Ask a small business owner why they started their own business and you’re likely to hear back something like, “I wanted to call the shots, to be more independent, and to have more control over my time, or to work from anywhere.”
Often, it doesn’t quite work out that way. Being the boss can be more stressful than being the employee. You’re responsible for bringing in revenue. Making sure the right things get done. And that independence you were hoping for? Not so much.
But a growing number of startup owners have figured out how to run a startup and take control of their time—and do it from anywhere in the world.
They are truly location and time independent.
These “digital nomads” point to inspiration from books like The Four Hour Work Week and Start Small, Stay Small. They subscribe to the ideas taught by guys like Dan and Ian at The Tropical MBA as well as Rob and Mike at Startups for the Rest of Us, and of course, Tim Ferris (Four Hour Work Week).
There’s something very enticing about the ideas they teach—that you can start a small business without a lot of startup capital or even a partner and do it from anywhere in the world.
The first time I read Ferriss’ book, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I could put his ideas into action.
Not all jobs or business ideas can be done from anywhere in the world (a good thing for those who like to live and work in one place). If being on the partner track at a white-shoe law firm is your idea of a meaningful career, you’re likely to be tied to a specific city and office. The same is true for dozens of other jobs tied to a specific place.
But for designers, programmers, event planners, writers, and other creative professionals, there’s almost no reason you can’t do what you do from a balcony overlooking a Roman Piazza or from a Starbucks in Cebu, Philippines.
But how to get started?
1. You need a portable skill set. If you can do your job from your laptop, it’s at least theoretically possible to do it from anywhere in the world. If you’re tied to a lab or desk, it will be much more difficult (though maybe not impossible).
2. You need to be willing to step out of your comfort zone. It’s easy to grow up, go to school, and spend an entire career working in a single city or state. It’s harder to move away from friends and family to spend your days working in Mexico City or Singapore or both. (In fact, many of your friends and family will tell you that you’re crazy to try.)
3. You need to be flexible. Working with other people across time zones (and around the world) may mean a conference call late at night, or very early in the morning. Emails may not be answered for ten or twelve hours. Deliveries can take days. Finding an Internet connection won’t always be easy. Being able to figure out a way around the small inconveniences you’re likely to encounter wherever you find yourself is an essential skill.
4. You’ll likely need an online platform. Unless your rolodex is already full of paying clients, you’ll need a place online where customers can find and pay you. Your platform may be product-based (like Logomaker) or service based. You may be able to find work at online portals like Odesk or Guru.com. Or, if you really want to control your future, build your own (which will take time and effort), but if you’re successful, will be totally worth it.
5. You’ll need to learn new skills. Once you have your business idea, you’ll need to build and promote your product or service. That may take programming or project management skills. You may need to learn how to wireframe. You’ll almost certainly have to improve your sales and marketing skills—everything from social media and SEO to cold calling and affiliate marketing. When you’re starting out, you may need to do everything.
6. You need friends and associates who think the same way about work. This starts with reading the books and blogs and listening to the podcasts listed above. But it may also mean joining a mastermind group, attending online classes, or attending a conference or seminar for like-minded entrepreneurs.
So are you ready to give it a try?
I am. I’ve moved my family to France for a trial run at location independence. I don’t speak French, so we’ll see how it goes. If you’re on a similar path, let us know. We’d like to hear more about your experiences.
Photo credit: spaceyjessie via photopin cc