How to Start A Location Independent Business By The Beach
As industries continue to go wireless, the concept of remote work continues to expand in scope. Currently, 3.3 million full-time professionals consider their home as their primary place of work. That number is rising. The ability to start a business where all you need is a wifi connection has never been easier, and because of this, people are taking their work abroad. Location independence is the hot term being thrown around to characterize this work/travel lifestyle, and the people who live it are called digital nomads. Although balancing your travel schedule with work isn’t always simple, there are ways manage it successfully. Whether you want to start your own business, pursue a freelance career, or work remotely with your current employer, there are steps you can actively take to make this dream a reality. Let’s explore them.
How Do You Start?
Starting is simple. Well, not entirely. The first step though is setting a timetable and sticking to it. Determine when you want to move out and embark on your journey, then begin to put a plan in place that will make this happen. Literally choose a date, whether it’s one year from now or beyond, and begin working towards that goal. Now of course, that’s the easiest part. The real work comes when you begin piecing your game plan together. For this process, let’s start by deciding what types of work will allow you to work abroad.
Remote Work Options
Since the only limit to you performing work is a spotty Wifi connection, you can pretty much take on any profession that requires a laptop. This means the list of potential jobs is pretty lengthy, but it also means you have plenty of options from which to choose. And who doesn’t like options, right? Here are the most prevalent ways that people are becoming digital nomads today.
- Negotiating Remote Work With Existing Job
The easiest way to begin digital nomad-ing is by having a great boss. In other words, one who is okay with you performing all of your job functions away from your desk. Although many bosses wouldn’t be very keen on you getting up and going, studies show that more and more employers are allowing their employees to work remotely. There are multiple reasons for this transition.
In a 2015 FlexJobs survey of 2,600 employees, 76% believe they can perform important tasks better outside of the office. Constant distractions, noises, and water cooler gossip were the most prominent issues for this answer. The home/remote environment is oftentimes much quieter and distraction-free.
Another reason is that the “remote work” option is growing into a major bargaining chip for job applicants. A 2015 Indeed survey reveals that just over 51% of job seekers consider a flexible work arrangement their top reason for applying to a job. This has led many employers to offer the remote work option as an incentive for good employees, similar to a bonus. It makes these good employees happier and more likely to remain on-board.
In terms of approaching your boss on the topic, be sure to evaluate the situation beforehand. Consider how long you’ve worked at the company; think about whether you can definitely complete all your tasks remotely; then look around and see if any co-workers have worked remotely. Most importantly it requires you have a close, trustworthy relationship with your boss for them to even consider it.
If you’re one of the lucky ones who gets to continue working their full-time job remotely, get your passport in order. For everyone else, you’re going to need to find work in a more flexible niche.
- Web Design/Development
Helping to architect or maintain a website is a skill that is very in-demand right now. With traditional brick and mortar shops closing their doors in favor of the ecommerce frontier, the demand for web designs and developers will continue to skyrocket. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of web development jobs will increase by 27% by 2024. This also means that salaries will continue heading north. Businesses are willing to invest lots of money into good, proven web developers who can produce compelling websites that load quickly and portray their brand in a positive light.
How can you get started? Well, you can go the university route and graduate with a computer science degree, but in 2017 this is just not a viable option. The best way to learn computer programming is through an online course, many of which are offered for free (or nearly free).
- Content or Copy Writer
All those words you see scattered across the internet on websites and advertisements… who writes them? Either content writers or copywriters.
Content writing is the most broad in scope of the two. Work can range from simply maintaining a site’s blog to producing titles, product descriptions, or social media posting. It’s a relatively easy field to get started in, as all you need is a laptop and a penchant for language. If you have a passion for blogging, or writing in general, you can quickly translate that into a steady income as a freelance content writer. Sites like FreelanceWritingGigs, Upwork, and Craigslist have a number of solid opportunities for you to discover work. As your writing improves and you’re able to show off a nice portfolio to potential employers, the value of your services will begin to rise. This is where you can start commanding a higher asking price that will sustain you in your location independent life.
Like content writing, copywriting also involves publishing various forms of written content across the web, but the difference lies in the nature of the content. Copywriters write the stuff that makes products sell, whether it’s catchy headlines, AdWords descriptions, sales letters, or entire email marketing campaigns. Because this content is directly tied to sales, copywriters can garner a higher earnings potential than content writers—their words literally make all the difference in a consumer’s decision to buy. A study by Copyblogger found that 8 out of 10 consumers will read ad copy while only 2 out of 10 will read entire paragraphs of content. From the mouth of Angels in the Outfield broadcaster Ranch Wilder, “less is more.”
