From Teaching in Thailand to Earning a Full-time Income As a Digital Marketing and B2B SaaS Writer with Jessica Pereira

Jessica Pereira graduated from college in 2018 with nothing but a Public Relations internship and online courses from Hubspot as experience under her belt. In 2019, Jessica hopped on a plane and left for Thailand to teach English for 6 months. This is where her freelance writing business was born. In between teaching classes, Jessica […]

Jessica Pereira graduated from college in 2018 with nothing but a Public Relations internship and online courses from Hubspot as experience under her belt. In 2019, Jessica hopped on a plane and left for Thailand to teach English for 6 months. This is where her freelance writing business was born.

In between teaching classes, Jessica found herself with lots of extra down time. She spent this time thinking about how she could turn her love for writing and digital marketing into a career. So one day, she decided to try it out as a side-hustle—while she was still in Thailand. But when she came home, she hit the ground running and turned her passion into a full-time job.

Jessica’s Website: www.jesspereirawrites.com

Jessmyn:
Okay. Hi, guys. Welcome back to Interact’s Creator Stories Podcast. As you guys probably know, I’m Jessmyn Solana. Today is pretty exciting because we have someone here and I don’t want to be weird about not saying her name, her name is Jessica Pereia. But what’s really cool about this one is she actually recently started writing some guest posts on our blog, so we had to have her on here.

Jessmyn:
Jessica, I’m going to let you also introduce yourself, but I want to give you guys a little bit of a background. You graduated from college two years ago and you started out, did you start out in marketing? I know you mentioned public relations internship, tongue-twister, but tell me a little bit more about how you got started and then also what you’re doing right now.

Jessica:
Yeah. Thanks for having me on. I graduated college about, probably two and a half years, yeah, two to two half years ago at this point. When I first went in, it was for communication studies, which I ended up graduating with, but I wasn’t really sure exactly what I wanted to do yet. I think, about a couple of years in, I decided to do public relations so that was my main path and then once I graduated, I took up an internship at a PR agency. I really liked it, I thought it was interesting, but I wasn’t sure if that was exactly what I wanted to do yet, because I also was getting more interested in actual digital marketing. Both of them had writing in common, so that’s why I wanted to do one or the other.

Jessica:
After that internship, I still wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I was taking HubSpot, was taking little HubSpot digital marketing courses and kind of doing my own thing there. I think about, so then maybe a year or so after that, or half a year or so, I wanted to just do something completely different. I don’t know, I just got this weird feeling like I need to go out and try something completely new that has nothing to do with what I’ve been thinking that I want to do. I was getting in this passive, when you, it felt so singular, I guess, that’s the word to say? I wanted to let my brain just kind of have a refresh.

Jessica:
I decided to go teach English in Thailand for about six months. Yeah. Me and my friend went over there and I was like, “Okay, I’ve never really taught before, obviously different country, different culture, everything, so it’s perfect.” I also just had this interest in going to Thailand anyway. So, I went there and that’s where I started to do freelance writing. About three or four months into my time there, I was thinking, because I knew it was going to go home soon, so I was thinking about what I wanted to do and I still want to do writing. I still like digital marketing. I was just like, “Okay, I know I want to do those things. But at the same time, I wanted to start it right away because I was still in Thailand. It’s kind of hard if you’re applying for a job and you know you’re not going to be home for another four months or so. It’s a little unrealistic for the most part, sometimes it works. I somehow, I don’t even know, I just came across the freelance writing and I came across this, her name is Elena Cane and she is a really popular freelance writer. She has like a little course and she has a ton of useful articles for writers. I started reading through all of her blogs, blog posts and I was like, “Okay, I think this is what I’m going to do.”

Jessica:
When I started, it was just going to be like a side gig. I didn’t really have the thought yet of making it a full time, but so that’s how I started. The first couple of months was just trying to make sample posts. I was still learning everything, doing the whole website and it wasn’t until I got home from Thailand this past March, I believe, when I started going full on. That’s how I got started with that.

