NOTE: the 60 Minutes interview will be shown on NZ TV Prime at 8.30pm NZT on Monday 7th December 2015. I will add any online version here if it comes up too!
Since the exposure around my interview on 60 Minutes alongside Tim Ferris and Natalie Sisson, I have been asked by a lot of friends and family "what this 'Digital Nomad' thing is all about?". What does it mean? What is the difference between digital nomads and entrepreneurs? What makes me one? How can they become one? What happens when I want to ‘stay in one place and stop travelling? When do I plan to settle down? Will I still be home for Christmas?
Every day I have stronger views and better answers to these questions (yes I will be with my family in Christchurch for Christmas!) and I have also realised that everyone views and defines this concept differently and there are plenty of ‘grey areas’ in the concept too. So I thought I would take this opportunity to define 'what a Digital Nomad is through my own eyes' and 'what it means for me'. I will also give some insight into the opportunities out there for others and the work I am personally doing to help create more Entrepreneurs and Digital Nomads!
Firstly some definitions from the internet:
Nomad: "A person with no settled home, who moves from place to place as a way of obtaining food, finding pasture for livestock, or otherwise making a living".
Digital Nomad: "Individuals who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner. Such workers typically work remotely—from home, coffee shops, public libraries, and even recreational vehicles—to accomplish tasks and goals that traditionally took place in a single, stationary workplace."
My story and definition
For me a 'Digital Nomad' is simply a person who is able to run the majority of their day to day 'income operations' by using their laptop and cell phone. This means they can create income from virtually anywhere (with the need to sometimes or always have access to an internet connection). Other words for Digital Nomads include 'Lifestyle Entrepreneurs', 'Location Independent Entrepreneurs' or 'Remote Workers'. Generally 'Digital Nomads' are referred to as a type of 'Entrepreneur', though technically you do not need to be running your own business to be a digital nomad (see below).
We launched Highly Flammable Entertainment in Dunedin in 2010. But we wanted to expand nationally (and we had to grow to keep up with operational costs) - so I found myself with operations in four cities, which required me to move constantly between them - training people, meeting clients and running performances. We were forced to create systems to work around me being away alot - this meant having full, part time and casual roles on the ground in each city, great reporting systems, online scheduling and a team culture that suited this all. I would not fully classify myself as a full 'Digital Nomad', as I do spend some time 'location dependent' with my business Highly Flammable Entertainment (especially during summer), though I also travel for business and pleasure during this time too. I have alot of flexibility, as we have great teams around the country to manage and operate various parts of the business including operations, talent recruitment/training, costume and wardrobe management. Perhaps at some other point I will expand on the 'Digital Nomad' elements of Highly Flammable! Entrepreneurs Adventures (this website) is a new business I started early 2015 and is almost 100% location independent (though I have plans for some physical retreats, watch this space!).
Types of Digital Nomads:
There are tonnes of different 'types of Digital Nomads' and lots of blurry lines, but here is some simplistic types!
1) Corporate Remote Workers
- People who manage who work in a more conventional business (what they do not own) but spend some or all of their time working remotely. They are paid an annual wage in return for results and value delivery.
- This could include people who work from home one day a week through to people who travel frequently for their job but are able to work remotely as they travel via phone calls and the internet.
- This type of digital nomad has been around a long time (ie even think the businessman who spends a lot of time on the phone and laptop) and is a rapidly growing area as more businesses allow their staff to work remotely and the technology gets better (ie Skype and team collaboration systems like Slack).
- Tim Ferris popularised this concept through his detailed tactics to 'work an office based job remotely' in the Four Hour Work Week best selling book.
- People who take a skill and sell their time doing that skill. Very popular with designers, writers and web developers due to their ability to deliver value easily online.
- Most people start down this road by creating a 'personal brand' and business which gains them clients.
3) Muse warriors and online entrepreneurs
- People who create mini businesses such as subscription boxes, apps, E-books, drop-shipping stores or blogs.
- Many of these people set these up while working corporate jobs or freelancing to pay the bills until they grow.
4) Business Entrepreneurs
- My favourite type and the hardest to define - the increasing technology around tools for Digital Nomads is making it possible for more and more people to start businesses of any type and build a team who can all work remotely.
Benefits of being a Digital Nomad
I could spend days writing about all the interesting benefits of being a digital nomad or having a remote workforce, but here are a few for me personally.
1) No need to pay for a fixed office.
Cafes, home, hotels, airports, libraries, food-courts – you can work from almost anywhere and it keeps things more interesting too! Our huge fixed office costs in the early days almost killed the now growing Highly Flammable empire... These days we can spend that cash developing the business, growing the team and drinking amazing coffee from awesome cafes...
2) Cheaper flights due to more flexibility in where and when you travel.
I save hundreds through flying off peak, especially midweek or via using tools like adioso.com. Having flexibility in time and space also allows you to be flexible and make plans last minute without stressing about needing to be in the office to get work done or go on leave (i.e. jump on a plane last minute and see grandma, a client, a best mate).
3) Avoid traffic jams, queues and long commutes.
Why waste time in stressful traffic or on long commutes when you can be building your business or relaxing with family or friends? The other day I accidentally went to a shopping mall during a weekend... Wow, never again! I can shop during the day where there are no crowds, bored santas and relaxing xmas tunes...
4) Have time to spend time with family and friends
When Dad broke his leg I was able to get on a plane, fly home to Christchurch and do the lambing for a few months and still work with team and clients remotely (I also 'accidentally' launched Highly Flammable Christchurch while I was there, oops!).
5) Operate your business in multiple cities
Lets be honest Highly Flammable Entertainment has super niche fire, stilt and mirrored products (though we have great private party entertainment options hint hint!) and we need access to a large market by operating NZ wide (without full timers and offices in each city) to survive and thrive.
6) Adventures and Travel!
I absolutely LOVE to travel and have adventures. Seeing new cultures and perspectives, meeting amazing people, spending quality time with old friends and family and eating YUMMY exotic foods! In the last year, thanks to 'Digital Nomadism', I have run (and grown!) two businesses while travelling the world, life changing destinations in the last 12 months have included: Australia, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the US, Iceland, UK, Poland, Germany and Italy. I have also travelled and explored New Zealand thoroughly this year 'inra-nomad'?
How I am creating more digital nomads
So you have heard about my version of 'Digital Nomadism'. I love sharing my story and the stories of other Digital Nomads and Entrepreneurs as a way to inspire others to consider this life. In addition I currently run workshops and lectures, speak at events, do business consulting and run a range of courses including my latest 'Mission and Mindset Course'. To find our more you can get in touch or sign up for my newsletter. I would love to hear from you and help you on your own adventure!
For more information about the entertainment we provide at Highly Flammable check out: www.highlyflammable.co.nz
For more information about Entrepreneurs Adventures take a look around this site!