So you want to be Location Independent? Well, you can start with my Location Independent Guide – Fire Your Boss, Sell Your Car, Travel the World. If you want a taste of the ideas found in the book, check out these Location Independent Business models that you can start today.
This is a long post so you can download the PDF version below
1) Teach Online
Platforms like iTalki can connect you to thousands of potential learners, whatever your native language. You don’t have to be qualified, you just need to be able to write a good profile and nurture a regular set of students.
Here’s a quick iTalki explainer video:
You might think that being an English teacher pays the best, but it doesn’t. Everyone can speak English it seems but fewer people can speak and teach Mandarin Chinese, especially ones with good English skills to communicate with students.
You don’t need to speak any foreign languages to teach your own. Using Immersion Language learning you can make every language lesson 100% taught in your native language. This is the most effective way for the student to learn because it helps them think in your native tongue rather than constantly translating everything you say.
2) Create an Online Course on Udemy
Udemy is a marketplace for people wanting to learn new skills. From web design to new languages, Udemy offers a wide range of courses. Each course is designed and managed by users rather than Udemy itself, the users take a cut of the course revenues.
If you’re selling an online course you need to market it offsite. You won’t make money money if you create a course on Udemy and hope it sells itself. That’s why Udemy works well for existing authors who sell books and have their own platforms elsewhere. They can leverage these existing relationships with readers to cross-sell courses.
Here’s a video that claims some Udemy authors are making >$1,000,000 a year with their training courses.
- Why I stopped selling my courses on Udemy
- How to make money on Udemy
- How to create a Udemy course (free Udemy course)
- Designing online courses (Podcast)
3) Day Trading
Compete against the market by trading in currencies, derivatives and equities. Unlike investing, you’re rarely interested in the underlying economic fundamentals. You can make money by identifying patterns in price trends and either buying or selling your holdings (positions) accordingly. While the differences in daily trends may be small, most trading platforms allow you to exploit margins. Margin trading is where you can effectively borrow large sums of money to buy a trade, paying back the money when you close (sell) your position.
Day Trading can be complex but fortunately platforms like Oanda offer you free practice accounts and online learning to get you up to speed,
Every day trader made $1,000 in a trade (at least once). Why not brag about it? It seems like an attractive business model. But, like gamblers, you only hear about the successes.
The problem with day trading is that most day traders make very little or lose money. The issue is that you are playing a game against very well equipped teams. Not only against teams but against computers that can execute trades a million times faster than you. Most traders stand to get wiped out. Most do.
But, like professional gamblers, the elite can profit handsomely.You can make money out of day trading for sure and a small elite of traders make a lot money. I’m talking $millions a year.These traders tend to the ones you never hear about. They keep a low profile. There are plenty of people making money out of selling day trading courses and software.
4) Drop Shipping
You can operate an online store selling physical goods without actually being located in the same market as your customers. Drop shipping allows you to ship from a centralized warehouse. You ship your goods with the drop shipping company who will fulfill your orders when they come in.
Drop shipping allows you to focus on what’s important in your business. Rather than writing out address labels, you are creating and marketing your products. You’ll make less money per sale this way but the idea is that you’ll make more sales in the long run. That’s why you need to work with a product that has a good margin. Drop shipping t-shirts can be difficult to make into a business unless you are selling millions (like Threadless.com!) That’s unlikely to happen so you need to find products that sell for a high price yet are relatively easy to ship (like healthcare products).
Short video explaining how drop shipping works:
I have a friend who makes a lot of money dropshipping goods from his Magic Store (go figure). He sells to conjurers, illusionists and stage performers. Turns out this is quite a niche market and there is a lot of money spent on gadgets and gizmos. Not only are they willing to spend on gear they are willing to spend money on training courses too.
5) SEO/Content marketing Consultancy
With companies and individuals both at the mercy of Google’s powerful yet every changing algorithm, there is money to be made in showing clients how you can improve their search engine positioning. 2 years ago everyone was selling SEO services, now the goal posts have shifted slightly and people are moving into content marketing. Don’t tied yourself down to one specific label, be flexible as the market changes.