Selling physical products to any location on earth without a warehouse or storage facility? Impossible, right? Wrong. Not only is it possible, it’s become a multi-billion dollar business. Drop shipping is a method of selling products and those items are sent directly from the manufacturer to the purchaser without being handled by you, the merchant. As a dropshipper, you can manage your entire sales and shipping operation from the comfort of your laptop without having to rent storage space, box items, or even have a proper office. Many mainstream online retailers have embraced this cost effective method, including Zappos (since 1999), Wayfair, and Sears. The average profit of a manufacturer who drop ships is roughly 18% higher than a manufacturer who runs a traditional operation.
Starting a dropshipping business from scratch isn’t easy, but if you can find a product that’s in high demand and a manufacturer with good communication skills it’s a great way to earn a living from anywhere in the world.
Sites like Alibaba and AliExpress will link you up with manufacturers and suppliers, most of whom are located in China. It’s best to email several of them, especially when starting out—the response rate is typically low, and you want to find the supplier that will offer you the a) the best quality product for b) the best price. The low cost of exports from China means you can see healthy profit margins when you go to sell.
Now you might prefer not to sell another person’s product, but would instead prefer to rebrand items and sell them through an internet marketplace. In that case, you should look into starting an Amazon FBA.
- Amazon FBA
FBA stands for Fullfillment by Amazon. This is the process by which retailers send their product inventory from the manufacturer to an Amazon fulfillment warehouse, list the product on Amazon, set their prices and then allow Amazon to handle the packaging and shipping once the items sell.
Like drop shipping, you would use resources such as Alibaba to find your supplier/manufacturer. However, instead of shipping directly from the manufacturer you would have your inventory sent to an Amazon warehouse (or multiple warehouses). The advantage is having potentially 1,000’s of products ready to be shipped at a moment’s notice while only having to place an order once the supply runs low.
This strategy is very brand-centric and creative. It gives you a more hands-on, instrumental role in developing and branding your own product—or implementing your own unique alteration to an existing product. As you begin to sell this unique product, and amassing positive reviews, your reputation will grow as an ecommerce retailer. Ideally, once you start ranking as a reputable Amazon seller, your products will appear near the top of Amazon search results and customers will start searching for your brand by name.
Mark Brenwall, founder of WOD Nation, started in ecommerce over a decade ago selling jump ropes. Now he sells thousands of different fitness products on Amazon and has since launched a website with his product listings.
Brenwall exemplifies the importance of brand building as an Amazon FBA ecommerce business. Where drop shipping is more about repurposing products from wholesalers, an FBA is about creating an identifiable image that will get customers through the door and keep them coming back.
- Kindle or eBooks
Digital products are all the rage now—just ask any traditional publishing house. As of 2016, 27% of Amazon e-Book sales were indie published, and 47% were from small or medium-sized publishers.
You don’t have to be an author to start a Kindle or e-Book business. All you need to do is find a profitable niche, decide on a topic for a book to be written, and find a freelance writer who can give you your product.
You can find affordable e-book writers through directories like Epic Write and E-Writer Solutions. Most will charge you anywhere from $0.80-$2.00 for 100 words, and can deliver your eBook within a matter of weeks. You’ll then hire a freelance designer to create a book cover, list the item on Amazon’s Kindle Store, and watch the digital downloads pour in (hopefully).
To maximize earnings potential, many publishers opt to release a paperback edition. Believe it or not, there are still many Amazon consumers who prefer to buy physical copies of books. Plus, having your book listed in both Kindle and paperback versions makes it look more professional which helps with branding.
Then there’s the book description. How many times have you wandered through a bookstore deciding on whether to purchase a book based on its back cover description? Well the same is true for Kindle buyers. If you want any hope of them buying your book, especially if you’re a new publisher, write a robust product description that helps it convert. If this isn’t your forte, you can ask the writer of the book to handle this for you, or hire another freelancer.
- Affiliate Marketing
Instead of handling and producing products yourself, you can promote other people’s’ products and earn a commission. This is called affiliate marketing, and it’s responsible for 15% of all digital media industry’s revenue. All it takes to get started is a website, approval to join an affiliate program, and lots and lots of content to promote.
Commission rates vary significantly depending what affiliate program you choose to join. Commission Junction is one of the biggest networks, with access to twice as many Internet Retailer 500 companies as others, but that doesn’t make it the best option for you. Choose an affiliate network based on whether they have the products you’d like to promote and the commission rate you desire.
You can also promote products through individual businesses, like this site which is dedicated to Dyson Vacuum Cleaner reviews.
The beauty of affiliate marketing is there is no rule about how many networks or individual merchants you can work with. As you grow and expand your site, adding an increasingly larger database of products, you’ll probably look to join multiple networks to maximize your return.
