For me, running a business while traveling the world is the ultimate lifestyle design goal. Trying to create a business that will run itself and let me be disconnected is another story entirely.
If you have similar objectives in your life and career, then you’ve probably read various books and blogs that address the subject. The vast majority of the advice out there about becoming a globe trotting expat will tell you to do one of the following:
- Start a local business where you can be an absentee owner.
- Create an automated online business.
- Move your professional services business into a virtual environment.
If you’ve followed my story at all, you’ll know that I went with #3, then started creating #2, which is largely automated now and requires only a few hours each business day for me to manage, which is fine by me.
There is one thing that all the books and blogs miss, however. And in reality, it’s the one thing that provides the EASIEST method for living the dream of being abroad, yet still making your money from your home country, which is usually the objective for many people. As the saying goes, “earn dollars or euros, spend baht or pesos”. It’s called currency arbitrage.
For many of us, the real dream is to either be filthy rich and not have to work at all, or to have a business that is so heavily automated that is just prints money for us and we only have to work a couple hours per week. This idea, popularized in pop culture by Tim Ferriss and his book, The Four Hour Workweek, is fairly grandiose, and beyond the reach of most of us mere mortals.
However, living abroad, in someplace awesome, and still working is a fairly achievable dream. Over 4 million Americans live and work abroad, and hundreds of thousands do so working online part-time. I’ve reached a point where I can actually do that, and have made the trips overseas to test it, and it works.
But what if you don’t have passive income sources set up yet? What if you lack the tech skills to run something online? Is there another option?
Well, yes there is. There is one incredibly overlooked profession that lends itself very, very well to the expat/permanent traveler lifestyle. It requires working full time, 40 hours per week, and staying in one spot during the work week, if not weeks or months on end. For an American, Canadien, Australian, or anybody else from a country that has 90-day visa-free tourist stay privileges in many countries, this is a great way to use that 3 months, and just bounce from country to country.
What’s this magic profession that I’m talking about? Sales.
Yep, good ol’ fashioned professional selling. Selling what? Doesn’t really matter. Anything that is traditionally sold for commission, over the phone, and has either a high transaction value (to earn large commissions) or a high repeat order frequency (to generate repeat commissions).
Professional salespeople (and sales support staff) that work entirely by telephone exist in numerous industries. While some products are traditionally sold face to face (such as cars), there are numerous products that are not necessarily sold face to face (such as manufacturer’s OEM parts that go into those cars). I’m not going to try making an exhaustive list of products and services that can be sold over the phone, but here are just a few random examples:
- Computer systems
- Web design, programming, and SEO
- Graphic design
- Communications services (telephone, cable, internet)
- Print & mail services
- Industrial equipment and services
- Commodities (oil, grain, metals, etc).
- Accounting, tax, bookkeeping services
- Network marketing programs (lotions, potions, & pills!)
I’m sure there are a billion more. The point is that if your job is to cold call all day, make appointments for face to face salespeople, answer pre- or post-sales questions for customers, close sales yourself over the phone and by email…then there is absolutely no reason for your job to be constrained at one location.
Even if you work for another company full time, if your job is literally to sit at the same desk all day and never leave it, doing sales related activities of any sort, then there is no reason you can’t do the same job sitting in a chair at a desk 10,000 miles away. Technology: It loves you, so love it.
Negotiating a remote work arrangement with your employer may sound hard, but it’s actually not. Simply come up with an excuse to work from home one day a week, then after a while make it two days, then five. Your boss can put somebody else in your desk, saving money on having to rent more office space or buy new furniture when expanding. Once you’re working from home, you can just take off, with or without anybody knowing. If you work from home in the U.S., try running off to Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver Canada for a week and work from a hotel room.
With powerful laptops, good quality VOIP phones, and high speed internet pretty much everywhere, if you have a phone-based sales or sales support type job, you can literally work from anywhere. If your income is derived from closing sales over the phone, or you’re a professional services provider where most of your clients are people you never meet face to face, you can do this, too.
Part of the challenge with working and being a permanent traveler at the same time is how to do everything you normally do, but do it in a compressed time frame. To enjoy your life abroad, you have to compress your work into tighter period, otherwise you’ll spend endless hours on your computer just like you do at home, and miss out on the perks of being abroad in the first place. I fell into this trip during my 2 month experiment in Japan last year.
