Digital Nomad vs Nomadic Settler

The internet is full of bloggers and Instagrammers who seemingly travel the world with little more than their passport and laptop whilst earning plenty of money as they do it.

This is the dream though, right? You are young, you do not have any commitments, want to visit new places and as a digital native, you can find ways to make money online. With the reduced cost of living abroad, what can go wrong? Plus, it’s much more fun than starting a business at home!

My whole business and blog, obviously, are based on how location independent my businesses are i.e. that I can be anywhere in the world and still make a living. Recently though I have been listening to more business podcasts which extol the virtues of doing just that, working from anywhere, and I’ve found myself thinking: I do that but that’s not how I do it.

I am a digital nomad, although I hate the term, in that my business does literally fit in my backpack and I can work from a coffee shop, from the back of a motor home or from the other side of the world. But I don’t.

I work from home around 99% of the time.

I have a partner and three children. My partner has a job, which she loves, but it is location dependant. The children are settled and the thought of us all travelling around the world together, moving on a regular basis would be the most stressful logistical nightmare I can think of.

I say this yet I still have my business backpack-style set up and so you may ask why? I have been thinking that too and as it seems have some others over at the Tropical MBA podcast.

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Stealth Marketing Gave me 10 New Customers in a Week

Around this time last year, I added a blog post to the web site of my hosting business. Around 12 months later, this one post bought in 10 new customers within one week and more are still trickling in.

10 customers may not sound a lot but as a one-person business, using a recurring business model, those 10 customers are going to bring me in quite a bit of income over the next few years. Plus, they are hosting customers and how often do you change web hosts? Every five, maybe every 10 years? They are going to stick around for a long time. 

It all started in October 2018. We took on a new customer who wanted to move their domain name and hosting over to us. Moving their web site and e-mails was fairly easy but there was no way to move the domain name. Their previous host’s web site did not have the option to transfer the domain so I contacted their customer support department.

They didn’t have a phone number to call or even an e-mail address. There was a support system in the customer’s account though, allowing you to leave a request and track its progress. We logged the request and waited a week. We hadn’t heard back so we updated the request with a new note. A week passed, a month passed until three months later, I checked again and the support request had been closed.

There was no response and they had not released the domain like we asked them to. They had read the request, ignored it and closed it.

This sort of customer service really annoys me. Not only is it terrible for their own business (as we will see later), it also leaves customers in an awful position.

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Why you should test launch your business

Years ago when I had a 'proper' job - a proper job to me is working for someone else, doing the 9-5 grind. Working for yourself, although hard work and stressful at times, never quite feels like a real job to me because of the flexibility that it gives you - anyway, back when I worked for someone else, I started my first real online venture.

When I look back now, I realise how ridiculous the whole set up was but it provided me with, at least on a subconscious level, some lessons on how not to do things.

My first attempt was a web hosting business. I was offering a variety of packages for different sized businesses but realising that it is very difficult to get people to switch to a different hosting provider, I had to offer a USP. Hosting packages, even back then, were very cheap so I wasn't able to offer something better in terms of price. At the time I was using a hosting provider and reselling their services to my customers. Although expensive, they offered excellent support if anything went wrong. I was keen not to move away from them and lose the support but because of their high prices, there wasn't much margin that I could put on top of my prices to leave much profit for me.

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How I market my businesses

It's the summer and usually a good time for me to relax a bit. Everyone is off on holiday and so I get far fewer calls from customers meaning that I have some much needed 'spare' time to work on my businesses. It's an ideal time to think of new ideas, work on things to improve my work life e.g. efficiencies and generally slow down before I go away on my own holiday - there's no point working myself into the ground before my trip and then spend the first few days exhausted and rather than enjoying myself, I just spend it catching up on sleep!

With that in mind, I began preparing for my holiday around two months ago. I put a big note on my office whiteboard saying 'No Marketing!' in large letters. Why? The problem with me is that I like to be busy and when I find myself with a bit of free time, I tend to work on marketing projects to bring in more customers. The problem with new customers is that they require a lot of work upfront but then generally the work tapers off but they still pay me for various services. The most obvious example of this from my web site company. When I design a new web site for someone, there is a lot of work over the first three weeks but as the web site goes live, the changes, calls and e-mails generally stop for 12 months and then the next time I hear from them is when they pay their annual hosting invoice.

That's why I stopped marketing back in May. I didn't want to actively pursue any new customers because that would make me really busy for the weeks leading up to my holiday. This would mean I would be exhausted before I left and with the possibility that some projects may overrun and I would end up working whilst I was away - something I was absolutely not prepared to do. Our youngest son was born 18 months ago and this is the first holiday we've had in two years - I wasn't going to waste it with work. I have a lot of sleep to catch up on!

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