Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Location independence, digital nomads and what pretty much all my clients could learn from this

I'm having a mini-obsession with podcasts, blogs and people talking about location independence at the moment. It's a buzz word that actually makes me buzz! The notion of being "location independent" or a "digital nomad" basically means that you're doing work you can do from anywhere, which virtually always means you work online. Or even better, you don't work too much at all but have started an online business which keeps sending money your way. (Not that I mind a bit of hard work. But I don't have a whole lot of hours left in the each day, it seems.)

A random beach shot or ... no, this will have relevance later. Trust me.
Anyway ... while I'm listening to and reading people like Natalie Sisson from The Suitcase Entrepreneur and my lovely friend Nora from The Professional Hobo, I often think that although much of the discussion is about creating an online business so that you can travel a lot (as these ladies do), so many things that they say are also very relevant to people running a small business and promoting themselves online. In other words, the kind of people who are very often my clients, and of course, me as well.

There are so many ideas running around in my head about ways to help your business run with a bit less of your time, freeing you up to do other things which may mean travelling, but equally may mean spending time with your kids (I'm aiming for both of these), getting more involved in a hobby or a cause, or some other equally valid use of your spare time. To me it's not about location independence, it's more about freedom, and who doesn't want a bit more of that? So, here are some of the tips I keep hearing that I think can work for many of us, not just the location independents:

  • Outsource when it makes sense. Small businesses - and especially one-person businesses, the kind I'm often involved with - can't afford to hire staff. You can, however, afford to look into sites like oDesk or elance to find someone who can do a task for you at a low enough rate that it makes sense - you can go off and earn your normal rate and pay them to do a task (especially if (a) they're better at it or (b) you really hate it) that saves your time. (Also, I still love Fiverr for some quick jobs like graphics and stuff.)
  • Batch your work. If you have been to my Social Media Strategising and Scheduling workshop you will have heard me talk about batching: grouping like tasks together and getting them all done at once. That might mean you take one day a month to write every blog post you intend to post that month, or it may be that you decided 9am on Monday is the hour you'll spend scheduling your social media posts for the week. Whatever it is, the value of not having to "start" a similar task multiple times, plus that "in the groove" effect of doing the same thing for a while, makes you work so much more effectively. I'm writing this blog post on an evening when I've already written two others. It works!
  • Change your scenery. People who work for themselves need to be self-motivated and it's not going to be easy 100% of the time. Whether you do the extreme location independent version of this and move to another country for a few months or you just pack up your laptop and take it to a local cafe for an afternoon, it can really make a productivity difference. (I have even taken my laptop to the beach - well, to the carpark near the beach. Too much sand at the actual beach!)
  • Make the most of technology. Having all the latest whiz-bang gadgets can be a trap BUT it can also work out well if you're the one who's in control. I have a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, USB WiFi, a Kindle, you name it (after all, I do work in blogging and social media!) and on occasion I let them take over my life. Most of the time though I exploit them and fit work in around other equally important parts of life. I may schedule a lot of my social media posts during a batching session but of course I still need to check in and reply to comments or other interactions - that's something that's easily done on my smartphone while I'm cooking dinner or waiting at an appointment.
  • Switch off and do fun stuff. This is a point where being a world-wandering digital nomad probably makes it easier, because if you've just moved to a small coastal Croatian town you're very likely to want to abandon your computer at some stage and go exploring or at the very least have a quick dip in that glorious sea. If you're just working from home then always thinking "just one more task" is an easy trap to fall into but the whole point of being your own boss is that you are allowed to switch off from work whenever you want to (well, more or less).
  • Figure out a passive income stream. This is (depending on your industry, perhaps) the trickier part but the bit that really turns you from a worker into someone who sometimes works and sometimes does other cool stuff. I'm still figuring this out too but there are so many options in the online world now to generate an income independent of the hours you put in (you know, earn while you sleep - yes please!) and this is obviously a way to free up some of your time. More on this in the future, when I get it better worked out myself!
The way I figure it, the digital nomads can wander the world, and people like me can just try to get on top of things so that there is time for work, time for play, and hopefully time for a few more overseas trips as well! Blogging and social media is surely a part of getting this sorted out. I'm working on it: watch this space. 

What ways could you make your work style more "digital nomad-ish" - or do you even want to?

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