First of all, let’s do a quick tech rundown. The following are the services that I consider essential for being able to cloud surf:
- VirtualPostMail.com or EarthClassMail.com for converting postal mail into digital format
- RingCentral.com, Nextiva.com, or HelloFax.com, as the IRS will not communicate by email, but willingly fax stuff
- Web-based email service
- Cloud storage service – I use DropBox, Amazon Cloud Drive, Apple iCloud, and Google Drive all to some extent
- Google Docs, plus a web-based PDF editor (there are several, just search for one)
- Google Voice and Skype, for voice communications.
- Click2Mail.com, the web platform contractor for the US Postal Service, allows me to send outgoing correspondence and direct mail marketing.
My current incarnation of cloud surfing bypasses possession of a laptop — I’m not taking this machine with me in two days when I leave for Europe. Theoretically I will only ever need a computer during tax season, as my tax software only runs on a full machine. Many people are discovering that an iPad or other tablet works well for them, others not. Personally, I’m opting for just using the iPhone 4S (it’s basically a tablet, in my mind) over wi-fi and Internet cafes when I need to.
So what about the time management stuff? Here are some of the things I’ve already started doing and will continue to do as I travel:
- Cater to a more specific clientele in both my tax practice and my marketing and practice management consulting business. I no longer accept any or all cases that come my way, and I have structured my client intake flow to better fit my lifestyle design objectives (require client financials before starting work, retainer paid before filing Power of Attorney, etc.).
- I no longer accept live calls. All calls go straight to voicemail, no matter who it’s from. I simply can’t take phone calls from clients, prospects, even IRS agents while I’m out hiking the Alps.
- Batch process everything. One or two days per week, make all phone calls I need to make, and do it within a set time block. Do all my IRS paperwork for the entire week in one sitting. Do all my blog writing in one sitting (and keep in mind, I write for 5 blogs each week and write two paid newsletters).
- Use webinars as a key prospecting tool.
- Have a strict “no fires” policy. Most business owners spend most of their time putting out “fires”, rather than working on their business. The reality is that, in business, there is no such thing as an emergency. Unless something is on fire or somebody is getting shot or mauled, it’s not an emergency. In my situation, even a bank account levy by the IRS is NOT an emergency — it can wait a few days to address (the money doesn’t go anywhere for 3 weeks).
My properly utilizing technology tools, batching tasks, and ensuring that everybody that works with you does so on your terms and by your schedule, you can successfully cloud surf and still keep your business intact.
Time for another one of my infamous 30-day challenges. It’s rare for me to actually finish one of these things, but for this one, I really have no excuses, because it’s actually pretty simple: 30 days of person reflection and a little bit of writing about one of Dan Kennedy’s wealth magnets.
Who is Dan Kennedy? And what exactly is a wealth magnet? Well, Dan Kennedy is the “millionaire maker”. He’s one of the single greatest contributing minds to the field of modern marketing that is still alive. He’s written probably two dozen books I’d imagine, has spoken on thousands of stages, and is the man-behind-the-man in numerous fields. If you come from outside the marketing world, you may have never heard of him, but within the marketing world, he’s basically treated like an idol. He is the marketing genius behind the success of many TV infomercial products, the most commonly famous of which is probably Proactiv acne treatments.
Dan Kennedy defines a “wealth magnet” as a habit or personality trait that helps a person to naturally attract opportunities to them. Described in full detail in his excellent book, No B.S. Wealth Attraction in the New Economy, available on Amazon, Kennedy discusses 28 different traits that, when combined, make a person a nearly unstoppable force for success, no matter what their chosen endeavor (not just business — the principles apply in athletics, spirituality, the non-profit world, politics, etc.).
I highly suggest reading the book, and making a personal study of it yourself. Ben Franklin had a list of 13 traits he wished to embody, and spent 1 week working on each of them in turn, and repeated the 13 week cycle for most of his life. Kennedy’s 28 traits would make for a 6 month cycle at one week each, and is probably worthwhile. However, it also fits nicely into a monthly cycle, and my mentor James Orr and I have discussed doing this several times, and repeating the cycle monthly as an exercise.
The past few days, I have been privately communicating some thoughts to James about the wealth magnet that corresponds to the day of the month, but he agreed that these would make great blog posts, so for the next 30 days, they will.
Each day, I will briefly explain my own viewpoints on the Kennedy Wealth Magnet, and how it applies to the overall concept of Personal Prosperity (I’m not going to replicate Kennedy’s thoughts — seriously, buy the book, it’s worth the $11). Then, I will briefly discuss how it applies to my life right now, and also how it applies to James’ real estate business. In all reality, these latter segments are really to better myself and for James to see my perspective on his business. While the particulars of how it applies to my business or James’ business may not be of immediate interest to you, the reader, hopefully seeing a day to day application of the principles to real businesses will help you see how you can readily apply the concepts to YOUR life, your business, your goals, your Personal Prosperity Plan™.
