Journal

Digital Nomads! Should I...Set up my own Business?

minute read

Welcome back to part two of our “Should I…” series, the series dedicated to helping you make the right choices for you whilst transitioning into the digital nomad lifestyle! In our last article we looked at a few of the pressing pros and cons of having a job; you can read it here. In this article, we’re going to get deep and philosophical as I go through some of the major pros and cons associated with taking the leap and owning your own business.

Setting up a business is a journey that has the potential to completely change your life. It’s an exhilarating adventure requiring vision, perseverance, resilience and passion. In fact it is likely to be one of the hardest things you could attempt in your working life. What is clear, is that it is not a road for the faint of heart.

The thing that drives a person to step outside of status quo and build their own sustainable income source is different for everybody. For some, the driving force behind pursuing a business idea might be a desire to make life for themselves and their families better. For others, they needed and wanted more flexibility around how they work, where they work etc. For others still, there was a problem they noticed and they wanted it solved, so they built a business that solved that problem. Whatever the reasons are, deciding to build a business is almost like deciding to have a child; you need to think carefully about how you will facilitate the business thriving. Like a child, building a business from the ground up is time consuming, a little stressful at times and unpredictable in a lot of cases. Having said that, there are plenty of folks in the digital nomad community who wouldn't have it any other way.

Lets see why…

THE PROS

An opportunity to bring your unique vision into reality...

Setting up a business utilises your unique creativity. That's why even though it’s hard to do, people love the process of setting up their own thing simply because it’s theirs. You’re working hard of course, in fact probably harder than you would do in a conventional job. But as we are all unique in an untold number of ways, it doesn’t matter that there could be other versions of what you do out there. If you stay true to yourself, your special way of doing things or thinking will imprint itself into the DNA of your business, and give people something different to take an interest in.

When you work for somebody else, you have to fit yourself into their vision, and whilst there may be plenty of values that you agree with, it’s still somebody else’s dream that you’re working on. If you’re an entrepreneur deep down in your heart of hearts, you’ll never be entirely content with anything that becomes a barrier between you and making your own dreams a reality. It’s not arrogant to say that, it’s a truth for a lot of people that want to live the lifestyle of being self employed.

Conventional living doesn’t suit us clearly...

Pursuing Your Passion

Setting up a business, however small, is a chance for you to do something that you’re good at as well as something that you’re passionate about. For example, I’m writing this article right now and I enjoy it, I’m passionate about it and it’s what I now do for a living - I sell this skill and have opened up a whole new realm of possibility that allows me to start living life on my own terms, writing things that I’m passionate about. I did my degree in Human Resource Management, and was fully prepared to enter the corporate world, suited and booted. But I wasn’t passionate about it and as a result, I sucked at it as well. This way, I can follow a passion that I’ve had for so many years and I can hand on heart say that it’s given me a new lease of life and a fresh dose of confidence. I am finally able to say that I have the keys to follow my passion, on my own terms and in my own way. It’s an incredible feeling. It’s also exceedingly uncomfortable at times as well but we’ll discuss that later on…

Making an Impact

If you’re a millenial, you’ll have heard about our desire to make an impact as soon as we can in our working lives. I don’t believe any generation has been without those that have wanted to push the boundaries of the status quo. In fact most people out there are born wanting to do something that makes them and others around them better off but we don’t always know what to do or how to get there from our current circumstances.

Success comes when we shift our focus from making a million dollars to helping a million people.
— Dharmesh Shah

Setting up your own business can be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling especially if you’re working towards solving the problems of others. It gives a real sense of purpose and you can see with your own the eyes the positive impact that your business or social enterprise has. Now of course, when you work for someone else you can have a positive impact on those around you; I’m in no way suggesting that only business owners have that opportunity. But if you are just part of the corporate rat race it can often feel as though your contribution to the workings of that company is like a drop in the ocean. If you're feeling like this and you've got a business idea on ice, maybe it's time to take the leap.

