Reset
23 Comments

Working from Anywhere on the Planet

working from anywhere on the planet

How to reconcile these two conflicting statements?

1) Working for yourself, especially while traveling, is not as easy as most people think. The fantasy and the reality are quite distinct, and it takes a lot of work to be successful.

2) Working for yourself, even while traveling, is awesome! The freedom is great, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Both statements are completely true, but naturally, we tend to view the idea of self-employment and extensive travel through only one of the two statements. I’d like to look at it a bit deeper.

Fantasy and Reality

I’ve always been skeptical about marketing messages that highlight “just how easy” it is to take your work with you wherever you go. If you look at the ads in the back of Entrepreneur or Fortune Small Business, you’ll see a common motif of bathing suits and laptops at the beach. These images do a good job of “selling the dream,” but the problem is that the reality is more complicated.

Maybe you’re better than me, but I have never found self-employment to be that easy. I take my laptop and usually do some kind of work even on vacation, but does anyone take it to the actual beach? I mean, wouldn’t you get sand in the keyboard?

And of course, the deeper message between the beach-laptop hype is even more concerning. The message is:

How would you like to do nothing all day except log-in to check bank statements and send a few emails? This can be your regular routine, after you invest in our program. (And by the way, if it doesn’t work for you, you must be doing something wrong.)

Artists of all kinds hear similar kinds of messages too. I don’t spend much time at the beach, with or without laptop, but I do try to combine travel and work as much as possible. Over and over, I hear the same thing from different people: “Well, you have all those hours on long plane flights to write.”

I hate to break down the illusion, but most of the time the fantasy about this is better than the reality. I do a lot of brainstorming, outlining, and journal writing on planes – which is very important, don’t get me wrong – but I am rarely able to do much real writing even on an 8-hour flight. The travel is tiring to begin with, and most of the really long flights take place during the night.

Then on the other side of arriving in Pakistan or wherever, I have to deal with being on a faraway time zone while figuring out how to get to the city without paying a lot of money, and then staying somewhere that isn’t usually up to Marriott standards.

Please note that I am not complaining about this. It’s part of the adventure. I’m just saying that there are plenty of times when not much gets done.

But On the Other Hand

I am also resistant to the idea that it is impossible, or even unlikely, to construct a life that allows you to do what you want. I like working for myself, and I like travel – so who’s to say there’s not a way to do both?

I’ve chosen to do this, and I believe in personal responsibility. If you have a business of any kind, you have to be responsible for it no matter what the circumstances. Sometimes I work at home and my internet connection stops working. I have to figure it out there, so what’s the difference if I’m somewhere else?

I’ve had so many amazing experiences since deciding to spend most of my time working on this. I’m getting my first book proposal together and I already know what I want to write the second book about.

Many people who read this site have similar stories or aspirations or aspirations of their own. If that’s you, please be advised of the following:

Life is good.

The freedom is good.

If you really want to work at the beach and can avoid getting sand in your keyboard, you can probably make that happen.

It takes hard work, but it’s worth it. Don’t believe anyone who says otherwise.

My Very Small Business

Next Wednesday I’ll launch my second information product, the Unconventional Guide to Working for Yourself: Creating Freedom through a Very Small Business.

I expect that a number of people will buy it, although I don’t know what that number will be. On Monday I’ll announce a fairly unique guarantee, but since I’ve already explained why not to give me your money, the guarantee will be for those who do buy the guide.

I think you’ll find it interesting, and I’ll also explain how we’ll make this fun even for people who don’t care about self-employment at all.

Actual Sales Figures

By the way, a few of you have asked how things are going with the sales in general. Here’s the no-B.S. answer: since I released the first Unconventional Guide two months ago, the sales have been about $1,000 a month.

Granted, I can’t make a living on $1,000 a month — not where I live, and definitely not with the travel — but there are two cool things about this:

    #1: I just started doing this in March. There are now a few thousand of you who read every day, and as of now I only have one product for sale which is admittedly not for everyone. Expansion is certainly possible.

    #2: As I’ll explain in more detail in the Working for Yourself guide, the $1,000 a month figure is an important tipping point. It usually takes about as long to go from $0 to $1,000 a month as it does to go from $1,000 to $5,000 a month.

