Running a (profitable) digital nomad business is one way to travel and pay for that travel. With an income that doesn’t rely on your physical presence in any one country, you are free to explore the world, for as long as you like. Of course, this worlds as long as you provide enough time for work.
There are no shortcuts or get-rich-quick options when it comes to starting an online location independent business. It’s just as hard as starting a physical business or a “location-fixed” company. And let’s be clear, starting a business online can be easy but making money to support your lifestyle can be tough. But if you can make it work, the rewards are incredibly gratifying.
A location independent business is any business that can be managed on a long-term basis from any location without restrictions on movement. This is a little different to the idea of digital nomad careers which can include working as an employee.
Want to start a business you can run from anywhere? Looking for location independence through the digital nomad lifestyle? Let’s look at how to get started, find some ideas, and look at examples of successful businesses you can manage from anywhere.
Starting an online business that lets you travel
Having a home base is great. But your home base doesn’t have to be the place you were born or where you currently live. I like living in a place for months or even years because, despite the title of this post, I like routine. Routine is an important component of a healthy mind. However, the biggest advantage of running a location independent business is the ability to find your routine in a new country.
I run several businesses from my laptop. I make money from multiple channels. Some digital nomads have multiple streams of income. Others have just one – be it drop shipping, freelancing, or a niche website, as examples. The point is, there are many ways to work remotely. Don’t follow the herd, find your own path, but you should certainly try to learn from others. And copying their business ideas is wise, as long as you put your own spin on it. The best of the best copy, but they don’t plagiarise.
Why location Independence?
There’s nothing like the freedom of owning your own business, setting your own hours, and importantly, travelling on your own terms. Maybe you want to move to another country on a long-term basis. Maybe you enjoy bouncing around from one place to another. Both are possible (with the right management and sufficient income).
A business that can be managed on a long-term basis from any location without restrictions on movement.
Location independence gives you the freedom to live in another country for an extended period while maintaining a source of income. Learning about cultures can help you grow in a professional and personal capacity.
How to start an online business from scratch
In 2019, it’s relatively easy to create a website, ecommerce store, or even a software product. But the ease of entry to the online space makes competition fierce. Many businesses begin with a simple webpage with a product or service. Some begin life as a Facebook page, although I don’t recommend this – Facebook’s algorithmic and manual rule changes have destroyed many businesses that relied entirely on that platform for growth and sales. Some business ideas are born as simple online forms. Even setting up a landing page and a simple Google form can be enough to discover if people will pay for what you’re offering.
Business 101, right here: create something that people will pay for! if you want to be location independent, make sure it’s a product or service that does not require you to be physically present in any particular place to deliver your offer.
The remote business could, in fact, be a brick-and-mortar type local store, but you must outsource the day-to-day if you want the freedom to live anywhere.
So you’ve got an idea. Now what?
Location Independent Business Ideas
“Ideas are nothing, execution is everything”, is the Silicon Valley startup mantra. But ideas are very important. Key is remembering that there’s no such thing as a stupid idea. What’s important is starting. And making attempts at getting your idea out there.
The following business examples are some of the most popular ways of funding a location independent lifestyle.
I didn’t include virtual assistant, life coach, writer for hire, or developer as options because I see these falling in the freelance contract work bucket. Let’s keep Location indie businesses in the category of businesses that could potentially run without you. Trading time for money can still be a business. But if you can’t travel much because you need to keep working, location independence is not as enticing.
Most of the businesses listed below can be partially or fully automated or outsourced. Freeeup and OnlineJobs.ph are talent marketplaces for outsourcing high-quality workers in the Philippines (one of my favorite digital nomad destinations).
If you’d prefer to hire remote workers based in Latin America (similar timezone to the US), try RemoteCo.
Drop Shipping has always been one of the most popular ways of building an online business or side hustle you can manage from anywhere. The production, shipping, inventory management, and product delivery logistics are handled by the manufacturer or supplier. You can also fully outsource your own part in the business. The role of the drop shipper is to oversee the business. All one needs is an internet connection.
If you want to learn the ropes of this popular business model, head to Thailand. Chiang Mai is ground zero for the drop ship community. Visit any coworking space or cafe in the centre of the city and you’ll no doubt bump into a few drop shippers (even if you don’t know it).
