Free to Roam About the World

digital-nomad-globe

“Free to Move About the World” Photo via Pixabay

There’s a Southwest Airlines tagline that goes “you’re now free to move about the country.” Ever since my MBA studies in Management of Global Information Technology, I’ve dreamed of being part of a worldwide network of talented professionals. So, when I came across a recommendation by Cup of TJ to check out Toptal, I knew I had to learn more.

If you don’t know them already, Toptal is a marketplace for top talent in different expertise, but they are currently focused around three core areas of expertise – developers, designers and finance experts. That’s no surprise because these are the most portable functions in most companies.

My first taste of remote work was managing projects with AT&T for Sun Microsystems. Often, I would be out of the office at various job sites across the Bay Area, logging in whenever / wherever and jumping on the occasional team conference calls.

Later, I would work as a semi-digital nomad, when I started to do consulting in commercial real estate and buying / selling businesses. Most of the time I bounced up and down the California coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles. While this may sound glamorous, it gets old quick after you realize you spent more time on the road than in your own bed!

As Cup of TJ points out, there are pros and cons to the digital nomad lifestyle. It isn’t all unicorns and working on your laptop at beaches. Clients expect you to be available during certain times and to be professional when you show up on a Skype call.

But the bottomline, of course, is delivering results. They don’t care that you were ziplining on Monday, but you better have that prototype you promised for Tuesday ready.

Speaking of Monday, my next step with joining the Toptal design team is a Skype call with one of their team. Their screening process apparently only lets in the top 3% of applicants – wish me luck!

To learn more about Toptal click here.

What I’ve Been Up to Lately

Happy Groundhog Day! If you haven’t watched this classic Bill Murray / Andie McDowell rom-com, it’s a great way to experience the time loop when you cross the international dateline!

Recently, I launched a new website, Thriving Vets, to help veterans to live a fulfilling life. Our men and women make a lot of personal sacrifices in serving our country, so this site is dedicated to serving them.

Meanwhile, I spoke with Heather Morrow of Aspen Tango about the immigration crisis that started when President Trump signed an executive order banning immigrants from certain countries from entering this country. One unexpected repercussion was rejecting people with valid green cards. Here’s the replay for more –

On Sunday I will be chatting with Clay Nelson of Portland Tango about why dancers return to Portland year after year like some migratory birds –

Also, I’ve started to do a vlog of sorts to talk about the realities of freelancing and working my way into the digital nomad lifestyle –

Meanwhile, I’ve posted some food recipe videos and plan to write more about this.

Recently, I started to read Eddie Huang’s biography Fresh Off the Boat. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s nothing like the television story, which was watered down quite a bit for mass audiences, of course.eddie-huang-fresh-off-the-boat

Some of you probably know that I’m a big fan of audio books, especially when the author is the narrator. This is no exception, as Huang tells his own story in a way that no one else can.

Even though I grew up much further north, I can definitely to the harassment and bullying that Huang faced, as well as the identity crisis. Sometimes I felt too Chinese; other times, too American. We first generation immigrants often found ourselves trying to straddle both cultural worlds.

Here’s a videos series of Eddie Huang revisiting Taiwan. You can also check out his book through the links to the Amazon page. Enjoy!

Well, this post is a bit all over the place but thought it was the best way to share some of these! How about you? What are you working on these days?

Where to Find Digital Nomad Work

digital nomad work

Digital Nomad Work

First, my confession – I’m by no means a full-time “digital nomad.” But someone on Quora asked this question, and so I thought I’d answer here since this is longer than your typical Quoran response.

When Life Forces You to Change

Over the last year or so I was forced to switch almost completely to online work because my last car (an old beat up Toyota Corolla) finally died. Before that I would go back and forth between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area to do my main work in commercial property inspections. You can see me do a walk-thru in the video. [link]

Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different things with varying degrees of success – everything from trying to make money through affiliate commissions to teaching online – both my own field inspection course to Udemy classes, even publishing a couple of Kindle books – Local Business Alchemy and Field Inspection 101 Home Business.

While there isn’t a remote / digital nomad site as comprehensive as Monster.com or networking quite like LinkedIn, here are some ways to find digital nomad work –

Who You Know vs What You Know

Often you can find opportunities through people they know – not so much by saying “do you know of any jobs where I can work remotely?”

No, it’s usually a bit more roundabout..