Jessmyn:
Wow. That’s crazy. So, it’s kind of wild. Okay. Correct me if I’m wrong. This is pretty recent because you’re saying March, like as in March of this year.

Jessica:
Yes.

Jessmyn:
Wow. Okay. That’s great feed because I’ve seen your writing and it doesn’t seem like, this is a pretty recent. That’s awesome.

Jessica:
Thank you.

Jessmyn:
I guess my question from that is, you’re in a whole other country, which is already different. It sounds like you’re pretty comfortable with adapting, but I guess, what were your feelings in one, deciding public relations wasn’t for you and then deciding to go to a whole other country for some time and teaching which you’re not comfortable with. And from there having to also go into another career and try to figure out what that is. What was that like?

Jessica:
Yeah. I think when I realized, the thing is with public relations, I guess I don’t think I ever closed it off. I always kept it open. When I was looking for jobs before I went to Thailand, I would look for kind of within digital marketing or content writing, but also within public relations. I was like, “Well, it’s open. Maybe I’ll find an agency that I really like, and it could possibly work.” That was kind of like, it wasn’t my first choice, but it was always there. I think going into teaching and then going into the writing, that was definitely a very weird process, but it worked because I ended up getting, when I decided to go to Thailand, I wanted something completely different. Like what I said before, that would just refresh my brain, because I was getting too focused on things I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be focused on.

Jessica:
I think going there and it being so wildly different and having to suddenly learn how to teach a bunch of little kids, put me in such a different mode that I was focused on that for a solid three months. Then after that I started, once I had extra time I got a little more used to the teaching, it was like my brain suddenly started clicking things together. Like, “Oh, I could do freelance writing.” I don’t know. And the thing is with, I think the word freelance before had, I don’t think it does anymore, which is great, but it has kind of a negative connotation. If someone was like, “Oh I do freelance this.” Your first thought might be, “Oh, maybe they’re just doing it part-time or you’re not really thinking of them doing it like a full-time job and growing there. Also, I never thought of it as it’s my own business sort of thing. I think that was like definitely a shift. But, yeah. Then once I started thinking about freelance writing, again, it all just kind of clicked for me. So I think I just needed that time of doing something kind of out of my mind, like out of anything I could imagine because it was such a different experience to pull that back and start doing something again that I was much more familiar with.

Jessmyn:
That’s awesome. What was it like jumping into new stuff? Was that like, I guess what’s your process. I know you said it’s something that you want to do super different. It’s refreshing, but what’s your process and like, “Okay, what I’m doing right now. Isn’t my favorite. I might not really want to go further into this.” How do you go from that to deciding, “All right, I’m going to make a huge change and I’m going to do it?”

Jessmyn:
Yeah, pretty much just what was your process like, being in something like your comfort zone, I guess that you could say. Public relations, you studied it in school, you’re starting this internship and then you get to this point where you’re like, this is maybe not what I want to do. It’s not my favorite thing. So instead of like going further into it, what was it like and what was your process of, “Okay, I’m going to do something totally different.” And I guess, also, what did that feel like?

Jessica:
Yeah. It feels, I think, at first it felt kind of exciting because if you’re not super into something and then you’re going to be able to do something completely different or it feels like there’s more opportunity. Like, “Oh, maybe this will be the thing I want to end up doing.” And you kind of get more hope. After that, there’s always another feeling a little later. You’re like, “What am I doing? Why? This is something I’m used to, why am I shying away from it?” It feels unfamiliar and a little scary. When I decided I didn’t really want to do public relations or I wasn’t sure. And then I was like, “I’m going to go to Thailand instead and I didn’t go to Thailand right away. I had to wait about, maybe four or five months of getting everything together and all the visa and all the programs and stuff.

Jessica:
I had that waiting period, which during that time I felt fine, I was still really excited. Then once I was there, I think my first, I think when I first started teaching, I had a scary feeling like, “What did I just do? I have no idea what’s going on.” My mind jumped back and I was like, I couldn’t easily form this different path that didn’t have to make me go this far out of my comfort zone. So I definitely had a little freak out time. But after that, I was like, “Well, I’m already here.” And I don’t know. It was just like, after the freak out, you kind of calmed down a little bit and you just kind of go into this work mode, I guess, is the best way to put it.

