This Digital Nomad Left Her Academic Job: Now She’s A Big Help For Business Owners

digital nomad woman sitting on bed using a laptop a camera and a smartphone

Jo Murphy is a Facebook/Instagram ad specialist and digital nomad. She grew up in New Zealand, built her business in Australia, and now spends most of her time on the road. Before going freelance five years ago, she was an academic – researching and teaching contemporary media at university level.

Do you want to know more about her and her upcoming projects? Keep reading to discover how it is to work as a digital nomad and how unpredictable life can be!

Also, if you’re a business owner this interview could be even more interesting and helpful than you might think, so I definitely suggest you pay attention to some questions in particular. So let’s just dive into the interview!

A few fun facts about Jo 

Name: Jo Murphy

Currently based in: Cusco, Peru (this changes about once a month!)

Originally from: Auckland, New Zealand

Superpower: I can make myself at home anywhere. Give me a day or two, and I’ll be wandering around a city/town as though I’ve been living there for years.

A woman you admire & why: My friend Lisa Corduff. We’re about as different as two people could possibly be, but she’s one of my all time favorite humans to hang out with. What I admire most about her is her ability to hold onto hope. Even when she’s going through a really dark and bleak time, she can imagine a future full of colour – always has a new idea, a new dream, a new spark of inspiration. 

Quote that you live by: I go to seek a Great Perhaps.

And now let’s get on with the interview

1. What made you decide to leave your job and chase something that could look like an uncertain future? Did something or someone inspire you?

It wasn’t really an active choice – or it didn’t feel like one. I had to move to another state for personal reasons; there was a university nearby, but no jobs available in my field. I took whatever work I could get, wherever I could get it, – managing a boarding house, working in a local whiskey bar, telemarketing – until eventually I found a job managing Facebook pages for natural therapies providers. I found that I really loved actually DOING some of the things I used to research and teach; and right off the bat, I got really good results.

From there, I kept picking up more and more work in the social media niche; and eventually, did a six month internship with a Facebook ads agency. Up to that point I’d mostly been doing organic social media management, but during that six months I completely fell in love with ads. The internship gave me the skills and foundation I needed to start doing that full time, and doing it well.

2. What was life like before the big change and how is it like now? Are you happier now?

Before the big change, I felt like I had a really clear idea of what my life was going to look like. Academia has a very clear trajectory: you get your PhD, you get a faculty job, you work your way up the ranks from lecturer to professor, you get tenture/confirmed. When you’re freelancing, and creating your own job role – there’s no clear path, no set destination. I have ideas about what I want my future to look like and the things I want to do, but it’s not a set in stone thing like it was back when I was an academic. 

I don’t know if I’d say I’m always happier – both jobs are incredibly challenging and high stress. if you’re committed to them. But I have a lot more freedom, in a lot of ways. I have incredible friends in the online business world, who I’d never have met if I hadn’t transitioned over into this job. I really enjoy the work, and I have great clients.

3. What kind of companies do you work with and what do you do for them?

I work with a very wide range of clients – from eCommerce to business coaching, scattered all over the world, selling all sorts of products at all sorts of price points. What they have in common is that they’re all incredibly passionate about what they do, and who they do it for. 

I really enjoy the diversity – keeps me on my toes!

4. What is one project that you’re currently working on that you are most excited about?

I’m currently working on a social media resource library – a huge stack of resources to help business owners produce great, algorithm-friendly content that they love, and their audience(s) love too. As part of/alongside that, I’ll be doing monthly live workshops.

5. Who will find this social media resource library useful and why?

I’ve designed it for business owners who are stuck in overwhelm and information overload with their social media marketing – to (ideally!) get them to a place where they’re feeling confident, and actually enjoying talking to their audience(s) on social (rather than it feeling like a drag).

6. So, are there some prerequisites or will it be something that every business owner could actually use?

There’s no prerequisites – the live workshops will assume basic knowledge of how Facebook and Instagram work, but they’re by no means “experts only.”

7. When will the social media resource library come out and where will people be able to find it?

I’ll be launching presale on the 2nd of November, at theadnomad.com

8. What is one of the greatest challenges or screw-ups you have faced after you’ve decided to start this new path in your life?

The greatest challenge I faced was when I left an abusive relationship, and suffered from complex post-traumatic stress disorder. I was very unwell but because it was my own business? There was no sick leave available, no boss to talk to about time off. I had clients depending on me, and if I didn’t find some way to push through – I’d likely lose my entire income, and have a hard time getting it back. 

I had to be honest with my clients about my reduced capacity, and get really good systems in place to support myself. It wasn’t easy, and I’m sure I didn’t always get it right – but I got through.

9. What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to other women who want to make a big change but are scared about it?

Taking that leap will always be hard, and scary – but it’ll be a lot easier if you have a good community around you. Friends, people in the same niche, other people who “get” what it’s like running a business. Even if they don’t always really get what you do, a cheerleading squad can make all the difference on the days when it’s feeling a bit rough.

10. Is it hard to work while traveling? Are there some downsides to it?

I wouldn’t say it’s hard, or that there’s a lot of downsides – it’s just different. I’d say the only real downside is that I can’t afford to be offline for more than a day, because that’s just part and parcel of ad management (checking and tweaking ads daily) – which means that multi-day hikes or trips to places off the grid just aren’t do-able, and I have to try and space out my travel days (when I go from one place to the next). But on the flipside of that: I have a continuous income, and can stay on the road as long as I like (in theory). And the fact that I travel more slowly means I get to really know a place, feel what it’s like to live there (rather than just doing touristy things). 

11. Many high school students don’t really know what they want to study in college and sometimes it can be hard to figure it out. What was it like for you? What would you suggest to someone who’s at sea?

My undergraduate degree was in Art History and Theory – I was one of the top national scholars in the subject at high school, so it seemed like the obvious choice. In my final year, I ended up taking a few film and media papers, fell madly in love – so I changed majors (my graduate degrees are in Media, Film and Communication Studies). Just because you start out studying one thing, doesn’t mean you’re stuck with that major. You can always change if you hate it, or if you find something you love more.

And ultimately: the reason why I think my time in academia was so worth it, wasn’t actually about what I studied. I got to spend my days surrounded by smart, engaged people who were interested in the same things I was. I could ask questions, explore, learn – and had endless resources at my fingertips to help me do that. I learned to write well against a tight deadline, to think critically, to give interesting and informative presentations. 

So I’d say: if you want to go to university, and there’s a subject you think you might like to major in – don’t worry about whether it’s going to give rise to a good career, or make you a lot of money. Just go, and have an absolutely fantastic time – explore what you’re passionate about, indulge your curiosity, grow as a human. The career thing will figure itself out in time.

Are you interested in the social media resource library? Then be sure to check it out at theadnomad.com and make the most out of your social media marketing!

As usual, feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments down below. Have a nice rest of the day!

Julia

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