.
As for resources, I read a lot of blogs and I watched YouTube tutorials. The most helpful resource of all was a Divi Facebook group that I joined. The members are so helpful and supportive, I learnt a ton from them.
For our readers who don’t know, you are the founder ofDigital Nomad Girls (DNG). When and why did you decide to start advocating for women in the digital nomad space? What made you want to start this community?
It all started completely accidentally right at the beginning of my digital nomad journey. I had just arrived in Chiang Mai and went to a lot of meetups, worked at coworking spaces, really immersed myself in the whole digital nomad scene. I noted really early on that I was one of only two girls at our coworking space of nearly 25 people. At first I just found it odd, then I noticed it was the same at meetups.
I love Facebook Groups so I decided to start my own group for location independent girls, to connect, ask questions and meet each other. At the time I had just moved to the Thai island of Koh Phangan which was not a nomad hotspot at all back then. I was quite lonely so it was awesome to connect with like-minded girls, to be able to ask them questions, and learn from them. It’s been nearly 2 years now and DNG really has taken on a life of itself. I’m hugely proud to be able to connect so many women around the world, to encourage them to work location independently and to follow their dreams.
Since starting DNG what have you learned about this lifestyle?
I’ve learned so much! I’ve learned that it’s not all palm trees and cocktails by the beach, It’s hard work, it can be lonely, and a lot of people don’t get you. But I also learned that there’s a whole movement of people out there who want to take their lives into their own hands again, people who are ready to give up the standard expectations of society, to live their own dreams. And most importantly I’ve learned that the number one thing you need in this lifestyle is your own tribe, your community of people who get you, who have your back and cheer you on. Nothing is as inspiring as meeting people who are already living the life that you’re still dreaming of.
What’s your number #1 piece of advice for people wanting to get started?
Really take a moment and think about WHY you want this. I know it sounds crazy, you want to travel, meet cool people, not be stuck in a cubicle, duh! But everyone has different reasons for wanting location independence and really understanding your WHY will help you find the right remote job (or freelance job or online business), find the right travel style for you, creating the perfect balance. I think it’s really important.
Apart from that, don’t be afraid to learn a ton of new stuff. There’s so much you’ll have to learn every single day if you want to work online, don’t get scared by this.
What are your travel plans for the rest of this year?
I am currently taking a bit of a travel break after nearly four years of moving around a lot. So I will probably be based in Las Palmas until December, with a few trips in between. I’m going to a conference for online entrepreneurs in London this winter which I am excited about and I’ll try to squeeze in a side trip to some of the Canary Islands I haven’t visited yet.
Whats up next for Digital Nomad Girls?
The next retreat will take place in Javea, Spain from September 18-27th. I’m super excited because we’re returning to Sun and Co where we held our first retreat last year. It’s always so amazing to meet a new bunch of women, to make those special new connections, to learn from each other and make new friends. There are still a few spots, so if you’d like to join us you can check all the details out on our website.
Are you interested in knowing even more about working online? Check out this amazing resource all about what goes on “Behind the Laptop”.
Want to read more inspiring stories just like this one? Check out previous editions of How She Does It here!
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