6) Publishing on Amazon
Amazon is the daddy of all publishing platforms and with its constant push to digital, it makes sense to focus on it as your main distribution channel. Amazon claims it now sells more digital than physical books. Kindle books are the future and you can get published a lot easier than you think. Compared to the world of physical paper, Kindle gives you access to wider audiences and greater royalties.
The challenge facing many authors today is that they aren’t natural marketers. They write a book and then sit back, waiting for the sales to roll in. It doesn’t happen. Writing the book is just the start of the process. Once your book is published you need to go to work promoting it. While the days of traditional bookstore signings become increasingly numbered, promotion work still thrives. You need to promote on your blog, your podcasts, your friend’s blog, your list, your FB page, everyone you know. You need to create promotional material like presentations, videos, giveaways. You need to constantly tweak your Amazon book page to optimize the content, keywords and categories. It’s hard work and a lot harder than most people think because all they see is the more glamorous front end of being an author.
I like Amazon publishing for a number of reasons. Firstly, Amazon does all the heavy lifting for you (I don’t need to send people to Amazon to search “how to create a location independent business”). A line of potential readers are already there. Secondly, a book on Amazon opens the door to many opportunities. People read your book and want more. They go to your website. They join your mailing list. They buy other products, including more books. Books set you apart because not everyone can complete one. They are great sales tools and a powerful way to build your audience in an age where everyone is able to write a blog post or Facebook status.
Using exchanges like Odesk/Elance you can access a large potential client base selling your translation skills. Selling translation skills can often be a race to the bottom in price. There are many translators out there with good feedback who are willing to do the job cheaper than you. That’s why you need to specialize. Rather than translate websites and articles, are you able to move up the chain and specialize in manuals, sales copy or product descriptions? The more specific you become, the more likely a company buyer will hire you and pay a premium for your service. Remember that company buyers don’t like making mistakes. Being specific helps de-risk the decision for the buyer. If she is looking for someone to translate the packaging of a milk carton into Chinese, she will pay 3-5 times more if your advertised title is “product packaging translator”.
Sample Odesk translator profile:
Sample Odesk translation jobs:
8) Coding & Programming
Outsourced coding is always in demand and the growth of exchanges like Odesk/Elance allow coders to connect with customers all over the world.
Sample Odesk coding profiles:
Sample Odesk programmer jobs:
With enough traffic, you can make money through the content on your blog. You can monetize your traffic alone with advertising revenues and affiliate sales. Your business is best combined with the cross-selling of information products or online learning solutions.
10) Information Products
From ebooks to information packs, if you have knowledge you can sell it online, preferably on your blog. Amazon prefers books listed in the price range of $3-$10 so you’re better off selling more expensive products on your own blog. Manuals, training courses and software can easily sell for $50-$200 a download but you need a lot of regular traffic and strong credibility to make the business work.
Example information product: Nathan Barry’s App Design Handbook (see below)
11) App Development
With the advent of smart phone app stores like Google Play and iTunes, you now have access to millions (billions?) of potential customers. You can make money designing and selling your own apps by charging per download or selling the advertising space within your app and giving it away for free.
Like book publishing on Amazon, many app developers aren’t natural marketers. We all heard about the millions of Flappy Bird downloads but these are one-offs. Most people make less than $50. The challenge is that you need to market your app offsite. You need referrals, blog posts and lists. You need cross promotions. You need marketing resources if you really want to make good money out of apps. The most profitable apps are designed by teams or companies with large overheads. You won’t be able to compete here. Rather, find niches where these teams won’t go, niches where you have some expertise and drill down into the long tail of demand.
- Making money in app development ain’t easy
- Build iPhone apps using Dreamweaver, CS6 and XCode (free Udemy course)
- Create iPhone apps from scratch (free Udemy course)
- Making and monetizing mobile apps (free Udemy course)
- This is how you make iPhone apps (free Udemy course)
12) Freelance Writing
Writing is always in demand but there are many types of writing to consider:
Ghostwriting means to write a publication under someone else’s name. You need to be a good communicator and exude patience to make this model work. You won’t be able to charge premium rates as a ghostwriter until you can claim to have written a known bestseller. The challenge with ghostwriting is that your clients often don’t want you to advertise the fact you wrote the book.