- SEO or PPC Online Marketing
Gaining traffic is every site’s goal, and they are willing to pay hire professionals to help them do it. Traffic generation through both organic and paid means requires the help from SEO and Pay-Per-Click Specialists who can set their own consulting prices based on their portfolio and proven results.
If you have a knack for analyzing web traffic data, performing keyword research and drawing actionable conclusions from the marketing info you study, this is a profitable niche that is always in demand. It’s a 100% location independent business that only requires the occasional Google Hangout session with your clients.
With any of these remote working options, you have to first put in the work towards build a sustainable skill set. You can’t simply move to a South Pacific island tomorrow without putting in the hard yards—taking time to learn and acquire knowledge in your desired industry.
Building a Skill Set for Location Independence
If you haven’t already, start developing a digital skill set that will sustain your life abroad. The key here is not to rush. Take as many weeks, months, or even years to hone your craft and build your online reputation in whatever field you pursue. The beauty of the internet is that you can learn just about anything online, if you’re willing to put the work in. Sadly, many believe that location independence means sipping Mai Tais all day on a beach in Fiji. I’m here to tell you that is unequivocally false. Positioning oneself for a location independent lifestyle requires discipline, self-determination, and a whole lot of work, especially when starting your own business. That said, it is definitely achievable.
Positioning yourself for life as a digital nomad is like working a serious part-time job. It means coming home at 5pm and studying on sites like Udemy and Lynda.com until 9pm. It’s about sacrifices, but then, every good outcome in life is the result of making sacrifices.
Approach it like you would for starting any business. Even if you plan on surviving as a solopreneur or freelancer, it still requires a business building mindset. You’ll have to acquire and maintain clients, set rates that are commensurate with your skill set and project requirements, and always be looking to expand.
- Finding a Mentor
There are plenty of online communities for remote workers to share their experiences, exchange ideas, and seek help from industry professionals.
Joining a networking group that allows you to meet others in person can be immensely helpful, especially if you need help learning a particular program or coding language. Meetup.com, LinkedIn, and Facebook groups are great for building connections in any business and can lead to work opportunities galore.
- Setting a Timetable
The learning process is important and shouldn’t be rushed. That said, if you don’t give yourself a timetable you’ll be in danger of never achieving your goals. Lacking a proper schedule leads to procrastination and disappointment. With a bit of structure, you’ll be able to build your skillset faster and start finding opportunities sooner.
Building a business or accumulating a new skill set is hard to do while working a regular 9-to-5 job; but with proper scheduling and goal setting, you’ll be able to better manage your time and achieve your objectives. Try sitting down each Sunday night and listing your goals for the week, then go into Google Calendar and plot them out.
Regardless of what digital profession you’re trying to enter, creating a website should be a top priority. This not only acts as a portfolio for your work, it can be a great way to chronicle your location independent journey to share with others. And of course, running a website is 100% location independent. You can run it from ANYWHERE!
How Run a Website From Anywhere
- As a Freelancer or Specialist
As an advertisement for your services, your site should provide a “Bio” describing who you are and what you do, including “Portfolio,” “Services,” and “Rates” pages.
For a content writer, copywriter, or marketing specialist, the site can be created using a site builder like WordPress, Wix, or Weebly. For web developers, your website is your audition to potential clients. It should be created by you and must display your arsenal of design skills.
There are many great designers and design agencies who have mastered the art of the portfolio. One of the best is by Yul Moreau, the Korean-born Parisian-raised “Digital Art Director” who has channeled the 80’s in this neon design.
Or this page by Robby Leonardi, a multidisciplinary designer who is proficient in coding, animation, and entertaining Super Mario-like animations.
- As A Business Owner
For freelancers, the personal website is merely a springboard for landing work opportunities. For eCommerce professionals, a responsive website is your storefront and entire livelihood. You don’t have to spend $1,000’s towards your design, but you don’t want to skimp out either.
WordPress offers hundreds of premium themes for under $100, giving you a great looking and responsive site to attract visitors and convert sales. eRetailers can also use popular platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce.
By doing the necessary work upfront—implementing a compelling design, enhancing the user experience, building sales funnels, and compiling a product database—life will become a whole lot easier once you decide to take your business remote.
Successful Digital Nomads
In case by now you’re thinking none of this is possible, let’s examine a few digital nomad success stories that are meant to inspire and encourage you along your journey to location independence.
- Chris the Freelancer
Christopher R. Dodd has been at the forefront of the digital nomad movement for over a year. After graduating from Queensland University in Australia in July 2015, he quickly became enamored by the notion of remote work. Chris taught himself web development and landed his first contract within six months, allowing him to relocate to Thailand and Vietnam while running a profitable freelance business.
