An interview with Jo Juliana Turnbull

Jo Juliana Turnbull

Live your dreams, have no regrets and stay positive even when the going gets tough

Author: Jo Juliana Turnbull – aka SEO Jo Blogs 

Since I was 9 years old, I have wanted to work remotely as I wanted to be in control of where I lived, not be forced to live somewhere because of the job. We moved around a lot when I was younger because of my father’s job. By the time I was 13, I had moved to 6 countries and was now entering my 7th school and my 9th house.

Knowing what you want from an early age

My mother is a positive role model and has always worked. Although it was more difficult for her to find employment in the different countries we lived in, she always had a position at one of the universities, many of them very good colleges.

I wanted to have a career where I could use my degree as my mother had done but not needing to move to different countries for the job. After leaving university I initially found a position just outside London but when I wanted to change my employment, it meant commuting and going into central London on a daily basis. I found that it was not only expensive but also very time consuming. I saw my dad lose too much time commuting and I did not want to repeat that experience.

While London is the hub for many companies and more job opportunities,  the downside was that living any closer into town was very difficult. House prices and rents had skyrocketed along with train fares in the 1990s. Spending 2-3 hours a day and paying excessive season tickets was a high price to pay for working in London. I really wanted to live in a city where we did not have to commute, that had good weather and was near the beach. This would be either Europe or Australia.

First attempt at remote working and first business in UK

I knew if I worked for myself, I could have more control of where I lived. In May 2010, I had just secured my first client as a freelancer. That was when I first started remote working and I wanted to be able to do this every day. However, I was still working full time (and commuting into London) while I built up my business.

I felt that it was possible to have a better work/life balance and when I went to visit my sister in Australia, I decided to see what work I could find on a remote basis and see if I could still have a career outside of London and the UK. 

Remote working round two and second business – this time in Australia

In 2011, despite opposition from friends and family, I decided to go to Australia as a trial and stay for the winter. My sister had moved there the previous year, so at least I had a place to stay. I had actually started my first remote working job the previous year when I began my freelance business in the UK, while working at a marketing agency. In Australia, I managed to get a second remote working job and then in 2012 I spent 30 days travelling Europe and working for a client in Australia. I used a lot of my own photos for the content I was writing and it was liberating being able to do remote working while travelling. 

First attempt at working in mainland Europe

I was, however, still keen to work in mainland Europe and applied for a job in Barcelona for a multinational company. I did endless tests and interviews starting from spring 2012 and I even went to Barcelona for a full day of interviews in November of 2012. Christmas was approaching and I went back to Australia to spend it with my sister and my parents. While I was there I was informed that I did not get the position, as they hired someone who had been working on their account and therefore knew the brand inside and out. That is fair enough but I would say to anyone recruiting, please avoid a 8-9 month recruitment process. It takes a lot of time on both sides.

Back to Australia with no remote working

When I found out I did not get the position in Barcelona, I decided to stay in Australia and I managed to secure a job in a senior position at a large media agency in Sydney. Unfortunately, the role came with minimum support and a lot of pressure. The time difference meant having to work unreasonably late hours to be in contact with support in Europe and the USA. It was very lonely living in Sydney, I made some friends which was great, but I always felt unsettled. Midway through my first year there I decided to go back to Europe. 

Jo Juliana Turnbull
Jo Juliana Turnbull

Third attempt at remote working

In the spring of 2014 I secured a job in London. Again, I wanted to move to Barcelona and luckily the company agreed. I was allowed to do remote working if my salary dropped by 20%. I moved to Barcelona, first taking up my Spanish classes again and found a room not far from the center in a shared apartment. It was a very lonely existence once again and my flat mate was never home plus it was always cold in the apartment, the hot water and heating did not work. It was definitely time to move on. 

I wanted to find a place where I could share a flat and be closer to the center of the city. After my experience in Sydney sharing with a couple, I decided it was better to live with just one other person. I was lucky enough to find such a place and the person who was renting the flat was a doctor studying for his specialty in general medicine (GP). I moved in June 2015.

Back to London and 40% remote working

At the same time, I got a new job but the company wanted me in London so I was commuting a lot. I spent time at their HQ in mainland Europe as well as visiting clients in France and going back to the London office. I really wanted to spend time in Barcelona. I was lucky to have a great boss who let me do some remote work but the company wanted everyone in the office, even though we could also do most of the job at home. Commuting to London, Paris or Berlin was about 7 hours one way and sometimes I did that twice or three times a month. That was 28 – 42 hours a month just travelling which became too much. Therefore in mid 2018, I decided to go out on my own again and work 100% from Barcelona.

Second attempt at working in mainland Europe – setting up business in Spain and 100% remote

In January 2019, I set up my business for the third time, but this time in Spain. I pushed for remote working but it was only when Covid hit that I have been able to go remote 100% of the time. I actually pitched the topic “Go Remote in 2020” in October 2019 to speak at BrightonSEO in April 2020.The conference was moved online in October 2020 (due to the pandemic) and I gave the presentation online.

Covid has allowed me to grow my business without commuting back to London, I have been able to save time and funds on travel. The time used has been put into Turn Digi as well as being an active member of Women in Tech SEO. I also started running Search London online. With the time saved from not commuting, I was able to keep in better shape, join exercise groups and take drama classes.

I am still growing my business and learning more online, especially with the free Google courses and some of the Hubspot qualifications. We are all constantly learning and it is a good idea to keep doing practical courses to increase knowledge and experience. I also became a ‘I am a Remarkable facilitator’ in the past year. 

Keep pursuing your dreams and goals

Do not let others manipulate you into doing anything that is not productive or time efficient. Take control of your future and know what you want out of it.  Stay positive in challenging times and don’t compromise on what you can bring to the client.

I have had difficult times dealing with companies who said they wanted remote working and only later on found out that you have to be an American tax resident or commute unreasonable distances (every month). Other times they send over a very low offer because you are working remotely and because you are not living in the UK/US. Setting your standards and sticking to them, is sometimes hard to do in the absence of enough contracts to pay the bills.

The future in 2022

I am looking forward to 2022 and all the challenges it brings.  I believe there are no problems, only solutions. It is important to never give up hope about what can be achieved. I am sure that it will never be plain sailing but having faith in yourself and persisting in what you want to do will give you the confidence to go forward and succeed.


Organiser of Search London

Editor and Blogger at State of Digital

Founder of Turn Digi 


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