Jessica:
It’s like, there’s not really time to be freaking out about all the time, you just kind of have to go with it. After that, and then with the… Once I was still there and I always knew I was going to come home. I knew that I wasn’t going to be teaching there for super long like some people end up doing. I think, because I knew that too, the transition when I started the freelance training, wasn’t as scary because it felt like I was going back into my familiar territory.

Jessica:
Once I started in the freelance writing, it was interesting. I started getting feelings and thoughts like, “This, I actually feel really good in, this is something that I actually want to keep growing. That was new and exciting. This is definitely the path that I want to continue in and see as opportunities arise and as it keeps going, but it definitely… I ended up finding something that works a lot more for me than the other two kind of things that I did.

Jessmyn:
Oh, I love that. It sounds like too, you’re just really comfortable jumping into new things. That’s, I believe, something that I wish had.

Jessica:
I say the, thing is I say that I do, and then I go into it. Like when I said, I freak out, the adapting always ends up being a lot longer than I think in my head. I’m like, “Yeah, I’m going to do this, this, this,” and then you go into it. But yeah, I guess I am more open to it than usual, but there’s still, I don’t know, it still takes me awhile to always completely immerse. Even if you, let’s say, you move somewhere different. It’s going to be fine. Even if it’s a different house, it always takes me a little longer than I think to adapt to the house. Something like that.

Jessmyn:
Yeah. Yeah. I think that makes sense. It’s like you do it and then once you’re there, you’re like, “Hmm.” No, I get it. That’s awesome.

Jessica:
Exactly.

Jessmyn:
A question that comes to mind is, you did mention how some people, maybe not so much anymore, but might still feel like the word freelancing is, has a negative connotation to it. What would you, I guess, if there’s someone out there listening and they’re like, “Yeah, actually I have that same exact thought. I wanted to do some type of freelance job, but people don’t look at it as like an actual job.” What advice I guess, would you say to somebody where they’re kind of in that same spot and they’re thinking about it and they aren’t, maybe, as quick to make that jump, they’re still in that freakout phase.

Jessica:
Yeah. I think your mindset towards what you’re doing changes the whole game. Kind of like what I mentioned before, when I started, when I realized, and this is something I realized through reading other freelance writers, that they really, they run themselves as their own business. They take time to think about what they’re worth. “Okay, this is what I can write and this is how much I’m worth.” And they kind of stick to that and also finding clients that they want to work with, not just who they can find on a job board. It’s things like that, once you start thinking as yourself as an actual business and someone who can provide valuable work is when it all changes. If you go into and you’re like, “Well, I’m just going to try freelance writing.” I think your head easily just, think of it as a side gig. Think of it as being okay to only get some [inaudible 00:16:10].

Jessica:
Some first jobs people will get like 4 cents a word and it’s also charged by word, which over time you realize that’s probably not the best way to do it, but you start, you think that those things are okay. I think that could be easy for someone to stay in that and never grow. Once you change your mindset and you kind of realize like, okay, actually there are a ton of companies that need, or they have some sort of content marketing strategy. They need this writing and it gets them a certain amount of traffic. It gets a certain amount of leads, all these things. Then I think that’s good. You could start leveraging your business and scaling it up. Yeah.

