Digital nomads: the reality of running a business from anywhere

Jubril Agoro remembers hearing the word “coronavirus” for the first time last March in Bali, Indonesia. “I was just panicking,” he said. After 11 years on the road, the co-founder of the financial education company Live the Richer Academy and founder of the travel video company Heavy passport rushed to catch a flight back to the United States.

Agoro, 34, is one of a growing number of digital nomads – people who work remotely online and are ‘location independent’. According to a report by MBO Partners, which supports independent professionals and their clients, their numbers grew 49% in the United States during the pandemic, from 7.3 million in 2019 to 10.9 million in 2020. The “biggest change is that traditional job holders have been unleashed from their desks and many, instead of staying in one place, are hitting the road, ”the report adds.

A nomadic life is attractive – and some countries, like Barbados and Bermuda, are trying to attract more distant workers. But the broader tax implications of working outside your home country are complex. Anyone planning to work abroad for the long term needs specialist tax advice.

The life of a digital nomad

Agoro, a Nigerian American who started his first business as a teenager selling items on eBay, says he first hit the road because “if you live an $ 8,000 a month lifestyle in Chicago or New York, it will cost you around $ 2,000 per month. month [in Bali]”.

After returning to the United States, he traveled to California. He has since traveled abroad again and acknowledges that this is a “very sensitive subject”. There has been a social media split, with some arguing that non-essential travel is irresponsible. “I’m trying to live my best life in the most responsible way possible,” Agoro says, adding that he wears a mask and takes weekly Covid-19 tests.

Thomas Parkinson, a UK Amazon seller and founder of the support company Amazon Fulfilled by Amazon Fast Track, says that after leaving an electronics engineering degree, he worked in bar management for five years before launching his first online business. After experiencing a breakup, a friend suggested that she try running her business from abroad. “I only booked a four week getaway. . . and I still remember to this day that I called my sister and said “I’m not coming home at all, never, period”. That was about three years ago, ”he says.

Parkinson, 35, is currently in Mexico and, after five months in Cancun, is considering moving to Mexico City.

Malaysian software developer Farez Rahman, 49, is married to British data consultant Jo Lodge, 46. The couple moved to Malaysia from the UK in 2017. The goal was to run their web development agency. Digital redkey remotely, while retaining their British clientele. “When I worked in London I had a pretty good salary and at the end of each month I had nothing left. Here we are living on a fraction of that salary and we seem to have more money, ”says Lodge.

“Some days I work for my client, other days I do my own thing and other days I just surf. I do what I find exciting, ”says Rahman.

Travel writer and author Matt Kepnes founded his blog, Nomadic mat, in 2008. “I never wanted to take this path. You know, life happens accidentally, ”he says. He started the blog, which focuses on budget travel and digital nomad life, as “just a way to do freelance writing in the hope of writing enough that I can continue to travel.” The 40-year-old American has visited more than 100 countries, but during the pandemic he stayed closer to home, traveling to the United States and spending six weeks in Mexico.

For Brenna Holeman, her childhood dream of becoming a travel writer “seemed as unattainable as wanting to become an astronaut”. Now in her thirties, she started her blog, This dented suitcase, in 2010. Having not left her hometown of Manitoba, Canada, since January 2020, she says her readers appreciate the fact that she did not promote travel during the pandemic. “Either they think it’s not an ethical decision or it makes them feel bad because they can’t travel because they’re in a part of the world where there’s a lockdown,” she says.

How the pandemic has affected businesses

“Last year has actually been amazing,” Agoro says. “As people started to focus more on their finances and learn how to budget,” Live Richer Academy experienced its first month of seven-figure earnings in April 2020.

For Rahman, business has been “OK”, with “projects coming and going”. Lodge worked remotely for her former employer, a UK council, for a few months, but since her contract ended she has focused on setting up a “Technicians YouTube channel”Covering data and business intelligence.

The travel blogging community has been hit hardest. Kepnes created a membership program and started running virtual events. “These are things that would never have happened without Covid, so it created this change. ”

Holeman had several sources of income before the pandemic. “When they all closed at the same time, it was a hell of a blow,” she says. “Has it really allowed me to examine what I really like?” How do I rotate and what can I get back? “

Hopes for the future

The digital nomadic lifestyle can be an attractive next step for some workers who have suddenly broken free from office life. According to the MBO Partners report, between 2019 and 2020, there was an 18% increase in the number of Americans saying they “plan to become digital nomads in the next two to three years.”

Agoro says, “One of my biggest goals is just to show people, to open people’s minds, it’s possible and it’s a lot easier and more affordable than people thought.

Parkinson’s goal is to reach £ 1million in sales. He wants to “rent a Mustang in Miami, drive all over the United States, meet lots of Amazon sellers, YouTube and do it for three months.” He would also like to visit friends in Asia and see his team in the Philippines.

Rahman and Lodge hope to be able to visit friends and family in the UK. In the meantime, the couple “are trying to look at different sources of income,” Lodge says.

Holeman does not plan international travel, but hopes to travel locally in the summer. “I always used to say that if no one ever read the blog again or if I never made a penny from it, I would continue to do so,” she adds.

For Kepnes, “I’m just looking to get back on the road and rekindle my love for travel,” he says. ” I like what I do. What I do will come back eventually so I’m just waiting for the storm to end. I don’t want to do anything else.

About Andrew Miller

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