6 months living in Madrid, Spain.
6 months as a full-time entrepreneur.
3 months adjusting to my new lifestyle.
2 presentations on copywriting and content strategy (in English and Spanish).
More than five booked clients…
Lots and lots of coffees and nights spent crying.
Ah, the life of an expat and entrepreneur. When I decided in October/November of 2017 that I would take the leap and move across the Atlantic Ocean, I thought I had mentally and emotionally prepared myself for what was to come. I prepped my website and my business, I networked and made connections with people in the United States and Spain, and I jumped straight into my role as a copywriter and content strategist.
In the past 6 months, I’ve been pushed and pulled in so many different ways! When I think I’ve figured it all out – something pops up and I’m reminded to stay humble, hungry, and relentless.
Through the past 6 months, I’d like to think that I’ve learned something along the way. These are 6 of the most important lessons I’ve learned, so far, in entrepreneurship (and being an expat)!
1. Relationships set a strong foundation
In a country like Spain, where there’s more weight on WHO you know than WHAT you know, I’ve learned that relationships not only matter – but they set a strong foundation. Learning from my parents and their business model, relationships not only lead to amazing opportunities but they also lead to a network to draw inspiration and collaboration from.
It could be because I now love networking, but I’ve included it in my schedule to have at least 2-3 “coffee chats” a month, either virtually or in Madrid. The time I’ve set aside helps me to connect with others in my industry, build a network of references, and learn more about the market and how I can fit in with my services. Not only that, I’ve learned some great resources, tips, and advice from seasoned or new entrepreneurs, like myself!
Relationships – either in person or virtually, have opened opportunities such as:
- Give two presentations on copywriting and content strategy (in English AND in Spanish!)
- Be featured as a content strategist “genius” at the Genius Bar in one of my favorite coworking spaces, La Piscine
- Travel on business to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to work with Casa África with my old company
- Book podcast and blog post interviews
- Invest in myself and my business, with business coaches and courses
- Have the opportunity to travel with a group of digital nomads and explore Latin America
Those are just a few of the opportunities that I’ve been presented with – all through putting myself out there, meeting others, and staying in contact with different people.
2. Do good work
Now that I am my own boss, it’s easy to slack-off and give myself a “pass” to take it easy on some days.
No one is watching what I do anymore, I don’t have anyone to answer to, and I structure my hours and days as I please. If I want to take a break in the middle of the day to meet someone, I can. If I want to spend the day watching YouTube videos and getting lost on Pinterest – there isn’t anyone to stop me!
With such a flexible schedule, it’s easy to “slack-off” and not keep track of tasks. When that happens, I can’t do good work; work that I believe in and work I’m excited to complete for my clients.
Doing good work doesn’t ONLY mean giving what my clients expect me to do: words, content, strategy, accountability, etc. Doing good work, to me, means that I:
- Provide an amazing customer experience
- Give them the power to achieve their biggest goals
- Empower them to “chase their adventure” and live a life they’re proud of
That is doing amazing and great work. When that happens, I’ve added value and given a piece of the TQP Studio touch to help them build a community.
3. Leave room for spontaneity and unplanned opportunities
One of the reasons I decided to be my own boss and work online was for the flexibility it gave me.
I didn’t want to be tied to a cubicle, a specific desk, or anywhere for 8 hours a day. Honestly, that sounds terrible – and it was pretty bad when I was doing it. Through the past 6 months, my location independent lifestyle has allowed me the opportunity to travel and work from wherever I please – so long as a strong connection to WiFi is available.
As an expat (and an adventure seeker – who’s dating a spontaneous fella), leaving room for spontaneity and unplanned opportunities was something I needed to learn how to adapt to. I’m a Type A kinda lady, someone who likes to have everything planned and prepped (in case of emergency). Since arriving here, I’ve had to weave in and out of situations, be open to unexpected invitations, and leave room for even MORE flexibility than I thought I would have.
Sometimes, the best opportunities and surprises come from NOT having too much of a plan – but a general guide. It’s lead me to discover the beautiful towns of Asturias, a 6-hr road trip to Barcelona, meeting new people, and an unexpected business trip to Las Palmas. Leave room for spontaneity and some unplanned opportunities – you never know what will come out of it!
4. Trust your gut
My mother is the QUEEN of intuition. Or is it just one of those mom things, you know, a “mother’s intuition” as they say.
She’s told me time and time again, trust my gut and follow it through. Unfortunately, I don’t always listen to my wise mother, so sometimes I find myself in questionable situations. Now as my own business owner (and a foreigner in a completely different country and culture), I’m finding that trusting my gut is even more important.
My business is like my baby, which means whatever I do, however, I’m influenced, it will affect The Quirky Pineapple Studio. As a personal and business brand, this also means that in my personal life, things will affect my business in different ways. If my gut is telling me to avoid something or “go for it”, it probably knows best.
Trust your gut, Pineapplers, seriously. (Also, do your research and due diligence… that’s important!)
5. Immerse yourself
Living in such an international city, it’s easy to stick to the “expat bubble” and ONLY hang out with other foreigners or English speakers. Now that I work online, my clients come from all over the world, and the majority of my clients come from the United States – making it easy to stick to what I know (English and US culture).
Immersing myself in my new adopted home is on the top of my priorities list. I wanted to not only connect with expats, I wanted to connect with the local community and learn from them. Immersing myself and “straddling” both sides of the spectrum is tough. Some days I feel like I’m an outsider to both and other days I feel like I’m making progress.
Immersing myself in whatever I’m doing has also proved to bring me greater results and much more fulfillment.
6. Try everything once and expand your bubble
Try something, try one thing, TRY IT ALL! If I didn’t give something a shot and stuck to what I felt comfortable with, well…
- I wouldn’t be in Madrid
- I’d probably still be at my office job
- I would be sad, miserable, and constantly thinking about “WHAT IF”
So, I am learning to try everything once, expand my bubble (even more), and get over the fact that I feel self-conscious and like an imposter most of the time. Thanks to all of this, I’ve made friends with people from all over the world, am part of an amazing mastermind group with 3 other fearless women, and can confidently talk and pitch my services in Spanish and English.
Well, some days I’m really confident, other days I’m giving myself a pep-talk.
Looking to build your own personal brand? Get a copy of the Your Soulful Branding workbook designed to help you create a soulful personal brand that you’re proud of!
To review, the past 6 months have been filled with not so great things like:
- Taking the metro to the bad part of town because I had no idea what I was doing
- Dealing with Spanish bureaucracy for unpaid taxes at the public hospital…
- Having people laugh in my face
- Getting my hair dyed three separate times because no one understands my Asian hair
- Realizing my Spanish vocabulary is still very limited
- and a lot more things – (sleepless nights, more crying, losing a lot of hair because of stress, feeling like WTF did I do with my life, etc.)
But, the past 6 months have also opened opportunities like:
- Working in English and Spanish
- Travel opportunities (biz & personal)
- International friends
- Lots of coffee and exploring the food scene in Madrid
- The chance to do something I REALLY love (and say I’m a business owner!)
So, cheers to the first 6 months of expat and entrepreneur life – and let’s bring on what the rest of the year has got in store! Who’s ready to join the adventure with me?!
What important lessons in entrepreneurship have you learned? Share them in the comments below – because I wanna know!
Enjoyed this post? You might like these, too:
6 Common Mistakes in Community Building
Attracting Your Ideal Clients Through Experiences
Live & Work Abroad as a Female Entrepreneur Pt. 1
Interview about The Quirky Pineapple Studio on Defined by Her
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