In this interview with a digital nomad series, I have interviewed Mariska Roothman a digital nomad originally from South Africa that travels the world thanks to her job as a video editor, a job that she loves so much and pays the bills and her travels.
In this great interview, Mariska explains how she transformed a passion that she accidentally found into her business and how she learned that with determination and willpower…and lots of work, you can achieve the life of your dreams.
Without further ado, let’s see what she want to share with us.
Read also about the pros and cons of a digital nomad life
Q1. Mariska, can you introduce yourself?
I am from the beautiful city of Cape Town in South Africa. It’s a bit difficult to say where I am from because I feel like a world citizen. For the past 5 years, I have been living in Hong Kong and also Vietnam. I am currently a video editor, co-founder of ONJ Productions, and starting an online illustration business.
Q2. What is your background? your education and your previous job?
I have always loved doing creative things and studied jewelry design and manufacturing. When I started working in this field I realized that I don’t have a lot of freedom and mass production isn’t something that I believe in, so I started doing different jobs. When I started travelling I also taught English, and made videos of my travels to show my family back home.
Q3. What made you decide to become a digital nomad?
My main drive was to work for myself. I looked at the things that I love doing and figured out how to turn this into a service that people need/ want. It has not been an easy journey, I have been doing this for the past 3 years and there are many ups and downs.
But, I will not change it for the world. I meet so many other creative people and my work always inspires me.
Q4. Can you talk about the step you took to become a digital nomad if you had any challenges and how you overcame them?
As I mentioned, I started to teach while traveling. In my free time I started building up my skills by just learning online and actually doing it. On one trip to Chiang Mai, my husband and I stayed at a coworking space and offered to make them a video for free. This video got picked up by bigger “digital nomad” websites and we were like “Hey, people actually enjoy watching this!”. So we started ONJ Productions.
It stands for Our Nomadic Journey and we try to tell stories that will also inspire other people. Recently we also started working on acoustic sets to help give talented musicians a platform where people can listen to their music.
Q5. How do you find clients?
I find clients via Facebook as I join the groups that interest me. For example for video editing, I will join Video editing Facebook groups. There are also online sites where I find clients such as Upwork, but it is really about building social media and putting out content. If people see the work that you do they will remember it and contact you.
You need to be consistent, something I still struggle with, and put out content for things you are looking to do.
Q6. What do you think are the main skills needed to do what you do?
The main thing for me is self-motivation! If you can get up every single day and work on your dreams, then you can do it! I didn’t study/go to film school. I had to learn all the skills myself and work hard at it. Working for yourself is not a 9-5 job. It’s not Monday – Friday. It is constant. You need to have the will and motivation to get up and do it!
Q7. Can you please explain your creative process? What does a video editor do on a daily basis? What are the main tasks in your job?
My working days constantly change. When you work for yourself you need to also juggle lots of things at once, and things are constantly changing, but that is the fun of it!
Tasks include communication with clients, coming up with creative concepts for filming, scouting locations, client meetings, editing video projects, filming (although this is done by my partner as I enjoy editing more), and much more!
Luckily we do work with an amazing team of other creatives that help out.
Mondays we try to set aside for planning and scheduling.
We work on different video projects so planning is key! As our team all work remotely, Tuesdays are always set for team catch-up days and motivation.
This is very important as it can sometimes be lonely when you work from home. The rest of the week is filming and editing and making sure we stay on track with projects.
Sundays are my days for my own creative projects as I also started learning more about digital art. You need to remember to also make time for yourself!
Q8. Where have you been traveling as a digital nomad and what is your favorite country (or if you have more than one)? and why?
I have been to a few places around Asia. One of the most beautiful places was the Philippines. It’s unreal! You feel like you are in a National Geographic magazine! I also love traveling to places where there is a bit of a digital nomad community such as Chiang Mai. You get to meet so many amazing people who you also learn from. Currently, I am living in Hanoi Vietnam. It’s our base but we do get to travel to other places. Hopefully, we will be able to travel more soon!
Q9. How do you balance the traveling and the working duties? Doesn’t get stressful? Do you stay a long time in one place? Or you move often?
Currently, I have settled down in Vietnam, but we still travel and work. What we try to do when traveling and working, is to have blocks of “focused work”.
We will wake up, go for a walk, and do work, for example, from 10 am to 1 pm. Then we will spend the afternoon relaxing and work another 2 hours in the evening.
So we take a few hours in our day to really just focus without any distractions.
We also have a small team that can take over projects when we need a break/ holiday.
I think this is also an important thing I learned, to employ key people. Yes, when you start out you have to do everything yourself, but this is challenging.
So as we grew we also grew our team and it has helped a lot. When we need our “holiday time” the other team members can still carry on with the work and this causes a lot less stress.
And lastly, we do try to connect to the community when we travel as we tend to try and stay for a few weeks, so finding co-working places is a great way to connect with other people and stay motivated.
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Q10. Did the present pandemic affect your work/business? How did you face the challenges?
Actually, I was lucky that my work did not stop. More people stayed at home and needed video services. We are also very lucky in Vietnam with the way they have handled the pandemic, as we didn’t have too many restrictions and could still carry on filming and doing the things that we love.
Q11. How do you stay focused and motivated while working on your own? how do you organize your day?
I do try to get into a bit of a routine. We work from different cafes that keeps me inspired. I always like to work around other people. There are also a few great coworking places around Hanoi. So I wake up early, head to the cafe for the morning, and just do small batches of “focussed” work. I don’t need to work the whole day and try to manage my time in smaller chunks. I also use Trello to stay on top of tasks and to allocate tasks to other team members.
Q12. How much can somebody earn with your profession approximately? Can you give a range?
This all depends on how hard you hustle! 😉 You can do small projects during a month and earn around $2000. (USD) OR you get one massive project for $5000. It all really depends. That is why it is always important to have savings as you never know what will happen next.
Q13. And last, what advice would you give to those who want to follow your path?
Things that I have learned:
- Don’t worry about what other people will say, go for your dreams! I know you have heard this before, but it’s true. My family was against this idea at first as it’s not a “stable” career path, but I did it and now living the life I want to live.
- Stay motivated and stay inspired. Whatever you decide to do, try and search for meetups / communities with the same interest. For example, if you are into art, join a few art classes to meet other people and build connections
- Keep on learning by doing! Rome wasn’t built in a day and technology constantly changes. If you just start doing the things you want to do, you will learn a lot. We started offering our services for free to gain some feedback and figured out how to improve our work. It was a great learning experience for us.
Did you enjoy the interview? Or do you have any questions for Mariska? Please share it in the comment below! Don’t be shy! We are here to help!
About Mariska Roothman
For me, this life is something that I have been building up for the past 3 years and I am constantly learning and growing. When I look back on all the struggles, it makes up for the highlights! I will not change this for the world. I always say, if one door closes, you find the window and climb through it into the beautiful garden! I love being creative and to work on projects that I believe in. I always give my best to my clients and work closely with them to create something unique, this is perhaps why they keep coming back! If you have a dream, do it! You can find me on Facebook and our website!