Last updated on January 31st, 2024
Meet Sophie Seddighzadeh. She’s a remote marketing project manager currently living in Mexico City. Welcome to “Life by Design”. This Discovery Sessions interview series probes inspiring individuals who work online and travel, and people designing their lives around freedom to inspire readers just like you.
Rosie Bell: Where are you from or where do you feel local to?
Sophie Seddighzadeh: I consider myself to be from England. All of my mum’s family is English and I spent my childhood and adolescence there but I moved to the US at 16. It’s kind of complicated for me emotionally because in my heart I feel English, however, all of my adult experiences like working or taxes have been American-based. In some ways, it’s great because I am able to understand a range of cultural references but I feel torn whenever this question comes up or when somebody meets me and is confused by my intercontinental-sounding accent.
RB: How did you start as a remote marketing project manager?
SS: Prior to the pandemic I was a digital marketing specialist and had been for many years. During the lockdown, I decided to take advantage of my spare time and earned my Project Management Professional Certificate (PMP). It’s funny because at the time I purely got the certificate with no career goals in mind, and I had no idea how it would benefit me in the future.
The one thing I was excited about regarding entering project management was that it is very contract-based. At the time, I was thinking I could take a few months off to travel between contracts (obviously not knowing how my life would eventually play out). When I first became location independent, I was still a digital marketing specialist for the same company I had worked for pre-COVID and I didn’t really make much use of my project management certificate. As I started nomading, I met so many freelancers who were working for themselves or with clients that they had connected with through Upwork. Meanwhile, I was one of only a handful of nomads I knew who were working a traditional nine-to-five.
After five months of asking questions and gaining courage, I finally decided to start my own Upwork profile offering marketing project management services that would encompass my experience and my certificate. I got my first client in August and quit my full-time job by October. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the influence of my fellow freelancers and the nomad community that I became a part of.
RB: What advice would you give someone looking to start as a remote marketing project manager?
SS: Get a credible certificate or license in a field that’s compatible with remote working. Reach out to people (either in person or digitally) who are in the position you’d like to be in and also, just start. I had an Upwork profile for years but I never applied myself to trying to get clients. Once I did, things fell into place quickly.
RB: What does a typical day in the life look like for you (if you have one)?
SS: My work day is pretty similar to how it used to be during the pandemic when I was working remotely and living in Las Vegas. I would wake up and work right away because that’s my most productive peak. I take a few hours off around midday and then pick work back up later in the afternoon once I’ve had a mental break. That structure works for me and my productivity no matter where I go. The only time that would be an issue is if I’m in a time zone that would require me to sync up with my client in the afternoon or evening rather than the morning.
I would say that the main difference between a typical day now, compared to a typical day when I lived a “regular life”, is the flexibility to arrange my schedule to my liking. If there’s an opportunity to do something spontaneous or adventurous in the middle of the week, I try to take advantage because I recognize that it’s an opportunity I would not be able to take in a traditional 9-to-5 setting. Sometimes that does mean moving meetings – which I used to feel guilty about because I love my clients, however, having the authority over my calendar is a benefit you only receive as somebody who works for themselves. It’s important for me to make the most of my time in a new city or country while I can.
RB: What’s the biggest challenge of life as a remote marketing project manager?
SS: My most recent challenge has been learning how to scale my business. I have tried to model my business in the same way that some of my other freelancer friends have, but applying their business model to mine as a project manager did not work at all. People I knew were growing teams to support their influx of clients, but project managers are solely responsible for their own work – it cannot be passed off.
Before I knew it, I had way too many clients for a one-woman show. This year I have learned to set boundaries with clients to help manage my work-life balance because at one point I found myself constantly in meetings and working 24/7. I discovered that scaling for me meant having quality over quantity of clients so that I could maintain my purpose as a nomad – having the freedom to explore.
RB: What’s the biggest reward of life as a remote marketing project manager?
SS: Not having to ask for permission to plan your life. It’s so liberating to be able to plan the next two months, six months, or a year of travel without having to worry about PTO or a manager’s input on your plans.
I have taken so many vacations this year, that even if I had the PTO, I likely wouldn’t have taken any trips because of the guilt associated with taking time off in American culture. In the beginning, I had to keep reminding myself that I was fully in control of my schedule because I’d hesitate when people would invite me to do something unique during traditional work hours. This goes to show how conditioned we become working in Corporate America.
RB: What habits, principles, or ideas have served you the most in your life?
SS: I’m a big believer in self-reflection and personal growth. For example, If I had never pursued the project management professional certificate, I don’t think it would have been as easy for me to become a freelancer as quickly as I did and consequently not make the income that I make today which is more than I ever could have dreamed of a mere two years ago. If you’re in the pursuit of getting to that next level in your life, in any capacity, you will be rewarded. I love this saying: don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.
RB: What do you wish you did differently (in work or life)?
SS: There are a few minor things I could mention but ultimately all of those choices either brought me happiness at the time (or didn’t). But they ultimately helped lead me to where I am today. Everything has fallen into place at the right time, in my opinion.
RB: How do you measure success?
SS: I define success as living a life that you’ve designed to suit your personality and deepest desires. For many people in their 30s, having a fancy car or a house would display a level of success which is completely fine for them but that would not be fulfilling for me.
Success is in the eye of the beholder. Having the flexibility (both financially and from a schedule perspective) to decide who I want to work with, where I want to live, and how I want to spend my time is perfect.
RB: What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a digital nomad?
SS: If you would like to become a digital nomad or are already nomadic, take things slowly and don’t plan too far ahead. You unexpectedly meet many life-changing people and wonderful places along the journey. Leave room for spontaneity; the cities and countries on your bucket list aren’t going anywhere.