Why Wage Freedom? About Me

“Everything has been figured out, except how to live.” — Jean-Paul Sartre


A long time ago I published a blog post on this site about what I liked about living in Bali, Indonesia. I meant every word of the article, but it was also an experiment, and I found out that yes, people are interested in living overseas, list posts do attract readers, and search engines love it when you don’t try to reverse-engineer them!

Then I started getting comments and emails about the Bali post and I discovered something else.


In the post I touch on the real reason I’m in Bali, and the mindset that got me to this place, which is really the same mindset that gets each of us anywhere we want to go.

Maybe for this reason a number of readers tell me every week that my little sketch of island life reminds them they still hope for more in their lives, that along the way they stopped moving toward what they wanted.

I’ve been surprised how a post on being a Bali expat elicits so many responses which aren’t about the beach or Bali at all, or even making a new life in Asia.

I answer as many of these personal appeals as I can, and enjoy meeting people if they invite me for coffee at a seaside restaurant when they come to Bali.

Every story is different, but as with the comments and emails people often want to talk about an opportunity that tempts them, or a new direction they’re thinking about going.

Usually these are changes at the very core of life: quitting jobs, changing careers, ending marriages, dealing with addiction, pursuing a dream. The stuff of films and novels. The chance of a lifetime.

I think the feelings of helplessness or lack of confidence people sometimes express are the natural first step in life transition, and I tell them that. I’ve been there myself many times.

The process requires making hard choices a person might avoid for decades. It’s the price of a life reset.

I’m humbled by the way these conversations can segue quickly into Big Questions, and that people would confide in me as they feel around the edges of lives about which they are ambivalent.

Maybe they feel like they have little to lose by being honest with a stranger, which is true—and even less to lose by being honest with themselves.

I think it’s also because I’m interested. I care. This is somehow not just their fight. All big human changes have the same scary, uncertain quality to them. When someone tells me about being on the verge, even if the specifics are far from my life and experience, I feel like I understand exactly where they are.

I know the fear, the resistance, and the feeling of breaking through.

And I want them to move forward, to do the scary thing if it makes sense.

If a person takes action somehow the whole human race is winning. I’ve always felt this way.

By the way, taking action doesn’t always mean quitting something. It can mean working to improve something worth saving, more aggressively than one has in the past.

I think these new friends who found me from a blog post and come from around the world to sit with a cool drink and talk life transition and liberation, they usually know it’s time to move forward. They just needed to come to a new place to say it aloud, maybe for the first time.

And it’s good to hear.

Engineering Transition

Eventually the focus of WageFreedom.com became more than living in Bali as an expat. And why not?

Reader interaction told me visitors to the site were most interested these two areas:

The challenge of getting ‘un-stuck’, in various contexts.

Creative, specific suggestions as to how to seize financial autonomy, outside of employment, via online businesses or freelancing. Questions like:

  1. Is a pension, Social Security or Centrelink Allowance income of say $1,200/month enough to live in Bali or elsewhere in Southeast Asia?
  2. Not interested in relocating, but wondering if it’s too late to have a career more in line with my interests, even though I’m in my 50’s, or my 40s, or my 20s?
  3. I feel vulnerable. How can I be more in control and valued professionally when there is less demand for my skills than there once was?
  4. Is there a way to see the world besides a few weeks per year vacation while waiting for retirement?
  5. Is there a way to retire early and use equity in my home to set myself up in Bali or elsewhere in Southeast Asia?
  6. What is a digital nomad? What’s a digital expat? Do they really exist?
  7. Leaving the rat race and living on less sounds good to me. Where do I start?

I’ve answered each of these and many related questions, for many years now.

Still, I was conflicted because I had no interest in Wage Freedom becoming a one-dimensional ‘making money online’ (MMO) site, hawking get-rich-quick schemes and empty promises.

There are also many sites doing a terrific job covering everything from freelancing to semi-passive income, location independent business, digital nomadism, startups, to living cheaply and living simply.

Does the world need another personal finance/personal development site?

So the site theme for wagefreedom.com is ‘getting unstuck’, but I was stuck. That’s funny. What to do?

For a long time I didn’t write for this site at all.

Inaction is eventually a response, an answer. But sometimes the question doesn’t go away. There’s a reason for that.

At the risk of alienating readers who only wanted to read about the expat life in Bali, I tried something.

I’m Tom Mullaly. Tom Mullaly

Biased to the core, I’ve been an evangelist for breaking out and waging freedom since I first took a chance and drove from California to Arizona, to a lucrative contract job at which nothing in my past said I’d succeed. Or, since I first got off the airplane as an exchange student in Australia in my mid-teens.

My opinions and approach are far from unique! But if you’ve asked the sort of questions I listed above, in an idle moment in a cubicle or while searching for something with the remote, Wage Freedom is my answer to you, for whatever it’s worth.

I use this site and my newsletter to connect with you and point you—not in better directions maybe—but to good-quality answers to the above questions you might not have considered, or thought realistic.

You can sign up for my newsletter here. I email you only when I have or run across something worthwhile.

