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How to Become A Location-Independent Entrepreneur

How I Became A Location-Independent Entrepreneur Without Trying … And Seven Simple Ideas to Help You Do the Same

location-independent entrepreneur

The author Erika Awakening visiting Phuket, Thailand on a 7-week trip to Southeast Asia as a location-independent entrepreneur.

It’s all the rage now to become a location-independent entrepreneur (also called digital nomad or location-independent professional). Lots of people want to do it. And the truth is, with internet technologies like Skype and WordPress, it’s not as difficult to become a location-independent entrepreneur as people make it out to be. In many ways, it’s easier than succeeding with a brick-and-mortar business … if you do it right.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, there were times on this journey when I felt extremely frustrated and thought the business would never really become sustainable. This was especially frustrating during the time period when I wanted to quit my day job yet did not feel enough confidence to do so. And still that was easier than managing physical office space or a bunch of location-dependent employees.

During the process of getting where I wanted to be, it felt like it was taking FOREVER. The reality is that it happened amazingly fast. I started my first blog in late 2008 and wrote for free for about a year. I didn’t start my actual money-making business until well into 2009. For the first nine months or so of my business, I felt discouraged. And then I applied my coaching method Holistic Belief Reprogramming to the situation. Amazingly, by the end of 2010, I had made over six figures USD working part time on this business. All told, I have made over $1 million online from all sources. (Learn more about How to Attract Money with EFT Tapping.)

location-independent entrepreneur

View from the top of Phuket in Thailand: Imagine the places you’ll go as a location-independent entrepreneur.

So while my ego was constantly kvetching about “how long everything was taking,” in reality I made six figures of gross income working part-time during my very first full year in business. And I’ve made in excess of six figures of gross income every year since, four years in a row, including this one. That’s my “why you should listen to me” pitch. Most people who start these internet businesses struggle for years before they make a decent income. I didn’t. That’s due to my highly effective coaching system, which I applied to the situation (learn more about the foundational product, the 30-Day Abundance Challenge here).

The perspective I can offer here is unusual because – unlike most location-independent entrepreneurs – I did not go the “live in cheap countries and cut costs” route to get here. In fact, it was only this year that I ventured out into Southeast Asia and Central America to experience extended trips abroad as part of this lifestyle. For various reasons, it was important that I keep my home base in San Francisco. I have two beautiful cats who live with me. I have a house about three hours away in Tahoe where I love spending time.

Those who are familiar with San Francisco are well aware that it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world. Just to give you a sense of perspective, it’s typical when I leave my apartment for a few hours that I drop $500 within a few hours. Gas at $75 for a tank. Groceries are $250 for one cart. Try getting your shoes repaired or any other basic necessities for less than another $100. Parking ticket for $65. This is not like Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia, where $500 could stretch on for weeks. Here in San Francisco, $500 is gone in a flash.

And when I quit my job – yes, hold your breath for this one – I still owed $200,000 on my mortgage. My cat’s health care bills and need for a new car added another $60,000+ debt to the pile. So … trying to live abroad on $15 a day was not an option for me to solve my business problems at that time. I had to make more money, and that’s what I did.

Here are a few tips to get yourself on the way to being a location-independent entrepreneur:

1. Start With Your Authentic Passion

location-independent entrepreneur

Sunset in Langkawi, Malaysia. One of the most stunning sunsets I’ve ever seen, and it’s all yours as a location-independent entrepreneur!

I see way too many people starting with the goal of having a business or becoming location independent rather than starting with their life purpose and passion. We all have a dharma, the one thing we are meant to do in the world that nobody else can do. Until we find that life purpose or dharma, we are mostly just spinning our wheels trying to start businesses or become location independent. Invest in training and education, delve into your passions, and only when you have a driving purpose that is going to help you overcome ALL obstacles is it time to create a business around it. If you have a day job, you can do what I did: start a blog for free on the side and don’t even try to make money doing it until you’re sure you’ve got something with some real juice.

