The Business without Boundaries: An Essential Primer on Location Independence
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Ever since Tim Ferriss drummed up excitement about a four hour work week, we’ve been hearing about the movement called location independence. The idea that, with the aid of the Web, you’re no longer bound by physical borders when operating a business which means you can work anywhere in the world – on your own terms.
Four hours a week aside, a hard realization came upon most affiliate marketers, freelancers, and website owners at a rapid pace: it’s hard.
Yes, it’s certainly possible to build a location independent business but it truly does require hard work and forward thinking to move from the 9-to-5 cubicle into the awe-inspiring laptop on the beach.
Stick with me because I’m going to take you through the essential steps for creating a location independent business …
It’s What You Make It
Developing a business is hard enough work getting off the ground let alone turning a profit past the first year of operation; tack the aim to turn the business into a mobile-friendly form and you’ve got twice the trouble.
A location independent business can mean a lot of things to various people:
- It may be doing just enough work to pay for perpetual travel
- It may be exotic locations as the base of operations
- It may just be working from home
A location free business is what you make it but it also completely depends on your business model.
Luckily, affiliate marketing allows you to operate a business from any location so you’re already experiencing the location independence; the only resistance, at this time, is that you’re most likely locked to your location because you’ve built a comfy office lifestyle.
Note: You don’t need to necessarily do affiliate marketing to build a mobile business, here are some other ideas.
- Sean Ogle of Location180 set off in 2009 and found his place in Thailand working along the way and building a business based on services (and earning through his blog).
- Cody Mckibben has a life realization and set off in 2008; he now operates his business from his laptop and travels around Southeast Asia (you can find his exploits on Thrilling Heroics).
- You have Earl that has been traveling, pretty much nonstop, since 1999; he uses the Web as his base for work, has released premium products, and regularly blogs at Wandering Earl.
I mention these individuals because they have each built a unique business that’s flexible enough that it can be taken to any location. They use a combination of services, owning a website, and a bit of affiliate marketing to make it all happen.
Hrm, that sounds pretty close to what we’re doing … wait … it IS what we’re doing!
With that being said, the following will take you through the process of building this mobile friendly business model; you can apply it to an existing one or start from the ground up – your choice.
Building Your Location Independent Business
A location independent business does not necessarily rely on the fact that you’re traveling around to exotic locations; it simply means that your business can be picked up, whisked away, and planted in a new location without resistance.
A few prime examples of LIB’s include:
- Graphic or web design
- Coaching or tutoring
- Drop shipping (in ecommerce)
- Affiliate marketing ventures
- Selling information products
As an affiliate marketer, you’re already half way toward the goal of building a LIB; your work is done at your computer but your product is out on the Web. It’s the transition, on your end, that makes the difference in this business lifestyle.
Part 1: A Lifestyle Mindset
First thing’s first, it’s about the mindset.
Generally speaking, entrepreneurs (especially those going the affiliate route) get their start during the off hours while working the 9-to-5; in time, as their income grows, so do the opportunities to leave the position and go full-time.
However, once you’re out on your own, you quickly realize that you’ve replaced your old job with a new one – you’re just doing it from home.
You get comfortable working at your home office.
Some entrepreneurs wind up opening small offices to get away from the home environment; others join up with other entrepreneurs and share office space. In all, you’re still in an office mindset – you don’t really know how to function without your surrounding walls.
The shift in the location independent mindset comes when you overcome outside distractions.
When you’re busy, working on the business, from your office or from home, you’ve created a quiet zone to get the job done; on the outside, it’s noisy, distracting, always hustling and bustling.
If you can block out the distractions then you can go mobile.
Prepare your mind by transitioning the workplace environment:
- Open your windows and play music
- Start working at coffee shops or in the park
- Take a day (or two) to test the waters of operating at a friend’s house
- Allow your business to run, by itself, for a week and record the results
The last of these becomes a big factor.
Location independent businesses need your flexibility especially if you’re constantly moving around; they need the ability to operate without you handling every fine detail.
So, to summarize and get to the point, you need to view your business as if it’s hyper-mobile. The business needs to remove the physical restraints (such as a desk work area), introduce ways to manage daily operations without much tedious work, and provide products/services through mobile mediums.
Here’s a small example which should get you on the LIB level mindset:
A freelance writing business for online publication only needs a laptop. The freelancer can go mobile as long as they have an internet connection. Any location they stop, work can be done. Schedules can be made to incorporate travel time (or time zones). Skype, social media, and time management tools, on the cloud, handles the business and networking. Payment is delivered through direct deposit, Paypal, or one of the many money services.
See where this is going?
It all just requires your ability to pick up and go.
Get in that mindset because now we have the real work to do …
Part 2: Preparing the Business
A mobile business needs the following:
- An online portal/platform to generate sales
- A product/service to promote
- A solid set of tools (computer, headphones, etc)
- Time management, contact, and scheduling services
- Electronic payment gateways
Seeing that the focus here is affiliate marketing, most of the work is handled through the affiliate platform. Your website is the platform to promote affiliate products and services. You’re working from a computer (or mobile device). You’re managing your time and resources. You’re making connections through social media, email, and other mediums. Your payment is delivered during the payout.
- Service businesses are the easiest to transition because it only requires you to get up and go.
- Physical businesses are somewhat tough but there are services that handle the handling of products such as Amazon Fulfillment (if you’re selling physical products).