A few details about me:

In the dismal days before ambient Internet, before ‘hacking’ applied to anything more than computer break-ins, I hacked freelancing. It sounds pretty dramatic but I really just wanted to buy a VW van and tour Europe.

I started with serious motivation and a drafting textbook. I did buy that van; I also unwittingly created the means to a new life.

Eventually I learned two industrial-strength CAD systems, which opened doors to stressful 80+ hr/week contracts in the aircraft industry, despite having no formal aerospace education. Almost every client —some of the world’s largest companies—invited me back, as many as six times.

Using proceeds from those freelance contracting jobs, I was a pre-digital nomad—just a budget traveler, a backpacker!— often getting on an airplane the minute a job was finished with me, or I with it.

A few months could buy me a year or more. I did this in a predictable pattern for 15 years or so, without a home. I lack imagination. Or maybe the world is a big, interesting place.

Sometimes there were raised eyebrows. Friends told me to buy real estate and ‘set myself up for later’. It had nothing to do with me: Dublin, Santorini, Kerala, and 1001 places I didn’t yet know beckoned and I heard them.

The fact was that as with the van trip, they were the only reason I worked so hard in the first place.

I was also a registered commodities broker in my early 20’s. I’ve been trading options since I was 15 years old and I’m proficient with various market strategies. Wagefreedom.com is not about stock picking. I’m not an investment advisor. However, conservative income-producing option strategies might be worth a look if you’re retired, approaching retirement or interested in becoming an expat in a cheaper part of the world. These investment methods are not for everyone, but it’s appropriate for this site to at least contain pointers toward quality education in this area.

It was 2007 before I embraced the Internet as a way to create income. I remember feeling quite late to the game, and there’s a lesson there. By now I’ve used many of the main methods for making money online, failing with some (so far) and finding success with others.

I make it my business to be an early-adopter of new, often obscure methods. It has benefited me greatly in the past. I fear no tech. I’m curious.

After using freelance employment to spend many years traveling around the world, I bought myself a small place near a tropical beach when I was 41. It’s been a base for further exploration, not always with the backpack. Internet experiments keep my wife and I ‘riced up’.

Non-Employment: The Big Picture

When it comes to the earning component of personal finance, two core beliefs are basic to the ethos or culture of Wage Freedom.

  • We are in the midst of macroeconomic changes that will marginalize–to some degree–people who are not willing to expand or redefine their skills.
  • Those who embrace these changes–who use them–will be rewarded with a new kind of financial security.

This security is hard-won, but it is self-directed. You may never have experienced it before.

Luckily the means to participate are right in front of you, costing almost nothing.

You do need enough enthusiasm to take action and learn what you must.

Wage Freedom is the practical philosophy of finding and focusing on the best opportunities outside of employment, for you. For some this might mean opening a restaurant, but that’s not what this site is about.

The economic changes I just mentioned are not only about the lingering stagnation. They are about growth too. Most of the growth is related to technology, broadly speaking.

The opportunities on which Wagefreedom.com focuses leverage the growing part of the world economy.

Many of these are Internet-related. They do not necessarily require deep tech skills. They require broad tech familiarity, which you can learn.

There are more legitimate ways to make a living online than you’ll be able to take advantage of in one lifetime.

As the tech landscape evolves so does the opportunity; new methods, strategies, tools arise constantly. That means that a tool that was useful last year to (for example) accelerate social media engagement might not work today, or tomorrow. This in turn means you can become competitive or profitable—as measured by results— by learning more current methods. Whether you’re a freelancer or have your own online business(es), there is power in this fact. But it’s only the very tip of the iceberg!

(By the way, I learned this when I started in engineering during the transition from board drafting to CAD systems. I didn’t have decades of board drafting but no one could stop me from becoming an expert CAD designer. Where do you think the opportunity—the best-paying jobs—were at the time?)

I am avoiding specifics for now as I outline the big picture as I see it. I’m providing context within which you can view specific tactics I share here, a larger reason to learn some new skill, maybe an little-known tech tool which will give you a competitive advantage.

How do I know that it’s realistic to leverage abstract economic changes into leaving employment behind? My proof, aside from my own example, is dozens of people from all over the world I know, as well as people I have helped. No two of them have the same background or skills.

Today traditional factors like geography, age and social background are nearly irrelevant to the success of a motivated person.

Go ahead and argue this point by telling me methods I suggest aren’t for everyone. I will agree, and ask why you can’t be an exception if you try to be.

It’s a profound meritocracy where participation is up to you. Think of how unprecedented this is.

Yes, you must work. It won’t be easy. But nothing is stopping you. Unlike employment, here’s a list of constraints or barriers to entry that do not apply to getting involved in this game:

  1. Lack of experience
  2. Lack of a diploma, or specific formal education
  3. The right connections (you will need connections: you will make them)
  4. A boss to determine your activities or earning potential


I hope I’ve conveyed my excitement over the big picture, and convinced you of the advantage you have if you see these business opportunities for what they are. If you’re unhappy as an employee I hope you believe you can participate too. Because you can.

Finding A Way That Fits You

Here are some of the methods I’ve used in the last several years to make money online.