2. Keep Overhead Low Until You Build Your Confidence

Although I invested an ENORMOUS amount of money in personal development in the years leading up to starting my business, I kept my business overhead expenses low at the beginning. I started with a free blogspot blog, YouTube videos, Facebook and other social media marketing. My other costs like traveling to conferences were not “fixed costs” and could be cut back at any time as needed. This way, I built my business confidence before increasing my fixed overhead.

I cannot tell you how many people have come to me for coaching with businesses that have already or are in the process of going bankrupt. How is that possible? It’s always the overhead. If you didn’t have the overhead, how would you go bankrupt? You might not be making any money but it’s the fixed overhead that kills the business. Yes, eventually you will want to do what I did and add lots of bells and whistles to your websites. Don’t do it until you have the confidence that all those bills are going to get paid.

3. Set Your Sights Higher

Nearly every location-independent entrepreneur I’ve ever encountered is obsessed with “saving money.” Living cheaply abroad, living with parents, not getting any extras. And hey that is one way to do this. I recently in Vietnam and Cambodia had the experience of $100 in cash lasting for weeks unlike the day or two it would last in the States. As I mentioned above, I was not in a position to go that “live cheaply” route unless I was willing to unsettle the entire life I had already created for myself. Which I wasn’t. In my mind, I should not have to sacrifice in order to help other people. In fact, the entire idea of “sacrifice” goes against everything I teach because Holistic Belief Reprogramming is about finding the perfect solution that gets everyone’s needs met. So I didn’t sacrifice.

What I found is that money expanded to meet my needs. Would I have made nearly $400,000 last year from all sources if I did not really, really, really want all my debt paid off? I doubt it. It’s because I needed the money that it was relatively easy to make that much money. I’ve seen lots of people “pinch pennies” only to make less money and have the savings not matter all that much. (Learn more about expanding your prosperity consciousness here.)

I’ve figured out now from my recent Thailand travels that if I liquidated everything in the States and moved there, I could probably live for decades without working another day. Of course, I have no desire to do that. Why would I not want to work when I love what I do?

4. Never Open Physical Office Space

Because I perceived myself as grounded in San Francisco … becoming location-independent as an entrepreneur was not intentional on my part, at least at the beginning. In fact, I looked into getting physical office space in San Francisco. I was deterred by the high overhead costs and bureaucracy that I would be taking on … It seemed so much simpler to have a home office and eliminate any commute or extra expenses, yet I could not realistically see clients at my home due to zoning regulations. Right there, having a “physical business” was already seeming unnecessarily complicated.

Plus, although it almost seemed baffling at the time, I was not getting any local clients. My clients were coming from the East Coast, Italy, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, China, Canada, and pretty much everywhere in the world OTHER than California. In retrospect, this was clearly because a Higher Power had better plans in mind for me than I did for myself. With no local clients, there was no reason to get office space. And eventually I realized that this was going to free me up after I quit my job to be spending a LOT more time at my house in Tahoe.

(I used to race back to San Francisco after a weekend, it was insane. The mileage I put on my car was off the charts. Now I’ve had a new car for two years and it still has fewer than 9000 miles on it. What’s good for us is also good for the environment!)

I still remember how much resistance I had to trying Skype for the first time. Credit to Eric von Sydow (Hypnotica) for practically forcing me to download it and get on it for the first time. Once I tried it, though, I was hooked. Worldwide calling for free? Easy recording and video capability? All of a sudden, I put two and two together and saw that Skype made an international coaching business not only possible – but easy. With no need for office space at all. I never really looked back. Except for a few private intensive trainings that I offer in person, all of my client calls are on Skype. And that opened my business to be worldwide and … YES … location independent.

When I got into product sales, I also considered the possibility of “physical” products. Again, a huge can of worms was staring me in the face. Physical products meant tracking sales tax and dealing with shipping and all that. I opted to create a totally virtual business, and I must say, this has been the best decision ever.

