In the past 12 months, I’ve traveled to over 20+ countries in Europe, Asia, North, Central, and South America, and I did it while running a business online.
There seems to be a trend of online entrepreneurs who are advocating this travelpreneur movement of being able to run your business online, while you travel.
So. Much. Tech.
Some of the biggest names in tech are coming to TNW Conference in Amsterdam this May.
I’ll be honest, it’s not as easy as it looks. In many cases, it can be a hassle having to deal with time zone differences, jet lag, and even loneliness.
But if experiencing freedom, diverse cultures, and learning new languages is on top of your priorities, then the pros far outweighs the cons of travelpreneurship.
The big question that all of us have is: how do we do it in the first place?
How do we get to the point of being able to start and run our businesses, while being able to have the freedom to travel the world?
I get how flashy and hoo-rah this may sound. But it can be done, and it’s more doable than ever to start a location-independent business today.
*Note: The following are not the only businesses you can start to work and travel. They are from my experience, the most effective, easy to start, and profitable.*
Let’s go over the five types of location-independent businesses you can start.
1. Coaching & Consulting
This is the most common approach people take, especially when you’re first starting out.
It’s cheap, if not free to start, fast to get going, and of course, you can run it anywhere you’d like in the world. This does however require constant communication with clients you have, so it may limit you to certain places with similar time zones as your clients.
You can be doing anything from marketing consulting, business coaching, copywriting, to even teaching languages, depending on your skillsets. All skills that can be acquired with dedication, within a matter of months from the comfort of your home.
Here’s five basic steps to get you started in the realm of consulting:
- Skill-set: Determine your current skills or what you would like to become an expert in the market place.
- Ideal client: Visualize and write down who your ideal client would be. Where are they from, what type of business are they running, and what would it be like to spend an entire day with them golfing? Get very clear on this, as the type of clients you attract will determine the success of your business.
- Position yourself: How you brand and position yourself online (and offline) is everything when it comes to attracting better clients. Think about how you are different rather than just better, and why your “ideal client” should care. Everything from your headshot, testimonials, pricing, and your messaging should be tailored to captivate your ideal client.
- Talk about it: This includes online and offline. Go to industry events, build authentic relationships, and follow-up. And do the same thing online. Start your own blog, podcast, or youtube channel to start share your opinion in the marketplace and start delivering value to those in your industry. Get noticed, and clients will follow.
- Get creative: If you want to take it up a notch, get creative with how you reach out to clients. I wrote a piece that shares how to get 30 consulting offers in 30 days using Angel.co, and you can get just as creative by thinking of different ways to hack the system.
2. Information Products & Programs
Information products are often the transitionary step that many consultants or coaches take in order to scale their businesses. This is what I did with my blogging course.
This is because you can only serve so many clients with the limited time we have, and information products allows us to serve an unlimited number of people online.
Essentially, you are transitioning your service business into a product.
Most of us get stuck here because we’re not exactly sure what information products are nor how they work.
Information products can range from ebooks, audio books, online courses, masterminds, or a membership program. The list is endless, and so are the opportunities. My friend Natalie Sisson goes deep on this topic.
And the best part about information products is that you’re no longer trading time for money.
So how do you build information products? This one is more complicated to provide a step-by-step approach, since there’s multiple information products you can create, each with different approaches.
However in general, the starting process works like this:
- Figure out your expertise: It’s the same routine we went through with consulting. In the information industry, you are the product, which means you have to carve out a niche, where you can be recognized as being world-class. But more importantly, different.
Build a community: The difference between building an audience versus a community, is that an audience will rarely buy what you have to offer, but a loyal community will buy everything you have to offer.
Find a way to build your community by getting your voice out there through blogging, podcasting, or sharing videos. Take the extra hour of your time to make sure it’s the best content you can put out there.
- Build your first offering: Before we answer this question, it’s important to emphasize that you should know exactly what your audience is struggling with. Is it to lose weight? Make more money? Have more freedom? When you’ve figured this out, and only then, should you think about which offer you should put out. This could mean writing an ebook, creating an online membership program, or recording an online course that people can purchase.
- Free or premium: Some may disagree with this point, but I’ve always found it best to go either free or premium in everything I do. This is what most of the top performers in the industry does as well, where 99 percent of their content is free through their channel (blog, podcast, or video) and charge for a premium offering that dedicated members can join.