SEO (search engine optimization) for my own web properties and for clients: targeting keywords and applying on-page and off-page optimization techniques to rank well for them, so that the revenue gained from doing so is greater than the cost of achieving it.

Building, buying and selling niche and authority websites.

Affiliate offers and Google Adsense on my sites.

Writing for my websites and client sites.

Mobile affiliate marketing, using paid traffic and media buys to put offers in front of targeted audiences on mobile phones all over the world.

Social media for brand-building and direct audience engagement.

I still make use of most of these to one degree or another.

I also curate online opportunity, drawn from what I’ve found and made use of myself. New ways to get attention and monetize that attention arise weekly.

It’s a very exciting time, and certainly not too late to get started! Here are some examples of opportunity I can suggest for you. I can suggest a hundred more, and I go into much more detail in the Wage Freedom newsletter and elsewhere on this site.

You have an expertise and you find yourself advising people on the topic both online and in physical interactions. Regardless of how narrow or seemingly non-commercial the subject is, position yourself as an expert by sharing your knowledge. If you’re not comfortable writing blog posts, start a podcast or a YouTube channel. Expertise attracts an audience, some of whom would appreciate your book, e-guide or course on the subject enough to purchase it, or pay you to explain it to them. Many thousands of people have used this method to create niche empires.

You have some money saved and you’ve wondered about buying turnkey online businesses that don’t require too much heavy technical knowledge. Take a look at buying income-producing websites or apps, which you can then develop further to increase income.

You enjoy painting so much that you happily do it for free, but people ask you for prices on works you’ve done and sometimes you wonder… You really should start an e-commerce store on a platform that enables you display and promote your products with barely a thought about the technical aspects of your online store itself.

You have no money to risk on purchasing a get-rich-quick scheme, but you know you have some writing ability and a few hours a week to put toward breaking out of a job you hate. Learn SEO. Help companies increase their revenues by improving their visibility in search engines like Google. There is a learning curve; it is surmountable. Here’s the thing: it’s easier than you might think, and as search engines evolve their site-ranking rules change and doors open for people willing to learn and implement new methods. This skill is transferable to all industries, and it is splitting into sub-specializations as we speak, creating more opportunity.

You like what you do and you’re good at it, but the money could be better. Maybe you don’t feel particularly secure in your position or confident in the prospects for success for your current employer. You should look at freelancing. It costs nothing to test the waters. Done right, you can make more money in fewer hours each week and feel more in control of your future.

You spent school years sketching in your notebook instead of listening to lectures. Faces, designs, animals, you can do it all. You never imagined you could use your talent to make a living so you didn’t try. Do you know how much demand there is for high-quality original artwork, from businesses to bloggers—anyone with a web presence? There are so many free ways to get your talent in front of potential customers and let your art speak for itself. Start by supplementing your income, raise your prices as you get client testimonials, and see how long it takes to reach a full-time income doing something you love.

You’d like to put a lifetime’s worth of your savings to work for you for income with an emphasis on income, safety, as well as protecting your current portfolio. You can learn how to use equity options for this, management of which can take just hours each week.

There are endless ways you can use the multi-faceted power of the Internet to put yourself in a financial position to more aggressively wage freedom, in whatever way fits you. I have done it. If that’s why you’re here maybe I can help you too.

Is it Possible

I wage freedom as a traveler and an expat in Southeast Asia. You might have a very different lifestyle in mind. Goals are as varied as people.

But the means to success are always the same: right mindset, education and work.

Earlier I alluded to conversations I’ve had with Wage Freedom readers, or in cubicles, and from friends asking somewhere between skepticism and hope: “Yeah, but how do you make an income?” “What would I do?” “Is it possible for me?”

Is it possible?

I’ve presented my answer in concrete terms relative to money, pointing to the Internet as our overarching means.

A response to a serious question like that deserves specific answers if it’s to be more than wishful thinking, and money-wise I have shown you specifics: context, methods and my experience.

But ultimately the answer isn’t found in a path, it’s found in you. It’s why the theme of this site remains getting ‘un-stuck’.

Here’s how I put it in the email you get as a new Wage Freedom newsletter subscriber:

Bookstores and the Internet are rich with methods and strategies you can use to make money, liberate yourself from addiction, free yourself from whatever has you stuck. Really: all the secrets of the universe, and six-pack abs.

But even the best tools are ineffective if you are not psychologically ready to wield them.

Freedom–making use of possibilities inherent in our lives–beckons us every day, but we are not always prepared to respond, even when we know we should.

Wage Freedom is about the last breath before you take action–whatever action you must take to empower yourself.

Don’t get me wrong–there’s a lot to be said for constraints and healthy ways to keep your life ordered, in the context of living the way you want to live. But too often we live in ways that our best self would not accept, and we do not change because of fear, inertia or laziness.

These forces of inaction are not methods for living; they are ways to avoid living.

There are too many interesting and exciting ways to live today—more than ever before for the average person—not to seize power from the forces of inaction. Once you do this you put yourself in a position to make your life whatever you want it to be.

Knowing this—really believing it—is in itself a way to break yourself loose and wage freedom.

You wouldn’t believe what you can do… but you should.

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