More and more people are digital nomads - I work remote, too. After the Four Hour Work Week, many people are wondering how to become digital nomads and considering starting eCommerce businesses to support a travelling lifestyle. Here are 6 things to think about first.
Starting a business is hard work. I seriously doubt that any entrepreneur would deny that is a true statement. For many people, the fact that they can “be their own boss” is worth the increased potential of losing sleep. For others, the difficulty of starting a business is what prevents them from trying it. However, for those of us who have decided that the rewards outweigh any possible risks, we see many other benefits besides only having to answer to ourselves and being able to set our own schedule.
Sometimes running an online business can allow you to be 100% location independent, and work from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. For many Shopify store owners though, it seems nearly impossible to work in a totally different country from where their store is based. But there have been success stories.
But it's possible. An online business can be run 100% remotely
Lucky for you, in my own travels, I have met and spoken with Shopify merchants who are successfully traveling while they run their stores, or at least living very far away from the country where their store is legally based.
Here are some of the things I learned during my own experience living in Indonesia for more than four years (I am originally from the U.S.) as well as from other entrepreneurs that you should keep in mind if you want to set up a more “portable” Shopify eCommerce business.
1. Buy an international SIM card before you go (and get data!)
Local SIM cards are usually a great option because they are tied to the local region and are often inexpensive, depending on where you are. But what if you are traveling to different countries often, and are always on the move? It can take time to get a local SIM card in each country you travel to, and if you don’t speak the local language it can be difficult to arrange the best situation for your electronics.
For more convenience and to make sure you are always connected to your customers and your team (if you have one) even if you are living the nomad lifestyle, try buying an international SIM card. That way, you can always Skype over good connections and never feel like you are behind because you were traveling to a new exotic location and couldn’t find where the best local SIM supplier was.
Most international SIM cards offer everything you could possibly need. For example, with WorldSIM you get a free USA or UK number, or you can keep your existing number. It offers free incoming calls in more than 118 countries and coverage in 200 countries, with low-cost calls, data, and SMS worldwide.
I bought an international SIM when I lived in Southeast Asia in addition to the local SIM I bought in Yogyakarta, Indonesia where I was based. I was always able to communicate with people back home in the U.S. even when I was traveling in very remote locations!
There are many different international SIM cards, meaning running your store from many places all over the world just got a lot easier!
2. Work with an independent fulfillment center for your eCommerce business
By independent, I mean one that doesn’t need to be in constant communication with you in order to fulfill your orders and make sure they get to your customers on time. Store owners often list this as their main source of stress when thinking about taking their store mobile.
However, when I asked an experienced store owner in an interview recently how he managed to live in Tokyo when his store is based in the U.S.., he simply said “if your fulfillment center isn’t able to fulfill orders without you being involved then I think you need a new fulfillment center. I don’t see any reason why I need to be physically there.”
He concluded by saying that he still does all of the customer service emails with clients himself, but all that really requires is a reliable internet connection - the answer to question #1.
Your fulfillment center shouldn’t be the reason you aren’t traveling all the time. If it is, then get a new one and join the community of people living and traveling wherever they want while they work on their laptop!
Most eCommerce entrepreneurs gravitate towards paid social media campaigns when trying to market their products. However, many end up spending a ton of money on these ads, when they could have gotten better results by combining paid social with another marketing approach. You can set up a referral program that literally runs itself so that customers are automatically rewarded when they refer their friends to your store.
That way, more people will hear about your store and your sales will increase, without you having to do anything. It’s just another way to simplify the process of running your store, enabling you to pursue a life of travel. You can get great tips on how to set up an amazing referral program here.
4. Outsource your Shopify store projects
Another great way to make your store more mobile is to outsource all of the design and development work on your store to experts in those fields and also hire someone else to design and run your ads and handle all marketing related tasks for your store. If you are nervous about entrusting your business in the hands of someone else, you don’t have to be. You can always hire experts from an trustworthy marketplace, like Storetasker (which I happen to work for!)
The benefit of a curated marketplace like Storetasker is that each expert has gone through a vetting process, and they all have advanced knowledge of the Shopify platform. Anything from the design of your store to working on Google Analytics reports can be outsourced, if you find the right Shopify expert.
Soon, you could be watching as your traffic and sales increase, all while relaxing and sitting on the beach in Tahiti, Thailand, French Polynesia, Oahu, or Madagascar. Doesn’t that sound awesome?
5. Try to learn a few words of the local language and always respect cultural norms
Although learning a bit of the local language is often not a requirement, in my own experience knowing the basics really helps to get around and earn respect from local people. Simply learning how to ask where the nearest coffee shop is or the cheapest way to get to a popular tourist destination can go a long way and help you get the most out of your time wherever you are in the world. The next part is just common sense, but respecting cultural norms is extremely important, and there is no excuse not to due to how much information is on the internet that you can use to learn how to act respectfully according to the customs practiced there. It is easy to accidentally offend people because you acted in a way which you are familiar with, but which happens to be disrespectful in other places. Always remember you are a guest in other countries.
Thankfully, in the places I have traveled at least, people are generally understanding when foreigners make mistakes, and even sometimes find it funny. Regardless, respecting the culture and learning a few new words goes a long way. Who knows, if locals feel that you understand and respect their culture and traditions, they may also be interested in becoming your friend and maybe even purchasing an item or two from your store!
6. You'll need to adapt to remote work communication
Running a remote business also means you'll be involved in remote work communication - and that's another vital aspect of the remote world that you need to pay attention to. Clear communication will help you build a strong reliable connection with your customers and clients and will help you work more efficiently. When you happen to work from noisy environments, you can use noise cancellation tools to eliminate the noise completely and not let others hear it on your side.
What are you waiting for?
The truth is, you don’t need to let anything get in the way of your goal to travel more. It is definitely possible to set up your store in a way that allows you to be independent from the fulfillment process. Furthermore, you can set up your marketing and design so that sales at your store grow automatically without a lot of stress and hard work on your part. There are people with the skills to assist you in achieving your dreams, and now you know some great places to go to get that help.
With the information you can find on the internet and in books, there is no need to be nervous about traveling to places very different from what you are used to. After all, other store owners have already done all this and are living the way they want to live, so why can’t you? What are you waiting for? It’s time to fill that empty passport with stamps!
John Larsen is the Content Writer and Community Lead at Storetasker, the #1 place to outsource Shopify design, development, and marketing projects.
When he’s not busy writing blog articles and moderating the Shopify Entrepreneurs Facebook group, John likes to watch movies and read.