How Freelancing Turned My Life Beyond Limits In One Year

how freelancing experience can literally change your life in a year.

At the beginning of last academic year (September 2016), I found my first freelance job and all the rest is history…

How Has Everything Started?

I accidentally saw a Facebook ad for the Outsourcely service, and something made me do a registration. Before Outsourcley, I was trying to get a job on, but I never got any response.

At Outsourcely, it was different. For the first job I applied, I stepped into the contact with CTO of the company I applied for. He saw that I am a proficient English speaker and that I have programming skills on-point. He understood that I could not fill into something too advanced, but he found a position for me.

The project I was working on required to be proficient at C# programming. I had to take care of some scrapping system, which was a significant step to learn something new, and get better skills, but still not something too advanced for me. It was awesome since I needed some extra cash.

I agreed to work for free until October, to get some basic knowledge and to get into it. On the other hand, I wanted to start in October because in September, there is an exam period at my faculty, and I didn’t want to stress myself with the job at the top of other responsibilities.

I was a little bit scared, but I assumed that someone is paying me for improving my skills, for the first time! It was nearly the end of the year, and I didn’t even know what is expecting me in 2017. I was very focused during this period, and couldn’t even think about the future.

When I started for real, I had agreed with my boss to work part-time. The new academic year started, and I had some faculty obligations too. My daily plan would be doing some faculty obligations in the morning if I had some, and then in the afternoon, around 6 pm, I would start working on the freelance project.

Living in Student’s Dorm

During that period, Antonio became my neighbor in student’s dormitory (224/225 who was in the dorm during that time, knows what I’m talking about!).

We knew each other already, from other friends, so there were situations when we would hang out together.

It was refreshing to find out that he is my neighbor since I knew he is not some boring guy who is only looking to go to classes and learn for each exam, just because the system asks him to do it.

Just a regular day in the dorm…

He came to the dormitory and started with new academic year right after he came back from the USA. He was at work and travel program, and he wrote a story about this experience.

For the first several days in the dormitory, he already knew what I am doing, and liked it a lot. He even asked me to show him where to look for some freelance job, and I showed him everything I knew.

After several days, he found the job, as an SEO specialist. We started working nearly at the same time, and everything was quite new to us.

Being the two of us in this story made us better friends, and being neighbors with one wall that separates us made us hang out more often, and talk about all the things that interest us.

Studying and Freelancing at the Same Time?

Several weeks passed, and everything went pretty nice!

I got used to my job and started enjoying my life because I started making more than enough money for a living as a student.

Suddenly I didn’t have problems with spending a little bit more cash in dining restaurant or spend all the money I have in wallet during the weekend nightlife.

The combination of regular studying and working is not easy, to be honest, but in that academic year, I had fewer classes than earlier, because I was the third year for the second time, and I was actually finishing my bachelor’s program.

After several months, the first semester passed, and we had some cash to spend.

As we were free during that period, we decided to do some travel. I needed some rest because it was not very easy to study and work, and this was a great chance to go somewhere and refill the batteries for the next semester.

First Stop – Bratislava and Prague

Hope we all learned a lesson not to work on a project after a crazy night in Bratislava!

After the little bit of thinking, and researching, we decided to go to Bratislava and Prague. We carried out laptops because we had to work for several hours at our jobs. The trip started on my birthday, February 23.

The first day we were in Bratislava. We arrived in the evening and decided to go to drink in some bar, and later in the discotheque. It was such a good night!

We didn’t know where to go, but we met Mat’a, a local girl who helped us and even agreed to give us company in the bar. When we returned to lobby, we tried to work, but it all end up sleeping while the program counted hours.

Lesson learned: Never work after coming from crazy eastern European nightlife as you’ll probably have the most productive time you can imagine!

Next day we walked through the Bratislava, and after we started the trip for Prague. We arrived there in the evening again, so we decided to stay in hostel first night to relax.

For the next few days in Prague, we saw the whole city. All I can say about the Prague is that it is so magnificent. All those historical buildings made the Prague look like some town from a fairytale.

So many amazing things can be found in the majestic city of Prague. We were simply walking around the city all the time, exploring different places, climbing to hills that overlook the city and of course smoked some amazing weed. Prague is very open to weed and there is a huge community of people and expats smoking. Here’s an interesting guide that will show you the perspective of a local person when it comes to weed.

Funny fact: Antonio realized that Kati, a girl he met during his time in the USA would be in Prague and they arranged to book the same hostel. In the end, we all lived in the same room without knowing it before arrival. Also, Artem and Lena, a couple from the USA are living in Prague and everything was just like a reunion with positive and exciting people.

Shootout to Artem who helped us with our twice broken tire on the car! You’re the man!

Say hello to Artem, the man!

