Today we have the guru of being a virtual assistant with us - Hannah Dixon! A virtual assistant (VA) provides administrative, technical, or creative assistance to clients, and who better to tell us more about becoming a virtual assistant than the person who trains virtual assistants!
Tell us more about yourself.
I’m from the UK and have been travelling on and off solo since the age of 16. Now nearing 30, it’s been 8 consecutive years. I’m currently living in Bangkok.
For a long time I jumped from job to job, I probably have the most random (but impressive) resume I know of. I’d just stay long enough to earn a flight to my next extended vacation until I discovered work exchange platforms.
I did the obligatory SE Asia backpacker loop at a young age and then spent around 4 years working on farms, learning to be a dog musher, gardening, learning everything I could about permaculture and living in intentional communities.
Topped off with a year working in a New York fragrance counter in Macy’s and a while working in a high-end fashion house just off of Savile Row, London, I had so many diverse experiences during this time.
I then lived for many months in Budapest, Sicily and more recently a year in Sardinia before Bangkok, just 6 months ago.
How long have you been a digital nomad? How did you get started?
I began my digital career 4 years ago. I was briefly stopped at home in London when I met my business partner Valentina. The concept of working online was new to me, but I embraced it fully.
I worked for a while freelancing as well as working for a startup as a copywriter. My first gig was a $5 job on upwork - it was masterfully written and I was delighted with my first five bucks earned all by myself.
Valentina and I soon decided to go do it alone and founded our first company in SEO and web development. I could tell you it was smooth sailing from there, but it certainly would be a lie. Neither of us had run a business before, that was apparent.
The best part of it all is that we were forced to learn quickly - we both knew that going back to any kind of average job that restricted our freedom was not an option. We had to make it work.
As that company moved on, I soon fell into a role I had not even considered. Many of our website clients needed more than just a website, they needed ongoing support in so many other things. I began taking on tasks, sometimes I knew what I was doing, other times I’d say yes, learn all I could and implement.
Recording videos in Porto Pino, Sardinia
No time like the present to learn right? I soon discovered there was a name for what I had become: A Virtual Assistant. I embraced this wholly and got pretty darn good at what I do, I now am an online business manager for a few select clients and train aspiring virtual assistants.
If becoming a Virtual Assistant is of interest to you, I highly recommend grabbing a spot on my upcoming 5 Day VA Challenge. It’s a 5 day intensive to help you understand if this career is an option for you, and if so, sets you on the right path for success. It’s also a great place to just meet like minded people!
What gave you the idea of creating Digital Nomad Kit/Virtual Assistant course? Tell us more about it too.
What started as a side project soon became our main focus. We decided we wanted to enable a route to location independence for other people who might not realize there were other trajectories they could take.
On top of that I wanted to push for a more high-end type of virtual assistance and veer people away from platforms like Upwork. I place a lot of importance on helping people realize their value and in turn attracting clients who value them.
DNK is a place for people to learn the required skills to earn money remotely as a Virtual Assistant. I am investing my time currently into building the most badass comprehensive VA training out there.
- To set the standards high (so many sub standard virtual assistants out there)
- To offer one of the easiest professional routes for newbie nomads to start earning well.
- To offer a hiring platform where virtual assistants and recruiters can meet each other by toggling their exact requirements and skillsets and simultaneously know that each virtual assistant is already trained to a high standard.
I don’t tend to settle for less and don’t expect others to either, high quality and high end virtual assistance is paramount in this venture.
Teaching a student in-person in Calasetta, Sardinia
Tell us more about the gun to head in Laos story!
Baha! Yeah that was scary. So back when Vang Vieng was a party town, a friend and I decided to go check out some caves. We were told they were 7km from town and we decided to cycle there, you know, to throw in something healthy after days of partying.
After about 2km we saw a sign for the caves - thought it was weird but tied the bikes up anyway and headed basically into a jungle on a path that didn’t look very well trod at all.
After quite a while we came to bamboo hut and some guys asked us for money, it was the equivalent of like $1. We paid up and were told it was another 1km to the cave.
We arrived to a TINY cave entrance and a man with a flashlight was going to take us into the cave for a fee of $40, which is a complete rip off if you know Laos at all, but more importantly this was definitely not the cave we had read about so we declined and headed back.