Jessica:
Mindset’s definitely, I think the most important part. Also, at the beginning, since you’re by yourself, I think this would be like any freelancer, any entrepreneur, whatever. You have to be your own cheerleader at first as like you first start. Then you’ll start to find other people just like you and you’ll find little online communities and stuff. But at first you have to really have good self-discipline and also encourage yourself to keep going because, again, if you have a short-sighted mindset about it, it’s going to be a lot harder than if you just believe you can do it and also know that it’s not always going to happen in three months. That’s another thing you see, sometimes you see stories and maybe see these really crazy success stories and you might have higher expectations of when you’re going to start making money and that’s not always the case. Everyone is different when they start making a full-time income and getting retainer clients and stuff. I think just knowing that too,

Jessmyn:
I love that you said that, because that’s something that we run into even at Interact. There’s one business where they’re like, “Wow, I grew this much.” One of the worst things that can happen is seeing that story and being like, “Okay, well, it’s been about that time for me and I don’t see the same growth.” I think that is a really great piece of advice just to keep in mind. And even when I’m talking to people, I’m always like, “Just remember, it does look different for everybody.” I love that you have that mindset and you also are able to give that kind of advice to people. I think that’s great. I love that.

Jessmyn:
I have a couple last questions, but they’re more of starting to wrap it up. Do you have any last minute things that you, maybe popped into your head as you were talking about your experience, any of those. Any of those, I guess, ways you were able to overcome some of your obstacles?

Jessica:
Yeah. I guess going off of what I was saying, anyone who wants to, whether it’s freelance writing or designing or whatever that is, and with the whole mindset thing, that was my biggest obstacle. I think that is probably common for a lot of people, is getting over the hump of knowing how much you can grow. I’ve looked at this past year and there was a month where I made, it was, I think it was July and I was starting to get really scared. I was like, “I don’t know if I can like find stability in this.” I was still, I had like a client or two, but nothing super long-term yet. The thing is, is when you start pitching and reaching out, there’s a lot of… You like follow up with a client or a potential client and they’re excited to work with you, but then suddenly it just stops and it’s like, you never hear from them again.

Jessica:
You’ll get like a lot of those, and I think maybe that happens if people are freelancing for years and years. I don’t think it’s like, once you get established, happens as much, but in the beginning, it’s like, you think you get a chance when suddenly it’s like, they stopped talking to you and it gets kind of discouraging. I think I was getting a little discouraged and just kind of scared. In July I looked and I made $0. I did not… I remember that month, I was just in this limbo of trying to figure out my plan and I think that’s another obstacle is, if you’re getting so stuck and just trying to plan what you’re going to do instead of actually taking the action, I guess, so if you were going to be a freelance writer and you’re like, “Okay, I’m going to start a blog and I want to pitch to this many clients. I also want to start building relationships with just within my community to start getting connections.”

Jessica:
Well, you just say as much as you want, but if you don’t actually do the actionable things that go along with it, it’s hard to move forward. I know that was my issue. I remember July, I was thinking of all these things, but then I just wasn’t taking the needed steps. Then once August hit, I got out of that weird funk I had and I started doing everything, and then suddenly things started popping up. That is definitely at least something that I’ve learned thus far, especially when you’re in the beginning stage. You just have to keep doing stuff, keep building relationships, and all that is really important, I think, as a freelancer. That was something I thought of and yeah, I think that’s about it though, so far. That was just like a big transition, I think, for me.

Jessmyn:
Yeah. No, I think that’s great. I think a lot of people will identify with that. It’s kind of weird how, I don’t know, I’m pretty new to hosting this podcast, but I work for a company, but have experienced somewhat of a similar thing. I think that’s something that I can recognize that almost everybody goes through. I think it is important to talk about and it is a big thing, but we just don’t talk about it enough.

Jessica:
Yeah. I agree. I think it goes along with when you see all these articles that everyone’s a success. “I made six figures in my first year.” You’re like, “What?” It can be intimidating, but exciting. It would be nice to have a little more, I guess, transparency with everyone to also be able to say their failures and just to show, I guess what you were saying, kind of the reason behind this podcast, is just to show everyone is at different stages and, definitely, we all fail as well as succeed, but it’s nice to know that’s okay.

Jessmyn:
Yeah, exactly. Cool. My last couple of questions for you are more of a fun one. First one is, tell us three things about yourself that someone wouldn’t normally know.