5. Get All Your Debt Paid Off

location-independent entrepreneur

Gorgeous view at Ulu Watu Temple in Bali, Indonesia: One of many exotic places to visit as a location-independent entrepreneur.

Although it was certainly wonderful to make so much money last year, it was also a lot of pressure. Knowing that I had fixed car and house payments every month created quite a bit of fear. On the one hand, that motivated me. On the other hand, I had to focus on sales all the time. This year with my debt paid off, I’ve had the luxury of attending to some other areas of my life that had remained unresolved.

There are good reasons to get into debt sometimes. I am very glad I have this beautiful house, and I have a feeling it will be very useful for the business for many years to come. That said, get out of debt as quickly as you can so that the constant pressure to meet those fixed payments is not driving everything you do.

6. Consider Keeping A Home Base

During 2013, I have spent about 12 weeks traveling abroad and living out of a suitcase. It’s a lot of fun, and I’m always happy to come home. Personally, I find that living out of a suitcase gets old. I don’t like hotels that fail to meet a pretty high standard of cleanliness, and while I can tolerate them for a while, I would not want to do it all the time. I also miss my home cooking and smoothies when I’m traveling and find it frustrating how difficult it can be to eat vegetarian and healthy while living abroad.

location-independent entrepreneur

Exploring the ruins at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia as a location-independent entrepreneur.

This is where having an expansive abundance consciousness comes in. I actually have TWO permanent home bases: A beautiful apartment with a Bay View in San Francisco, which is rent-controlled. And a house that I own free and clear in Tahoe. The house provides significant amounts of rental income through short-term vacation rentals. Which makes keeping the apartment a no-brainer for financial reasons. I love having these home bases. Perhaps a day will come when I don’t need or want them anymore. In the meantime, I am grateful that I went the “make more money” route rather than the “cut costs and live cheaply” route. Given that How to Attract Money with EFT Tapping, why sacrifice?

7. Above All Else, Clear Your Limiting Beliefs

If you take nothing else away from this article, this #7 is the one to remember. Until I started this business, I had for most of my life suffered from the fixed limiting belief that “I don’t have what it takes to succeed in business.” It’s almost laughable now that I ever believed this, but I believed it for years. It’s why I went to law school and not business school. It’s why I let myself work at jobs that really did not suit me because I did not think I could do any better.

There is NOTHING MORE POWERFUL you can do than make a commitment to reprogram your subconscious mind. All the action you take in the world won’t add up to squat if you have fixed negative beliefs about “there’s too much competition” or “it’s too good to be true” or “I’m taking from others if I ask them to pay me money” and so on and so forth. And this is where I can really, really help you, if you are open to be helped. The 30-Day Abundance Challenge has helped countless people get beyond their limiting beliefs into previously unimagined possibilities in their lives. There is absolutely NO WAY I would be where I am now if I had not practiced this subconscious mind reprogramming day in and day out for the last few years.

Learn more about reprogramming your subconscious mind for abundance here.

A Note of Caution – Be Honest With Yourself: Do Not Fall Into the “Avoidance” Trap

location-independent entrepreneur mark manson escape plan

Exploring the streets of Saigon, Vietnam as a location-independent entrepreneur.


My ex, blogger Mark Manson, is a successful location-independent entrepreneur and a good example of the dark side of this location-independent lifestyle. If you are using location independence to avoid your home country, your family, your debts, your problems, the many women who are pissed off at you, or your ex … you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. If you are using location independence to make it easy to live in denial and pretend you don’t have any problems that need facing … you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. And eventually you can’t run any farther and like Mark Manson you’ll need an “Escape Plan” because the avoidance is going to bite you in the butt. ;) Don’t use location independence to “run away” or “escape” from your life because long-term it won’t work. Face all your issues at home with courage so that becoming a location-independent entrepreneur can truly be about freedom rather than avoidance.

