I met Angie at the Copywriter Club live event in San Diego in March 2020 (the exact same week the world turned upside down), and shortly after that she became one of my business coaches. With our shared love of grilled cheese toasties, cats, and travel – I HAD to find out how she was managing life and work on the road with her furry companion, Stella – and find out what the heck llama yoga is?
Introduce yourself to the world!
Hi world! I’m Angie. I’m a heavily tattooed, blunt, blues singer turned digital marketer turned freelance copy chief and business coach. I’m traveling around the US with my cat Stella, and just started a podcast called Permission to Kick Ass.
You’re currently having an incredible road trip around the USA with your cat – which some people might think is insane (and/or completely impossible, because kitties are our supreme overlords). How did this idea become a reality, how long are you traveling for, and….how is it going so far?
Traveling during a pandemic (not my first choice) was really my response to an unexpected breakup. I’d been struggling with transitioning out of copy/digital marketing for the better part of six months, and my then-partner knew this. I finally decided to give notice to my old role after much hand-wringing… and six days after I turned in notice, he turned off an episode of the Great British Baking Show, sat up and said, “I don’t know how to say this but I don’t love you the way you love me and I’m moving into the new house by myself.”
So in the course of a week I’d gone from woohoo! New business, new podcast, new career path, new house with partner to… no job, no relationship, no real recovery plan for this sudden shift. There were a lot of feelings. A LOT. But in between sob sessions I had moments of clarity, like… well I don’t want to live in this house where we’ve got history and memories (and he lives 10 minutes down the road, just waiting for a lonely night). I don’t want to live with my parents, even though I’m fortunate they offered. I don’t want to rent a new place or buy a house in Houston because I don’t particularly like it here, aside from being near family… but where do I go? I don’t know. Since I couldn’t answer the “I don’t know” question, I decided to get more data by discovering all the cities and towns I’d always wanted to visit, but never had a chance to.
It took about a month between the sudden breakup and when I had the plan solidified. And really, by solid plan, I mean I knew I was traveling, had culled or stored most of my stuff, and had picked New Orleans as my first stop… but that was really as far as I got with planning. And to be fair, I had a lot of other stuff to deal with so winging it was really my best option so as not to completely overwhelm myself.
It’s worked out better that way – that I don’t have all my Airbnbs booked months in advance – because I’ve had several unexpected changes of plan that would have been harder to roll with if I were committed to specific check ins and checkouts for months. There was the time there was a massive gas shortage on the east coast because of hackers shutting down a major oil pipeline and people stupidly panic buying. Then there was the time I had to move twice in a week because of scheduling challenges. And I’m just finishing up with making plans to fly back home for a few days to attend my dad’s wedding – something that just came up in the last few weeks.
So far it’s going great – I’m learning how to love my alone time, which is something I know I was uncomfortable with before. I’m also having a blast doing all the things I would have ordinarily saved for “someday”, or waited to do until someone would go with me. In Asheville I booked an open-air hot tub out in the woods.
In Atlanta, I booked a session of “llama yoga”.
I’ve hiked waterfalls, talked to strangers in outdoor dining areas, been on a riverboat during a gospel show, driven the Blueridge Parkway, and gone to Dollywood to ride rollercoasters… all of it solo. And I’ve discovered just how much I love being able to do the things I want without having to persuade someone, justify myself, or sync up schedules. I want to go, I go.
Having Stella with me makes things slightly more difficult. For one, she yowls the entire drive. The ENTIRE drive. She is still not used to it, and I don’t know that she’ll ever be. It’s OK – it’s one day every six weeks. Once we settle into the new place, she’s totally fine within 5 minutes. The other challenge is how many Airbnb hosts are pet friendly but NOT cat friendly. I’ve solved this partially by asking hosts to meet/rate Stella. She’s well trained and non-destructive, so she’s got a lot of positive reviews on my profile.
But it does complicate things – I couldn’t just fly home for dad’s wedding. I had to figure out if she was coming with (ok, flying or driving, where do I leave my car, where do we stay that’s pet friendly?), staying somewhere (boarders? friends?)… every option came with about 20 “what ifs?” and ultimately a friend stepped up to watch her so I can fly in and out.
What are your best tips for anybody who’s thinking about travelling with their pet?
Bring their favorite toys/necessary supplies. For Stella, we travel with a scratcher/kitty hammock, a saucer bed, her favorite blanket, her favorite toys, her litter box, pet cleaners and stain removers, fur/lint rollers, and preferred food. There have been a few times where her preferred food was not available locally, and I’ve had to clear with hosts to have Amazon or Chewy packages delivered (cat owners know what I’m talking about with finicky eaters).
