Market musings

[Interview] In My Suitcase with Digital Nomad/Blogger Sabrina Barbante

by Sasha Viasasha
August 9, 2017

Remote work can mean many different things to many different people. Some cherish the opportunity to work at home where they can be close to family, while others thrive in the vibrant atmosphere of the global coworking community, with new spaces popping up all over the world.

We're curious about how remote workers experience the world, so to learn more we caught up with freelance writer and translator Sabrina Barbante.  Sabrina blogs in three languages and works out of her suitcase from some of the most beautiful locations all over the planet. She offered up some compelling insights into what clients need from freelancers, why she loves working in smaller cities, and her entrepreneurial vision for the future. 

Spoke: How did you end up as a digital nomad? Did you plan it or fall into it? 

SB: Well, yes and no! I worked in Milan in a communications and marketing office, but I decided to leave to go back to my South (Lecce, Puglia, Southern Italy) and start freelancing in order to live here and travel while working. 

I started as a translator and ended up as a 3-language blogger. :-) I knew I wanted to work as a freelancer but I didn't imagine work would be this great. 

Spoke: It looks like you’ve been stranded on some really beautiful islands! How did you survive and get your work done? 

SB: Island + sea = I have all I need to survive.

To get my work done, I need the internet and my mobile phone or laptop. With them I can work no matter where I am. 

Spoke: What do you have in your work kit? (type of camera, portable battery charger, laptop, what kind of phone, etc.)

SB: I never leave without my iPhone 6, my MacBook Air and camera Canon EOS 800D. But actually, all this technology was never able to let me do what I wanted to do without also having my paper notes/workbook and my pen! :-) I can’t work without paper to draft notes on. I love paper. It’s the only way I have to keep all my ideas! 

Spoke: What is the one thing you wish you had known before starting out?

SB: I'm writing an e-book about all of this. You have to know before becoming a digital nomad all the tips on how to become a successful one. There are so many things a newbie should know, e.g. how to use social networks to find true clients, what can be detrimental for your work, how to always find new inspiration, even during the bad periods, etc. 

But there are also tons of things that it’s better to learn first hand, day-by-day (and these would have been obstacles if you’d known them before you started). 

Spoke: What do freelancers really want (or need) from clients and partners? 

SB: I'd prefer to tell you what a client really needs from a freelancer: someone who is able to solve problems without even mentioning the problem itself. The advantage of a freelancer, someone who doesn’t work in your office, is the opportunity to have someone out there taking care of some aspects of your business that you don’t have to even worry about. 

So, freelancers need trust. And trust is what they should inspire.  

Spoke: You talk about collaboration. I’m curious if there are places/spaces where collaboration goes more smoothly, and what the biggest challenges are for freelancers, in your experience. 

SB: I’ve noticed that when you work in smaller cities, creating synergies is easier. People in smaller cities tend to make more opportunities and are easier to make networks with. That’s why I love South Italy and Puglia.

Spoke: What is the coworking community like? I was fascinated by your review of coworking in different European cities, and love how you included Ukraine. People have a certain picture in their head when it comes to the Balkans, and yet people there are working and living the life just like anywhere else. Are there certain unique characteristics in each coworking community, and does the community at large share certain qualities? 

SB: Eastern Europe and Balkans are the greatest surprise for freelancers and digital nomads for the reason above mentioned about the South of Italy: there is a big energy ready to explode, people want to create synergies and take on new challenges! Even more so, those countries are so beautiful and eager to share their beauty. 

Coworking spaces are places where people “hungry and foolish” go. That’s why they are the best ways to find new business partners.  

Spoke: How do you prefer to communicate - i.e., text, messages, social media, or how do you stay in touch? 

SB: I use email, text, Skype, and social networks. Nowadays, all media must be used for work communication. No media excluded. This means that your professionalism and competencies must be clear in all communications media! (This is another thing that I discuss in my upcoming e-book).

Spoke: What are some of your favorite tools or applications? 

SB: For graphics, I like Adobe Post and Snapseed. 

Spoke: How do you manage to stay disciplined when working remotely? Any special tips? 

SB: I'm a quite disciplined girl when it comes to work! I feel privileged when I have new jobs and deliveries so I can stay focused. That's also true when there is a great beach and sea in front of me (or mainly because of it). 

Gratefulness and a positive attitude are the best ways to stay focused and concentrated. When you think of your life as many other people’s dream, you’ll do your best!

Spoke: What is the biggest challenge you face? 

SB: Well, in Italy… taxes. 

Spoke: The biggest reward?

SB: When people write to me (on my blog, on Instagram, on other social networks, or via email) to tell me that I was somehow able to inspire them. That’s the greatest thing in my job and in my life. I wish I could make people believe all their dreams can come true… if they wake up.  

Spoke: How do you stay professional when working remotely? 

SB: Well, it’s very easy! Nobody sees me, so a good Instagram pic of my working station is enough to look professional while I’m still wearing my pajamas!  :-D 

Spoke: What does your perfect day look like?

SB: I love working early in the morning and finishing in the early afternoon, so then I can go for a walk, have a rest, go to the sea, etc. 

I love a working day that includes many messages from followers to reply to. 

The perfect end is always with a glass of chilly wine. 

Spoke: What is the perfect ending to this whole adventure? For example, starting your own company, making some amazing city a permanent home... Or can you not imagine an ending at all at this point?  

SB: I wish that in a couple of years, “In My Suitcase”, the name of my blog, will become a brand and a small (at first) business. I wish other badass bloggers could come to work with me at content writing and I wish I will travel even much more than I have.

Spoke: Thank you, Sabrina!

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