I hope you enjoy reading these over the course of the next month, and that doing so contributes to your own Personal Prosperity.
- Content is king, keywords are queen. Write frequent, good, original content on your site (blogs work great), with articles of 400 to 1000 words each, embedded with targeted keywords that are interlinked to your other blog posts.
- Understand thy keywords. People search for keyword PHRASES — do the research necessary to laser target the keywords you can really rank for. “Taxes” = bad keyword. “Personal Income Tax Return Preparation Denver” = good keyword. Tip: Google the following: “google external keyword tool”. Learn to use it, embrace it, make love to it’s data.
- Links back to your site are gold. Write guest blogs elsewhere. Write on HubPages, EzineArticles, etc. Put your URL in the description box on YouTube. Get StumbledUpon. Get Digged. Super secret sauce: Twitter tweet links are very well indexed by Google. Even more special secret sauce: A secondary Blogger blog ranks uber high with Google, since they own it. Tip: They also own YouTube. And Feedster. You do the math.
- Fiverr. Yes, $5. There are people that have bought the TOOLS that you need access to in order to create massive backlinks that boost PageRank. These people sell access to their tools on Fiverr. Go spend $5, not the $50/mo for the tool. Outsource, outsource, outsource.
- WordPress is your second best friend it. SEO optimized themes (skins), SEO plugins, easy ability to post frequent, new content (see #1, above). If you are chasing SEO and don’t have a WordPress self-hosted blog, you’re doing it wrong, pure and simple.
- On page factors: Make sure your primary keyword phrase is in your title tag, keyword metatag, and description metatag, even though these aren’t that important. Use keywords when writing anything in HTML headline tags. Interlink to other pages on your site using keywords as anchor text.
The DOW fell over 500 points after the “market” realized that the U.S. national debt deal was a complete joke (the 10 year plan still increases the national debt from $15 trillion to $22 trillion over the course of that decade).
Also in response, the S&P downgraded the US credit rating from AAA to AA+. This was completely symbolic — it has no impact on what the US government can or will do.
G7 and G20 leaders have been meeting to discuss how the U.S. economy is collapsing and how our national debt is almost 100% of GDP. They forgot to discuss the fact that many of THEIR national debts vastly exceed 100% of GDP already.
The media is screaming holy terror. Democrats are calling Republicans insensitive. Republicans are calling each other sellouts. Republicans are calling Democrats idiots. Reporters are saying your retirements accounts are hosed, and we all need to snuggle into our bomb shelters and await the end of the world as we know it.
What does the U.S. debt crisis and the responding market conditions really mean to you?
Not a damn thing, that’s what.
Did gas prices spike overnight? Nope.
Did unemployment skyrocket the next day? Nope.
Did little Jonny and Susie have to eat out dinner out of a dumpster for the first time? Nope.
Did anything really change? Not a bit.
Here’s the reality of the situation: What Congress does, what the Treasury does, what Wall Street market makers do…None of it has any real impact on your day to day life.
Your daily activities stay the same. For the most part, the price you paid yesterday for this or that will be the same price tomorrow, more or less (yes, it trends up over time, it’s called inflation, you should be used to it by now). You still go to work, take the kids to soccer practice, and blow money on absolutely, 100% non-essential goods and services.
What if you own a business? You should be worried, right? Wrong. If you run a business, you shouldn’t give one shit about what the economy as a whole is doing. Instead, focus on YOUR business. Focus on what YOU can actually DO to market your products and services and get more paying customers through the door. So, again, nothing changes.
How can I be so callous, you ask? I’m not being callous. I’m simply reminding everybody about this little thing called reality. Back in the Depression, people still scraped by. As a matter of fact, more millionaires were created during the 1920′s than at any time in U.S. history, both before and after. People with good business sense will always do well. So will people with good, marketable job skills. If your only employable skill is manual labor, you’re gonna have a hard time in ANY job market.
So if you’re sitting around fretting about what is going to happen to you, your business, your job, or your family…Stop. Just stop. Life goes on just as normal.
Look at it this way: Do you think your average Iraqi citizen is sitting around worried about the global economy? Nope. He still has to take his goods to market, go to work, feed his family, and show up for his kid’s soccer game. Despite the fact that his country’s infrastructure is now shrapnel, his economy is in the crapper, and there is the constant threat of violence in the streets, he still has to go about living his life.
You, my friend, need to do the exact same thing. In fact, YOU should be thriving, because you probably won’t get shot at today.
Perspective is a bitch, ain’t it?