So how do you finance a digital nomad lifestyle? There are many different ways of making money while travelling, none better than another per se, but some will be more likely to suit you personally, better than others and I’ve outlined some of your choices below.
Let’s Get Practical
First of all, sort out the practicalities, making sure you have internet banking with alerts set up around balances.
Utilise several different debit and credit cards with access to funds on each so that if you lose one or get one stolen, you still have access to funds elsewhere. Keep your emergency phone numbers for all of them in two separate places, not just in your phone’s Notes section, that may disappear too!
When it comes to all of the following methods of making money online while travelling, I use PayPal and Stripe as my payment gateway, hooked up to Infusionsoft (email mailing list host and CRM) and my traditional bank in the UK.
To do my accounts I use Xero software, my Virtual Assistant Patricia in Portugal and the amazing BeanNinja’s in Australia, while getting great advice from my future brother in law at Durston Gibb in Hove. I run my own cashflow forecast on Google Docs and update it weekly, reconciling it to my bank. That gives me peace of mind, or not, as the case may be!
Let’s Get Earning!
Ever since I’ve been working online, from around 1995 when I bought my first domain name, I’ve had the dream of living the “laptop lifestyle”. Two small children rather put paid to that romantic idea, although there are people like the Sundance Family who travel the world, home schooling several small children, five at the last count!
So I’ve been actively structuring my business and working towards having a digital nomad lifestyle for 20 years, but it’s only now that my two are 21 and 19 respectively, and starting to set off on their own lives and travels, that I feel I can finally take my own gap year.
I’ll go into the practicalities of how I’m doing that in another post, but here’s how my finances work and some ideas for how you can fund your own digital nomad / laptop lifestyle.
Creating & Selling Your Own Stuff
One of the most obvious and time honoured way to finance and facilitate a life of travel is to create something yourself, ideally digitally.
Books, poetry, music and art all lend themselves to a travel orientated lifestyle, but in the “olden days” before the internet, you had to be able to attract the attention of a publisher, record label or music publisher or, in the case of painting for example, a gallery or patron.
Those people advanced money against future works, represented you to other interested parties and ensured distribution of your work, enabling more people to find out about you and buy your creations. It was a bit hit and miss though, leaving you vulnerable to changes of policy, changes in fashion, changes of staff, changes of heart and downright felony.
Nowadays the internet has opened things up dramatically, both on the marketing and distribution front, enabling you to take control of both for yourself.
I have some of my books published through traditional publishers and some self-published via my own Amazon account. Guess which option makes me more money!
While a traditional publisher may pay an advance (although that is rarer than hens’ teeth nowadays) and may, just may put some money into marketing your book, authors nowadays have to take care of the marketing themselves. In fact, it’s very rare for a business author particularly to get published without a robust social media following and, ideally, a mailing list.
So you may as well self-publish and keep all the profits!
My son Nelson (aka DJ Nelzen) has tunes for download free on Soundcloud and one, Flashes Of Acid, for sale on iTunes. We both take care of our own marketing, via social media and dedicated Facebook pages and, in my case, a website and an email list.
Artists can take advantage of the many online gallery sites to sell their work through, or set up a website hooked up to a Facebook page and share pictures of their art for sale that way.
There’s also an amazing opportunity to take pictures or video of a “work in progress” which could even drum up buyers in advance! Hosting painting or other fine art workshops via Facebook Live or YouTube Live would be another great way to showcase your art and pre-sell finished creations.
Selling Information Products
On my website I give away free ebooks, video tuition courses and audio, all of which are Information Products. I do this to encourage people to put their name and email into my mailing list.
Then, through some clever automation, and segmentation depending on what my new subscriber says they are interested in, I send useful information, resources and I tell stories by email, while occasionally making offers for further relevant Infomation Products.
Some of these are mine, some of which have been created by people I know, like and trust. I use a special link, known as an Affiliate Link, and if you buy, you don’t pay any more, but I earn a commission which leads me onto…..
This, apart from selling information products, is one of the “oldest” methods of making money online. It feels hilarious to type that, bearing in mind that the internet is only 25 years old or so, at the time of writing this.
My daughter Phoebe makes makeup “how to” videos on YouTube and in the description below the video, she shares a link to the page on her website where she shares the links to buy the products in the video.
She earns a commission on every sale and, in fact, made her first £10 online within just a few weeks and about 12 videos. Also, on her website, is a roundup of how she’s starting to make money online and she’s linking to various tools that she uses, earning a commission if anyone clicks and buys there too.