‘Chris the Freelancer’ is his personal lifestyle brand he uses to promote the location independent way of life. He does this through his website, YouTube channel, and personal blog, showing followers how to get started and embark on this lifestyle.
- Location Indie
Travis and Jason founded Location Indie as a community of individuals who share a common passion for work and travel. The goal is outreach, connectivity, and an honest exchange of ideas to help people travel for less so they can travel more. After each spent many years working, and traveling a little, the guys wanted to go into the work/travel business full-time.
Their podcast was launched in 2013 and is now one of the highest rated travel podcasts on iTunes. In it the pair interviews fellow digital nomads, answers listeners’ questions, and explains what they’re up to in their own location independent lives.
- Ally Basak Russell
Ally is one of those digital nomads who is allowed to work remotely through her full-time employer. Russell leads an international marketing team for San Francisco-based company, oDesk, while she lives in London. Over the past few years she has worked in co-working stations around the world, including Sydney, Manilla, Amsterdam, and Paris.
She’s also compiled a list of lifehacker tips for digital nomads to follow, providing professional tools and productivity ideas for getting the most out of the experience. She currently works for freelance site Upwork.
- Jodi Ettenberg
From corporate lawyer to globe trotting nomad, Jodi Ettenberg stumbled into a life of travel somewhat by accident.
After quitting her job at the law firm with the goal of traveling the world for a year, Ettenberg started a blog called Legal Nomads to keep her friends and family abreast of her travel plans. The blog quickly grew and Jodi began landing freelance writing offers.
After her year abroad ended, she decided to make the travel life a full-time gig. She now earns her living speaking at conferences, doing consulting work, and writing about her travels and her area of expertise, food.
- Colin Wright
Imagine relocating every four months based on votes you receive from your readers? This is a reality for Colin Wright, founder of ExileLifestyle.com.
After attaining professional and financial success in Los Angeles, he realized he still wasn’t fulfilled. Realizing he was overdue for a change, he sold all of his belongings, moved away and began traveling the world.
Wright has started a blog while he travels full-time. He earns the majority of his income through essays, books, and side projects.
Pros and Cons of the Lifestyle
Before deciding whether to embark on a location independent lifestyle, weigh the positives and negatives of your decision. After all, it’s a big one to make.
- Travel – obviously, you get to explore life outside of a cubicle which is great. Seeing places that most people can only dream about is pretty nice too.
- Freedom – not being locked into a long-term lease or stuck in a town you don’t like is quite nice. It’s not just about location freedom though, it’s about entrepreneurial freedom. Starting a remote ecommerce business or freelancing gives you a personal sense of pride and allows you to set your hours and work schedule.
- New Challenges – some people are afraid of new challenges, but for the rest of us we take them in stride. Traveling while working can present many roadblocks and difficulties. How will you react when confronted with adversity?
- Relationships – the digital nomad community is growing and there are many people you can meet around the world. Unfortunately, you might have to give up on a few relationships at home first. This is the single most difficult aspect of a digital nomad lifestyle. Saying goodbye to friends and family members for an extended period of time isn’t easy, but it’s a reality for those who want to travel the world indefinitely. It’s next to impossible to hold onto romantic relationships, unless your significant other wants to travel the world with you—in which case you’re one of the lucky few.
- Cost – traveling adds up, and if you’re staying in big cities like London, Paris, or Sydney for extended periods you might become cash poor pretty quickly. There are many ways to save, including utilizing frequent flier miles and living in less expensive places—this is why Thailand is so popular among the nomads.
To better understand how to make the most of remote working opportunities, there are a few indispensable resources you should consider.
First, check out Lynda.com for comprehensive courses and training programs in just about any subject area.
You can buy a monthly membership subscription for just $25 to beef up your digital skill set. It’s an especially great resource if your goal is learning web development in any coding language.
For time zone differences, a tool called Timezone.io was built. This helps you visualize where all of your clients and team members are and shows you their current local time.
When you’re abroad, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is in your time zone. This tool will help you out with that, visually.
Along those lines, there’s an iOS app that converts time zones and helps you find the best time for scheduling meetings. Called Miranda, its display is similar to your iPhone world clock page.
Is A Location Independent Lifestyle For You?
The best way to get your feet wet is to take a vacation. Try visiting your nearest beach for a week and bring your laptop. If you throw your laptop in the garbage bin by day two, this lifestyle probably won’t work for you. Are you unable to focus when you work remotely? Do you lag on projects and lack focus when you’re without nearby supervision? This lifestyle probably won’t work for you. On the other hand, if you are productive on your own and are motivated to start your own solopreneurship or entrepreneurial endeavor, the location independent fantasy could become your reality. Think about whether becoming a digital nomad is the right fit for you, then start looking at coworking spaces in Thailand.