Chelsea Odufu has a travel job that most people only dream about: She’s the chief digital nomad of Fiverr, and she has been exploring Asia as part of her role.
And the best part of it? She won this job.
travel dream job, a buzzy way for companies to generate publicity by searching for a candidate for a high-profile position. Brands ranging from It’s a big trend right now – the The New York Times to the Mexican resort destination of Cancun have been staging these contests.
Early this year, with Fiverr, anonline marketplace for freelance services , partnered The goal of this role is to gather information, insight and content on what it takes to build a small business and be an entrepreneur in places outside the United States. Remote Year, which runs work-abroad travel programs, to look for a chief digital nomad. And while it certainly created publicity, it wasn’t just a publicity stunt.
Odufu, a 24-year old filmmaker who was living in Senegal at the time, beat out tens of thousands of other candidates. Here, we caught up with Odufu during her travels to find out what it’s like to win a dream job, what she has learned from meeting entrepreneurs in different countries, as well as the checks and balances you need while working for a company remotely.
Laura Begley Bloom: Tell me about yourself.
Chelsea Odufu: I am 24 years old and a narrative filmmaker, branded content creator and digital nomad whose mission is to use film and video as a tool to regenerate empowering images of underrepresented people on-screen. Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey as a first generation Nigerian/Guyanese/American, my voice as an artist is highly influenced by my cultural roots and identity.
Begley Bloom: What was your career trajectory?
Odufu: I started making film at the age of 14, as I knew from a child that one day I wanted to become the CEO of my own film production company. I then began participating in prestigious high school film programs at Parsons School of Design and New York University (NYU). This later led to my attending NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts as a Martin Luther King Scholar, where I received an undergraduate degree in film and television.
While at NYU I worked very hard, sometimes having two internships a semester while attending school full-time. As an intern I worked for companies such as MTV, Nickelodeon, Universal Music Group, The S ource Magazine and more. There I produced and directed content for artists such as Chance the Rapper, Meek Mill and Big Sean, in addition to creating content for emerging musicians and brands so as to make income.
Upon graduating from New York Tisch School of the Arts, I along with my brother, created an award-winning film called Ori Inu: In Search of Self, which won several film festivals and screened around the world in countries such as Germany, Finland, Sweden, St. Lucia, France, Paris and more. It also gained a lot of attention from the press and was extensively featured on platforms such as The Huffington Post and NBC. This resulted in us hosting screenings and leading workshops and lectures at schools such as Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Columbia, to name a few, in addition to screening at organizations such as The British Film Institute, the leading repertoire for film in England.
Simultaneously I was hired straight out of university to work for the Oscar-winning filmmaker Spike Lee on several of his projects including Chi-Raq and his latest Netflix series, She’s Gotta Have It. Since then I have been able to create branded content for companies such as Cadillac and most recently, I have been traveling the world and creating content for Fiverr as its chief digital nomad.
My end goal is to make narrative feature films and epic branded content that allows me to travel and stay true to my voice.
Begley Bloom: What inspired you to apply for the chief digital nomad role?
Odufu: At the time that I applied, I had been living in Senegal for several months teaching film to Senegalese children. I was at this point point in my film career where I felt the need to immerse myself in different cultures so as to avoid having the same voice and influences as my other film peers. I also felt it was important for me to ground myself in different cultures so as to validate my voice and authenticity.
Inspired by Millennials and entrepreneurs on social media who were living their best life while working and traveling, I was eager to make travel a part of my lifestyle and my work. It was pure coincidence that around this time I came across Fiverr’s chief digital nomad video on Linkedin. As I watched the video, I nodded my head to every question the video posed, as if it was directly speaking to me. This company as a brand represents many of the things I stand for as an artist: diversity, entrepreneurialism, hard work and a “get s*** done” attitude, so I knew I’d fit right in. I immediately applied, staying up all night crafting a strong submission video.
Begley Bloom: Why do you think you were selected?
Odufu: Fiverr was looking for someone who could not only create and edit content, but was passionate about travel, meeting new people and learning about new cultures. Prior to this, I had visited more than 20 countries and those experiences made me comfortable in all types of new situations and getting to know people of different nationalities. Deep down, I’m a people person, so building and fostering relationships with new people is something I’m deeply passionate about. And as I mentioned above, Fiverr is a company that is all about doing; people that are hustlers, that work hard, that take risks and that think outside the box. As a person, I represent all those characteristics, and my work and experience shows it.
Begley Bloom: Tell me about your role.
Odufu: As Fiverr’s chief digital nomad, I have traveled to Vietnam, Thailand, Japan and I am now in Malaysia interviewing entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners living in these countries. While helping Fiverr to better understand what entrepreneurship means in different parts of the world, I’m also capturing all my conversations with people as well as my travels to create visually stunning content for its various platforms. I also spend time in front of the camera, talking about the places that I have visited and sharing useful information that entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners around the world would find valuable.
Begley Bloom: What’s it like traveling with Remote Year?
Odufu: Traveling with Remote Year has been transformative and exciting. It is a group of 35 entrepreneurs or remote workers from all parts of the world: Brazil, Italy, Canada, Germany and the U.S., to name a few. Remote Year provides beautiful accommodations in each city as well as a workspace (which I find very helpful). They also curate cultural “tracks” that allow us to further engage and experience the culture of the country we are living in. Remote Year is much more than a travel group. It is a program that encourages you to grow personally, spiritually and professionally.
Begley Bloom:Tell me about your travels so far – where have you been?