There’s a few reasons why this works:
a. Your positioning yourself as a premium player, by charging premium prices.
b. You’re eliminating the budget-constraint individuals, who are more often than not, difficult to convince of the value of your offering.
c. You don’t need a lot of customers. When you’re first starting out, it’s easy to assume that you’ll need to accumulate thousands of customers before you have a real business. But when you’re charging $1,000 or even $2,000 to join your program, your focus shifts towards delivering results to a smaller number of quality customers willing to take action.
d. You can give away more of your best content for free. By deciding not to lock your content away, you have the opportunity to provide more value for your users and as a result, attract more quality customers.
5. It’s selling time: Last, but not least, we need to get our product into the hands of our customers. In the information industry, when you’re selling a product with a higher price point, you need a different approach to acquiring customers.
This topic is a blog post in itself, but to generalize: the two popular methods that most use are:
- Webinars: This is by far the most popularized method, and it’s because you’re able to spend an hour or more interacting with the attendees, building a connection and sharing the benefits of your offering. It’s hard to say no after receiving over an hour of value!
- Video series: Another way to go about it is through a free video series, that your audience can opt-in to. Check out Brendon Burchard’s method of doing this with his Expert’s Academy. To sum it up, your attendees will receive a three-part video series relating to your offering released during a period of time, usually one-two weeks. Then the product will be open for sale for a limited time, which can induce a sense of urgency for the buyers.
Keep in mind that both strategies require an immense amount of value that is given to potential customers first, before making any kind of sale.
When you first hear the word E-Commerce, it can be difficult to correlate this with independence or freedom because of the need to fulfill physical goods. But with the right partnership, it’s more than possible.
For example, drop shipping is a matchmade in heaven for travelpreneurs around the world.
Drop shipping is when you partner with a supplier, and list their merchandises for sale online, where they ship the product directly to your customer for you once the sale has been made.
That’s all there is to it.
No large upfront investment. No inventory. No risk.
All you need now is an internet connection as you travel the world, to start growing your business!
Now I want to clarify the benefits and weaknesses of drop shipping in order to make sure you’re aware of both sides of the table.
The Benefits of Drop Shipping
There are a number of reasons you should consider drop shipping:
a. You Don’t Need Buckets of Money: Drop shipping makes it amazingly easy to get started selling online. As mentioned, not much inventory is needed initially, yet you can still offer thousands of items to your customers.
This is a huge point because most entrepreneurs never start because of the initial investment required to fund their business.
b. Convenience & Efficiency: Fulfillment can be a huge pain, and even more so if your goal is to travel while running your business. With dropshipping you don’t have to worry about fulfillment, and you can concentrate your focus on marketing, customer service, and operations, etc.
c. Mobility: With all the physical fulfillment issues handled, you’re free to operate your business anywhere you can get an internet connection.
d. Scaling isn’t an issue — This is a great problem to have if your business can arrive to this point eventually. But for most businesses, 2x the order equals 2x the effort required to fulfill them. By leveraging dropshipping suppliers, most of the work to fulfill will be borne by the suppliers, allowing you to expand faster with minimal work.
As mentioned, drop shipping is not all roses and flowers.
Let’s talk about the downsides of drop shipping.
Weaknesses of Dropshipping
a. Low Margins: Low margins are the biggest disadvantage to operating in a highly competitive dropshipping niche. Because it’s so easy to get started — and the overhead costs are so minimal — many merchants will set up shop and sell items at rock-bottom prices in order to grow revenue. They’ve invested so little in getting the business started so they can afford to operate on minuscule margins.
b. Inventory Issues: Wwhen you’re sourcing from multiple warehouses, which are also fulfilling orders for other merchants, inventory changes on a daily basis. While there are ways you can better sync your store’s inventory with your suppliers’, these solutions don’t always work as well as you’d think and suppliers don’t always support the technology required.
c. Supplier Errors : Even the best dropshipping suppliers make mistakes fulfilling orders — mistakes for which you have to take responsibility for to your customers. If you’re working with mediocre suppliers, this will cause an endless amount of frustration, which can be detrimental to your business’s reputation.
Note: I’d recommend checking this guide on dropshipping by Shopify if you’re interested in digging deeper.
4. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketers often get a bad rep in the online industry. Words such as “scam” or “sketchy” may be brought up in the same sentence.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to all affiliate marketers. It’s often a small bunch of Internet marketers that represent this crowd.