Remember, any business can incorporate affiliate marketing into their revenue stream so when you’re reading all this, even if the physical side of the information doesn’t apply to you, directly, it all generally works the same.
- Identify the major income earners for your business.
- Track your time and location to see where your best work is accomplished.
- Consider your networking and whether it requires physical interaction.
- Understand how your product/services are fulfilled to the customer.
When Going Mobile
- Consider purchasing a 4G service for your laptop
- Map Wi-Fi hotspots during your travel for easy access
- Schedule your movement around your business meetings and promotions
- Set aside time for the tough work
- Pass off the easy stuff to a virtual assistant (or phase it out completely)
The hurdle, in this area, is scheduling; you need time to get work done even if you’re far too excited when you’ve landed in a new location – entertainment needs to be put on pause for work.
MilliversTravels has an excellent resource on the technology and essentials for going location independent.
In your business, identify your main income models and perform an 80/20 analysis on your projects. Toss the ventures and items that take up too much of your time for very little reward and focus on that 20% that earns 80% of your income.
Once you’ve nailed that analysis, begin rolling out the following:
- Setup a FAQ page, customer support forum, and automated responses for when you need to perform customer service; the FAQ and forum will handle the majority of inquiries so you’re left taking care of the important, immediate issues (which can be done through email or via Skype).
- Use automated product delivery for information products or robust contact forms for lead generation for your services.
- Contact your locals and explain that you’re going location independent and that future contact will solely be done through the web (or your phone); these may be good customers but if your goal is to move around than the cord needs to be cut sometime.
- Transition your physical documents to cloud services or go completely digital with your records.
You’ll be surprised to find that many physical activities you do, for your business, can be let go and your business will still operate at a very successful level.
Part 3: Embracing the Boundlessness
The easiest path to a LIB is simply running a test to see whether you can operate on the go.
Sure, you’ve gone on vacation and did the bare essentials to keep things going like publishing new content, sending out emails, and responding to people but ask yourself whether you can do this on a permanent basis.
At this point, you’ve done the following:
- Removed the physical restraints from your business
- Automated some processes (email, content publication, customer support)
Now it’s a matter of scheduling:
- Find the moments of the day when you work the most productive (track your work and use your notes to identify this time).
- Setup blocks of time where only the essentials are completed.
- Set just one or two times, during the day, to answer emails and inquiries
- Use a day where you compile your work and set a new schedule for the upcoming week.
You can certainly be flexible in your routine but work needs to be done so schedule for it.
Last, but not at all least, is the actual movement.
You could go static, bouncing from location and hanging around for a few weeks, months, or years; this is a popular choice for expats working abroad.
Alternatively, you could bounce from hotel/hostels, couch surf, or crash at a friend’s/family house; this means you’re far more mobile but also means you’re spending a lot of money on travel expense. However, once you begin moving, you’ll find it easy to go to new locations.
Again, let’s use an example (to explain this embrace of boundlessness):
A freelance writer decides that they’ll travel for a year while operating their business. Their main income comes from writing which requires solid blocks of time but they also operate a website that promotes affiliate products. The most important work, the actual writing, has been set to early morning hours whereas website work, such as content creation and product promotion, is done in the afternoon during down time. This freelancer utilizes matrix websites for cheap flights, local transportation, and hostel booking services to travel effectively (and inexpensively). From time to time, they settle in a spot for a few weeks. During the day, they can explore the new areas; carrying a phone always keeps them in check with the business and sees to its smooth operation. In all, they’re moving around at their own will, absorbing culture, but also operating a successful business venture.
Story time, over.
Get up, go out, bring your laptop, find some Wi-Fi, and start working. That’s it.
There’s an inherent fear that you won’t make it because you’re comfortable with your current work environment. You can do it if you have the discipline to work (just as you’re doing now) while embracing the new locations.
So, in all:
- Remove the physical restraints from your business
- Automate large portions of the work (or hire a virtual assistant)
- Focus on revenue models that allow for electronic delivery (or use fulfillment services)
- Manage customer service through FAQ’s, customer portals, and forums
- Use digital tools and online services for contact, publication, and networking
- Comparison “shop” for travel deals, lodging, and locations
Give it a try. At least for a week or next time you’re on a vacation. Run your business as if you’re not returning home. You may find that everything goes better than expected and it’s that moment when you’re no longer chained to the desk – you’ve made a location independent business.
But It’s Not For Everyone …
You may not want to permanently travel though you may not want a normal, everyday location – you’re developing a lifestyle where your business works in your favor.
There are a few things to remember:
- Can you really stay focused in a new location (enough to get the work done?)
- Can you budget your time and resources so you don’t burn through your income?
- Does being location independent restrict your potential for growth?
These location independent businesses work great because they’re heavily based on web technologies; as you can expect, you’re not exactly uprooting if you’re locked to a location based on your business model.
In all, I believe it would be very worthwhile, for you, to incorporate sections of this post into your existing business ventures. Why? Because it’s not just about the ability to work from anywhere – it’s about developing a mindset so you’re allocating your resources toward building long-term assets.
You’re less likely to make a volatile business (or product) if you’re under the stress of paying for your travels and locations – you’re removing the comfort and forcing yourself to act.
But, it’s up to you. Do what’s best for your business and your lifestyle.
Post image by Cali4beach