Unlimited Earning Potential

Of course, setting up your own business opens a huge pool of opportunities regarding earning potential. It’s limitless. Well that’s the short answer. The reality is that if your business is successful, you stand to make enough money and more to support the lifestyle you want. Most people’s salaries will peak at some point and billionaires don’t get that way by being somebody else’s PA or even CEO. Millionaire perhaps, yeah of course. But I’d say that to enter into the truly limitless earning potential stratosphere, owning your own business is the way to go. This of course is assuming that money is at the top of your priority list.

Autonomy and Flexibility

This is a huge topic of discussion for remote workers trying to make the decision about what to do regarding their income stream. In Part 1 of this series, we looked at some of the restrictions around working for someone else. One of those things was that, when you work for someone else you can have flexibility up to a certain point. If your timetable affects the needs of an employer negatively, your need for a flexible lifestyle will be swept aside; it isn't a priority for them.

When you go into business for yourself, you set the terms around, how you work, where you work and WHEN you work. As the boss, if you feel that there’s an element of your business model that robs you in some way, or negatively affects an element of your daily life that you are unwilling to compromise on, you are at complete liberty to change it (within reason of course). There’s no meetings, or spending hours on a business proposal as to why you want to work Tuesday-Saturday for it to be rejected because your company is Monday to Friday. You just let your clients know where appropriate and you do what you see fit. This is one of the main reasons why a lot of digital nomads work for themselves. It's a lifestyle most compatible with our decision to work and travel.

Having said all of this, running a business, even one in line with your passions, can be a heavy load to bear. Let's have a look at some pointers to be aware of.

THE CONS

With Authority comes great responsibility

We discussed earlier that building a business gives you the opportunity to decide the vision and carry it out in your own unique way and style. Your individual creativity and values can be allowed to permeate through every aspect of your business and that tends to be a really good thing; your business is an extension of who you are. BUT, there is always a balance. One thing that never changes, is that being a business owner will always be a huge responsibility. The buck stops with you. For better for worse, for richer, for poorer, every decision you make to keep the business healthy is on your head. Not everybody wants that level of responsibility. Especially when remote workers can command fantastic salaries and work on their own terms. If you don't have to go to all that extra effort to have the lifestyle you want, why bother?

No Stability...at first

What stops many people from starting their own business is that there are no guarantees of steady work, especially at the beginning. The harsh reality is that most businesses don’t generate enough income for you to completely live off of right away. When you want to be able to work remotely and you’ve got costs to pay out for, like accommodation and not starving to death, not having enough income is not likely to be a massively fun experience.

I think the scary thing about this is not knowing how long the initial dry spell is likely to last, so it’s difficult pace yourself. To get around this though, maybe consider transitioning into being a full time entrepreneur where you gradually reduce your freelance work as your business grows. This way you don’t have to give up the dream of remote working and travelling but you diminish the risk around not being able to stay afloat.

Loneliness

One thing that can be a potential downside of setting up your own business is that it can be a bit of lonely experience. You’re building an idea that you’re having to keep close to your chest because it’s not a tangible thing yet. It’s a vulnerable time in the life cycle of a business so naturally, you’re not inclined to share anything about it, especially the struggles. That is why it is always good to have people around you, a community around you who will motivate you, encourage you and help you to stay connected to other human beings and allow you to share this crazy journey that you are on. If you become isolated, it’ll be difficult for you to experience the full benefit of starting a business. People that get a job tend to automatically get a team, but entrepreneurs have to be more intentional about finding those like-minded folks.

Negative Impact on Relationships

Often, when setting up a business you’ll have to withdraw from a lot of social engagements for an unknown period of time. People are much more likely to get mad at you for being unavailable. If you’re setting the business up in your hometown then this is a potential hazard anyway, but if you’re a working on this remotely in a different country, things can get even trickier. The digital nomad lifestyle is quite difficult for people to get their head around, so it's easy for people to get aggravated with you for not being around so much.

In summary...

Do what's going to make you happy. Whichever route you choose to take is the right route as long as it suits your needs and your passions!

Until next time...


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Amanda Scott is the editor in chief for The Wifi Tribe blog and passionate about creating an excellent resource for remote workers near and far to draw from. When she's not editing and writing, she's either cooking, eating or reading a good book. You can never go wrong with a good book.