One day soon, I’ll be encouraging her to create a community (see below) and perhaps set up an Amazon, AliBaba or Shopify store to sell physical products, a branded makeup range or brushes perhaps.
The other way to make money from YouTube is to enable advertising on your videos, or to link through to your own website where you sell products or services. There are many stories of Instagram, Pinterest, Musical.ly and YouTube multi-millionaires like my latest social media crush Casey Neistat.
Selling Physical Products
I’ve got to confess, I’ve never got into this myself (I’m a big picture kind of thinker and this needs comfort with a level of detail I don’t possess) but I know plenty of people making a fortune doing it.
I met a guy at a conference in Australia who makes over $50,000 a month selling traditional handmade bracelets from a Bali village where he lives. He’s making great money while providing more work to the people in the community he loves.
You can either find a product, like the chap above, or you can source product wholesale on a site like AliBaba and then get the products branded to your business and sell those.
The best news is that you don’t have to ever see the stuff after approving the first batch. You either send to Amazon to store and despatch (if you have an Amazon Store) or if you sell on Shopify for example, you arrange with a Drop Shipper to store your goods and despatch on receipt of an order.
One of the best people to learn this business from is Ezra Firestone, who really knows his stuff! You can find out more about Ezra as a person on the highly enjoyable Think Act Get podcast, or visit his website at SmartMarketer.com. That is not an affiliate link (but it should be!)
One of the fastest ways to make big money quickly is to sell your expertise by way of “done for you” services. Busy business owners often want to hire an expert rather than learn how to do something themselves.
It’s the top of the rung in terms of earning online, especially if you can get your head around “Value Based Fees” as laid out by Alan Weiss. That’s a great book, not cheap, but highly recommended for any consultancy, coaching/mentoring but especially for services based business where you do bespoke quotes per project. If you read and implement it, it will pay for itself many thousands of times over.
The other thing I’d recommend, if you can’t use Value Based Fees, is “productizing” your business, as popularised by Dan Norris in his great book “7 Day Startup“.
He did it with WordPress jobs at WPCurve.com, I adopted it with ClicksAndLeads.com and it works like a dream.
Essentially,”productizing” a business means breaking down what you do for clients into a limited number (ideally three) of distinct packages, with simple choices and transparent pricing. It makes it easier for people to buy from you and to recommend you.
You don’t need many of these top end clients to make a very good living on the move, offering “done for you” services but there are a couple of downsides.
Well, first you have to deal with clients, in all their quirky glory. Some people just can’t handle that.
You may need to have Skype meetings with your clients at times of the day or night convenient to them (but not to you), depending where you are in the world at the time.
If you lose a client it can create a big hole in your cashflow, something that can be largely overcome by also creating a community around your expertise.
Creating A Paid Community
This is one of the best ways to create a stable, recurring income and I believe that everyone who sells a product or service of their own should consider this. Even creative types could think of this as being a bit like creating their own Fan Club where the fans get extra access to the creator, or inside info about the creations themselves.
If you can find a way to give value to a community of people and then charge a lot of people a little bit per month to get access to that value, you are onto a winner.
Your community or club can also serve as a way for those who can’t afford your top level services to get access to your knowledge or expertise as well, so it’s a win for them.
For example, I offer a “done for you” Facebook Ads service via ClicksAndLeads.com and a “done for you” Marketing Strategy & Funnel Building service via wheelhouse.marketing. However, if you are just getting started and can’t afford either of those services, you can enjoy my Facebook Ads tuition course and get access to strategic advice via the video trainings and Webinar Q&A sessions in my Inner Circle membership site.
To give you an idea of the potential, just over 16,500 people paying you £5 a month would bring in an income of over £1 million per year. But even on a more modest level, not being 100% dependent on high fee paying clients or high ticket product sales is a much better way to make a living. If one or two members drop out, it’s not going to kill your cashflow.
You don’t have to be quite so ambitious on numbers to make a great living either.
If you were able to provide $79 a month worth of value (which split testing shows is one of the most popular monthly membership fees), you would only need to find 100 people to serve, in order to bring in an income of $7900 or around £5000 a month.
Even if you don’t think your existing business lends itself to a recurring income or membership model, take a listen to Neil Stafford who we interviewed on our “Own It! Beyond The Laptop Lifestyle” Summit who makes membership sites out of just about any topic.
Or read / listen to John Warrilow’s “Automatic Customer” – you may be pleasantly surprised about the potential for recurring billing in your business.
I really hope this has opened your eyes to the various ways you can make money online, while you travel or live a location independent lifestyle. Do feel free to ask questions in the Comments section, I’d be delighted to help.