9 Lessons I’ve Learned Starting A Business Remotely

When the digital nomad lifestyle first began to draw my attention, I would picture using lightning-fast WiFi while sitting in a super comfy beach chair, looking out over the seemingly endless expanse of where warm, golden sand meets blue-green waters. My visions would even include sipping delicious, feminine drinks with tiny umbrellas in them for the final touch. The more mundane details that I conveniently left out of my daydreams however, ended up being the centerpieces of everyday life while working remotely. More importantly, those details are the main reasons why the digital nomad lifestyle is a pipe dream for so many of us.

It’s true, working remotely is an absolute dream come true in many ways. I wake up when I want, work where I want, and take breaks whenever I damn well feel like it. I have no one breathing down my neck about my KPI, adherence to an attendance policy, or putting their own agenda above the company’s success or my own. As long as I get my sh*t done, I get paid by my amazing clients (did I mention I get to choose my clients?). Before I get carried away, those awesome levels of freedom and flexibility afforded by freelancing do come at a cost. And let’s be honest, since so many in the workforce sit in mind-numbing traffic commuting to work everyday, it’s only fair that there are a few days where you’re also tempted to play russian roulette.

There is a dark side to working remotely (both nomadic and not) we tend to forget until we experience it firsthand. Be ready to adapt or you risk becoming a real life version of Han Solo’s emo progeny.

1. Routines Suck, But You’ll Need Them.

This is number one because of the sheer potential this has to negatively impact your success as a skilled professional. Without a compulsory, work-mandated routine, you are responsible to create and maintain your own in its absence. If you are like me and despise structured time management even more than this election’s choice of presidential candidates, you’re going to struggle at times.

2. Getting S^&* Done Requires More Effort.

With the certainty of an atomic clock, intricate business problems come up regularly (if not more frequently) while remote. If you’re expecting them to be any easier because of your sweet view of the Petronas Towers from your bedroom-turned-office, you’re in for a rude awakening. There will be times when you simply wish you were sitting face-to-face with the people you’re coordinating with, or at least able to just do certain things yourself.

3. Having Reliable Internet Is Necessary.

While passing through Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, I discovered a wide range of connection qualities and speeds. Some places with amazing WiFi quickly lose it during a thunderstorm, which is pretty much everyday. In one case, lightning actually struck the building I was in and fried the fiber optic node–that was a fun week. Keep a data plan on your smartphone just in case you need an easy hotspot.

4. Get a VPN Service Like HMA! Pro Or Similar.

Say what you will about the media in the US, but we are very blessed to have our first amendment rights. Many of the countries you pass through have strict filters to protect their own ideas and ways of life. You may need access to websites and tools that are otherwise blocked, so plan accordingly. Remember, once you step off that airplane, you are in someone else’s homeland. Even with a VPN, be conscious of your online activities.

Another important VPN feature you’ll use is called geolocation spoofing. For example, when I access a client’s Instagram account, I need to appear to be in Seattle WA, the client’s home area. Otherwise, even with the right password, Instagram will lock and flag her account as being compromised (we learned this together the hard way).

5. Printer/Scanner Combos Are Gifts From Above.

This should be self-explanatory. Save yourself from future headaches and go buy a decent printer combo if you plan to stay put for a while. At the very least you’d be wise to locate the nearest print shop.

6. Opening A Bank Account? LOL, Good Luck.

Unless you’re lucky enough to be accepted into Stripe Atlas, you’re going to have a tough time running a US-based business from afar. Open any bank accounts you need BEFORE travelling abroad. My latest project, a sub box for gearheads called Rally Crate, nearly got deep-sixed before it started because the online banks didn’t like the idea of a remote account holder. If it wasn’t for the actions of my partner back in California we’d be done for, which leads me to my next point.

7. Be Picky With Your Partners.

Whether you’re looking for a local business partner or one back home, choose with your third eye. Your hometown friends, for example, are usually terrible choices. Why? Because many of them will privately envy you and your perceived success. Some will even smirk when they see you going through a difficult time. Only you will understand the struggles and hardships you are subjected to. Bearing that in mind, you must choose someone who enjoys watching others succeed and who is willing to work hard themselves.

8. Save Income For Rainy Days.

This seems like common sense, but it needs to be said. All those orders and revenue you see rolling in? They will stop and go like that prius you sat behind in your last traffic jam. While everything’s usually cheaper outside the States, try not to get carried away. You’ll panic way less during the slow months, I promise.

9. People Won’t Respect Your Time.

Even with a solid routine, you’ll have constant interruptions when you work for yourself. Your local friends or significant other will hit you up and expect you to drop everything to come kick it. It is super tempting, but you’re not a retiree yet (or even close for that matter). Make it clear to them that you’re still working and you’ll see them when you’re done.

There are more things you’ll want to add to your list when you live it for yourself, but the first step is believing you can actually do this. Yeah, having no safety net is f%^&ing terrifying at times. It won’t be a fit for some of you, especially if you’ve been going steady with a romantic partner and see some sort of future with them. But there are those of you can–and will–do the digital nomad lifestyle successfully. And all the more power to you for it. Feel free to connect with me if you’re passing through Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. You’ll find many of us stick together, or at least have a warm, welcoming community of sorts. So get out of your bubble and start moving mountains. I dare you.