But affiliate marketing done right, can be a great business and revenue stream, while providing you the location-independence you desire.
A few benefits include:
- You don’t need to create your own product
- You don’t need a lot of capital to start
- You can work anywhere you want
Few steps to get started:
- Choose what type of product you want to be selling. I recommend picking an industry you know or are passionate about
- Get your website up and running. You can go with good ol’ WordPress for this or use a platform like Shopify to get it up.
Take a look at this quick guide to get your website running in 5-minutes on WordPress.
- The next step involves getting traffic. This could mean paying for traffic (buying ads), building your own email list through content creation, such as blogging or podcasting, or you could buy an email list (although I’d highly caution this approach)
Many tech entrepreneurs, from San Francisco to New York have been embracing this movement of travelpreneurship.
Joel Gascoigne is an advocate of building a remote team around the world, and still does with his company Buffer.
This is also a personal vision of mine, as we start to grow Rype, where we matchmake language learners with native speakers to reach conversation fluency faster.
Some people question the effectiveness of this practice, due to the difficulties of building and maintaining team culture within the company.
Personally, I think remote working is the future, but I understand it’s not for everyone nor for every company.
With that said, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when building a remote team for your tech company.
1. Think output
The biggest shift I’ve found when working remotely is the ability to focus on the only thing that matters: results.
I’m a huge fan of focusing on output because it forces our team to prioritize our focus on tasks that will have the biggest impact.
Systems such as ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) are being introduced to promote output work cultures, where employees are evaluated on performance, not presence. It has been implemented in companies such as Best Buy and Gap, where they’ve seen: 20 percent improvement in productivity, 90 percent decrease in turnover rates, and increased customer satisfaction.
2. Get Smart
Now that we’re focused on results, we need to set the right goals and metrics for ourselves.
Creating goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely are the five most important factors to consider.
If you’re a coder, you could set a goal to release a certain feature in the next week. If you’re selling, it could be calling 50 people a day with a target to close 10 per week.
There’s no better feeling than waking up each morning and having a clear target for exactly what you’re going to accomplish that day, week, or month.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate
The caveat to working remotely is that we miss out on 70 percent of nonverbal communication such as facial expressions, voice tones, and eye contact.
Working from other sides of the world, communicating the smallest things are a must. You can adopt tools such as HipChat or Slack to keep in regular and consistent contact with your team in an informal manner. It allows me to be myself and have more natural flowing conversations.
The beauty of building a business online is that it has forced me to articulate everything I communicate. Seven-hundred and fifty-word long emails have to be shortened to 300 word emails, while getting the same message across. This has helped me keep my writing short and concise, which has transferred over to my speaking skills as well.
4. Create a company bulletin board
Create a “bulletin board” that allows each team member to see what everyone else is working on. I would recommend tools like Basecamp, Asana, Trello or Pivotal Tracker to get you started.
Sometimes we get so caught up in our own tasks, that we forget what’s happening with the rest of our team members. From my experience, the most common form of miscommunication and arguments occur over not knowing what the other team member is doing.
It also helps me understand what the high-level priorities are for the company, and allows me to assign tasks to any team member without having to bug them about it.
5. Regular Feedback
It’s difficult to know if your work is producing the impact that your team members expect when working. You can never have too much feedback, because we can always improve our work, become better team members, and have greater impact.
Creating a formalized structure early on, such as bi-weekly feedback sessions or even monthly, will keep team members aware of how they can continuously improve their work.
It depends on your skillsets, what you’re passionate to learn about, and what you envision your business and lifestyle to be about.
Are you more interested in impact and influence? Then coaching or creating training programs for other people might be your thing.
Do you have a knack for building great technology, and have an idea for an app? Then you can explore the software app route.
Or maybe you have no desire to create your own product or service, and simply desire the freedom of making money online. Then affiliate marketing could be the winner.
Keep in mind that as you evolve, that you would be able to accumulate these different income streams, and you’re certainly not limited toj ust one.
For example, as a coach or consultant, you could be better off creating information products in order to scale your business.
Or you may sell other people’s products to earn an affiliate commision, while you are running your e-commerce business.
Whichever option you decide to dive into, I wish you the best of luck, and I hope to run into you one day in a cafe somewhere around the world.
Image credit: Shutterstock
This post first appeared on the Rype Journal.