Taiwan. Philippines. Japan. Indonesia. Thailand. Vietnam. Australia.
I was privileged enough to live in each of those countries for over one month in 2018.
I also spent several weeks in Hong Kong, Singapore. And visited Malaysia and Korea.
On top of that, I was able to take mum to Africa and fulfil her lifelong dream of visiting a safari (Zimbabwe and South Africa – check and check!)
On the business front, at Content First (an Australian digital marketing agency) we managed to rebuild our website, became an Active Campaign Partner Agency, became a Digital Marketer Gold Partner, launched the Australian childcare industry’s first ever Digital Benchmarks Survey, hired several amazing new team members, and grew our monthly revenue to over $70,000/month by bringing on a raft of new clients.
It was a busy year, but I learnt that anything is possible with the right focus, prioritisation and balance.
If you’re a business owner that’s got the travel bug, a digital nomad wanting to build a business or someone that wants to live abroad and work remotely – use these 5 strategies to succeed in doing business abroad.
Here are the top 5 lessons I took away from a year full of business and travel:
1. Don’t forget the purpose of business
This focus is key.
Keeping it front of mind helped me spend time on what’s really important, instead of either getting distracted doing things that aren’t important or doubtful that being overseas may be detrimental to the business.
Businesses exist to help customers/clients either solve a problem or achieve a goal.
In other words, as a business we’re there to move someone from where they are now… to where they want to be.
Simply stated: all people (whether you’re selling to businesses or individuals) have a desired state of being.
Our job is to help them get there.
For our clients, that meant increasing the number of leads they get each month so they can grow their businesses.
By focusing on this truth, it allowed me to realise something extremely freeing:
My clients don’t care where I am.
I could be on Mars, as long as we’re getting results for them – they’re happy.
2. Co-working spaces keep you focused
If you’re anything like me, you don’t do well working from home.
It usually goes like this…
Write a sentence… go to the fridge… write a sentence… fridge again… write a sentence… clean something compulsively.
I am the least productive while working from home!
I’ve found that joining a co-working space allows for an important part of life while overseas:
Wake up. Solid morning routine. Go to work. Then go home.
For me – life’s better if I don’t blend work time into relaxation time – otherwise I end up writing emails it bed at 10.30pm – and no one likes that!
So to keep balance I try to work hard at the office, then finish for the day and do some fun & creative things.
Another big benefit of co-working spaces are the people you meet. Often co-working offices are full of other travellers keen to meet people, so you can quickly build a social circle in a new city just from the people you meet at the office!
Here’s my favourite co-working spaces for each country I lived last year:
- Taipei, Taiwan – CLBC Coworking
- Manila, Philippines – Clock In BGC
- Osaka, Japan – Billage Osaka
- Bali, Indonesia – Outpost Ubud
- Bangkok, Thailand – The Hive Soi 49
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – The Hive Thao Dien
3. Nomadic phone hacks
When you’re in the business of providing a service to clients, it’s an expectation that you’ll be on the other end of the phone.
Although I have managed to retain clients while living on the other side of the world (Mexico and Central America), it’s a whole lot easier when the time zone difference is just a few hours.
There are two things I did with my phone setup this year which made things incredibly easy:
- Mobile phone contract with full roaming. I found a mobile phone provider that allowed for UNLIMITED roaming in all of the countries I was planning to visit (for the Aussies; check out the higher-end Telstra plans). Yes, it was on a more expensive plan, but it meant that clients could call my Australian mobile number and get right through to me every day of the year.
- Brought a dual SIM phone. The phone contract came with the latest, greatest iPhone X, but I ditched that in favour of a One Plus 5T, which comes with 2 SIM slots. That means my Australian business SIM lived in slot 1 for calls and SMS. Then in each new country, I brought a local data only SIM for around $20-25 per month (often with unlimited data). Then meant I never needed to worry about data and connecting, and could always hotspot my MacBook off my phone whenever I need to work while out and about.
4. Online platforms for collaboration
We work with the top talent all over the world – Australia, New Zealand, US, UK, South Africa, all over Europe and more.
So it’s absolutely crucial that we keep organised with clear communication, project plans, tasks and deadlines.
This year we reviewed and tested dozens of online project management platforms – in search for the perfect one.
Unfortunately we found that there’s no 1 system to rule them all (at least for us).
So we settled on the following setup:
- Teamwork: for internal team comms, project planning and tasking
- Podio: for client facing comms, approvals workflows and strategy/results reporting
- Google Docs: for templates, working documents and internal file storage
- Dropbox: for client facing file storage and sharing
- Notejoy: for internal notes and processes
- Workplace: for internal team chat
- Skype: for internal video calls
- Join Me: client facing video calls and presentations
We have a ton of other systems (you should see our monthly software as a service bill!) to run our business, but the ones above really made it possible to work efficiently and effectively while living abroad.
5. Invest in the team
As I travelled this year, one thing became apparent – the only way to grow and thrive is by bringing more talented team members on board.
To allow us to hire superstars we realised we needed to work on our processes. So we decided to work with David at SystemHub to develop a system for building our systems.
For a service based business like us, systems and processes are the key to supporting growth while maintaining sanity as leaders of the business.
This whole process of building our processes has allowed us to hand over more of the day to day project management to our team so that we can focus on growing the business.
Don’t get me wrong, building processes is gruelling work – but it’s the only road to owning a growing service-based business AND having time freedom.
Bonus: Keep health high on the list
For me, staying fit and healthy means I’m at my best and most productive.
So when I’m about to land in the next new city, I look for Airbnbs in an area that fits these criteria:
- Close to a coworking space with great reviews
- Close to a gym or fitness centre
- Or close to natural parks or beaches
This leaves me no excuses to let my fitness fade while overseas.
One last nerdy health tip – I travel everywhere with a Vitamix blender. Expensive? Yes. Heavy and bulky? Yes. Makes flawless smoothies? Also a yes.
I pack hemp seeds, chia seeds, maca powder and cacao – combine these with some easy to find local ingredients and I have a powerful superfood smoothie each day that kicks my day off right and keeps my body filled with nutrition.
Have you lived abroad while working remotely? Drop your top travel tips in the comments below. If you have any questions, or need help with your digital marketing you can reach me at [email protected].