How One Woman Started a Location-Independent Company Right Out of College

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Michelle Rødgaard-Jessen went from a corporate gig, to a social change organization and finally landed on running her own business from the road. As an online marketer, she’s narrowed her target audience and grown to the point where she’s had to hire employees to keep up with the demand.

Here’s her story:

My name is Michelle. I’m from Denmark, and I’m a location-independent online marketer. I’ve had a lot of different jobs before this, including supermarket clerk and cleaner when I was in high school, and volunteering in a hospital in Costa Rica. During university I worked for a pharmaceutical company and focused on preparing myself for a job in the corporate world when I graduated.

Yet after a couple years I needed a change and wanted to work in a smaller organization where I would actually have some responsibility. I ended up in a public organization in Copenhagen that focuses on enhancing entrepreneurship among students.

Working in Barcelona

Most useful “job” was actually volunteering

On the side I was also doing a lot of volunteer work in a non-profit organization called Ventilen that aimed to help lonely young people in Denmark via physical meeting places and projects at high schools. I was the chairman of the department in Copenhagen responsible for 20 volunteers.

This volunteer position was actually the most useful as far as preparing me for my current job. I learned so much about leadership (by making a lot of mistakes), about running an organization, process optimization, internal communication, and hiring and retaining volunteers. In all my student jobs I wasn’t allowed to do much besides administrative work, but in my volunteer job I just had to do what it took to make things work.

Expanding my horizons

The last year of my university studies I decided to study in Beijing. When I was in China I was lucky enough to be offered a remote job at a small Danish company who needed market research in China. It was this remote job that opened my eyes to even more possibilities. I hadn’t realized it was possible to create and work remotely.

Working with my first employee

Where to start?

After I finished university I wanted to travel the world, which didn’t seem compatible with a normal job so I decided to start my own small company. My boyfriend was an entrepreneur and location independent, so we made a deal. I would try to create my own remote job for one year. If I didn’t like it after that year we would come back home and I could get a normal job.

The only problem was that I had no idea what company to start.

I thought to myself: “What do I know that I can help people with?”. Obviously, I had a lot of experience with administrative work and project management through my student jobs and volunteer work. So I decided to start out as a Virtual Personal Assistant. I created a website and the day I started the company, we took off to Barcelona where we would stay the first few months. I started getting clients through my network and my website and I slowly realized that this was actually possible.

Working on the road

Let it evolve

But my initial idea of my concept as a Virtual Assistant didn’t last for long. My clients started asking if I could help out writing their newsletters and doing their Facebook ads as well. I didn’t know much about it but I said I would give it a try – and that’s how I ended up as an Online Marketer.

I began to dive into the world of online marketing and I loved everything about it. It was much more fun and creative than the other work I was doing, and it was what the clients wanted. So my business changed.

My focus evolved further, to focusing solely on personal brands and people selling their knowledge (speakers, authors, consultants, etc.). Six months into my business I was fully booked with clients; narrowing my focus was really working.

Best parts

I really love that I’m able to work from everywhere. I’ve been working from 30+ countries all over the world the last 2.5 years. But what I love the most is the feeling of creating something. Building a business with happy clients and happy employees. Building a team. Being able to create remote jobs.

I love the feeling that I don’t know how my business will evolve and where I’ll be in 5 years.

Exploring Bali

Dive In

If you want to work with online marketing there are lots of free resources online where you can learn more about the different topics—SEO, Facebook ads, Social Media, e-mail marketing, etc. That’s how I learned when I started out. I also invested in some online courses and learned from my network. That’s the first step.

The next step would be to get actual experience to really learn what it’s all about. I started out asking my network if I could do some work for them for free (or really cheap) just to get some experience. Some of them became clients later on.

This step is the most important one because it’s all about focusing on getting started and getting sales. Without sales you have no business. Many people focus on getting the perfect website, having the right business card, or the right logo before they do anything. Which is a shame because when you actually start working for clients your focus can evolve anyway.

Don’t be afraid to change your concept along the way. That’s how it works. You start somewhere but end up somewhere else you never dreamed of.

Last step: you have to show that you know what you’re talking about. Write good content to establish trust from potential clients. This is building your brand and doing the long-term work to make a sustainable business.

Learn more about Michelle on her website and follow her on Instagram @michelleroed.


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