Odufu:I started in Hanoi, Vietnam, where I got to visit the province of Ninh Binh (where the filming of King Kong Skull Island took place). I also visited Ha Long Bay, which is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever experienced.
I completed my second month in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I made side trips to Hong Kong, Bangkok and Koh Tao Islands. I just finished my third month in Kyoto, Japan, where I also traveled to Tokyo for a week.
I just arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a cultural melting pot of Chinese, Indian and Malaysian culture. So far, it’s amazing.
Begley Bloom:Favorite places?
Odufu: While everywhere I’ve visited has been incredible, Japan and Vietnam have definitely been my favorites, as they both have the strongest cultures I’ve yet to see.
Japan is a country with so much honor and cultural pride that you are constantly inspired to learn more about its traditions. Traveling to Tokyo was definitely a major highlight of my trip. I also made what I believe will be lifelong friends in Japan. Kyoto is also a very spiritual place: You’re constantly meeting people who are very connected to nature and the universe, which is something I value.
Vietnam is also a place where culture is very strong. Starting off the position in Hanoi certainly prepared me for every other country I visited. The street food is also very delicious.
Begley Bloom:I understand that you’re gathering insight on what it takes to build a business outside the U.S. What are some of the key things you’ve learned?
Odufu: There’s so much to learn about building a business outside of the U.S. Some key things include:
* Do your research. It’s so important to make sure there is a market for what you are selling in this new country.
* Research business practices and laws. Find out how easy it is to do business in this new country and make sure that doing business there will actually work in your favor.
* When doing business in foreign countries, utilize online platforms, as it can be hard to find the resources necessary to build and grow your business immediately upon moving. I am constantly telling people I meet about the talent you can find online to help with things like photography, graphic design, web design and social media.
* If not native to that country, seek local guidance by having a local business partner or mentor. Having a partner/mentor who is either an expat or local who can teach you the unwritten do’s and don’ts of the culture is invaluable.
* Build trust and rapport with the local entrepreneurs. Developing genuine relationships with people in your new home will help can help you grow your business tremendously in the long run.
Begley Bloom:Tell me about your top learnings about entrepreneurs in different countries.
Odufu: I think one of the biggest things I learned, especially after visiting Japan, is the ways in which culture can influence people’s professional decisions. Japanese, similar to many other Asian cultures, value family tremendously, so family pressure often plays a huge role in the professional decision making. Stability is also extremely important, and therefore many people stay away from pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors as they fear societal embarrassment if things don’t work out. The majority of people decide to get a good corporate job which they will work at until time for retirement.
In America, failure or a career change is viewed very differently. It’s common for people, especially young people, to change jobs every few years and to sometimes change career trajectories. Those that take risks and become entrepreneurs or start their own businesses despite how much success they already have achieved in their corporate jobs are respected and even envied.
Begley Bloom:What are the checks and balances you have to have while working for a company remotely?
Odufu: Constant communication with your team is extremely important when working remotely, as it is essential to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Using social platforms like Slack has helped me keep in contact with my Fiverr family, especially as video or phone/conference calls are not always convenient due to major time differences.
Time management is also extremely important. I create my own work schedule so I know how to prioritize my various tasks. As a content creator working remotely, my work schedule differs from week to week. I don’t work a traditional 9-5 work week; sometimes I have meetings with entrepreneurs on a Saturday or after work hours and therefore I have to build my schedule around their availability. Nonetheless, planning ahead as much as I can to still deliver work on time is extremely important.
Lastly, maintaining good health is extremely important while working remotely, as getting sick in a foreign country can completely stop you from getting any work done.
Begley Bloom:What are the advantages?
Odufu: One of the major advantages of working remotely is the ability to constantly travel and expand your global network. I have met so many amazing people while working remotely – people that will absolutely influence the ways I will approach filmmaking in the future.
Begley Bloom:What would you say the secret is behind your success?
Odufu:My secret sauce to success is definitely my ability to believe I have the power to manifest my dreams and goals. So many of us are afraid to be ambitious, to take risks, and to fail, but none of that worries me. I am confident that I am following my calling in the world and with hard work, a lot of hustle and a bit of finesse, the rest will follow. One of my favorite quotes by Nelson Mandela is: “There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” It’s something that motivates me on a daily basis.
Begley Bloom:What’s next?
Odufu:After this job wraps up, I am headed home to start planning the release of the pilot episode to my new afro futuristic film project titled Black Lady Goddess. This soon-to-be released film is inspired by African creation narratives and is a perfect blend of science fiction, pop culture and satirical social commentary.
This project will allow audiences to have complicated conversations about racial and social issues often swept under the rug. I also plan to continue working with Fiverr, creating content on entrepreneurship in other continents, specifically Africa, as there are so many misrepresented images of the continent.
Lastly, I plan to build my production company, O Chelsy Productions LLC, and work for other large brands and musicians who value my voice and artistry the same way Fiverr has over these past four months.
Here, Odufu shares five things she learned from entrepreneurs while being on the road:
* Don’t be afraid to fail and accept that failure is a part of the process.
* You will never make more than what someone deems you’re worth, so get out and pursue your own dreams.
* Sometimes you can work extremely hard and things don’t manifest the way you want them to. But learn from your mistakes, take responsibility for your shortcomings and keep moving forward.
* There is no one cultural reality – there are billions. By collectively harnessing the power of thought and by working with locals you can more effectively penetrate global markets.
* Don’t be short-sighted by chasing money: Understand the value of new experiences, strong connections and genuine relationships.
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