Copywriting means to create web or sales copy used in advertising and marketing. While copywriting appears straightforward and easy, there is a science and a distinct learning curve to master. Good copywriters appear to be natural writers but their skills are often based on years of experience. If you’re good, copywriting pays well.
Technical writing means to write technical articles like papers or research. Technical writing requires some kind of domain experience (e.g. medical or legal background) and an understanding of how articles are written in this field.
Blog writing means to write articles for other people. Often the work can be random and you don’t know what to expect. Of all the types of writing this can be the lowest paid and least rewarding.
Sample Odesk freelance writing jobs:
13) Editing or Proofreading
You need to be the kind of person who likes editing or proofing documents otherwise it can be tedious and boring. If you are good, you can attract regular clients but your earnings will always depend on a regular turnover of work. Copy editing tends to refer to rewriting other people’s work e.g. working through a document and restructuring paragraphs and sentences. Proofing/proofreading tend to be the lower paid component and involves checking a document for errors in grammar, layout or spelling.
14) Fiverr Gigs
Fiverr is an interesting introduction to the Location Independent scene. It’s a relatively new platform that aims to deliver customers gigs (work) for just $5. You can buy logos, a video of someone singing happy birthday or convert a document for just $5. The money is to be made on building a strong reputation and upselling. Fiverr providers rarely make money on one $5 gig so the key is in encouraging the buyer to buy add-ons. For example, an extra $5 guarantees next day deliver. Or add $10 to get the original source files. You need to have a setup where you can cope with a large volume but if it can be done there is real money to be made. Many Fiverr providers are making over $10,000 a year.
Quick video on how to make money on Fiverr:
Fiverr promises a simple selling experience:
Sample Fiverr gigs:
The real money is made form upselling on top of the $5 product:
15) Video Blogging
You can make money from the advertising revenues of your Youtube channel. While the numbers per impression are pretty lousy, Youtube can deliver big numbers if you have a popular channel. A million views will give you $1,000. If you had a popular channel, a million views a month is not unrealistic based on 1 video a day each getting 30,000 views.
Joseph Garrett of Portsmouth, England, records himself as “Stampy,” and has passed 2 million subscribers and 708 million views. The Daily Mail estimates that his channel currently grosses anywhere from $88,000 to $880,000 a month. A less-watched channel with 140,000 subscribers brings in $5,000 to $10,000 a month.
Producing videos like this on a regular basis on Youtube has made Joseph Garrett several hundred thousand dollars a month:
16) Affiliate Sales
If you have a blog and/or newsletter you have an audience which you can sell to. If you don’t have your own products fear not because you can tap affiliate networks like Clickbank to sell other people’s networks. You could sell anything from travel accessories to online learning courses. Effectively what you do as an affiliate reseller is do the marketing for the product owner. In return they give you a cut of every sale. Affiliate networks are quite advanced these days and allow you to track your traffic and subsequent sales.
You can search through affiliate network sites like Clickbank to find products that suit your particular interest/blog niche. Here’s a sample of products offered in the travel sector:
17) Business Consultancy
If you come from a corporate background you can make money selling your skills as a consultant. All you need is a client base (start with your own employer or network) and credibility. Ebooks and videos are a great way to build your credibility. If you are the #1 person in that field in the world, you will attract attention. You will get asked to speak at conferences. Press will want to interview you.
If you are not #1, then redefine your field until you become #1. E.g. don’t just be a “marketing consultant” be a “youth marketing consultant” or a “youth marketing consultant for the financial industry”. The more niche you become, the more limited your audience. But, at the same time, your specificity allows you to charge significantly more for your work and helps you attract less timewasters because potential clients can easily categorize you in a mental box.
18) Online Design
From web to logo design there is a well established market place out there for design work. The challenge with design work today is that it becomes increasingly commoditized at the bottom end. Logo factories learn how to outsource their work to cheap designers in India. All the while you need to keep lowering your rates to compete. Rather than compete at the commodity end of the business look at how you can increase your rates. Start niching your work. Perhaps you design only vintage logos, or websites for sports or graphic design for Minecraft themes.