Beyond that, it has so many pubs, and you can feel the different vibe in this city.

When we returned back to Croatia, there were few days left until next semester started, which means new classes, and again more work.

Back to Reality!

In the second semester, I had only two classes, but the hardest ones. Having those two classes, and working half-time job was very hard.

I had to sacrifice lots of good moments with friends to catch everything, but it gave results! Hey, there were still weekends, so I didn’t suffer so much.

Having a trip to Bratislava and Prague made me attracted to travel and to experience new things and places. I became very curious about the world and couldn’t wait for the new experience.

On the other hand, Antonio was already looking to go somewhere in the summer, and he was thrilled about Asia. So, during this period, we were talking about traveling, his experiences from the USA, shared stories from work, and everything was stacking like a puzzle.

Depressing reality again.. Some dudes trying to desperately get drunk in my dorm room!

After some time, our faculty started accepting applications for Elektrijada.

It is an event that happens only once per year, and all accepted students from similar universities gather at one place, and compete in sports, knowledge, and even more important have a great time!

I used to play chess, so I sent an application for that. We had some faculty league, and first 6 of us went on Elektrijada. I was 6th!

One Word – Elektrijada…

So the day for Elektrijada came! We went to Budva, Montenegro. It is a beautiful coastal city, but it was not too much important for us.

The thing is that there were around 2,000 students of technical universities who were looking to have a great time. Besides competition, our primary goal was to have as more parties and chilling on the beach.

I know, sorry FOI for a different approach! 😛

Reflecting on what happened yesterday..

It lasted for 5 days, and for me, and Antonio, it was not over. We decided to go with 3 more friends in Umag, a small coastal town in Croatia.

There was a remarkable music festival (Seastar Festival), just one day after Elektrijada, so we decided to turn this trip into 10 crazy days. Basically, we saw the whole Croatian coast in a few days! Such an amazing trip!

This trip ended so fast, and we found ourselves in our rooms again! The feeling of losing something was so big for me, but it actually helped me to focus, and look for something new, and bigger.

Let’s Face Reality…Again!

The month of June came, and the faculty obligations were real. It was one of the hardest months to maintain all the faculty, and job obligations. In one month I could finish my college, but I had to pass at least one class, and leave the other for the exam.

During this period we talked about Asia much more than before. We would look at Google maps, and imagine us to be there. We decided to go to Thailand if everything goes well, but it was very unlikely.

Actually, my problem was that I couldn’t afford to dream about Thailand too much because I had other obligations that were killing me. On the other hand, Antonio was making research daily and talked to me about everything he would find out.

The semester passed, and I had only one exam to finish the faculty. The real free time nearly comes, so Antonio and I finally realized that we both have financial possibilities to go in Thailand, and that was it. We decided to go to Koh Lanta.

We planned everything like few days before the trip to Thailand. Brilliant move to plan your Asian trip, right?

I bought the ticket plane 2 days before the exam, and in the end, I didn’t even go to that exam because I was too excited for Thailand.

After buying ticket place, we booked the coworking space called Kohub, which is the paradise for digital nomads. This place offered us an accommodation, food, and space for work in one package, for one month!

For us, it was the offer we couldn’t refuse!

Dude Look, We’re in Thailand!

Cruising above Thailand

We were heading to Thailand on July 15, and returning August 15. It was one month of entirely new culture, and different people. One month was enough to meet local people, and their culture, but to improve business skills too!

In Kohub, there were other digital nomads, who are now our friends. I was the youngest there since most of the digital nomads were around the age of 35.

All the people were open-minded, like me, so the age was not a barrier. I was ready to learn new stuff, meet new people, and I saw the same in other people.

Antonio and I even started working on the Amazon affiliate marketing project that is still being worked on, and it is getting to be a serious project, that will probably have an impact on our future.

All I could say about one month in Thailand is that it is a life-changing experience. All those people, local ones, and digital nomads affected me in positive ways, and I could say that I made a step forward in the way of thinking.

If I see all of them again, I would give them such a strong hug! Anyway, I must mention Tang, Josh, Anusorn, and Radiwan! These people left a significant mark on this trip.

While days were going, each day meant one day closer to departure. I was devastated. If someone asked me to stay, I would definitely do it.

Anyway, the reality was arriving back to Croatia. In the meanwhile, I stopped working for the first client, and I found a new job. This time as a digital marketing specialist.

Just a regular day in Koh Lanta. During our exploration of jungle and waterfall. We actually got lost in the jungle and thought we wouldn’t make it to the waterfall. Such a reward!

Home Again!

When we arrived back to Croatia, I had around 25 more days until the last exam, which is the hardest one. I was thinking about Thailand so much, but I became focused again and started learning 20 days before the exam. I really wanted to pass it, since it was my 7th time, and last chance to finish my bachelors, and apply for masters.

