An entrepreneur’s journey is never linear, and for this digital nomad, that couldn’t be closer to the truth. Kayla Ihrig started her career moving whenever her year-long lease ended until realizing that the digital nomad lifestyle was for her.
Since then, she’s built her own business as well as honed in on her skills as a Pinterest manager, a niche and highly hireable job for those who want to be location independent.
Learn how her mentality of “if they could, I can” gave her the drive to live her dream of traveling the world while building her business.
Q: Where are you from and how did you become a digital nomad?
Kayla: I grew up and went to university in Pennsylvania, and after graduating had that itch that all digital nomads know very well. I moved around the US for different jobs but realized that this urge to drift couldn’t be quenched by moving every year at the end of my lease.
I felt very lost, and when I finally learned the term “digital nomad” I inhaled all of the information I could find online. A pivotal moment was discovering the Location Indie podcast, where the hosts talked about online businesses and the triangle of freedom (location freedom, time freedom, and financial freedom). I’d always had the itch to have my own business, and with the seed planted that an online business could be my answer to everything, my life was forever changed.
Q: Where are you now and where do you work from?
Kayla: Like many digital nomads, I’m currently in the least exotic chapter of my remote work experience. Previous workspaces have included an island in the Mexican Caribbean, a bus winding through the mountains of Peru, and even a hospital in the Netherlands alongside a friend who was giving birth.
Currently, I live in Groningen, Netherlands and I work from my studio apartment, or I co-work with one of the few people in my covid bubble. I will cherish the day when I can work from a moving train, a bus terminal, or even just a cafe again! I am my most energized and productive in energetic workspaces.
Q: What is the idea behind Writing From Nowhere?
Kayla: Even though I had no idea what kinds of online businesses existed, at the beginning of my journey I was very drawn to blogging. I knew some people were making a lot of money with it, and it felt like the most flexible type of structure to build. Still niche-less, I decided to pick a brand name that reflected that: Writing From Nowhere.
The exact definition of nowhere is actually “not in or to any place,” and as someone drifting around the world trying to find the ultimate form of freedom, “nowhere” sounded like a beautiful tribute to belonging to the process.
Naturally, I did have to pick some topic to begin blogging about, so I chose sustainable living. I’m in year three of blogging now, and I’ve pivoted to focus on remote working. I want to be that digital “friend next door” for other people who saw lots of success stories online but didn’t know where to begin. Maybe in a few years, I’ll be focusing on something new. Writing From Nowhere will never be done evolving.
Q: How can aspiring digital nomads leverage Pinterest to reach financial independence?
Kayla: For aspiring digital entrepreneurs who want to build a brand, Pinterest should be an early priority. Learn how Pinterest works, optimize all of your content there and it will drive traffic for years to come.
Anyone who’s not interested in building a brand can always work for one. There’s a steady demand for Pinterest managers; that’s currently my breadwinning income stream while I spend 2021 setting myself up for passive income in 2022.
Q: What are some lessons you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
Kayla: The hardest lessons for me to learn have all been the clichés: keep going even when it doesn’t look like it’s working; hard work is the shortcut, etc.
The beginning of my journey was so fueled by success stories online that I expected my success to look like the people I had learned from online. It took a long time for me to accept that they were the exceptions and I was the norm: my success would not happen in 3 months, or 6, or 12.
For better or worse, this shifted my fuel for blogging from motivation to unhappiness. I was a 25-year-old part-time nanny with one failed blog already behind me and a current blog that cost money instead of making money. It wasn’t sexy or inspirational. I stubbornly believed that if that “if they could, I can.” It became one of my business mantras.
I blogged for 2 years before I made any money, and I only “made it” online because I became really good at Pinterest and people started asking me for help.
It was by accident that I stumbled into Pinterest management and coaching, but it quickly became my full-time income and I was able to quit nannying and really strategize passive income.
My blog didn’t make passive income in the first year, or second, and it only made a little passive income in the third year (2020); I’m talking about $400, but I spent more than that in 2020 on website expenses, so I technically still ended up on the hole. Experience has made me more realistic, both about the outcome but also about the sweat equity buy-in.
2021 is year 4, and it’s the first year I’m really strategized, focused, and undeterrable from the finish line of passive income, even though it will take years.
Q: What are the challenges and benefits of running your own business while traveling?
Kayla: Running an online business while living the digital nomad lifestyle switches between pure bliss and pure stress. I’m convinced that the sliding scale is almost exclusively managed by your organization.
Truthfully, there’s probably no greater teacher of how to manage our time and our energy than this lifestyle. It’s very responsibility-based.
Everything is on you as a digital nomad. If you left your laptop charger behind at the hostel and missed a deadline (been there), that’s on you. If you lose a client because you started spending less and less time on their work, that’s on you. For better or worse, you are the architect of your own success or destruction.
It’s more extreme than the 9-5, but every stressor is put immediately into perspective. At a 9-5, when something in your workday doesn’t go your way, you may go home and reach for Netflix and a pizza to self-soothe. Instead, imagine walking outside, eating dinner on a lawn chair in someone’s kitchen that serves as a pop-up restaurant during mealtimes, walking home under the sunset while monkeys run through the trees and chatter above you.
It can be completely surreal. That’s how this lifestyle keeps you awake. Everything is put into perspective because of how saturated the experience of travel is. It’s very sobering. I think that’s a big shock for many new digital nomads, and you can become very raw realizing how much you used to sleepwalk through your life.
Q: What are your future plans as a digital nomad?
Kayla: My business goals are plentiful, but the digital nomad plans are still pretty unformed for the year. My husband is quitting his job in July so we can work full-time on Writing From Nowhere together, and we’re hoping to spend September in Spain as our sort of honeymoon of finally both being self-employed together.
Southern Europe and Southeast Asia are on my mind a lot. Given the cumulative disappointments of the past year, I don’t allot much energy to specifics right now.
Q: Do you have any tips for someone who wants to be a digital nomad?
Kayla: There are a number of helpful steps to take if you want to become a digital nomad, but my best tip is this: use your transition to do more than just travel full-time. Make it a full metamorphosis and intentionally come out lighter, happier, more grounded, and mentally healthier.
Reduce your needs and critically think about what actually results in joy or progress. Basically, you should ruthlessly Marie Kondo your life.
If you don’t, a few months or a year into your digital nomad experience, you’ll be just as unhappy as you were at your 9-5. Use this shift as an opportunity to set the record straight for how you want to live your life.
Where to next? Find flexible month-to-month rentals across the globe on Anyplace.