Some people are lucky enough to be able to run their business from most places on this glorious planet.
Tim Footdale arrives back to his hostel after an afternoon’s surfing when the group of backpackers he’s with, invite him to go for a few drinks.
Some in the group are fresh out of university while the majority are in our mid to late twenties, taking breaks from careers in finance, IT, and teaching, to enjoy some time in the Southern Hemisphere.
The sun is beaming in Raglan, the quiet seaside town hidden away on New Zealand’s North Island, and it feels like a world away from the busy lives left behind in places like Dublin, London and Berlin. The group is baffled, therefore, when Tim says that rather than join us for a beer while the sun is still up, he’s got to catch up on a couple of hour’s work.
“Trading money for time is an outdated system.”
Raglan has a population of roughly three thousand and not a lot to do besides surf and chill out; what business could he possibly have to conduct here?
Footdale is part of a new generation of an entrepreneur who, instead of renting office space or working from his apartment, chooses to take his laptop and work from anywhere in the world that sparks his interest. The nature of his business – e-commerce consultancy – means that as long as he has an Internet connection, he’s as equipped to serve his clients from a beachside hotel as we would be from a desk in an industrial park.
‘Trading time for money’
Originally from California, Footdale always wanted to travel the world but had felt that his career constrained him from doing so. Shortly after turning 30 he had his lightbulb moment; go into business for himself, and work when, and from where, he wants.
“Trading money for time is an outdated system”, he says. “The benefit of doing things this way is being able to make your own schedule and define your definition of work/life balance”.
“Another drawback is my best friends and family aren’t living this lifestyle.”
This sounds good, but surely running a business while jet-setting around the world has its drawbacks? Doesn’t having a job to do distract from the sightseeing, and vice versa? For people like Footdale, this is apparently not a problem. “Being a non-stop tourist can become dull so I like that I’m still being challenged with my work while travelling”.
In fact, the only negative he can find is that he doesn’t meet more people like him. “The main drawback is that most people you travel with are on holiday and don’t need to keep part of their attention on work. Another drawback is my best friends and family aren’t living this lifestyle.”
For anyone who’s used to working from within the confines of an office cubicle and a carefully regimented nine to five schedule, the idea of running a serious business from an exotic location on their terms might sound a little too good to be true.
“There’s a delicate balance between staying in one place too long and always being on the go.”
Indeed, many business people would say they need the structure of a typical workplace to get things done and would worry the distractions of travel would hamper productivity. However, with the right discipline and attitude, it can be done. For Footdale, the key is finding an appropriate workspace.
Once he’s got somewhere he feels he can concentrate on his work; then he’s happy to stay there for as long as feels right.
“I restructured my company in the Sydney State Library; I simply love working there. The longer I stay in one place, the more productive I become. There’s a delicate balance between staying too long and always being on the go.”
Getting the balance right between business and leisure, then, is crucial. “Freedom doesn’t mean you need to see a new waterfall every day … the balance is different for everyone”.
Keeping your options open
The financial potential of this kind of business will, of course, vary depending on its nature and how many hours you are willing to put in.
A highly skilled programmer is likely to command larger fees than a translator. However, a translator earning €500 per week in Dublin may find that they can make the equivalent amount doing their job from somewhere in South East Asia or Central America, with the cost of living substantially cheaper in these places.
“Leave your current job on good terms so there’s a chance of a spot to go back to.”
Indeed, the well-paid programmer may find he/she only needs to do a handful of hours work per week to fund their lifestyle abroad. Nevertheless, there are risks involved so it’s important to do the research before leaving your cushy job in the city and becoming a poolside entrepreneur.
“Validate that you can make money and travel at the same time before quitting your job,” advises Footdale. “Leave on good terms so there’s a spot to go back to.”
Six businesses you can run from anywhere
Whatever your discipline, consultancy is a role which can easily be done from anywhere as long as you’ve got an Internet connection and a workspace.
Creating great design doesn’t demand that the designer is situated in one place. With the right set-up, it can be done from any location.
The Search Engine Optimisation landscape is ever-changing, but there’s plenty of work in it and decent money for someone with the right skills and the right connections.
An established copywriter might find he or she can do their job just as effectively from a more exotic destination. Freelance writing jobs can be found online on outsourcing sites like Freelancer.com. While freelancing is not always the best-paid job in the world, writers with skills in SEO or translation will be able to charge more.
Programming / coding
Computer programming is a highly skilled job that requires long hours and a lot of discipline, but again jobs can be tendered for online and the work is done remotely.
With just a laptop, a decent microphone and a thirst for knowledge, why not become a global, roaming podcaster? You could become a travel podcaster and discuss all the interesting places you visit as well as interviewing locals and then broadcasting their top tips for tourists. The world truly is your oyster.