This post on the wonderfully-named My Wife Quit Her Job website by Steve Chou, one of the first guys to teach ecommerce and dropshipping, explains why it’s not as easy as many of the gurus say.
Freelance writing is one way to fast-track your location independent business success. You don’t need any capital to start or special tools. But you do need writing skills. Of course, anyone can learn to write well. But it takes time. And the main disadvantage when starting your writing services gig is that clients pay less for inexperienced writers. You won’t get rich quickly unless you’re an incredible writer already. Slow and steady is the key here. Almost every website owner needs blog posts, articles, and content. There’s a massive market here that’s waiting for you to tap it.
Ultimately, for most people, the goal would be to stop trading your time for money and leverage the money you earn through writing to fund an online venture.
If you know how to get eyeballs on your content, be it social media, blogs, or YouTube, you can use those skills to make money. Sell your marketing services to other business owners. But please, just don’t be one of those agencies that spam people with those “get to the top of Google” emails!
Lucrative and in-demand digital marketing niches include
- Facebook ads management
- Content marketing & content writing agency
- Copywriting services
- Google Ads management
- Social media management
- How to start a marketing agency by Everyone Hates Marketers
- How to Quit Your Job and Start a Remote Marketing Agency with Arianna O’Dell – A podcast episode from Ryan Robinson
Online Course Creator
Are you an expert on a topic that you find interesting? Or do you know enough about something that your friends count on you as the answer guy or girl for that subject? Do you spend ridiculous amounts of times on forums and Facebook groups helping people with the thing you know about?
If you answered yes to any of the above, or even if you thought about saying yes, then you should create a course. Produce something of value to people, market it properly, and people will pay you for your knowledge. The internet makes it possible to reach the people will pay you to teach them. Instead of one-on-one training for an hourly rate, online courses use in the one-to-many model. With an online course, you can sell to customers anywhere in the world, at any time of day or night.
I’ve built a couple of courses online (in non-travel related niches) and it’s always a thrill when a stranger pays you. It’s even more exciting when you know that they have paid you for the content you’ve already produced. It feels like free money. Obviously, it’s not free – you’ve spent days or weeks producing the content. But once it’s done, it’s more or less a hands-off, passive income stream.
This gives you a lot more flexibility to live the location indie lifestyle. Unlike regular classroom-based teaching, you only need to produce the content once (apart from updates) to receive payment more than once. And you can take the time to make it shine so it’s more attractive than a classroom-based course.
There are no limits to the potential for course creation.
Try Teachable for easy online course creation. Teachable is an all-in-one marketing solution for creators and entrpreneurs. Convert, engage, and monetize your audience in one place.
Info product creator
Info products are not as hot (read: easy to sell) as they were ten or even five years ago. But people will still pay for great quality products. Again, provide value in a form that people want, and you’ve got a business.
- Greg Rollett of TheProductPros teaches people how to create information products. Read his advice on the excellent Mixergy show’s website.
- Miles Beckler discusses how he makes high six figures from creating and selling info products.
Affiliate websites are alive and well. Judging by the sales on Empire Flippers, the selling price for successful niche sites is increasing. This means that successful site owners can sell their businesses for a lot more money than even a couple of years ago. But it also attracts more competitors to the market
The ideal crossroads of location independence, niche blogs, and travel is, of course, the travel blog. It’s worth pointing out before you run off to start writing about your exploits in far-away countries. that the travel blogging niche is saturated.
However, if you can niche down further to let’s say, a “Switzerland travel blog”, you’ll have more success, especially if you’re just starting out. Being the expert on one narrow topic (like “how to take trains in Switzerland”) is better than being a generalist on multiple topics (I should really listen to my own advice for this blog).
If you know anything about the SaaS business model, you might be shaking your head at this point. It’s expensive, right? SaaS is only for Silicon Valley firms with investment, right? How can you start a software business without coding skills, a team, and lots of investment? Well, one way is to follow a similar path to Tyler Tringas who built what he calls a “micro SaaS business”. This is a one-person project (or small team) with no major outside funding, built on existing software or business models, with predictable revenue.