19) Etsy/Ebay Store
Etsy and Ebay are two robust and extensive platforms. Etsy focuses more on craft work while Ebay sells pretty much everything. Either way you get access to a global audience. You do not need a physical store front and you don’t need to be in the same location as your customers. Many suppliers ship from Asia to Europe and the USA at competitive rates. Your location independence, however, depends on your ability to plug this setup into a drop shipping operation. See above.
Here’s a heads up on what Etsy is looking for on its platform:
You can invest from anywhere in the world but you need to know that investing is for the long, not short term. If you want to make a quick buck out of the stock market, look at day trading. Investing requires a different mindset. You need money and knowledge of what you’re investing in. Don’t invest in real estate unless you know what you’re doing. Don’t invest in Nike because you think it’s a cool stock. Every day amateurs get taken to the cleaners by teams of qualified investors whose job is to do little more than to play the market. You can make money investing but don’t expect big paybacks in whatever asset you invest in for the first 5 years. After 5 years, you may start to see a good income but it’s unlikely it will happen beforehand. If it does, you got lucky and it’s not something you can repeat.
I have invested in equity markets in multiple countries but generally prefer to invest in what I know. The stock markets are rigged. So much of the apparent value of a stock is nothing more than the speculative activity of day traders and HFT (high frequency trading computers). That means while a stock may be a sound buy long term, you have to sit through a roller coaster ride as the traders have their fun with it (and your money).
Check out this video from BullionVault:
I recommend BullionVault over buying precious metals through a regular trader or bank as they can house the metals in Singapore or Switzerland (avoid housing them in UK or US).
I prefer to invest in what I know – real estate and precious metals. They hold their value long term. There will always be people who want to live in houses and gold has been around for 1000s of years. I can’t say the same about Yahoo or Facebook. Perhaps you can. Perhaps you know something I don’t. If that’s the case use that knowledge to your advantage.
- Charles Schwab
- Interactive investor
- BullionVault (for precious metals)
21) Web Research/Data Entry
Desk based research and data entry work is easy and anyone can do it. That’s why it’s low paid. Workers in India and Philippines will charge as little as $1 an hour. They may even be better at you than doing this kind of work. Don’t entertain it unless you are completely stuck and/or you have a speciality. By speciality, I’m talking about niche again. Perhaps you can research Russian websites because you are fluent. Perhaps you have access to libraries like Libris that the hordes of Odeskers don’t.
22) Network Marketing
Network marketing is a popular business model, especially for those starting out in the business world. It’s like buying into your own franchise. Often the franchisors are well established companies who focus their business on brand building and marketing activities to help you sell. You could be selling anything from aloe to fitness products.
Network marketing is built on the premise that you have your own network of people to sell to. These could be friends and family who may be interested in your products. You could also recruit people from this network to work in your “down line”. When you grow your business, many networks encourage you to recruit sellers to work under you. Like you, they will buy into the training and product start up kits to have their own business out of the box. You take a commission from their sales.
The model works especially well for those at the top. If you are successful you can make a lot of money. Most people however, make nothing. That doesn’t mean you won’t, you just need to set your expectations accordingly. Most people make less money than they invest in the start up but then just because you can start a business doesn’t mean you’ll be any good at it. You need to be constantly selling. Needless to say, the constant hustle can impact personal relationships with people around you.
If you have a skill you can mentor others too. Rather than consulting, you can coach. With the advent of skype video, teleconferences and email you can run an effective coaching group. You’ll find that while you may not be able to meet your mentees regularly you can put them in touch with each other which helps build a support group. Mentoring is a profitable business but too many mentors fail because they are unable to sustain their client base and/or they are not able to systemize the offering. While mentoring is profitable, like consulting, it’s a classic case of a back-loaded deal. You take the money up front, spend it mentally and then have to deliver for the next 3-6 months. Mentees want their money’s worth and will end up asking all kinds of petty questions that aren’t a great use of your time. By building a support group you can use the other mentees do absorb much of this communication, focusing your own time on the bigger, more strategic and emotional issues.
I have seen mentoring work in many different circumstances not just the obvious application of business mentoring. I know successful coaches who mentor professional triathletes. They meet once a year but apart from that everything else is done by email, phone call and online. I also know coaches who mentor their clients on health issues such as weight management and diet. Again, mostly done online with the option to invest in further training courses held in various cities around the world. The point is that anything can be mentored as long as people care enough about it.
