Interview with Sarah Li Cain – International Educator and Freelance Writer/Blogger

Interview with Sarah Li CainTell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.

I’ve been a world traveler my whole life. I remember as a kid thinking that no matter what kind of job I was to have, that it would allow me to explore the world. I met a really cool teacher in high school and she ended up moving to Spain to live and teach there. That really influenced me to go to college to become a teacher.

Right after I graduated college I went overseas. I haven’t looked back since. Within 6 years I’ve lived in Australia, South Korea, and China. After that, I thought the natural progression was to move back to the states to ‘settle down’ with my husband.

I wasn’t happy. It isn’t that the US had nothing to offer me, but I knew that being in one place wasn’t the lifestyle for me. I had been doing some freelance photography work but never took it seriously, and it definitely didn’t pay the bills. It took me a long time to reflect on what I wanted as a career. I discovered freelance writing blogs quite by accident, and realized that this type of career would allow me the flexibility and location independence I so longed for. I never thought in a million years I would start my own business. But here I am.

What did you do before launching your own business?

I was a teacher in 4 different countries. I taught everything from ESL to high school art. My goal is to still be a teacher while working on my own business.

How did you fund your business?

I had a lot saved up from my previous job teaching in China. I had enough for two years of living expenses!

One of the wonderful things about freelance writing online is that it doesn’t take a lot of initial investment. I actually started with not investing any money and applying for jobs through Elance.  I learned about effective web content writing and blogging through free articles on various websites. A few months ago I decided that I would start my own website and get clients from there. I paid for the domain name, a web hosting service, and did the web design myself.  I am also subscribing to some paid job posting sites to see if those will turn into better leads for jobs.

How many hours do you work a week and how much is spent is your home office?

At the moment I work about 25 hours a week. I’ve been devoting non-work hours to my photography and making the transition into moving overseas again. Lots of paperwork and packing to do!

Right now I spend all of my working hours in my home office. Once I move to China (again) I’ll probably be spending about half that time because I’ll be out meeting suppliers for another business I’m planning on starting and clients for my writing business. I have also been asked to help tutor some students once I arrive in China, so I will be spending time going to their houses instead of them coming to me. 

How would you rate your success?

This is a hard question! I think so far I’ve done pretty well. I’ve managed to land a fairly regular client within my first month of freelancing, and am getting more and more leads by the day.  I know that I have it in me and the potential to grow my business.

But then again, it really depends on what success means to you. I feel successful because I finally have the freedom to choose projects I want to do. I also feel successful because I am finally able to have a flexible work schedule, which is something I’ve always wanted to have.

What has been your biggest business struggle as an entrepreneur?

I struggle a lot with my confidence. I used to tell myself I wasn’t cut out for business because I never studied it in college. Another one would be scheduling. I have so many interests and ideas I want to develop for my business but I’m afraid of doing too much and not being able to fully concentrate on getting at one good skill before going off and learning another one.

What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?

Stop thinking and reading articles all day and just do it! Part of being an entrepreneur is taking risks and failing along the way. Have you ever heard of a successful entrepreneur who hasn’t failed?

Another piece of advice I would say is to invest in yourself.  Never stop learning. If you are not getting stronger you are getting weaker.

How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?

Google calendar is my best friend. I schedule in blocks of time and before I stop working I review what ‘activities’ I’m doing the next day so I can mentally prepare myself. I also give myself working hours and am very firm with that. I learned a long time ago that if I separate myself from my work every once in a while I will not get burnt out.

As for personal activities, I am very thankful for my husband who never fails to remind me when we have social activites, or to even find extra time to spend with him. He is very good at reminding me what is important in life.

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