Welcome to Day Job Optional—a rapidly growing community and blog dedicated to helping writers like YOU launch & grow sustainable online careers. I’m Michelle Christina, a New York-based (yet blissfully location independent) fashion copywriter and writing mentor.
I’m bent on demystifying the process of transitioning from wannabe-writer to published pro, all while avoiding the creativity-crushing restraints of the corporate grind.
My life in a nutshell: Floral prints, coffee, pink laptop, & outfits-made-for-sitting-on-planes.
As a kid, I wrote and recited short stories and poems about my classmates. As a teenager, I had creative writing accountability partners instead of drinking buddies. As a college grad, I swore off the rat race in favor of an inspired writing career.
Despite studying everything from TV production to fashion design, once I was handed my third college degree and had the world at my feet, I knew writing was (brace for incoming cliche!) my absolute destiny.
Still can’t believe Mr. Bennett let me talk smack about school bullies under the guise of poetry!
I’ve ALWAYS been passionate about family, writing, and making my OWN decisions about how to spend my time.
Those priorities are the essence of DJO and the training I’ve created here. But before I wax on about my reason for creating this site, I want to talk about you. Be honest with me for a second. Do any of the sentiments below sound familiar?
“I’m a writer… but I haven’t actually written much lately. I need to get my sh*t together!”
“I feel like my day job drains my creativity & energy. I wish I could work from home.”
“I know I’m a good writer, but I don’t know where to find good clients.”
“I’ve always wanted to self-publish, but I don’t know where to start…”
I just saw you nod. Maybe a few times! And believe me, you’re not alone.
These are just a few of the internal struggles my subscribers and community members bring up every day, regardless of niche. Other stress-triggers may include pricing services, creating a portfolio and explaining this non-traditional career path to friends and family.
And if you’re stuck in the office for 40+ hours per week, trying to build a writing hustle on the side…? It’s no walk in the park, to put it whimsically.
Luckily, writers like YOU don’t scare easily!
In fact, if you’ve scrolled this far, I’m willing to bet you see problems as exciting challenges—or you’d like to start seeing them that way.
Good news: I’m here to help you kick excuses to the curb and make your writing dreams a reality.
So, who am I?
Blissed-out-on-the-beach is my preferred mode of being.
You can call me MC! Banana leaf wallpaper, coconut incense, and impromptu dance parties are some of my favorite things. I’m a Libra-tastic, beach-loving writer and New York native from the Hudson Valley. I’ve ALWAYS loved to write, but I had no idea it could turn into a sustainable career… until I made it happen.
I’ve spent over 7 years developing my copy and content writing career with one goal in mind: to live life on my own terms.
That meant seeking out location independent freelance work, shifting my niche and even negotiating with companies about how often we’d meet face-to-face, right out of school (and no, I didn’t study writing).
Before I learned the best methods for finding top tier remote writing gigs, I hustled like a lunatic to make ends meet.
I also sacrificed months at a time to corporate in-office gigs, where—despite loathing my cubicle—I learned how to suffocate self-doubt, write with maximum efficiency, and make clients wildly happy… so happy that multiple brands invited me back.
Apart from raw writing skills, I learned how to communicate and operate like a boss, score opportunities with a single email, gain the advantage during interviews and double my hourly rate.
And a few months was all it ever took to remind me why I chose location independence in the first place.
This intense exposure to the inner-workings of some of the world’s most powerful brands (and how the best copywriters function inside of them) helped me formulate the content right here at DJO, so you can skip the cubicle and kick off your dream career online.
Here’s a little back story…
I accepted my first—and last—day job in the winter of 2015, as the singular copywriter (read: total dream job for someone who loves to call the shots) at one of the world’s coolest men’s fashion brands.
Couldn’t walk past the showroom mirror without capturing the OOTD.
I had complete control over the voice of the brand, worked side-by-side with the designer himself, and really dug into my job of aligning with the target customer and creating language for every aspect of digital marketing. To my surprise, it was seriously fun!
For a minute, I thought I had found my place in the corporate world.
I’ve known for a long time that the only way I can produce great work, be an asset to my collaborators and feel creatively fulfilled in life is if I’m living on my own terms. However, I really wanted to be happy where I was. I wanted to give it a shot.
Since we’re young, an idea is pounded into our heads that we should feel lucky to have any job at all. To some end, that’s true. Employment is a blessing! With all of the hardship in the world, who was I to complain?
But I’ve never subscribed to the idea that once you’ve received a blessing, you stop working toward MORE.
In fact, I’m of the mindset that if you’re given blessings, you should try to multiply them. If you’re given talents, you have no business keeping them locked away. If you’re given opportunity, you’re not helping anyone by staying put rather than pursuing something greater.
Still… I thought that I might settle into my role the way other long term employees of the company had. After all, I was given the liberty to be creative and suggest new systems. I worked with inspiring people. After years of freelancing, my first-ever full-time day job was kind of amazing!
But as predicted, it got old.
After six months I almost couldn’t stand the lack of freedom, the routine of waking up early and exhausted for another day in the office.
Trying to stay amused at work…
I couldn’t fathom another day of guzzling coffee in front of my computer in a row of desks under fluorescent lights, no matter how creative the work was. I was working on someone else’s dream, and I had my own dreams screaming at me to DO SOMETHING with them.
