A few weeks ago I wrote about running a business abroad and asked whether you could become a digital nomad?! It was our most popular post to date and we had loads of great responses, but the question that kept arising was, ‘So what do you actually do?’ I guess I avoided this subject because there isn’t a simple answer, so this post is dedicated to explaining how we came to live and work abroad, and how we generate income whilst we’re away from home.
I’d like to say we’re both entrepreneurs, and hence we juggle a ton of businesses/ventures/ideas, but that isn’t strictly true. I’m from a background where the norm is to study hard, score a job in the corporate world, climb the ladder and hopefully become a director of a successful company. This was the route my dad took and for many years it enable him to provide us with everything we could have ever wanted, a beautiful home, luxury holidays, private education, etc. But just as he was nearing retirement, the CEO of the company he’d devoted 20+ years to and had been a director of for 10+ years, pushed him out the door. I’m not exactly sure what happened in business terms, but what I do know is, it pained him to go through such an experience at 65 years of age, after 20 years of complete devotion. He’s always said the only way to get rich is to work for yourself, and although I didn’t really know how to achieve this, I became determined to stay in control.
Meanwhile, Gaz’s parents were bringing up 5 kids in a three bedroom semi-detached in Huddersfield. Gaz’s dad was working for a medium-sized company as an engineer, fixing broken gym equipment, he even carpeted his van so when he was sent on overnight jobs he could sleep in the van and pocket the expenses money to help pay the mortgage. Around ten years ago, he was made redundant when the company went bust and as a result retrained as a plumber and set up a small plumbing business, which he still runs to this day. Whilst, Gaz’s mum became a child-minder, so she could make some extra income whilst caring for her own kids. Even though all their children left home long ago, she still runs her child-minding business and makes more money now than ever before.
So as you can see two very different childhoods led us to the conclusion, that working for ourselves was not only a desirable path to take, but a very feasible one. Gaz has that inherit entrepreneurial spirit, with a thousand new ideas a day, whilst I have to work a little harder, researching and adapting existing ideas to achieve my goals. This yin and yang approach is perfect when it comes to business, all those big ideas are reigned back to reality with a bit of research and analysis. I believe this is what’s got us here thus far…
So what do we do?
I run a social media marketing business catering to DJs and record labels. I was lucky to fall into social media right before the ‘social boom’ took place. Whilst studying Journalism at Leeds Uni (2005 – 2008) I decided I wanted to try my hand at PR, so I sent off a ton of applications for work experience. Only one of those companies got back to me (but that’s all I needed!) which turned out to be a PR and social media company. At this time, the term ‘social media’ was relatively unknown and for those who were familiar with it, it conjured images of writing HTML code to make the title scroll across a ‘Live Journal’ page. By the end of the year I knew most of what there was to know about social media (at the time) from social bookmarking to SEO within blog posts, I was tweeting daily and Facebook had just been opened to the masses. Upon graduating at 21 years old, I had a job offer waiting to set up a social media division for a multi-million pound digital marketing company. After working there for a year, I was bored, the excitement of putting on a suit for work wore off after about a week and 9-5 had turned into 7-7. Corporate life wasn’t for me.
My second piece of luck came when a friend I’d made during work experience called me to say he was starting a company, a social media company specialising in the music industry. Perfect-timing. I handed in my notice and off I went, we worked from his lounge for the best part of the year, keeping costs low, we banked £17,000 in our first year! The problems came in year two, more employees equaled more wages, which meant less profit. Soon the £17,000 was gone, the company was running in the red, and my job was on the line. In an effort to save the company he laid off me and the other senior member of staff, his girlfriend! Believe it or not, this was my third piece of luck. That very day, I called the contacts I’d made during my two years in the business and went solo. For six months, I took on every piece of work that came my way and managed to bank enough cash to go traveling that year, something that changed me forever.
For more than two years I’ve been running a business designing social media campaigns to some of the world’s most well-known electronic music DJs. It can be hard work and unsociable hours, and dealing with clients can be difficult sometimes BUT (and it’s a big but) I’m location independent and more importantly, I’m in control. Of course, I worry that I could lose all my clients and be left with no income, but at least my income comes from various sources, unlike a job, where I could be sacked tomorrow. I’m fortunate that the business has gone from strength to strength and at the start of 2013 I had so much work on, I trained Gaz to work alongside me so we could double our income and travel the world together.
But that’s not all!
Even though the social media business is a full-time job we are still working hard to achieve other goals. In 2012 we set up a rum company called Pirate’s Grog Rum LTD. This is Gaz’s baby and he puts blood, sweat and tears into this business. So far we’ve spent as much as we’ve made, but that’s not a bad thing. The lessons we’ve learned have been invaluable and there’s still a lot of hope that this business will prove to be very profitable in the future. We just have to get this pesky trademark lawsuit out of the way first *angry face*.
Then there’s this blog, Enjoy The Journey, which started as a means of communicating with our friends and family when we left the UK to travel in 2011. Over the past couple of years we’ve developed it into a travel tips website, and while we continue to document our journey, we’ve tried to extend our content to appeal to a wider audience. The income from the blog is still small at the moment, but we are learning new tricks everyday and we have big plans to develop it over the coming months.
And finally, back to Gaz’s entrepreneurial spirit, there isn’t a day goes by when a new business idea isn’t tossed around and we sit and speculate wildly about what we might be able to achieve in the future. From a party hostel in Sri Lanka to a web design company in Bali, or a portal for freelance travel bloggers. I have no idea what we’ll embark on next, but I’m sure it’ll be a great adventure…
Do you work remotely? Would you like to? Let us know what you think!
I’m currently reading ‘The Four-Hour Work Week‘ by Timothy Ferriss, which so far, has proved to be the blueprint of our lifestyle and how we got here. Although, we’re not actually lucky enough to confine our working hours to four per week, so I’m hoping the latter stages of the book might show me a few tricks I haven’t discovered yet. I highly recommend you pick up a copy of his book if you’re looking to become location independent.