How Workaway Helped us Birth Our Business

Visual designer, Olivia, and content writer, Jasmine, share the story behind their business launch in 2019. They run a remote branding studio specialising in human-friendly brand development via web design and copywriting. Here, they reflect on how Workaway played a key part in the development of their own business, and in providing the practical conditions necessary to launch it!

Planting Trees | Photo Credit: Bruna Brandao

Finding a more meaningful way of working

At the moment, the words ‘life changing’ seem to be all over the place! It’s like everyone in the modern world is looking for some kind of transformation, salvation or experience that will shake things up and alter the course of their journey. It’s probably because being a grown up can be hard. We have to look after ourselves, deal with pain from the past, make huge career decisions and earn enough money to survive. The modern world can come with all kinds of stresses. Often, people find themselves looking for a way out of the 9 – 5 rat race.

For us, it ended up coming as less of a way out and more of a way IN to an entire philosophy of working that challenges capitalist models of profit based thinking. My business partner Olivia and I were chatting the other day over a cuppa and suddenly realised the full extent of how Workaway has played an integral role in the growth of both our personal careers and joint business. In fact if it weren’t for Workaway, we’re not sure whether ARDEA would even exist!

Workaway is a site connecting hosts around the world with travellers who want to exchange their time and skills for food and board. It’s become a global community based on a philosophy of fair shares. We value exchanging skills to contribute to meaningful projects in the world and think it’s the best way to travel.

So how did Workaway actually change the course of our lives?

Well, our designer, Olivia, initially found the Rosemary Dream project in Brazil through Workaway. It’s an international community of purpose driven individuals working on their own personal growth as well as running empowerment programs and retreats. Their way of life is connected to nature and they support each other to live in alignment with each person’s unique set of values.

Beach Clean | Photo Credit: Bruna Brandao

Olivia ended up spending 1 year working here and was promoted  to the Marketing Manager, giving her a valuable experience to further her career. What’s more she was able to use her position to contribute to the local community by organising , promoting and hosting a number of events such as beach cleans, art festivals and clothes swaps. This meant she could develop her visual design portfolio and promote conscious consumption, environmental impact and the arts.

Our content writer, Jasmine (me!), worked on a Workaway project in India where she launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for a social impact project that was supporting children with disabilities in a rural village through yoga, physical therapy and massage. Here, I used my writing and knowledge of social media for the campaign and also had the chance to learn more about Yoga. I ended up studying to become a Yoga teacher which is now my lifelong career path and informs the writing work I do for some of our clients here at ARDEA.

Jas Workaway, India 

I ended up joining Olivia at Rosemary Dream, where we worked together on the marketing team in Brazil. I also taught Yoga on some of the retreats and after 3 months, Olivia and I decided to join forces, using her design skills, my writing skills and our joint experience in communications to create our own online branding agency / remote studio!

How Workaway enabled us to launch our online business

We decided to leave Rosemary and head to Argentina on a 30 hour bus ride to dedicate our time to our new project. We had no fixed plans. All we knew was that we wanted to find a Workaway host and buckle down somewhere to work on our business launch whilst being housed and fed, with time on the land to balance out our laptop work. At first I was a bit nervous that we wouldn’t find the right place but Olivia kept the faith that if we remained open and contacted plenty of people we’d end up in the perfect place.

She was right! We ended up having an entire cottage to ourselves in the countryside sharing the land with two lovely hosts and other tourists each in their own houses. As experienced Workawayers we are used to sharing dorms or camping so it was a complete luxury to not only have our own rooms each, but an entire house!

Because so much of our work for ARDEA is computer based, it was a welcome change to have 5 hours a day during the work week where we’d be gardening or doing DIY projects. Getting away from our screens has been so important and spending time in nature has a positive impact on our physical and mental health. What’s more, although we do have some current clients for our business, with just starting out it’s early days so it has been amazing to be able to not have to worry about bills, rent and food whilst working on our launch.

Promoting a philosophy of people and planet before profit

As I mentioned earlier, in the modern world we’re used to capitalist systems based on profit, which more often than not seem to put people and planet second, giving priority to financial gain for those at the top of the pyramid. Workaway is based on a fair exchange of work for food and board which shows how people can connect over purpose driven projects without money even changing hands.

Organic farming

Many of the hosts registered on workaway are driven by values based on sustainability, taking care of the environment and community living. Many of the travellers using Workaway are people looking for a more meaningful way of work, motivated to make a positive contribution to the places they visit rather than just being a tourist passing through.

We were each drawn to Workaway because this way of working inspires us. We believe in putting people and planet before profit and whilst ultimately, we want to make a living through our business, we’ll be doing it in an ethical and sustainable way that supports meaningful projects we believe the world needs.

It’s easy to get bogged down with anxiety inducing thoughts about the world of work, worries about pensions and salaries or whether we’ll one day have to swap our travel adventures for 9 – 5 office jobs. But through Workaway we have seen for ourselves that another way of living and working is possible. We can find ways to connect to people and projects that are aligned with our dreams, and there is a whole network out there of change makers who envision a more sustainable way of work.

Having fun in Floripa, Brazil

Curious? Here’s our guide to using Workaway for the first time

Workaway can be a great way to learn or practice a new language, develop skills, meet new people, make a positive contribution to the world and travel at low cost. Whatever your personal reasons for travelling with Workway, here’s ARDEA’s guide for getting the most out of it:

  • Make sure to complete your profile with recent photos and a friendly introduction to yourself, your passions and special skills.
  • Depending on what you’re looking for you can use different filters for your search in the host list. You can search specific locations, types of hosts (e.g. family, charity or business), host ratings based on reviews and you can even search for keywords. This has been very useful for me, my top 2 searches are “Yoga” and “Vegetarian”!
  • We’d recommend that you look at hosts’ reviews and arrange a call with your potential host to make sure you’re aligned. This is easy nowadays with things like Whatsapp and Facetime.
  • When contacting hosts, be sure to reference specific parts from their profile, so that it’s obvious you’re not just copying and pasting the same message to everyone. We usually have a general template message that we personalise for each host we contact.
  • Be prepared to not hear back from everyone! In Argentina out of about 16 potential hosts we messaged, we only heard back from 5 and of those 5 only 1 was suitable.
  • Go with an open mind and be willing to adapt because each place you stay with will have different ways of doing things.
  • Think about what you can offer, as well as the work you’ve been invited to do, what unique offerings do you have to share with your hosts and/or community of other workawayers? Maybe you’re really good at guitar or maybe you know how to salsa dance or cook!

Workaway has projects all over the world, but if travel isn’t an available option to you right now then why not set up some kind of exchange in your local area? You can use the fair share philosophy from your doorstep, and we’re sure many of you are already doing this! Some examples could be skill sharing like exchanging babysitting for singing lessons, language exchanges, clothes swaps or even exchanging a listening ear with a friend!

Go Team! | Photo Credit: Bruna Brandao



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