Digital Nomad Lifestyle – “Bet on yourself.” An interview with Mariah Althoff.

This week I had the privilege of interviewing Mariah Althoff, who teaches graphic design to creatives to help them turn it into their full-time career.  What was your inspiration for living and working nomadically? What factors inspired you to leave the stationary lifestyle and start earning money remotely?  Living a laptop lifestyle wasn’t something I […]

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This week I had the privilege of interviewing Mariah Althoff, who teaches graphic design to creatives to help them turn it into their full-time career. 

What was your inspiration for living and working nomadically? What factors inspired you to leave the stationary lifestyle and start earning money remotely? 

Living a laptop lifestyle wasn’t something I had the intention of doing initially, but as I started figuring out how to get new graphic design clients and grow my business, I quickly learned how much I hated going to in-person networking events. I literally dreaded them. 

One morning on my way to a networking event, I stopped for gas and had the epiphany that I didn’t work for myself to do things I hated. So I turned around and went home, knowing that I would figure out a different way that felt aligned with my personality and core values. From there, I found the world of online business and have never looked back! This allowed my business to grow much more organically and in a way that felt much more aligned to me and how I like to interact with potential clients, which also allowed me to travel monthly and move states 4 times over the last 6 years.

What unexpected challenges and hurdles have you encountered so far as a digital nomad?

It can be difficult to create a true in-person community when you’re always on the go or moving around. I’m so grateful I get to see friends and family during my travels, but having a solid friend group when I’m back home is often harder to cultivate and maintain. It can also be difficult balancing work, play, and rest. 

Being able to travel often is such a blessing, but it also can take a toll on my health if I don’t include enough rest. Then on top of that, still working enough to keep my business up and running while I enjoy the freedom it allows me can be a balancing act that I don’t always manage well.

Do you have any personal anecdotes or stories about the hardships you’ve faced as a location independent worker? How did you overcome them?

Setting boundaries with friends and family can often be challenging – especially when you have such a flexible work schedule. For example, this summer, I have a retreat in Los Angeles, a wedding in Ohio, a family reunion in Wisconsin, and a bachelorette party in Chicago, all within three weeks time. Although I technically have the flexibility to go to all of these things, I can’t do that without seriously neglecting my business for a few weeks and probably running myself down in the process. 

It can get difficult to say no to things like this though because friends and family often don’t think about how it might affect my work/life/health balance and just assume I can say yes to anything and everything.

Has any aspect of the lifestyle and career been easier than expected? Is there anything that you thought would be difficult but, in reality, hasn’t been?

I’ve found its way easier to charge your worth! At one point, I moved back to my home town in Iowa for a year and was able to charge double the hourly rate of my freelance design friends because I was working with clients around the country rather than being dependent on what clients are willing to pay locally.

What character traits would you say are the most important or essential for successful digital nomads?

You have to really want it. It’s a scary move to make and one that requires you to be all in and you have to want it bad enough that you stick with it when things get hard or things feel scary. But it’s 100% worth it – you just have to bet on yourself and trust that you’ll figure it out as you go!

If you were starting over from scratch today, what would you do differently?

I would invest in online courses and coaches/mentors sooner. It took me a long time to feel confident investing in my business when in actuality, investing has been the most impactful thing I’ve done for myself. My confidence would have grown faster, my support system of other online business owners would have grown faster, and I would have spent a lot less time feeling lost.

What would you say to aspiring digital nomads looking to get started on a similar career path? Any words of wisdom or cautionary tales?

Don’t let fear, perfectionism, or discomfort get in the way of stepping outside of your comfort zone and doing the dang thing. Done is better than perfect and quite frankly, it’s probably never going to be perfect. For me, the biggest key to success is staying in that discomfort for as long as I need to until it’s no longer scary or uncomfortable. And then I do it all over again. It’s all about finding that thing that pushes you outside your comfort zone and forces you to either give up or takes you to the next level. It’s not easy but it’s how you grow.

What were some digital strategies that helped with gaining visibility and exposure in the early days?

Pinterest is by far the marketing strategy that got my business off the ground. It allowed me to create blog posts and portfolio pins that brought my audience to me rather than me find them. It also allowed me to grow a following of aspiring designers who I now teach graphic design so that they can become designers themselves! 

Now that I have Pinterest management outsourced and working behind the scenes, I focus my attention on TikTok where I’ve seen a ton of traction over the last 6-months since I’ve started! My best piece of advice when it comes to social media marketing is to focus on one platform that you love until you get really good at it and it’s working for you. Then you can add on the next. 

Being on all the platforms doing all the things means you’ll probably be pretty crappy at all of them rather than really successful with one – unless you have a budget to outsource social media management!

To follow Mariah’s digital nomad journey, connect with her on Instagram or TikTok

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