It won’t make you rich but you can generate a small income from monetizing your back catalogue. There are plenty of sites like iStockPhoto and Getty Images that allow you to sell your photographs. Stock photography pays peanuts but if you have enough images geared towards the requirements of stock buyers peanuts add up to a small but passive income stream. Expect around 25% royalty on your photo sales increasing to 50-60% if you offer a photo exclusively to the stock site.
The following list from iStockphoto is a good indication of the kind of photos that are in demand:
Images that iStock does need:
- Corporate shots: Illustrate the many sides of modern business.
- Concepts and Visual Metaphors: Go beyond the literal, and help a designer explain something in a new way.
- Food and Beverages: Cuisines from around the globe.
- Groups & Teams: People working together.
- Holiday & Seasonal Themes: Show all the ways we celebrate. Include more than religious celebrations; let’s see local festivals and customs as well.
- Non-Business Jobs: The word is filled with mechanics, garbage men, baristas, and more.
- People Interacting: Human interaction is a constant in this world.
- Religion and Spirituality: The rich tapestry of the world’s beliefs.
- Science and Technology: Accurate and true depictions of the cutting edge of human knowledge.
- Social Issues: Poignant looks into the issues that impact us.
- Sports: For fun, for fitness, for glory. We’d love to see more team sports
Here is a list of the type of photos that don’t sell:
Images that iStock does not need:
- 3D – Simple Renders: Go beyond the easy and obvious presets.
- 3D – Extruded Text: Simple 3D text is not enough.
- 3D – Simplistic Modeling: Spend more time with your polygons.
- Airplane Wings (& out the window shots): Wait until you land to shoot the vacation shots.
- Flags: 3D or real, give us something more than the basic flags.
- Light Blurs: Fun for photo clubs, but rarely is it good stock.
- Nature Snap Shots: Sweeping vistas and insect macros are great – yet another forest floor is not.
- Photoshop Backgrounds, Fractals: We’ve all had fun with filters. Designers are looking for images that they can’t quickly make themselves with a few button pushes.
- People Doing Nothing: Get your models doing something!
- Shadows of People, Headless People: Photograph people or do not. There is no try.
- Single Apples (or Green Peppers or Oranges) Isolated on White: The day of the single fruit isolated on white has passed.
- Sunsets, Cloudscapes, Skies: Be sure the sky really is stunning before uploading.
- Symbols: !$%@ – Whether rendered or photographed, typographic symbols are less interesting than you think.
- Your Immediate Environment: There’s life beyond your front door!
In the 15 years experience I have of growing businesses the one skill I found where demand constantly outstripped supply was sales. It’s not easy finding a good sales guy. When you do find them, you want to hold on to them. Sales is, and always is, the lifeblood of any business. I’ve hired sales guys in many different countries – from the US to India. I’ve paid sales guys up to $30 an hour to hit the phones. With the right leads and the right product, a good sales guy should be able to hit the ground running and start generating income with very little training.
Some of the best sales guys I’ve worked may well have been sitting at a beach side cafe somewhere on a paradise island.Who knows? The point is that with a good internet connection, headphones and a Skype account, the world is your oyster.
Here’s a sample Sales profile on Odesk:
Here’s a sample Sales ad posted on Odesk
I recruited virtually all my sales guys through Odesk/Elance and it’s a good a place to start as any. There are different types of sales you can do here. Firstly, traditional list bashing aka cold calling. You either love it or you don’t. You are either able to make 100 calls a day, day in day out or you aren’t. My point is that if you don’t have a background in sales and know that it works for you, don’t try it out on the road. The second type of sales is lead generation. You call companies and look for prospects. It’s a little like cold calling but your goal isn’t to secure the sale but to get a name and number. A lot of sales outfits now employ appointment setters you effectively set up phone calls or in-house meetings with their master closers.
If you can sell, you can sell anywhere in the world. Don’t think that leaving the corporate environment is the end of your sales career. It could just be the beginning of a new chapter.
26) Business Advisor
If you have business experience you could be of value to another business out there somewhere. In that case, you could sell you skills as a non-executive to a start up or small company that needs regular guidance or advice. You could charge your time as a flat monthly fee which will cover your monthly Skype call with the team plus unlimited email access.
