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Becoming Location Independent

Updated on December 6, 2011

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.

Photo by WisDoc
Photo by WisDoc

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.


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    • profile image

      Richard 7 years ago

      Ah, the ideal lifestyle! I'm blogging about ways that people can become location independent as we speak!

    • profile image

      Ricardo 8 years ago

      Hi. I just came across your website. Glad to know there are other great work-while-traveling resources out there besides ours ( I'm familiar with Working Nomad and of his "how he did it" book. If you don't mind my doing so, I'd like to mention our just published book on location-independent living: "the Nu Nomad"

    • KEckerle profile image

      KEckerle 8 years ago from Currently near Surprise, AZ

      Hawkesdream: Start with what you know. Being a solopreneur means YOU must be the expert in YOUR office. See if you can turn what you already know into a business.

      Great hub --- being a LIP is NOT a vacation. I've been living and working from my RV for over a year now. I love the freedom it gives me --- to turn down this road if it looks interesting --- instead of boarding a plane to return to a desk piled high with work. I've been a VA for 10 years --- after 30+ years working in law offices. It's great being able to work at midnight (I'm a night owl!) instead of hitting the morning commute. But the fact remains you MUST WORK! There will always be interruptions and people who don't understand that working from home is still working!

      Being a LIP is wonderful. But it's important to remember you have nobody to fall back on. In the end, it's do or die. That's not really as bad as it sounds --- just means you must have a passion for what you do!

    • Hawkesdream profile image

      Hawkesdream 8 years ago from Cornwall

      Thanks Mani, good to speak to someone real about this

    • ManekiNeko profile image

      ManekiNeko 8 years ago from USA

      Hi Hawkesdream! I know what you mean -- the whole make money online thing is very much a case of the more you learn, the less you feel you know.

      I think the best way is to start with something that you feel comfortable with and where you can provide value with the skills and knowledge you have right now. Whether that's Hubpages or blogging or building small content-rich sites on subjects you like. Don't worry too much about all that internet marketing stuff -- just focus on being yourself and building an audience. (And it looks like you're doing that already, here on Hubpages.)

      Setting up an online business that provides consistent income takes a lot of patience, so the important thing is just to start. I don't have it all figured out yet either, so I'm hoping to write more about the process as I get further along.

    • Hawkesdream profile image

      Hawkesdream 8 years ago from Cornwall

      I have been wanting to be like this for a while now, what I have hit is, the more I research, the less I seem to know. Perhaps you can advise, is the time right to plunge into the unknown when you just want to through the towel in and give up?