Here’s how I built my business on the move.
8 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Back in January 2008, I had returned from my first trip around the world. Broke, I got a temp job at a hospital filling in for an assistant that as on maternity leave. My job was to sit there, answer phones, open mail, and just generally not break things.
Within a few days, I realized it wasn’t for me. I wanted to be “out there” — that mythical place that was anywhere but home — and I wondered what I could do to keep traveling.
Becoming a travel writer seemed like a good idea. I decided to start a blog as a way to showcase my work, gain freelance writing gigs and maintain an online resume where people could see why I was worth hiring. But, what started as an online resume has since morphed into a business that includes a website, charity, hostel, conference, blogging school, community meet-ups, tours, and a New York Times Best Selling book.
It didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t just open my computer, write some words while traveling in Thailand and watch the money roll in. No, this took work. It took time and a team. You have to build this to make it happen. You have to create the systems needed so you can be out doing all the things you’ve dreamed of doing. (Because you didn’t start traveling to sit in internet cafes all day.)
What most travel bloggers in the world don’t tell you is that you can‘t travel and work at the same time. It doesn’t work, and when you try, both travel and work suffer because you’re not devoting enough time to either. Your brain is in multiple places at once, and that is never a good thing.
So what do you do? How do you build a company when you want to be on the road? Here are six tips to get you started.
1. Start as much of your blog before you travel.
The last thing you want to do is agonize over images, font sizes and contact forms when you travel. Get as much work done before you go because then you’ll be able to enjoy the destination a lot more as you’ll be focused on that. Try to start your website at least six months before you travel. That way you can get the hard stuff out of the way. Your website will never be perfect and you’ll always want to tweak it but if you build the bulk of it before you go away, you’re life will be a lot easier.
To help you speed up the process, check out this free guide I wrote to making a blog.
2. Make a schedule.
I used to think I never had enough time to blog. I was constantly overwhelmed. I would often think about all the things I didn’t have enough time to do. Then, to avoid that feeling, I would watch Netflix, go drinking with my friends or just laze around.
The truth is, it’s not about having not enough time — it’s about prioritizing your time.
A lot of time people create a to-do list as a way to manage work. While a list might be a good way to organize your shopping, it’s not the best way to organize your work, because what ends up happening is that we do the easiest stuff first and put off the hardest stuff until later. It’s human nature.
Instead, you should create a schedule that allows you to batch your work. When I’m traveling, I usually write in the morning, explore until the mid-afternoon, work on emails, have dinner, and then see what happens. I also batch work (even when I travel) days at a time. On Mondays, I write and do my marketing. On Tuesdays, I edit my writing. On Wednesdays, I write my newsletter and answer emails. On Thursdays, I put up blogs and send out my newsletter.
I also try to work one day each weekend — it helps me focus without being disturbed by new emails or inquires, because everyone else is out of the office.
Investing in your business is the surest way to grow it. When I started, I didn’t have much money, and I hated spending. I found the cheapest designers, hosting, virtual assistants and tech support. I went cheap — and I also did a lot by myself.
I regret that. Now I wish I had paid a little more for quality.
I know what it is like to start your blog without a ton of resources, but the day you decide to make this a business, put more money into it. This will help you grow quicker, and the quicker you’ll grow, the sooner you’ll start making up the costs of your investments.
You don’t need to start big. I didn’t. The first money I put into my website was simply buying a theme that made the website easier to use. It cost $49. It made a huge difference because my website wasn’t ugly and that kept people around longer, which brought in more ad revenue, which paid for the theme!
4. Hire full-time staff
As you begin to make some money, be sure to hire some full-time staff. You want someone to wake up thinking about how can to improve the website 100 percent of the time, and if you only have someone part-time, you only have part of their motivation.
You can’t do it all. You aren’t Superman, and if you really want to grow into seven figures, you’ll need help. No one gets there alone. Your role as owner is to market and run the business, not do the annoying things like setting up blogs, finding images, answering emails, and worrying about code issues. That’s not what your primary functions should be. Hire someone else to do that.
Hiring my first full-time employee was scary. I was spending a large portion of my income on another person, but it allowed me to focus on growing the website. Affiliate revenue rose from 200,000 a year to over 300,000 a year the following year and then on. Hiring people was the best decision I made, and I would recommend hiring a full-time employee the second you can afford to do so.
Now, I currently employ five people, each responsible running all the various aspects of the website so I can be the voice and messenger that attracts new people and partnerships.
5. Meet everyone.
When you’re traveling overseas, it’s easy to meet other creatives because you’re in everyone’s cities. Use this as a chance to meet influencers in a variety of fields. You’re only as strong as your network, so the bigger and more diverse it is, the richer your business will be. Overcoming the geographic barrier by going to someone else’s city to do a collaboration can be a huge advantage.
If you have a favorite influencer, email them and tell them you’re around and ask to do a collaboration. Attend conferences. Additionally, there are a ton of “creative in (insert city)” groups on Facebook. Join them as you go and attend events. In the same vein, look up Meetup groups, too — these will be invaluable ways to find local influencers who you can collaborate with. Even if they aren’t big deals, those influencers will still have an audience who has probably never heard of you, thus getting you new fans!
6. Make Starbucks your friend.
When you travel, it’s difficult to establish a routine. One day you’re on a bus, the next you’re in a café, the next you’re on a flight, then a tour. You work crazy hours, and nothing is the same.
But, you do have Starbucks — a place that you can train your brain to think of as your office. It’s the same everywhere in the world. It has fast wifi. It has the same menu. It has the same chairs and style. When I travel, I work from Starbucks as much as I can. My brain knows that Starbucks equals work time. I go in, I work, I leave. No fuss, no muss.
Maybe you are different, and you can be comfortable working from very different places or awkward positions. I know many people who can work from tiny spaces, in beds, in random cafes or loud hostels in uncomfortable chairs. I’m not that kind of person.
Find what works for you and become a productivity wizard, because that’s what running a business when you travel is all about. It’s about scheduling your work and travel so that you are always focused on one thing at a time. Once you have your system in place, you can let it run … and enjoy the benefits of working anywhere in the world with little worry.