Love,

About the Author:

Erika Awakening is a Harvard Law School graduate and former practicing attorney. She left the rat race to become a location-independent entrepreneur, holistic life coach, blogger, speaker, healer, and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT tapping) expert. Erika Awakening is one of the world's foremost experts on eradicating limiting beliefs and lifestyle design on your own terms. Learn more about Erika Awakening

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Comments

  1. Great post, Erika. I am writing an article on location independent business and I ran across it during my research.

  2. Melanie Roberts says:

    How cool.. loved all your tips and totally something to think about and consider… thanks for sharing

  3. Stacie Haight Connerty says:

    Great tips. Thanks for sharing and letting us know how to implement them into our own lives.

  4. Robert Manea says:

    Thanks or the tips.. i am in this space i believe..

  5. Cia Says says:

    I am going to bookmark and reflect back on this. You gave some really great insights.

  6. Melissa Vera says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I have struggled finding a way to be more successful in the blogging world . Thank you for the advice.

  7. These are great tips to consider in one’s own life. It’s important to set goals and to stay focused on accomplishing them.

  8. Scott says:

    “Get your debt paid off”. People just don’t realize how much of a drag that can be on your personal finances just to buy something that will depreciate in value. Pay for everything in full and your money will go much farther.

    • Yea I myself have used debt in the past for purchases I otherwise did not have the money to afford, like law school, house, car … I get them paid off as fast as I can though. It can feel like a drain paying for something purchased a few years earlier especially if that item has already worn out! I prefer the debt-free lifestyle.

  9. Kenneth Prince Smith says:

    This is a success story! Balance is a gateway to focus! Thanks Erika for the post!

  10. Inspiring Kitchen says:

    Good tips about your experience and how to implement in our own lives.

  11. Amber Nelson says:

    this is all great advice! It takes a lot of work and knowledge to do this sort of thing.

  12. Rosey says:

    Clearing $400k in a year is not just motivation. ;) I do agree, motivation could play a big part. I’m glad you’re out of debt, the fixed payments can be a burden. It’s nice that you’re sharing your tips and strategies with others.

    • Hi Rosey, thanks so much for commenting. Yea I didn’t realize how much I had been driven by fear until those debts were paid off … It was interesting to see how much more laid back I became after that.

  13. Marie Rahmaan says:

    I needed to read this! Thanks Erica!

  14. Lynne Schroeder says:

    Really interesting article Erica and something I am striving for

  15. celeste says:

    Great tip not to have an office. Rent is quiet expensive.

    • Totally Celeste, I remember researching it near the beginning of my business and how I just didn’t want that overhead. I also found that client sessions via skype were more effective oftentimes than in person. We could be more focused. So it became an easy decision. And a huge cost saver :)

  16. Chrissy Mazzocchi says:

    Very great tips, thank you!

  17. Lesley says:

    I am location independent but I’m not thriving yet. This is the goal though, to get to a point where I can go to places like this and enjoy myself while working from a balcony enjoying the good life. I envy you (in a good way).

  18. Erin says:

    I’ve been completely immersed in the discouragement part of starting up a blog. I’ve been too sporadic because I get so discouraged and stop writing for 2-3 weeks until I can pull myself back together and get going again. But I really want this. I would love to make enough money from blogging to see more of the world and be financially independent. I’m 99% debt and financial commitment free right now (I rent a room from my boyfriend – so I don’t feel like a complete mooch – and paid off my car two years ago), so I’m in a good place to get started. My only time commitment is online college classes. I just need to get past the negativity in my brain. I’m working on it and hope that soon I will be more like you with lots of confidence and taking hold of my own personal power.

