From Chiropractor to Digital Nomad

“I've learned to believe more in myself.”

Image of Gary Kirwan

From Chiropractor to Digital Nomad

While Gary Kirwan enjoyed his work, it didn't give him the freedom he needed to see the world. So, he taught himself the skills he needed to move his business online. Now, he's happy, location independent and able to impact more people than ever before. Here's his story.

What work were you doing previously?

I was working as a chiropractor in a private practice.

I had been in full-time practice for 13 years before making my big career shift.

What are you doing now?

I work full time online doing internet marketing for a few online projects.

I'm growing an online health brand called Biohackers Lab. This brand idea is an extension of my passion for 'biohacking' health and why I studied to become a chiropractor. I get to interview some amazing people from around the world for the podcast and then I also create written content on various topics.

I also have a keen interest in search engine optimisation and do some client work on that. I am currently working remotely with a San Francisco start-up to help their company website get more search engine visibility.

How did you feel in your work before you decided to make the change?

I enjoyed my work as a chiropractor as I have always loved helping people.

It's very rewarding to help someone move and feel better. However, I wanted to try to reach more people, and found that I was becoming passionate about wanting to work online.

Why did you change?

Working in a clinic you can only do one-to-one consultations.

The internet is a much faster and better way to scale communication of ideas. I liked the idea that a topic that I'm passionate about could be promoted online, allowing me to reach a lot more people.

Another reason is that I'm a bit nomadic in my personality. I love travelling and seeing the world. Having to work at a physical location meant I was restricted in my ability to move around.

I learnt after selling my first established practice and emigrating to a new country that if I move locations it's incredibly hard to have to start all over again building a busy practice – it takes a huge amount of time and energy.

Working online means that as long as I have my laptop and a good internet connection I can move to different locations without worrying that I'll lose all my business because I'm somewhere new.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

I think the idea of making a big change really started kicking in after I'd created the Biohackers Lab podcast.

There's nothing like taking action and putting yourself out there to see if people want what you can offer.

In this case I could see that people were enjoying the content I was producing, subscribing and following the brand. Seeing the site stats grow over the first five months , I knew I could make a success of it. Plus, I really loved adding content to the website and wanted to spend more time doing that.

How did you choose your new career?

For me it actually all started about 13 years ago.

I still remember being excited about how I was able to make a scrolling banner with the latest clinic news updates. I did it by copying and pasting code into Microsoft Frontpage back then.

I'd had to teach myself how to build my first website for my clinic. I had no tech background at all so had to learn HTML code and website tasks from scratch.

I did that by reading articles, watching Youtube videos and joining online digital marketing courses in my spare time.

I could see the benefit of having a good website for my business, as the phone was ringing and patients were making bookings. So I knew it was important to try keep up to date with the latest digital marketing advice whilst still seeing patients.

This passion grew stronger over time.

Are you happy with the change?

Yes, I love what I do.

I also find I no longer have the mental angst of trying to figure out how I'm going to find the time to do my online work, which is a relief.

What do you miss and what don't you miss?

I miss the interaction with certain patients.

When you do a job that involves manual healthcare and might involve multiple treatment sessions, you get to grow relationships with people. It's rewarding to be able to see how someone progresses, and how they enjoy coming to consult with you as they feel you're providing real value to them.

Lack of in-person social interaction is the biggest negative with my online work.

How did you go about making the shift?

As the BioHackers site was growing, that feeling of wanting to change where I spent my time became greater and greater.

So much so that a few months ago I decided to take the plunge and stop seeing patients – to prove to myself I really could make a full-time living online for me and my family.

I also reached out to a contact in the company in San Francisco to offer SEO consulting work. We had been conversing in a specific online forum regarding SEO. He could see that I knew my stuff and was up to date on best practices; I knew they were looking to scale their business.

What didn't go well? What wrong turns did you take?

I tried to do some joint venture work on another online project.

The problem was that it was short term and I hadn't any real business plan to expand on it.

The biggest thing I learnt from this is that even with online work you need to have a plan on what exactly you're going to do, how you're going to generate money, and how you can grow the business.

I also learnt I didn't want to do that type of work, day in, day out.

How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?

I'm a moderate risk taker.

I got the contract to work with the San Francisco company, which meant a certain level of income would be coming in per month. This has allowed the fluctuating income on Biohackers Lab and my other online projects to add to the total number I make per month now.

Overall my finances are doing very well per month since I made the shift.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

Making the actual decision to change.

In other words, fear of the unknown and whether I could really do it.

What help did you get?

I spoke with my family and friends who gave me lots of feedback.

Having positive encouragement from them to do what I loved and follow my dreams helped me take the leap.

What resources would you recommend to others?

Take up networking opportunities for the industry you want to go into.

These could be in-person events at expos, conferences, seminar talks, or even simply joining a relevant Facebook group to listen and join in the conversation.

For example, there are loads of Facebook groups that are specific to podcasting. Here you can ask how to start, what equipment you'll need, how to edit audio, etc.

I would also highly recommend outsourcing certain tasks if it's within your budget. For this, I like to go to places like Upwork.

What have you learned in the process?

I've learned to believe more in myself from a business point of view, and that what I've taught myself is valuable to others.

Having gone through formal education to get my degrees it can be hard to believe you have enough knowledge on a topic if you haven't attended some sort of formal course.

I've learnt that there can be a business opportunity if you have a passion and feel you know how to help solve a problem for someone else.

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

Network in the right places and sell yourself to the people you meet – you never know what could come of it.

Sit down and write a plan out. Don't just have it in your head, write it down with pen and paper. Make drawings, or whatever you need to do to actually see that you can do it. In my case I saw I would be able to replace my practice income with my online income. Weigh the benefits against the risks.

Then the last step is just to do it and turn your theory into reality.

To find out more about Gary's work, visit www.biohackerslab.com.

What lessons could you take from Gary's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at hello@careershifters.org. and you could win a £25 / $35 Amazon voucher in our monthly draw.