This is a rough guideline, and of course there are no guarantees in something like that, but the principle is sound. Getting started takes a fair amount of work; continuous improvement takes less.

There’s Just One Small Problem

The problem is that I don’t know if I want to spend too much time on building this business. My primary goal is to create a lifestyle that allows me to focus primarily on writing, working with small groups, and travel.

I also enjoy working on entrepreneurial projects, but I’ve noticed that those activities require the same kind of energy that writing does. In other words, the more I focus on money-making endeavors, the less energy I have for writing.

Hmmm. I’m honestly not sure what to do about that.

I suspect that whatever I end up deciding, I’ll still travel, and I’ll still find a way to do some kind of work from anywhere on the planet. The fantasy of self-employment and international travel will probably remain over-hyped, but that’s OK – because those of us who are determined will keep doing what we like to do.

###

Stumble-this

Did you enjoy this article? Please pass it on to others at StumbleUpon, or share your own thoughts in the comments section.

Image by MacGirl

Subscribe now and you’ll get the best posts of all time.

23 Comments

  • Metroknow says:

    Thank you for being so generous as to share your sales figures. That is something that not a lot of folks are willing to do. I find it highly encouraging as well, but I think I’m in a similar headspace: I’ve started a new venture, and am finding that my writing time is really suffering. I’m not sure what to do about it actually; On the one hand, my subscribers are growing, but my focus there is dwindling in favor of the excitement of something new. Frustrating at times, but I’m glad to know there are others with similar challenges.

    Looking forward to the book, and my compliments on your approach to building anticipation. It’s been very tasteful, and it’s working. 😉

  • Agree about working while travelling. It is hard work. While I normally get a reasonable amount done in transit, and sometimes also while airborne, it is not as productive time as days or longer spent in one place.

    For me, that is okay. I don’t want travel to be just about work. I need to do new things and meet new people. Sometimes recharging the batteries is more important.

    All the best for your second guide.

  • Beth Barany says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your honest take on your lifestyle and your sales. As an entrepreneur and writer, I too see that I walk a fine line between my creativity writing, fiction, and the creative work it takes to run my company. I try to spend some time every day on something creative, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. If I skip too many days in a row I get cranky. Re: travel, often my productivity skyrockets when I’m in unusual places. Do you find that too? Thanks again for your frank shares. And congrats on your coming 2nd info product. I’m working on my second one too.

  • Sekoja says:

    Hi Chris,

    it’s refreshing to see you de-dreamalize the get-rich-on-the-beach-schemes so prevalent today. I’ve been reading your posts and articles for a while now and have come to respect you for the way you write and for the way you are taking your life into your own hands. Besides that, your articles are very educational.
    Great post again!

    Best wishes, wherever you find yourself roaming and getting to know the planet and it’s people.

    Sekoja

  • Craig says:

    Hey Chris,

    You’re producing useful products; so I guess you’re fulfilling something of the “social” part of your mission statement.

    US$1,000 profits a month would do very nicely in many parts of the world — it’s nothing to sniff at, that’s for sure. Good luck in future development and in funding your dreams. That’s what all us travel-writers are working for.

  • Mary Cullen says:

    Chris,
    Thanks for the honesty of your article. I’ve just hit ten years in my business, and you are so right. At times, it’s really hard and what works is a committed focus on your client and skill in what you do. It’s that simple. And that hard and wonderful. It’s not at all about hype and the laptop at the beach.

    I also appreciate that you stated your revenue figures, when so many others advocating entrepreneurship pose and fake it.

    I love your blog and look forward to reading more. Best wishes.

  • Kat says:

    Hi Chris,
    while I so spend a good deal of time at the beach (I currently live in Nha Trang, Vietnam), and a lot of time working and writing, I certainly never do both at the same time. Sand in the key board, not to mention glare, would indeed be a major problem.

  • The Wyman says:

    Another great post. I also enjoyed the 4 comments so far.

    Beth–

    Jay Abraham, king of passive income, says to spend time creatively working on your business not just in your business. Sounds like you are on the right track.

    Chris, you are right on about Internet marketing being as easy as the gurus say. They leave out the years of struggle while not making any money before the made $zillion in 24 hours using their magic plan.