Communicate up front with hosts – don’t ever surprise them with a pet. Yes, they might charge a fee, but I’m a little nutso about cleaning up litter and cat hair so my hosts don’t have to – quite a few of them were surprised I left such a clean house, and wound up not charging the extra pet fee. But I lint-rolled the drapes if I found fur on them, so if you’re not anal-retentive, just expect an extra cleaning fee.
And lastly, try to ritualize it if you can. I already know travel is stressful for Stella, so I try to give her a little extra love in the days leading up to a driving day, and on driving day. I bring out her carrier and spray it with pheromones and relaxing sprays, let it sit out so she doesn’t associate it with panic and car rides. I’m generous with treats, and we do a few stops along the way so she can get out of the carrier and wander around the car. I’ve learned that carrier accidents happen no matter how well you prepare, so having puppy pee pads on hand will save you a lot of smelly drive time (not to mention scrubbing the carrier) – you can pull over, throw out the soiled pad, replace it with a fresh on, wipe down the furbeast, and be on your way.
Any amusing kitty travel stories to share?
When we were in Asheville, our host had a fenced-in yard, and we were up in the mountains where it was quiet. I would take Stella out in the evenings and let her explore. Sometimes the owners would come out and hang with us – and their dog Abby was OBSESSED with Stella. She just followed Stella around and stared at her. Once Stella chased Abby across the yard and we were all laughing.
I was walking Stella around our Memphis Airbnb (yes, I take her on walks with a leash) and so many people stopped to admire and pet her, ask how I’d gotten a cat to walk on a leash (answer: start young and be patient. Also she decides which way we’re walking). And of course, any meetings I have or podcasts I record, Stella wants to be involved. By now most of my clients, colleagues, and podcast guests have seen her crash/be a camera hog.
Best places you’ve visited on your journey?
My faves to date are New Orleans, Asheville, and Savannah. I’ve been to Memphis, Nashville, Charleston, and Atlanta as well, and will be going to Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, and St. Pete later this year. Next year is out west!
What does a typical day look like for you right now?
Get up, make coffee, go for a walk, write some. In Asheville and Savannah I had access to GORGEOUS front porches and loved writing there on my tablet. Then I check in with clients and catch up on any urgent work.
Mondays and Fridays are no-call days, which gives me focus days (that sometimes turn into free days) to really crank out work (or go on a local adventure). Tues and Thurs are my call days, where I am coached or coach others. Weds is my podcast recording day (podcast promo day when I’m on a recording break).
I like short bursts of focused work so that I can take long, leisurely lunches, afternoon naps, or adventures. I’ve been known to take work meetings at different locations, like on the grounds of the Cheekwood Manor outside Nashville, or inside the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, near its indoor waterfalls.
In a word: flexibility.
What’s the #1 challenge you have with working and travelling full time?
What to expect at each Airbnb. Some hosts have everything a person could need to live comfortably for six weeks – one even had a stocked freezer and a bunch of snacks waiting for me, which was awesome. Some have like… one pan for cooking, and no food storage containers or cleaning supplies. As a result, I’ve got a “kit” I travel with that’s got cooking supplies, storage containers, a French press for coffee (I hate Keurigs and their weak coffee – but so many hosts have them), cleaning supplies, and extra toilet paper.
Other than packing/travel days, it’s pretty much the same as it was when I lived in one place. Only now I watch Netflix on someone else’s couch, and then find a tourist trap nearby to explore.
How do you stay productive and motivated to get work done while you’re on the road?
A timer. Not even kidding. I have a hexagon-shaped timer that has different minute markers on each side. I just rotate it to the number of minutes I want and the timer sets itself, then I’m off to the races. It was a game changer for me – before I tried to set timers on my phone and would get distracted, forget what I was doing.
Between my timer, focus music (no words, nothing I know and would start singing along to), and my Monk Manual planner, I know what I need to get done on a given day vs what’s NICE to get done. And I don’t feel guilty if I hit my big 3 tasks for the day but don’t get to ALL my to-dos. Also every night I write down five acknowledgments and five gratitudes. Acknowledgments are critical – it’s me giving myself credit for having done something. It gets me out of the pattern of only seeing where I fall short (which I think a lot of creatives wind up doing).
What does your nomad setup look like? What’s the gear that you can’t live without to get work done and stay on track?
I travel with a folding desk, 24-inch curved external monitor, webcam and bluetooth headset for meetings, yoga ball chair, bluetooth mouse/ergonomic keyboard, mini podcast recording booth, podcast recording equipment, and my ReMarkable tablet.
I discovered fairly quickly that:
1) most Airbnbs don’t have a dedicated workspace (yet – I think it’s trending that way now), and
2) working from the couch or kitchen table gets painful REALLY quickly. If I’m in pain, I can’t focus on work very long, so I invested in my portable ergo setup so that I’m not hunched over my laptop all day.