“Hey, I saw this posting – who should I contact in that company? Are you also looking for [your specialty]? ..would you consider hiring someone who works in [your location]? ”

Of course, although there are more companies today that would consider hiring remote workers, it’s still not the first choice of most businesses.

So, it may / may not be worth the time to “sell” them on the idea. To be honest it’s better to simply look for a company or hiring manager who is open to this.

Either that or your work specialty needs to be unique enough and still be portable, of course. This is why programming and other technical specialties are more common.

Some Recommended Sites for Digital Nomad Work

A few of the most popular freelancer sites include:
(links are to my profiles on these sites)

While it seems nearly impossible to make a living with microjob sites like Fiverr and more recently http://www.konker.io/, don’t write these off. Besides connecting with other sellers, this can be an opportunity (within the site rules) to get higher paying work.

There are specific niche sites like italki – where I teach English online through Skype calls.

You can even find some work on local sites like Craigslist

Be sure to check out social groups like Facebook groups geared towards digital nomads –
https://www.facebook.com/groups/DigitalNomadsAroundTheWorld/?fref=ts

People often look for specific tasks to be done or projects to be completed

There are now more and more “digital nomad” job specific sites, but most of the work for technical fields like programmers or other areas of software development. https://remoteok.io/

Like I’ve said, “your results may vary.” What works for one person in one area will probably work differently for someone else.

In general, until you get some ratings, aka “social proof,” are you willing to humble yourself and take a bit of a pay cut? If so, deliver the best work you can each time, and you’ll have no problems earning a solid reputation. Remember, often the best advertisement is a happy customer or client!

Where’s My Little Pony?

I’ve written before about my Navy experiences during the Reagan era.

One of the favorite jokes of Uncle Ronny, aka the Great Communicator, was a joke concerning twin boys. It went something like this..

pony-kid

Photo: erA_Blackout via Pixabay

Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities – one was a total pessimist, the other, a total optimist – their parents took them to a psychiatrist.”

“First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. ‘What’s the matter?’ the psychiatrist asked, baffled. ‘Don’t you want to play with any of the toys?’ ‘Yes,’ the little boy bawled, ‘but if I did I’d only break them.’”

“Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. ‘With all this manure,’ the little boy replied, beaming, ‘there must be a pony in here somewhere!’”

excerpt from How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life by Peter Robinson (source: Got to Be a Pony There Somewhere)

Going without a car in Southern California sucks – there’s no getting around it. This isn’t New York where you can jump on the subway or grab a cab. It’s not Chicago where you can take a bus for anywhere not covered by the Loop. And it’s certainly not San Francisco where you can juggle between BART and Muni to get to just about anywhere you need.

It takes almost an hour to get to Union Station in down LA by Metrolink. Then, if you need to get anywhere significant like Hollywood or Santa Monica.. well, expect significant delay..

Yet, it’s forced me to work on my online business of content marketing – to simply sit down & write.

Now when I go somewhere, there’s still a good deal of walking. So I’ve raided the public libraries for plenty of audio books and supplementing this was Audible.com. Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks (totally worth it!! check it out and let me know what you think!)

Gratitude is about learning to dance in the rain instead of waiting for the storm to pass. It’s easy to be thankful when things are going well, it’s harder to remember to be grateful.

Some of the greatest triumphs in history have come out of our darkest hours. Ryan Holiday shares many such stories in The Obstacle is the Way.

One Zen story he shares tells of a king who places a large boulder at the entrance to their city. He watched in disappointment as one citizen after another turn away. Others openly cursed their bad luck or halfheartedly tried to go around before easily giving up.

boulder-road

Photo: missyliner0 via Pixabay

Sure that his kingdom was doomed to be conquered by any invaders with such softness, the king finally saw a lowly peasant struggle. Something made this one subject persist until he finally made a lever out of a large branch.

Moving the boulder, the peasant found a bag of gold and a note from the king which read:

“The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, with every obstacle comes an opportunity to improve our condition.”

What’s Your Red Paper Clip?

For want of a nail, a shoe was lost.. for want of a shoe, a horse was lost.. for want of a horse, a battle was lost..

We’ve heard different versions of this story before – it’s human nature to focus on that missing tooth, or that scab from a recent scrape..

But what about our successes? What about the good in people?
You know, those “Pay It Forward” moments that were made famous by the Haley Joel Osment? (Recently I learned more about the book and author that inspired this movie.)

Now Kyle Macdonald had a crazy idea. He asked “What if I played a real life game of “Bigger and Better”?

