Escape the rat race

How Julie Whitney escaped the rat race with an online PR business and children’s books

Meet Julie Whitney, who escaped the rat race in 2000 at the age of 40 and never looked back. She has been a self-employed PR professional ever since and also became a children’s author (of Astra the Lonely Airplane) during the pandemic. Welcome to “How I Escaped”. This Discovery Sessions interview series probes inspiring individuals who successfully ditched the rat race to inspire readers just like you. 


Rosie Bell: Where are you from or where do you feel local to?

Julie Whitney: Cincinnati, Ohio.


RB: How did you escape the rat race? Tell us the backstory of your former profession.

JW: After working in advertising and public relations on both the agency and client side and also in the field of local television for close to 20 years, I decided to move forward with courage and start my own public relations consulting business in 2000. Things shifted for me a bit after having a child and juggling it all with the rat race of schlepping to child care and working 9-6 and barely getting to spend any time with him took its toll.


I told myself I would have my own company by the time I was 40 in order to spend more time with him and make my own hours and I did. I started my company on July 1, 2000, and turned 40 that following October. As it turns out, life would soon take another turn and I found myself suddenly single again in July of 2001. Being self-employed was a true blessing as I was able to pick my son up from school, get him to sports practices, help with homework, and be present just about whenever he needed me. I was also able to get a lot of work done at night long after he was in bed.


RB: What advice would you give someone looking to become an online business owner? 

JW: Start networking and confidentially telling those that you trust that you are about to venture out on your own. Have plenty of money put aside in the bank, as it may take a while before you get a paycheck. Start “moonlighting” and working on a few side projects for potential new clients while you still have a full-time job. Find a larger client that can be your solid base and put them on a retainer, assuring that you will have enough income to live on, and then build your hourly clients around that.


RB: What does a typical day in the life look like for you (if you have one)? 

JW: Being an empty nester now with grown children and grandkids, my typical day is always getting up fairly early, having a cup of coffee while checking my email then hitting the gym and coming back home and seizing the workday. If my husband is not flying the friendly skies, we try to hit the gym together or squeeze in nine holes of golf, and I have found myself sending emails from the golf cart. I love the freedom of being able to work anywhere. I even have taken a phone call from a reporter on the golf course.


I have recently added a second job to my resume as a children’s book author, so I am juggling two different lines of work now. When my husband unexpectedly lost his job as the Chief Corporate Pilot of a beautiful Gulfstream jet in 2020 due to the pandemic, I channeled my sadness into writing a children’s book called Astra The Lonely Airplane, which has now become a series, as the second book Astra In Hollywood was just released this year. So during the school year, I am often ironing my pilot uniform and heading to a school assembly with my husband, Captain Dan, to read the books and teach children about aviation.



RB: What’s the biggest challenge of life as an online business owner? 

JW: I would have to say been adapting to the rapidly changing world of digital media. When I started out in the business, I was still calling reporters on the phone to pitch stories and they would actually answer and we would have conversations. There was no email. I would actually have to fax news releases. Also, all of my long-time reporter and producer pals in the national media have retired. I am having to build new connections with a younger generation who don’t know me, or my reputation, which has been particularly challenging. I am all about relationship building and developing trust and rapport with reporters and producers who will then want to work with you on a regular basis. Yes, the world of media has changed tremendously since 2000.


RB: What’s the biggest reward of life as an online business owner? 

JW: Taking vacation whenever I want to without asking anyone. Choosing not to work with difficult or rude clients. Life is way too short to work with people that stress you out or make you unhappy.



RB: What does freedom mean to you? When do you feel the most free?

JW: Honestly, I feel more free now in my 60s than I have in my entire life. Kids are grown and I have two thriving businesses and I can work as much or as little as I want to. I don’t take myself or others so seriously and I can let work stuff that would have kept me up all night in my 30s or 40s roll off my back. The 60’s are good.


RB: What advice would you give to someone wanting to become location-independent, work online, and maximize their freedom?

JW: Remember that you are working independently and you need to take care of you, which is the reason you are doing all of this. Set your away message when you are on vacation, and give clients a heads up when you are going to be gone as a courtesy.


RB: What do you wish you did differently (in work or life)? 

JW: The only thing I can think of is perhaps becoming a children’s author as a “second act” a bit sooner. I have so many Astra books in my brain, and there is not going to be enough time to publish all of them in my lifetime.





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Where can I find useful travel resources for digital nomads?

You can find all my nomad-friendly resources right here on this page. These will help you out whether you’re looking for the best flight search tools or digital sim cards. Also, sign up for Freedom Friday, our weekly newsletter that gives you five links with informational bites from the worlds of digital nomadism, remote work, travel, freedompreneurship, life design, and location independence. 

Hi, I'm Rosie Bell, a location-independent writer, editor and lifestyle entrepreneur. If you want inspiration and support to live, travel and work anywhere, look no further. Let's talk right here.