I was learning so much, and actually, I did it! The day of an exam has come, and I passed it! It was the sweetest grade ever! Dude I finished bachelors, I said. Only the final work left, and it’s over! Huh, now I had to apply for masters, and catch up all the processes connected with this.

Yeah, it was handled very good. I finally found myself on the list for the master’s program. I said to myself: „Dude you rocked this year“, and I really did!

The September came, which meant the new semester, but this time at masters program. I found an apartment with Antonio, so we were roommates for 3 months.

During this time we turned the dining room into the working room, and we were freelancing together, which meant lot’s of similar interests to discuss and consider some new ideas. We were talking a lot about new trips, and there are already ideas for next summer.

In November, the student’s dormitory opened application systems for new students, because there were some rooms empty. I applied because living in the apartment was very expensive, and I knew if I am going to live there, I will not be able to do another travel next summer, or anytime.

Antonio had the same situation, but he is not a student anymore, so he decided to go home, and collect some cash.

So the applications passed, and I got a room in the dormitory, which means cheaper accommodation. I moved in on December, 1. That gave me the possibility of traveling for a New Year.

New Year – Ending like a Charm!

There were so many ideas for the New Year. From hitchhiking to Amsterdam, going to Berlin, to take a bus for Belgrade, as we realized it is the cheapest.

In the end, I called Antonio on Skype, and we took a bus ticket and booked a hostel in Budapest! We actually changed all our plans in half an hour.

Again, our crazy planning skills! 😛

So yeah, the final decision was Budapest. We headed there on December 31, right on the New Year. This time we didn’t bring our laptops for the first time. We just wanted to have 3 days of total tourist mode.

When we arrived in Budapest, we had to leave our things, and take a shower! The problem was that we had a booking in our hostel from January, 1.

Our decision is to go there and literally ask them to help us with these needs, and then we will come to the hostel tomorrow, after the new year.

We were so lucky because there was a girl called Christina. She gave us to leave things, take a shower, and even told us to stay, and meet two other Croatian girls who were staying in that hostel.

In the end, we stayed at the hostel, met the girls, and some Polish guys. We actually had a party in the hostel where we were booked for tomorrow! What’s even better, we bring two other friends who were already staying in Budapest, and didn’t have anything with this hostel!

Just one word – BANDITI!

It was unbelievable how lucky we were!

After several hours we got pretty drunk and went on Danube river. We were waiting midnight! (Thank you, Polish guys, for your homemade Moonshine with around 60% of Alcohol!)

There were around 10 of us, singing, dancing, and having such a great time! There couldn’t be any problems at that moment, and anything couldn’t bother us. It was just happiness, and love all around us! After midnight, and fireworks, we went to eat some kebab, and after that to disco. It was such a good night.

We made really good friends with those two girls, Valentina, and Mateja. Next day we were going together to sightseeing, restaurant, bar, and had a special time. I was so impressed to meet such an interesting, and special girls. 😉

Budapest is a beautiful city placed on the Danube, and it is rich with historical monuments, and buildings. The travel lasted four days, which was enough to see everything, and return home enriched with another great experience!

Final Words for All of You!

Finding a freelance job gave me such a different year than any before. 2017 was the year with a lot of work, stress, and obligations, but the results are evident! (Antonio even got a grayer hair than before!) As a regular student, I managed to see 5 countries, and travel more than 10 000 kilometers round trips!

I wish if you could only imagine how much experience I got in only one year. I made another step in growing and changing as a person, in a positive way, I would say.

Getting a freelance job is not easy, but it is not hard, too! Just raise your skills, and someone will give you a job very soon.

I cannot say that freelance doesn’t have cons because it has pros and cons! I can only say that all those pros, are much bigger than all those cons!

There are always days when I am thinking how it’s hard to work, and I would rather stop, but I know that I am going to have another result from it and get another beautiful experience. It is the most important.

In the new year, 2018, I expect even more travels, meet other open-minded people, and acquire new experiences!

Nothing can’t stop me now!

Ian Zonja

An IT student from Croatia. Interest for traveling started in Thailand when I met a digital nomad community for the first time. Looking to share a DN lifestyle with everybody as it is something that is changing your life.

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3 Replies to “How Freelancing Turned My Life Beyond Limits In One Year

  1. Super inspirational, I love this story. I still can’t get over the fact you live in Croatia and want to travel, to other places haha I love Croatia! Thank you for the post.

  2. It is amazing how much our world has changed. The days when someone is tied to an office for X number of hours of day are over. Now, the power of freelancing has opened up, allowing people the freedom to travel at will, as you have experienced. Congrats to you on all your success.

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