  • Matt says:

    Chris,

    Good for you! I’ve been a serial entrepreneur for years and have just really started to achieve the success I’ve always dreamt of. My business is literally hands off 90% of the time, so I’ve just begun to venture into the blogosphere to fill the mental and financial void that this extra time affords. You’re the inspiration for making this jump.

    As far as productivity while traveling, I totally agree with you! I was an air force pilot for 9 years and in my last 3 I traveled the world flying. This type of travel and the jetlag really messes with you up!

  • Audrey says:

    Working while traveling or constantly on the road has been harder for us than we first imagined when we left our 9-5 desk jobs behind. There are all sorts of logistical challenges – electricity, reliable internet (and not only being able to go to internet cafes where 50 kids are screaming and playing video games – NOT a place to get things done), comfortable working environment, etc. At the end of a day exploring a city, the last thing we want to do on most days is open the laptop and do work – we’re still making sense of the day and many times, we’re very exhausted physically and mentally.

    We’ve found writing and doing work in the morning best, as is having a chance be still for a few days/weeks after a chunk of travel to process and write. That said, we’re months behind…so we obviously haven’t figured out the perfect equation!

    I like the honesty about whether you want to build this business and the clarity of the lifestyle you want. Many people do things because they “should,” losing sight of the original goal in the process. We are also always reevaluating, realizing that sometimes we go down a path that really makes us stray from our original goals.

    Good luck and please continue sharing.

  • Graham says:

    I once tried the writing-at-the-beach idea using a PDA – in a plastic bag to keep out sand and salt air, but wrapped tight so I could write on it with the stylus. It worked, but:

    1. The screen was hard to read in bright sunlight
    2. Writing was uncomfortable without a chair and lap rest
    3. I wasn’t happy leaving my PDA alone on the beach while I went in for a swim.

    The beach is great for inspiration, meditation, planning, and mental health generally. For serious work it’s hard to beat sitting at a table indoors.

    Thanks Chris for sharing your earnings, and not hyping your upcoming guide as other “make money online” types do. As the first commenter said, you’ve been building anticipation very tastefully, and it’s working for me also.

  • Benny Lewis says:

    Thanks for sharing all that Chris!

    I have been bringing work with me as I travel, and despite living by beaches etc. a lot I have no interest in taking my laptop out there. I’m not as much worried about the sand as I am (like Kat) worried about not being able to see the screen because of the glare from the sun! My laptop doesn’t have one of those flashy new technology screens that reflect less. Besides, I’m quite happy having a specific space to work in at my temporary accommodation and then enjoying the beach etc. completely whenever I leave the house. 🙂 I prefer doing it this way because if you can work anywhere, then you may just start working everywhere and taking the workaholic life with you on the road… definitely not the dream!

    Like Sekoja, I really appreciate your no BS attitude to writing this blog (we AREN’T going to win the lottery and travelling the world is NOT a non-stop glamorous adventure…) The touch of realism while you are showing what can be achieved is much more inspiring than other writers who simplify everything.

    Another good thing about $1000 a month (apart from it going far in some places like Craig says) is that if you have several different sources of income and add them up it amounts to a lot. Each one matters!! It’s something I’m working towards since at the moment all my eggs are in one basket, which may blow up in my face if I’m not careful… it’s something another blog I follow discusses for her budget as she travels the world.

    Thanks for your excellent writing!

  • Zoe says:

    Hi Chris,

    I can certainly relate to this small problem. My mind is constantly churning through ideas about how to achieve the balance I want between creativity and business.

    I have to say, though — the $1,000 a month would do you quite well if you lived out here in Chiang Mai, Thailand! The low cost of living here was a significant factor in pushing/allowing me to pursue my writing more. You and Jolie should think about it 😀

  • Jack says:

    I really don’t get all the comments commenting on the beach metaphor, I mean, c’mon? Glare, non-reflective screens? The point is somewhere else, guys.

    I started my own thing this month, I am under 20 and it’s really just the experience that’s pushing me to be an entrepreneur and work for myself. Definitely it’s not an easy thing to do. You don’t get a steady paycheck, you have absolutely nobody to blame and it’s weird for all your family and friends that you’re doing something ‘that risky’.

