Becoming Location Independent
I have a dream. Maybe you have the same dream? Maybe that’s how you came here, typing “location independent” or “working nomad” into a search field. I’d like to be able to make a living from anywhere, without putting in crazy hours or having to show up at an office every day. I’m not there yet, but here’s what I know so far:
Location Independent Jobs
Thanks to the miracle of the internet, much of our daily work can be done online now, even if you work for someone else. Meetings can happen via video chats. Spreadsheets and reports can be shared via e-mail or Google Docs. And if your dream includes working for yourself, the internet provides endless opportunities for doing so.
Starting your own online business is the holy grail of of location independent work. Anything that makes money online and pays you directly can be considered an online business. There is a huge amount of information out there about making money online. The good news is that you can learn everything you need to learn for free. The bad news is that there are so many different ways of making money online that the learning process can be incredibly overwhelming. To keep it simple, there are three ways of making money online that most people can break into.
How to Make Money Online
Freelance: This means that you sell a service directly to a client. It’s not about coming up with your own ideas or content, but about getting paid for your skills. Whether you’re a writer, a web designer, a coder, or a consultant, the major challenge is marketing your services and finding clients. Check sites such as Craig’s List, eLance, or Freelance Switch for job listings. Even better, contact and pitch potential clients directly.
Online Information: This category includes biggies like blogging and creating e-books. It’s about providing valuable information to people, and earning money through advertisements (usually Google Adsense) or direct sales. Lots of people that enjoy researching, writing, and sharing what they know could do well in this category. Try creating some Hubpages -- they’re an easy way to get your feet wet and to practice writing, marketing, and monetizing content.
Affiliate Sales: An affiliate is a partner site or company that pays you for a referred client or sale. For example, Amazon’s affiliate program is pretty well known, so if you click on an Amazon affiliate link through a site, the site’s owner will get a percentage of whatever you end up buying.
People often combine online information with affiliate sales, and a popular way to do this is through niche Web sites. These are small sites that are designed to rank well for a specific search term (that’s the niche). The goal is to attract a small but steady amount of visitors and persuade those visitors to buy something or click on an ad.
Location Independent Lifestyle
Now that all the “logistics” are out of the way, let’s talk about the location independent lifestyle! Bring on the fruity umbrella drinks at the beach! Go ahead an finish your drink and then allow me to shatter the illusion for a bit.
Being location independent does not equal permanent vacation. A vacation means having no responsibilities, having no routine, and doing basically nothing all day long. Being location independent means that, instead of strictly separating work time and vacation time, you have to learn to combine the two.
Working outside the structure of a 9-to-5 office workday requires a lot of discipline. At home, there are always distractions -- like TV, the kitchen, or the bed (naptime!) -- that beckon us away from work tasks. When traveling, it only gets worse. Who wants to spend hours working on a computer when there are cities to be explored, adventures to be had, and fellow travelers to go out and have fun with.
One way to bring some discipline into a location independent workday is to maintain a routine. Whether it’s a few hours of work each day, a full day or work every other day, or a productive half-day most days of the week, set a schedule for yourself and make it a habit to stick to that schedule. Waiting until you have some free time, feel like working, or absolutely must get a project done to meet a deadline usually means that a) nothing gets done and b) you’re totally stressed out when something does need to get done.
Another effective way to battle permanent-vacation-syndrome is to have a dedicated work space. Find someplace that’s comfortable, has few distractions, and provides a power supply and a fast internet connection. If you work at home, invest in a real desk instead of working at the dining table. When traveling, find a quiet table at the hotel, a library, or a not-too-busy coffee shop.
Location Independent Attitude
Not everyone is necessarily cut out for being location independent. It takes a leap of faith to let go of (or, at least, delay) the comfort and safety of a settled, predictable life. I’m pursuing a location independent lifestyle for myself because a) I can’t stand being cooped up in an office all day, working for someone else and b) I love to travel and am willing to trade some comforts of home in order to do so more often for longer periods of time.
If you work for yourself, you’re not accountable to a boss or a manager to get any work done. You can’t pass the blame off to anyone else if something goes wrong. And you can’t hide behind or depend on anyone else to make things happen. At some point, all this responsibility is going to get tiresome. You’ll probably miss the 9-to-5 world and its structure and routine.
Likewise, the life of a working nomad can wear on you. If you’re venturing out on your own, you’ll probably get lonely a lot and miss your friends and family. That homesickness might be even worse because you may not have a home to come back to. Keeping a house or apartment when you’re traveling a lot may be an expense you can’t afford or justify. This means that you also won’t have many of the trappings of “home” that provide so much comfort: pets, a car, furniture, large book or DVD collections. The life of a working nomad is usually very simple, and not materialistic. Traveling extensively makes a lot of stuff a burden, both literally and figuratively.
But if you really dream of being location independent, these paragraphs don’t sound so scary. No boss means freedom to pursue your own projects, on your own time. No car or mortgage payment means more money and more time to explore the world, meet new people, and have once-in-a-lifetime adventures.