Jessica:
Yeah. Three things someone wouldn’t normally know. One, these are kind of random. I did girls wrestling in high school. Yeah, I don’t think people usually believe that I do, that I did wrestling. I feel like anytime I tell someone, they’re just like, “No, you didn’t.”. I’m like, “I did, I swear. I wasn’t good at it, but I did.” And then the second one is I’ve been fired from a job.

Jessmyn:
Wow.

Jessica:
Yeah. I just wasn’t meeting the… It was like a content writing job and it was like I wasn’t doing something correctly anyways, but ended up working for the best because now I feel like I’m able to do my own thing, but that was another thing people probably wouldn’t know. The third is, let’s see, I spent a year in Spain during college, I did a study abroad program. Yeah. So that was fun.

Jessmyn:
That’s awesome. I always wanted to study abroad. I was actually, sorry, I’m sidetracking, but I was supposed to go,-

Jessica:
Oh, no. You’re good.

Jessmyn:
I was supposed to go to Australia in college my sophomore, junior year and then they canceled the program there last minute.

Jessica:
Oh, no.

Jessmyn:
The counselor was like, “Do you want to go to Denmark? You need to decide by today.” It’s one of those situations where I was like, “No, I know nothing about Denmark.” But now I wish I just did it. I wish I just went. So, that’s awesome. I think that’s totally cool.

Jessica:
Yay. Well, it’s just like that. Yeah. That split decision.

Jessmyn:
Yeah. Exactly.

Jessica:
It’s scary, maybe you can go one day after all this kind of simmers down.

Jessmyn:
I know. Traveling is one of the things that I always wanted to do and I’ve done some traveling within the U.S. and then a couple of other countries. But yeah, I just wish I could just go wherever. This is one of those years where you’re like, stop questioning it and just do it.

Jessica:
Exactly. Well, that’s good. Now, you know and I think that a lot of us know that just to take advantage when you can, because there’s definitely going to be times where you literally cannot.

Jessmyn:
Crazy. Right? The last thing that I have for you, you did kind of touch on this a little bit, but it’s going to be a little bit different because I want it to be more towards you, yourself. If you could go back in time and meet yourself at the start of it all, what’s a single piece advice that you would give yourself?

Jessica:
Ooh. I think I would tell myself to start building relationships with any potential clients and not even just potential clients, but also other writers, right off the bat. Because I think over time, that is what really helps when you’re trying to grow something on your own, is just having and not, and making them genuine connections, not just like a LinkedIn and then you never talk to them again. You maybe have a conversation and you start posting some of your own work and then join other little, they have Facebook groups and also Twitter and everything. Just joining communities where people like you and they don’t have to be in your exact career, but anyone that’s kind of like-minded. I think joining anything like that off the bat is really helpful because then you get feedback and you’ll get potential clients out of it. Just over time, you feel a little more supported too. You don’t feel like you’re completely on your own when you’re starting something. Yeah, I think that would be anyone if they’re just starting out. I would definitely recommend that. It’s never too early to dip your toes and you can see what people are doing and get ideas from them and then just continue to grow from there.

Jessmyn:
I love that. I think if there’s a common theme that I’ve noticed so far that people will talk about, it’s being a part of a community. I think that’s a great piece of advice and I think, especially with some of the struggles that people go through when they are trying to start their own thing, it’s nice to have other people there. I love that. Cool.

Jessica:
Yeah, exactly.

Jessmyn:
All right. So that’s all I have for myself. Thank you so much, Jessica, for being on with us today. I loved your story and thank you for sharing it with the world. I know sometimes it’s scary, but that was awesome.

Jessica:
Yeah. Thank you so much. It was so fun.

Jessmyn:
All right guys. Well, I will see you on the next episode. Hope you guys enjoyed this one and I’ll see you soon. Bye.

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Jessmyn Solana

Jessmyn Solana is the Partner Program Manager of Interact, a place for creating beautiful and engaging quizzes that generate email leads. Outside of Interact Jessmyn loves binge watching thriller and sci-fi shows, cuddling with her fluffy dog, and traveling to places she's never been before.

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