Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Lifestyle design and location-independent entrepreneurialism

Finally, someone has said it: lifestyle design is a load of rubbish.

The video below comes from Chris over at My Egg Noodles and the phrase used is actually BS. While his language is pretty strong, I completely agree with Chris on calling this out.

There are so many 'digital nomads', 'lifestyle designers', 'global citizens', 'location independent entrepreneurs' and countless other phrases for people who work online and live overseas (typically Asia, especially Thailand) perhaps in more than one location, or travelling.

I do respect and like some bloggers that fall in this category, like Chris for example, however the overwhelming majority are self-righteous, self-important and not all that special at all.

The internet allows anyone to be anything they like, or at least to be perceived to be whatsoever they desire...being an entrepreneur is as easy and publishing the word in a Twitter profile or at the top of a blog. Those who trumpet their victory over a post-collegiate office-cubical lifestyle at home are seriously deluded if they think they have done anything special as it really isn't that difficult.

Pack up your stuff and buy a ticket, as Chris says, and then go from there...most expats in Thailand arrive with nothing and build themselves up from scratch as teachers, programmers, writers and so is just these lifestyle gurus who talk it up like it is comparable to moving to the moon.

Take myself, there's nothing particularly special about me I'm just an example. I arrived with nothing and have, in a fairly ordinary way, build a life and found a routine here in Thailand with enough money to support a small (but growing) family.

Earlier this year I was in a position that, were I without responsibilities, I could have 'gone location independent' whilst working freelance here in Thailand. And yet I had managed to get into the position, including government accreditation and (legal) working visa, with little difficulty proving that it simply about perseverance and a little bit of luck, of course.

The online work life is not the dark art or rocket science that lifestyle experts would have you believe it to be. Once you find your bearings after arriving in a new country, opportunities will be there it is simply a case of taking them.

Then there is the issue of transparency, what do they actually do to make money?

Only a handful give any kind of clarity on what they do, and crucially what they make... because a little money goes a long(er) way in Thailand (a low bar of entry to entrepreneur status) so realistically a sufficient online empire doesn't need to match the Spanish Armada, and can be anything from $800/900 upwards per month.

As for the location independent element - travel is clearly a hugely attractive prospect. However a permanent job, with a decent pay packet and a home to base oneself in a country like Thailand, can mean travelling every weekend, getting a taste of local culture all whilst collecting credible work experience to ensure your career progresses overseas.

I'm  not saying there is anything wrong with working online and enjoying the benefits of living abroad, far from it as I wish it was something I did earlier in my life...however to claim it is a complicated science, which requires those interested to buy an e-book, subscribe to a blog or anything else, is just not true in my mind.

The one thing you need is the desire to be abroad...and that truly comes from within. Reading about it makes it appealing but that is almost certainly not enough to get someone off their seat and onto an aeroplane. As I well know because it took a major event to finally put my wanderlust into action and get me out to Thailand.


Chris @ MyEggNoodles said...

Great piece Jon and I completely agree!

Most of the lifestyle readers and bloggers are American.... a bit more gullible than us Brits.

Talen said...

Jon, I am a location independent beach bum :)

I personally hate all those people that flog their independent lifestyle because most of what they are doing is trying to get you to buy into their perceived reality and spend my ebook for more on how I make $100,000 a month working only 1 hour a day while I travel.

I don't know if I am location independent but I love my location and depend on it.

Paul Garrigan said...

Hi Jon, I agree with a lot of what Chris says. I came here almost a decade ago and did everything wrong. I had zero security and within a three months I'd maxed out my credit cards. I managed to sort it out though because it was sink or swim. I agree that finding work online is nowhere near as hard as people would like to make out. I also feel that many of the online gurus are just chancers who haven't really got a clue - just a large following.

I would differ with Chris tough by saying that many people come to places like Thailand and don’t learn to manage. They get in all types of trouble because of desperation.

Lloyd said...

After 20 years in Asia I am yet to meet or hear of a so called 'digital nomads' or 'location independent entrepreneurs' who is living anywhere near the fantasy lifestyle they portray, most tend to be living hand to mouth whilst avoiding social and legal responsibilities that other members of society and business must obey.

FYI just how legal working online in Thailand is was answered by the authorities in Phuket, the same has been confirmed in writing to my solicitor directly from the same departments.

DanPloy said...

Thanks for that link Lloyd.

Jon said...

Agree, Lloyd, that many project a fantasy life...the link is interesting too.

I saw one expat today announce, on Twitter, his struggles getting a new tourist visa to essentially stay and work here in Thailand - there are ways individuals working online can register for work-permits so-long as they earnt a certain per month, which I believe is 50k THB. They can hardly complain when the rules are clear.

Lloyd said...

Jon, individuals intending to work 'online' in Thailand, be it through blogging, online marketing or even porn sites etc must apply for the appropriate work permit and visa and pay taxes, social security and basically be a 'normal' citizen or business owner and then a work permit is not hard to obtain.

Sadly however most of the scum (mostly Pattaya mingers) who travel to Thailand and apply for tourist, study or other non business related visa do so so that they do not have to declare their 'income' and as such pay no social security, taxes or duties, its is most likely if they did their income would not be enough for them to call what they do a 'legitimate' business venture!

Boonie said...

Interesting item. Thanks for this.

All the best, Boonie

Mike said...

Jon, sorry I didn't read this earlier. Very good article and I quite like the video from Chris who I might have previously thought of as any of the following-'digital nomads', 'lifestyle designers', 'global citizens', 'location independent entrepreneurs.'

Personally I would not know where to start with that lifestyle. To stuck in the past, you know like to be legal, respect where I live etc.

Seems to me that Thailand has too many bums('digital nomads', 'lifestyle designers', 'global citizens', 'location independent entrepreneurs' ) who can't hack it at home so they head here and spoil life for the rest of us who do things correctly.

By the way-Happy New Year

keith said...

I agree wholeheartedly. These people are insufferable, and I can confidently say that as I was once a pain in the ass 'global citizen' earning a ridiculously generous amount of money selling pills that ostensibly make... something bigger. If you'd met me in a bar back then you would have punched my smug nose into the back of my boasting head, and you'd have been completely right to do so.

I come across these types every so often up here in Chiang Mai. They call themselves writers because they earned 50p on Adsense from their blog last year (the 5k their long term holiday cost comes from 'advertisers' (read: parents).