    In my last job, we all did our best, but it didn’t matter if you work good or you don’t. You may get blamed by the boss, but if you make a good job, trust me, the sales rise and the place profits. But you don’t see any reflection on that on your paycheck. And while some of my colleagues just told me to go to bed and be happy that you did a good job, I think it’s a pretty unfair world.

    Nobody ended up being remembered for working somewhere 9-to-5, it’s starting projects, communicating with people, being different and mainly being courageous that will push you.
    It’s a risky thing. Many of the people reading probably have families, mortgages, kids going to (expensive) schools and in their worldview it’s absolutely not an option, and in this economic situation absolutely impossible, but they should push their lives too.

    Read the manifesto, push yourself, even if it’s not your job and you love it than just be remarkable. If you already are, congratulations.

    Be the best.

  • I’m on my very first move-home-base trip now–to Seattle, of all places!!–and it’s been really illuminating.

    What I’ve noticed most is that my shameful habits of procrastination have no place to hide. Just one week into it, I’ve also realized that being somewhere else doesn’t mean I can up and flit around like a social butterfly. Yes, there are lots of great people here whom I’ve met either in real life or online, and yes, I want to see people while I’m here, but probably need to hold a better line. Maybe some more structure, along the lines of Audrey’s comment: work mornings (hard!), take afternoons and/or evenings off.

    It’s exciting, though. I hope I can figure out how to do much more of it.

  • Laura says:

    Thanks for writing this. In theory I can work anywhere, but in reality I never do. I need my home office set up with quiet and my nice big monitor to really get work done. What I have found is that I have the freedom to adjust my schedule to travel/take time off whenever I want, even if I’m not working during that travel or time off. What I can do is decide that everything will get done this week, then do nothing next week.

  • Wow, having a few thousand readers every day when you only started in March is very impressive. That makes me want to read more. I am constantly on the road myself and finding new strategies to work and be efficient while traveling. Good luck with your ventures. As someone who has gotten a book deal already because of my blog, I would say that you are already way ahead.

  • Kirsty says:

    I just found your blog and I’m hooked. Lots of great stuff for me to look through. Problem is, I’m supposed to be working. Seems to happen a lot.

    I’ve been doing the work/travel thing for 10 months now somewhat dubious results. When I left in January I had a lot of expectations for my earnings and the amount I’d be able to accomplish on the road. My earnings have more or less stayed the same and I really haven’t managed to get as many new projects (I build travel websites mainly) off the ground as I’d hoped.

    Dodgy net connections and no suitable workspaces have dogged me a bit but I think my lack of production comes down to too many distractions and sheer laziness. But I’m always optimistic.

    I’m in a good position because I’ve got things to a point where my sites sort of run themselves. But it’s easy to forget about the thousands of hours of work I put in over the past 6 or 7 years with pretty much no payout at all. So while it might seem like I don’t do much now, it certainly wasn’t always the case.

    I’ve got lots of ideas though so I think it’s time to get back to doing some serious work. After I finish reading this blog.

  • Van Scott says:

    Really awesome article… I love your candor. I’m a laptop on a beach guy, and you’re right to say it isn’t easy. It’s a lifestyle choice and it involves a lot of sacrifice. You can click on my name and read a little about the laptop-beach lifestyle.

  • Alice says:

    Hi guys! Your comments are encouraging… I would like to travel and work while I travel, however I have no desire necessarily to build a business that requires sales. Is there something that can provide me with about $2000 per month in income that is flexible to do from anywhere? Or is there something I could get trained in that I can take on the road? I have basic computer skills, a BA degree in psych and years of customer service work. Not sure what I could do that would transfer to travel… not a writer per se or actually creative at all. I like to take photos, but hardly at the level where they get paid for.

    I would appreciate any ideas,

    Thanks,

    Alice

  • pat says:

    I just wanted to write that brewers yeast works to avoid malaria.I don’t have the dosage with me.

Your comments are welcome! Please be nice and use your real name.

If you have a website, include it in the website field (not in the text of the comment).

Want to see your photo in the comments? Visit Gravatar.com to get one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *