Although 73% of digital nomads choose this lifestyle for the work-life balance, most multi-millionaire business owners believe that you should be working 95 hours a week if you want to succeed. These ideals seem somewhat conflicting. So you quit your office job, where taxes are deducted automatically, health insurance is paid for, and work hours never exceed 40 a week, only to end up having to do everything yourself as a solopreneur. Is the freedom that comes with being a digital nomad entrepreneur nothing more than an illusion?
On top of this, digital nomads are having to book flights and hotels, buy travel insurance, find coworking spaces, and deal in foreign currencies and languages, all while running a successful business. Far from a healthy work-life balance, this just seems to be adding unnecessary stress. You may be your own boss and therefore free to take a day off whenever you choose, but doing so will mean missing a day’s worth of pay at best, or ruining your business at worst, with late project completion dates leading to dissatisfied customers. How can you achieve freedom under these circumstances?
The Illusion of Freedom
Everyone dreams of a life where they can wake up and do as they wish at their own pace. However, if you want to earn a living, then this can never be a reality. Just because you are your own boss, it doesn’t mean you are simply able to pay yourself whenever you like. No, you need to generate an income, and for that, you need to be providing a valuable service.
That means taking on projects with deadlines and finding the motivation to sit down and get on with the work. As a digital nomad, it is true that you have fewer constraints on the kind of projects you take on, but everything will require a grind, and there will be times when you just don’t feel like working but have to.
52% of digital nomads view finding a reliable WiFi connection as a daily hindrance, while 42% often struggle to find an appropriate place to work. On top of this, time zones cause barriers to success for 29% of remote businesses. The remote work digital nomad life has its own struggles that the traditional, location dependent employee is free from. On the other hand, there are benefits that come from being a digital nomad, and focusing on these can help to increase that feeling of self-sufficiency, independence, and freedom.
Shifting Your Mindset
About a year ago, John had almost given up on his solopreneur dreams. The workload was overwhelming, and he didn’t feel as free as he expected to. In fact, John was dreaming of a time when he had a regular office job before work became such a drain on his time and energy.
He told me that life as an entrepreneur burdened him with such a heavy workload that it seemed as if he had “less freedom than a normal employee.” However, he has overcome this view of entrepreneurship and now dedicates his time to helping others to do the same. John is a business coach who works on shifting mindsets and implementing strategies to ease the pressure on entrepreneurs.
Often, not feeling free is a failure to frame the situation in the right way. If you understand your goals and what it takes to achieve them, then the work you are doing becomes less of a burden and more a meaningful activity. The hard graft you put in is critical in helping you towards the life you want to be living, no matter how difficult it feels while you are doing it.
John is all about helping entrepreneurs to reduce stress, find a balance, and achieve goals. He told me that “it’s not hard work that brings success, but smart work.” I guess if you are feeling burned out all of the time, with no downtime to do the things you enjoy, then you are doing it wrong. By building intelligent systems, you can get the same amount of work done with much less stress and in fewer working hours. These systems can either depend on automation or be achieved by outsourcing to human workers.
Setting Up Automation
You might be surprised how much of the work you do on a daily basis can be better achieved by a robot. Using the AI and machine learning tools on the Google Cloud may take a bit of time to set up, but it will save you hours each week going forward. It is a failure to understand and utilize these tools that leave many new entrepreneurs feeling overwhelmed. There may be a small upfront cost, but this more than made up for in gained income.
Average employees at a Fortune 500 company earn a salary of $77,000. This means that by saving 240 hours a year, one employee makes the company an extra $9,240. If all employees could do this, then that company becomes $4.6 million richer. It is relatively simple mathematics. The more you automate, the more you earn despite working the same number of hours.
Outsourcing to Other Employees
As a content writer, I work entirely remotely as a self-employed freelancer. It’s not quite the same as running a business, but everything has to be done myself. Whether it is finding new companies to write for, invoicing for work completed, chasing payment from dodgy clients, or sorting the spam in my emails from the genuine job opportunities, there is a great deal of admin that needs doing. All of this takes several hours each day, which I’d rather spend researching and writing.
Fortunately, I ran into Neeve. She is studying for a degree in English Literature but wants to spend her summer traveling, for which she needs some sort of income. I asked Neeve if she’d like to do some of my admin work, which she quickly said yes to. This gives me more time to focus on the tasks I am passionate about while offering her a wage to live off while she explores the world. Neeve is now in a position to build her own life of freedom, while my earning potential has just skyrocketed as I am able to complete much more work in the same amount of time.
The beautiful thing about outsourcing is that those you employ can be remote workers too. As the digital nomad network grows, we can all help each other out by focusing on our core strengths and outsourcing other work to someone better qualified.
I asked Neeve how she feels about me unloading some of my workload onto her. “It’s a good chance for me to use some free time to earn money, that I would otherwise be wasting. I’m a person who likes to have a purpose. When I’m free over summer, I sort of feel hopeless because I’ve got no drive as I do at uni. This will really help with that,” she said.
Rather than feeling bad about giving my mundane tasks to someone else, I feel proud that I am in a position to offer them an opportunity to earn and have a sense of purpose. This is the side of outsourcing that should appeal to less hard-nosed businesspeople, who have a more empathetic view of the world.
AJ Jacobs is a writer and editor, who prefers to work from home in his “boxer shorts or...penguin-themed pajama bottoms.” Unlike the Fortune 500 example above, he is just one guy, trying to enjoy a healthy work-life balance and pursue his passions, without wasting time on low level, mundane tasks. So AJ decided to outsource his life.
He did this by getting in touch with an India based virtual executive assistant networking company called Brickwork. Anything and everything he could outsource was done via this company. Researching, writing memos, and formatting were all given to workers on the other side of the world. They do the work while he soundly sleeps and he wakes up each morning to see most of his to-do list already ticked off.
If freedom is your aim, then digital nomadism can help you to achieve this. However, setting up a business can be an overwhelming task which requires a tremendous amount of dedication, while you take ownership of your workload. However, constant stress and long work hours are not an essential part of becoming self-employed. Focus on automation and outsourcing to build systems which lower your workload while maintaining output. It is possible to work fewer hours, travel the world, and earn enough to feel comfortable and secure in your new life of freedom.
Written by Thom Brown