I started browsing for tickets to tropical escapes during lunch break. I impulsively booked tickets to Miami, Costa Rica, Mexico, so I had something to look forward to.
I craved that freedom that I always have, but this time it was serious.
That summer I lived in an apartment in Brooklyn with the coolest backyard, bordered by rose bushes and random greenery. I parked myself there after work every day to decompress. Almost always, my good friend and fellow writer Krystal Raydo would join me.
We learned after many evenings of heated conversation about our professional lives that we shared the non-negotiable freedom gene.
Scheming with cocktails = our favorite afternoon activity
We brainstormed until all hours for weeks about creating a website that would provide resources and direction for creative souls like us—writers and wanderlusters and anyone who wanted to work online. Then one evening, while riding the M train over Bushwick during a brilliant sunset, it hit me like an MTA bus:
“DAY JOB OPTIONAL!”, I texted Krystal.
She replied with a thumbs-up, and our website was born. At the beginning we wanted to cater to all creatives, publish lifestyle essays a la Thought Catalogue and give travel tips. Put simply, we were more excited than we were focused.
We would later narrow down to the writing niche after some tough love guidance from my business mentors Jill & Josh. This newfound clarity changed everything, and we flew to Miami for a four-day session of writing, planning and launching the site.
Waiting for takeoff at JFK
I quit my first-ever day job after 1 year, trading office lighting for palm trees.
Krystal did the same, leaving her office job behind and taking on the world of internet publishing and ghostwriting. We packed our summer dresses, watched the first snow fall over Brooklyn and prepared for an adventure. We were about to do something we’d only dreamed of months before.
After I returned from a week-long digital detox and yoga retreat in Costa Rica, we rented houses in Playa del Carmen and Tulum for a month of writing and relaxing.
In the mornings, we woke whenever and got hours of writing done with strong coffee and huge plates of breakfast from our favorite restaurant/WiFi cafe. In the afternoons we wandered to the beach to sip margaritas in the sun and talk strategy about DJO.
On rainy days we would recline in hammocks with our laptops and pen blog posts, copy and fiction.
At night we went out for drinks with local friends, saw live music, and soaked it all in… before doing it all again the next day.
When this is your backyard, you have to pinch yourself.
The magical thing here wasn’t being freed from work…
It was just having FREEDOM.
I could spend an afternoon napping and write all night long. I could take a day off for a well-earned hangover or punctuate a project with a trip to some ancient ruins.
This wasn’t a total joy ride or a month to lay around getting drunk. We still had to work (profusely) to keep clients happy and keep those payment notifications chiming… but we were FREE from the confines of the office, the gossip, the clocking in-and-out. We were free to get inspired by travel, people, daydreams, or conversations as we were met with them.
It turns out working is a lot more satisfying when you feel like a person instead of a cog.
During this trip, I knew once and for all that location independence was the most important thing to me.
I felt, first-hand, the impact of this simple gift of basic decision-making. I felt a shift from office drone to true self as I sipped instant coffee in my billowing robe on the porch of our tropical bungalow.
I knew this feeling would be just as profound whether I was working in my pajamas at home, in a jungle paradise or in my favorite local coffee shop in Brooklyn. This revelation reawakened my love of living, writing and being creative…
…and I had to share it.
Our “office” in Playa del Carmen
To be clear, DJO was NOT what allowed us to travel.
We reserved time to work on the site so we could share this lifestyle revelation with our growing audience, but maintaining a pro mindset about OUR writing projects was the ticket to waking up in paradise. Pursuing our writing careers along the way prevented us from running out of money.
As we reworked DJO’s content to target aspiring remote writers, it became more obvious that THIS was the sustainable magic sauce we needed to be teaching on the site:
HOW to break out of the office drone mindset and own your career
HOW to find your first clients and make them wildly happy
HOW to expand and raise your rates to support your desired lifestyle
We offered everything for free, from our resource-packed blog content to daily feedback and resources in our Facebook group.
Since our launch in the summer of 2015, we’ve created a podcast, published guest posts, grown our mailing list and our Facebook group, all so we can continue to reach more and more writers with this new way of working.
Riding along the Hudson River for a weekend writing retreat
Now, DJO has become more than a website full of inspiration. It has become a movement, a ray of hope, and a road map for writers like us who know they were made for something greater than the 9-5.
When you think about your own life, how would it change if those hours spent in a cubicle could be spent below swaying palm trees or at home with your family instead?
That’s the beauty of location independence, and we can’t wait to share it with you.
Whether you’re a sales copywriter, a fiction ghostwriter, or a web content writer, you can find amazing clients, collaborate on exciting projects and fund the lifestyle of your dreams…ONLINE!
We hope you’ll stick around and find out how you can make it happen too.
What to do next…
If you want to spend your days getting paid to write instead of daydreaming about it, you’re in the right place. Here’s what you can do right now to get this show on the road:
- Join our private, free Facebook group & hang with an awesome group of aspiring writers who are making it happen every day.
- Subscribe to our newsletter and be the first to know about rad new posts, writing retreats, and other exciting stuff that’s happening at DJO.
- Follow us on Instagram for writing challenges, blog updates and our very own travel pics—#inspo galore!
- Jump right into the blog. As you’re reading this, we’re both hunched over our laptops in a cafe penning the next post. Dig in!