We had a weird feeling about it all, the guy with the flashlight was really pushy and angry with us. When we got back to the hut my friend (out of principle) said he wanted our money back. At this point they no longer ‘spoke English’ and a very real hostile vibe was made apparent.
As my friend told them they were misleading and ripping people off a few guys ahead of the hut stepped out of the trees with rifles, one walked close us and pointed them toward our heads.
Needless to say, we quickly got on our way. I never felt truly in danger, but I wasn’t going to risk it, naturally.
Any negative experience traveling as a LGBT traveler?
Off the top of my head, no not really. I have had way more issues simply as a female traveler - nothing I couldn’t handle though.
The usual ‘harassment’ kinds of things, men not knowing how to keep their hands and comments to themselves. I experienced this in both Sumatra and Tunisia. I’m pretty tough though, a little bit of public humiliation did the trick.
In fact, I’d say any homophobic comments or else throughout my life have been in London, oddly enough.
London pride a few years ago #supergay
Most favorite city in the world (if you had to pick one) and why.
Hands down Budapest. I fell in love with it the first time I visited - I had really romantic memories of it and so years later I moved there for 9 months and it did not disappoint.
Szechenyi thermal baths in Budapest
Budapest gets a bad rap when it comes to the locals - people say they are rude. On the contrary, I just find them reserved and independent. I liked that. A big busy city, with just enough anonymity to satisfy the introvert in me.
The baths are amazing - Rudas in particular stole my heart. They have an old roman section and a nice modern rooftop pool. Great place to waste away a lazy day.
Also the ruin bars are a lot of fun and a great place to meetup with other nomads and travelers. Cheap, fun, beautiful. I adore Eastern Europe in general, but would lay my hat in Hungary if I had to choose anywhere.
What you wish non-digital nomads knew about your digital nomad lifestyle?
That it’s not easy. But it gets easier. I can’t stand all these photos of beautiful and ripped nomads on the beach with their laptop and a cocktail in hand. It’s BS.
Firstly, sand gets everywhere, it’s not ideal to take a laptop to the beach. Then there’s the glare, then the wifi issues….I could go on.
It’s a farce I’m telling you. Being a nomad is not always this idyllic thing, it’s a lifestyle choice and like any lifestyle, never without difficulty. Hard work will get you places. Literally and figuratively. There is no such thing as an overnight success or a sufficient ‘hack’ that will have you landing in this awesome lifestyle.
Moving around too often is more of a pain in the ass than a fun experience. I tend to settle in places for a minimum of 6 months and perhaps travel occasionally to neighboring countries for shorter jaunts.
How do you stay safe on the road?
Is it really awful if I say that I don’t think about safety all that much? Haha. I mean I am pretty aware of my surroundings and myself, that comes naturally. I tend to go with the notion that if I worry too much about stuff I’m going to attract just what I am worrying about.
Most people are good and decent, there are no more or less bad guys in any one place over another.
Common sense is key. Make sure people know where you are headed when moving around.
If someone wants to become a digital nomad, what would be your advice to her?
I would say to find some online communities, begin asking questions. Figure out if it’s something you really want to do (it’s not for everyone and that’s ok!). Then start to plan what you might like to be doing to fund your lifestyle.
A good process to figure this out is to write list of things you already do well, then things you could get paid for (ie. social media management, blog writing, video editing etc), then things that bring you joy.
Eliminate everything that doesn’t fit into all three, begin with what you know and start learning in your spare time.
We live in the age of information, there is nothing you cannot learn at the tap of a button (or a few). In my 5 Day Virtual Assistant Challenge I have a process that helps with discovering existing skills you can get paid for as a VA (believe me, you all have at least one!).
Just start somewhere, even if you begin by working in a local coffee shop or co-working space on the other side of town, get yourself into the rhythm and see how you like it. Most importantly though, again, start interacting with the DN community both online and in-person. We take care of each other 😉
Coworking in at Dojo in Bali with my canine buddy
What is one travel hack that you’ll recommend?
I in no way call myself a travel hacker and can’t say I’m the most savvy on the topic. But if you’re into cheap flights, check out Beck Power’s Nomadfly course and community.
Beck is also my BFF. Here’s us co-working in our apartment in Bangkok (aptly named the Hustle House) If you’re in town, feel free to get in touch and join us!