My tablet I love because I can’t access the internet on it, even though I can connect it to wifi. So I can take it to a coffee shop, or on a boat ride, or just to the porch… do a bunch of writing and brainstorming, convert it to text and email it to myself so I don’t have to type it up. I can be even more efficient offline with that tablet than I sometimes am sitting at my computer.
What’s your favourite part of this current lifestyle?
The freedom (and the food).
(Pretty sure Angie has missed her true calling as a food blogger)
…and the not so favourite part?
Packing, cleaning, and moving. If someone could invent a magic “pack and clean” button along with a “teleport me, my cat, and all my junk” option, I’d be eternally grateful.
How did you first start out freelancing – and what has your progression looked like to get to where you are now?
I initially started out in 2010 after reading a book on copywriting, right after getting laid off. I figured I was a decent writer and could probably figure it out, then proceeded to fumble my way through any writing job anyone would give me, on all the lowball freelance sites out there.
I was not able to make a sustainable living trying to figure it out on my own, so I got a job as a copywriter and went in-house for about six years before quitting to try again, this time with copy skills AND someone to teach me business skills.
What/who made the biggest difference in your career in terms of getting better clients/getting paid more?
Hands down, Kevin Rogers and Copy Chief (plus all the connections I made in the community). I’ve had help with intros, referrals, contracts, deal structures, figuring out what makes a good client (and how to identify a bad client and save myself tons of time and heartache).
What are your top recommended resources online for new freelance writers?
The book that launched my career is called The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman.
I also really liked High Income Business Writing (a podcast by Ed Gandia) when I was still commuting to my copy job.
Copy Chief is a great paid community, and membership comes with a lot of specific copy trainings, job opportunities, and camaraderie.
The Copywriter Club is a fantastic free Facebook group where you can get a lot of advice and support. Both Kevin Rogers (of Copy Chief) and Kira and Rob (of The Copywriter Club) have excellent podcasts with advice on marketing, copy, and freelance business growth.
You’ve just launched Permission to Kick Ass – what’s it all about, and who is it the best fit for?
The idea was sparked when I joined Copy Chief and kept holding back from posting because I didn’t think I was smart enough/had enough to offer, especially in comparison to the other smart folks posting in there daily.
Kevin noticed and brought it up on our new member call – and even though I was a senior copywriter with a full time salary, I still didn’t think I had something to contribute. He told me he felt like I was waiting for permission to be an expert, and told me I didn’t actually need it. Then he told me, in case I was waiting for it, he was officially giving it to me.
That was about six years ago as I’m writing this. Along the way, I met others operating businesses at super high levels – we’re talking multiple revenue streams, big name clients, outsize opportunities for pay and results – and they shared with me when they were dealing with crippling anxiety, or fears that they didn’t know what to do next, or resisting structure/systems/revenue because they’re creative and worry that running a business will never be in their skillset.
I started to see patterns in these people holding themselves back out of fear and anxiety, so I started Permission to Kick Ass as a way to showcase how many of us in business deal with this – and still find a way to succeed.
Past guests have shared stuff like dealing with a six-figure lawsuit in the middle of COVID shutdowns (and losing all their clients at the same time), working through depression and difficult client situations, worrying about whether they earned the right to call themselves “entrepreneur” if they took a job… and a lot more.
If you’re thinking of starting a creative business – you need this show, if for nothing else but to show you how NOT alone you are. You’re NOT fucking it all up. You WILL figure this out. And you do NOT have to do it all by yourself.
What’s your best advice for anyone who’s thinking of becoming a freelance writer AND travelling at the same time
Try it. It’s a lot to figure out, but you’ll find your rhythm pretty quickly. I’ve got packing and moving almost down to a science now, and I know I can have my car loaded (with everything I own) in two hours flat. Challenge yourself to do more than living on someone else’s couch and doing the same thing every day – if you’re traveling, you might as well explore too!
Build in some fun time and some free time, because if you don’t have a reason to close the laptop at the end of the day, you can easily wind up working all night. Yes, schedule adventures (and pay deposits so you can’t back out), because it’ll force you to be more efficient with your daily workload.
And remember you don’t need nearly as much crap as you think you do. Travel light, have fun, and trust that you’ll be able to find what you need wherever you go.
Where can people follow you/find you online/get coaching from you?
My site is Permission To Kick Ass. That’s where I share a lot of my adventures and photos, and I’ve got a section called “Work With Me” where you can learn more about 1-on-1 coaching.
You can also sign up there for email updates, including my Monday newsletter, Kick Monday’s Ass, and new podcast episode announcements. You can find the Permission to Kick Ass show wherever you stream your podcasts.
Also my cat Stella has an Insta, which I forget to update most of the time. For sporadic travel-cat pictures and videos, follow her @stellakicksass.
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