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Be a non-techie digital nomad: provide a service from wherever you are in the world

by Adele on September 26, 2012

Mish and Rob are freelance writers and web development project managers. Since March, they’ve been completely location independent – giving them the freedom to travel wherever they want to go, whenever they want. They’re happy to admit to being “unadventurous adventurers”: they like to live in nice, clean apartments (with air conditioning, wifi and decent mattresses), in nice, civilised cities. Read their stories, guidance and advice on www.makingitanywhere.com.

We really wish we were teachers, or accountants, or shop owners: then it’d be far easier to convince you that you can do any of these jobs (and more) and still be location independent. Instead, we’re boring old copywriters and web development people – careers that it seems every single bloomin’ digital nomad has (unless they’re WordPress developers or graphic designers).

But let us try to convince you that it is possible to be a non-techie, make a decent income and travel the world. You’ll need a certain amount of digital know-how, but you definitely won’t need to make it part of your career.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to look at different types of non-techie career that you can do from anywhere. We’ll interview people who already do it, and we’ll give you tips on what you need to get started and useful resources you can use.

Location independent business model #3: Providing a service? You don’t need to be in the same country as your clients

Client lunches on expenses. Jollies at Ascot and Wimbledon. We can’t deny it: being in the “old fashioned” service industry has its upsides. Or should that be “had”? Those sorts of perks are getting rarer and rarer due to recession-induced cutbacks.

And anyway, are they really good enough to put up with all the downsides of inflexible office hours, 25 days’ holiday a year and career progression speeds that would cause a tortoise to high-five itself?

Know the names of Rung 1′s nephews?
Yeah… you’ve been there too long

It doesn’t need to be that way. If you love what you do but want to do it from anywhere, you can! It isn’t just techies like web designers who can be location independent: heaps of people like HR consultants, marketing professionals, copywriters and accountants are providing services for UK-based clients from around the world.

Starting out on your own

It’s likely that you’re an employee at an agency/company at the moment. So once you’ve quit (or even beforehand), you’ll need to start setting up the foundations for your own “brand” and your own services. We’ll be honest: on the “easy as” scale, this one’s quite a few notches above pie.

Kent and Caanan (from www.novacationrequired.com) run an HR consultancy business from wherever they are in the world. Although they both had backgrounds in management/PR, they still found it tough to find clients at first. As Kent says, “A large part of how we spend our time revolves around client acquisition, marketing, record-keeping and constant, proactive client communication.”

Once you acquire those clients, it does get easier. But how to get them in the first place?

For most people, it’s a combination of things (and it makes sense to do all this stuff before you’ve left the country, if you can)…

Having a website

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts in the series, you’ll need a website so that people can find you in the first place and then find out more about you. But you don’t need to teach yourself HTML and do it yourself – just outsource it. Elance is a great place to find designers/developers who can build you a simple website.

Alternatively, you could use WordPress – a free platform that lets you build a website with no coding or HTML knowledge.

Although there’s no need for your website to look gob-smackingly gorgeous, it does need to look professional, and it must be easy to read/understand. If you’re not great with words, you should think about outsourcing the website copywriting too.

Put a picture like this on your site and we’ll personally shoot you

Getting people to notice your website

You need to think about the dreaded SEO. But seriously: don’t waste your brain capacity with it all. Again, just hire an SEO expert who’ll tell you exactly what you need to get your site up the Google rankings. You can hire these through Elance or similar online services. (Of course, the company that comes up first when you Google “SEO expert” is bound to be pretty good, but we’re guessing they’re also going to be horrifically expensive.)

Another way of getting traffic to your site is by posting on relevant forums and linking back to your site. It really works if you appear knowledgeable and helpful on forums: people will take a keen interest in you.

Adwords can be a good way of getting your service noticed – but it costs money, so you’ll need to make sure the cost is smaller than the profit you make from each client acquired.

We have to admit: we don’t really get LinkedIn. But loads of people use it to find new clients. It’s worth doing a bit of research to see if it can work for you.

The information on your website

So people have found your website and they want to know whether to hire you. Your website content matters. As mentioned earlier, you can get a copywriter to help style the words and make them easy to read/understand, but it’s you who needs to figure out your main selling points/USPs.

  • Can you get old clients to provide testimonials? Stick ‘em up prominently on the site.
  • Do you specialise in a particular niche within your field? People just love a niche if they can notice themselves within it. And the market for most services is huge, so you’ll want to whittle it down anyway (it’ll also help you to focus your SEO, Adwords campaign, etc.).
  • What makes you different? So you’re an accountant: but are you the accountant who replies to all emails within an hour? Or the accountant who does meetings over Skype? Or who offers free consulting to charities? You need to give a reason for people to use you over many very similar services.
  • What objections do you have to overcome for people to use your service? Talk to potential customers and get a sense of what resistance they have, then address those objections directly on your site

What’s YOUR USP?

As you’re going to be location independent, you might want to be clear about this on your site. But make sure you highlight how it’s a good thing for your clients:

  • You don’t have the overheads of an office, and can charge them less accordingly.
  • You’ll be working while they’re sleeping.
  • Your experiences will give you experiences and perspectives that will feed into the creative work you do for them.
  • People buy from people, and you’re a particularly unique and interesting kind of person – one who’s not afraid to do things a bit differently. Many clients will be impressed that you’re making such an alternative lifestyle work.

The logistics of providing a service while working from anywhere

So you’ve got your online presence, your clients and (hopefully) some money coming in. Now how to make yourself completely location independent while providing your service?

Speaking to clients

If you’ve got Doodle for scheduling meeting, Skype to talk to your clients and Meetings.io for easy video conferencing, there’s no real need to be there in person for every (or any) meeting. We’ve also found that not being in the same room keeps the meeting shorter and more focused.

On our website you’ll find more useful resources for speaking to clients.

When they bring out the meaningless bar charts, you can just switch
over to LOLCats for a while

Getting paid

If you’re working solely for British clients, getting paid is the same as it is for any freelancer: just send over an invoice with your bank details and terms of payment, and wait for the money to reach your account much later than specified and after a fair bit of faffery (sorry – this is something most freelancers have to put up with).

If you’re going to be working for foreign clients too, your invoice should include your IBAN number and BIC/SWIFT codes – you can find these at the bottom of both your paper and online bank statements. Your clients will probably get charged a fee for paying into a UK bank account, so they might prefer to pay you via PayPal instead – this will incur a fee for you, but might be worthwhile if it speeds up the payment process. If you don’t already have a PayPal account, you should get one: it’s a doddle to set up, and makes it super easy to get paid.

Running a business

As Kent and Caanan say, it’s not just about the professional skills set – it’s “also about the ability to run a business… This isn’t stuff that people think about when in the planning stages.” Kent took an MBA in advanced accounting, which has come in extremely handy.

If you’re used to getting paid once a month and having your employer deal with pay, national insurance, etc., you too might want to read up on the nuts and bolts of running a business. We’ve listed some free resources on our website.

The end! But we’re not leaving you in the lurch…

If you head over to our site Making It Anywhere, we’ve provided a list of hints, tips and resources that we think will come in useful. Some of the information is from us, and others is from all the people we’ve been interviewing for our series.

Next week…

We’ll be looking at a whole other non-techie way that you can become location independent. If you have any questions in the meantime, hit us with them in the comments.

Find out more about Kent and Caanan on their website: www.novacationrequired.com.

  • Adele

    Thanks again guys! Great meeting you Tues :)

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