Like many creative folks when they started their entrepreneurs journey, Kyle realized that it wasn’t his dream job to deliver used appliances. So, when he came up with a bunch of crazy ideas, Kyle found himself torn between choosing work for the money and actually trying some of them.

A friend reminded him of a game they played in high school where Kyle and his friends would continually trade up items to see what they could get. So Kyle thought maybe he could do this just starting out with one red paper clip.

Well, he did – you can follow his red paper clip journey here.

Ultimately, Kyle ended up with a house, being a mayor for a day and along with his girlfriend citizens for life!

People on Quora ask me all the time about how to get started in business..? What does it take to start your own company? On and on..

Just start with your red paper clip.. be curious.. look for ways to help others.. Like the shepherd boy in the Alchemist see where the journey takes you.

Years ago, I had an idea to start my own business. I made plenty of mistakes but kept asking questions and learning. This led to adventures in real estate and helping folks to buy / sell businesses before leading to commercial field inspections and ultimately teaching others how to start their own home businesses..

So who you were got you here to this point, who you’re becoming will get you where you want to be!

Connecting the Dots

This post was actually inspired by my friend, Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend where he invites us to “Choose Adventure.”

connecting-dots-tangovagabond

Connecting the Dots – Steve Jobs

Like Scott, I’m a big fan of Paulo Coelho’s beloved classic, The Alchemist. In fact, I recently wrote a LinkedIn post via Pulse about why I consider it required reading for entrepreneurs and almost any business bookshelf.

As both Coelho and Dmitri Martin (see his sketch “What Success Really Looks Like”) each show in their own way, often the straight line success stories are actually full of twists and turns. One of the things I like to say is that “life is what happens while we’re making plans.”

what-success-really-looks-like

What Success Really Looks Like by Demetri Martin, This is a Book

When I look back on my tango journey, it’s definitely been full of unexpected twists and turns – but I’ve always been glad to have taken the “road less traveled.” Besides lessons in being more creative and dancing everywhere from Brisbane, Australia to Amsterdam and Nijmegen I’ve met incredible friends and enjoyed memorable moments like improvising tofu parmigiana in Berlin.

Recently, I came across the idea of the Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell said that “in the cave you fear to enter lies the treasure you seek.” That’s why myths and legends have always resonated with us as much as today’s blockbusters. Deep down we realize that from the moment the first cave man faced his fear of fire not only his life was made better but the lives of the rest of us as well.

I had no idea how far down the rabbit hole tango was going to take me. All I could do was follow my heart and see what happened. As I get ready for the next phase, I’m just doing my best to listen to the music and hear what it’s telling me to do.

 

My First Digital Nomad Sale While Watching a Movie

“Wow, I just made two hundred bucks!” I announced glancing at my phone.

“Really? That’s awesome!” replied Molly.

As we found our seats arms full of popcorn and drink, I read the message again. This was what I’ve dreamed of – the whole “making money while you sleep” thing or in this case while watching a summer flick.

Ironically, this was the tail end of a great three weeks camping along the Oregon coast – not the middle of some product launch.

Years ago I published my first Kindle ebook to “demonstrate my authority” and ultimately teach workshops. I saw the need for this training because when I got started, there was little to no information available.

Although I had tried all kinds of get rich quick schemes and even programs that sincerely wanted to help you make your first dollars on the internet, I just wanted to finally make some real money online.

As I finished writing my book, there was a section about mystery shopping that felt incomplete. A friend put me in contact with Pam of IMSC (Independent Mystery Shoppers Coalition – a group for mystery shoppers formed by mystery shoppers,) and that one call launched my speaking and teaching career.

Pam not only generously took the time to talk to me about her own mystery shopping experiences, but she shared her own book and invited me to speak at the next conference in Las Vegas.

There I shared my journey as a field inspector before pitching my book and training. Although I managed to sell only a few seats, it was the beginning of my teaching online. Since then, I’ve launched other books like Local Business Alchemy and courses like “Build a Business You Can Sell” (based on my experiences as a business broker / small business adviser) and even co-produced one on Instagram marketing with a friend.

I’d be lying if I said that now I have all the answers, and I’m sitting on a beach in Thailand sipping cool drinks. There’s still a lot of work ahead. At the moment I’m doing some mix of freelance work through eLanceGuru and Fiverr. Folks are starting to contact me for things like podcasts through my LinkedIn profile.

Recently, I share some of what freedom looks like to me as a creative entrepreneur.

How about you? What does success as a digital nomad look like to you?