I have operated in this capacity for a short time while traveling although it needs to be said that while you have no official function in the business, you need to choose carefully. Many advisors are wary of taking on official functions such as the title of “non exec director” because it implicates you in the dealings of the business. Chances are you won’t know 95% of what goes on in the daily business. It’s better and safer to market yourself as an advisor who can sit on an adhoc advisory board.
What businesses look for from you as an advisor is to be able to bounce ideas off you on a regular basis as well as draw from your credibility. I acted as an advisor to a marketing agency in Asia because it gave their brand serious kudos bringing in a known author and consultant from London. My name alone enabled them to open doors and get meetings. In most cases, I didn’t have to be there in person. Just having my name and resume on the website was enough.
You don’t need to work in The Firm to practice as a lawyer. The days of clients needing to visit the Firm’s offices are gone. Most law is practiced through email and phone calls anyway. So, if that’s the case, then why not?
If you have an existing client base, then chances are you can take a few of them with you. If your clients prefer working with you and you have good relationships then they may get a better deal out of working directly with you as you travel the world. You can offer better rates as a sweetener and not having to jump through the hoops of Firm politics is a real advantage.
The challenge of working as a lawyer while being location independent is your client turnaround times. Clients expect fast turnarounds on email communications and time zone differences combined with travel may complicate your arrangements. Be upfront and tell them your plans. You may not be at the end of a phone call as much as they’d like but then you have to learn to say no to the kind of work you don’t want to be doing.
Like practicing law, you can also offer accountancy services remotely too.
Perhaps better than legal work is that accountancy may require less face-to-face contact. You don’t need to know much about your client if all they want is their financial year-end prepared. Most accountancy firms outsource their back-end work to India anyway, so all they offer the clients is a glossy front end and some reassurance. But not all clients want that. Not all clients want to pay top dollar to sit on plus leather sofas and receive glossy brochures. While accountants often argue that a good practice will recoup the money back for the business owners in savings, this may not be the case with smaller companies. Small clients may not be making profit anyway. Either way, there are plenty of companies and self-employed people out there who just want cost-effective accountancy.
If most of your work can be done through email and the web then you can do it anywhere in the world. Accountancy clients don’t tend to want the fast turnaround times expected of lawyers. Often client relationships are transactional requiring the submitting and return of documents. You can even outsource this work yourself and focus your role on being a front end to interface with the client and QA the work.
29) Proposal/Business Plan Writers
If you can write a good business proposal or plan you can provide your service anywhere in the world. The key to this skill is years of experience understanding what boxes to check in the proposal writing process. Often businesses need proposals or plans for specific reasons: raising money through grants or loans or personal visa application processes. If you have experience in this field you have value because it’s a process not easily learned.
30) Online Art Sales
Sell your art online. Platforms like Zazzle now make it easy for you to connect with potential buyers.
31) Real Estate Landlord
I’ve already written about investment as a location independent business model, but I want to revisit that category, specifically real estate investment. I am a firm believer in the value of real estate in the long term. Sure we’ve had a rocky ride recently but over the long term, there’s almost always a fixed amount of land and a growing amount of people. Basic supply and demand means the pressure on resources will force prices up.
Unlike other investments, you can become a landlord simply by renting out your own home when you decide to travel. By renting out your home you effectively get your tenants to pay your loan interest. Rather than repay the loan itself, you can profit purely on repaying the interest and banking on the fact that the property price will increase over the term of the loan (usually 25 years).
Making money out being a real estate landlord requires a specific mindset. If you hawk your property you will lose precious time (and hair). You will get stressed that the owners damaged the washing machine or there is a leak in the top floor. The worst thing you can do is try to manage the property yourself. Hire an agent. They should charge about 10% of the rental income to fully manage the estate. That means you aren’t receiving phone calls at 2 in the morning because the tenants have lost their keys.
The way to make money by being a landlord is to outsource everything. Sure, you make less money on your rent as they deduct their fees but you can set the property aside and forget about it. Let the managing agent do their job and collect your rental income. You probably won’t make much money out of the property if you have a loan on it but it will provide a regular and reliable source of passive income.
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