  19. Its great to read someone else in a similar situation who also maintains a home. A lot of the Location Independent entrepreneurs you meet on the road are of the ‘sell all your stuff and be free’ variety but I’ve never wanted to do that. Even though it costs a lot more I like having the best of both worlds.
    Its also inspired me to read that you have a second home. We’ve been thinking about that too but felt conflicted about how it sits with the months we are digital nomads ie would we always end up moving between the 2 homes and not venturing further afield? Using it for rental income has occurred to us so I enjoyed reading about your set up
    thanks
    Hannah

    • Hi Hannah,

      Yes this way works really, really well. I’m so glad it inspired you! Depending where you live, the market for short-term furnished homes can be very lucrative. I was starting to feel stressed about money because for the past couple months while I focused on public service work (all these recent blog posts and facilitating dozens if not hundreds of conversations on Facebook), the money really slowed down. However, a couple days ago I started recording a new 30-Day Financial Freedom Challenge, and yesterday a Christmas rental came in – 6 days nets more than $3300 for me). The financial support is very welcome right now. Plus someone is at your house to report anything that needs fixing, and the space is not “wasted” while you are traveling elsewhere.

      If you haven’t yet got into EFT tapping for money, it greatly helps in bringing in more cash. And I would be remiss not to mention my ever-popular starter product, the 30-Day Abundance Challenge. It can be purchased at http://tapsmarter.com/how-to-attract-money. And you can try the first three days free at http://tapsmarter.com/abundance-challenge

      p.s. You may already know this but many don’t … be sure to get a homeowners policy that covers short-term rentals, otherwise doing short-term rentals can void your coverage. Mine is through Lexington, I had my first claim this year, and they handled it very professionally and paid promptly.

      Thanks for stopping by :)

      cheers,
      Erika

  20. Michelle Miyagi Cloudinfinity says:

    I am taking action towards this.I have an idea of my passions/dharma and figure that the more I actually do, then everything will flow into place. I have invested a great deal in developing awareness and in personal development/spirituality. I have thought and talked about what I am wanting,where my strengths lie. Now I am gradually acting upon my passions yet am uncertain of where I will serve most/best. I do wish to get off the hamster wheel :) oh boy do I !

    • Erika Awakening says:

      Thanks for stopping by … I honor you for your willingness to be vulnerable on Facebook and receive support. We are all dong our best to move away from conflict and toward love <3

  21. Adrienne says:

    Hi Erika,

    Wow, what a powerful post. I’m so impressed by what you’ve been able to accomplish so I just want to say that I applaud you.

    I don’t really have the desire to become a location independent entrepreneur. Maybe some day I guess but right now I’m in a situation where I have my Mom living next door to me so that I can take care of her. We’re letting her live independently as long as possible but that day will come although I’m truly hoping it’s nowhere in the near future.

    It seems like it took me years though to find what I was passionate about and it was there all along. I just never realized it. It’s actually just helping people and I found that I’m able to do that in the blogging arena and have just grown to truly love it. I’m working my way up to making a better living because I use to have those same blocks as well. Why would anyone listen to me and what makes me different. Oh yeah, I remember those days and they weren’t fun.

    I have a friend that does tapping and she suggested that at one time when I was dealing with something in particular and it really worked. I was amazed.

    Thank you for sharing these tips with us and they are excellent. I prefer taking advice from someone who has walked the talk so thank you.

    Hope you’re enjoying your week and take care.

    ~Adrienne

    • Hi Adrienne,

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. It may sound strange but last year I landed in a situation where the limitations on my freedom got very extreme. My cat had severe kidney failure and the prognosis was very bleak (wrote about it here originally – http://erikaawakening.com/fritz-the-awesome-cat-needs-a-miracle).

      As I was subjected to a very intense care regimen for a few months, including daily subcutaneous fluids for an uncooperative cat, I found myself dreading it for hours ahead of time. Feedings and monitoring also became very high maintenance.

      Suddenly I was a slave to taking care of my cat! And it felt extremely oppressive and imprisoning. One day I realized something – this situation was not okay. I was not willing to live like this. Death was not an answer, so I really only had one choice: get him back to perfect health.

      Thus began a months’ long tapping marathon in which I tapped away issue after issue after issue that came up caring for him. We got his test results back to normal range – http://erikaawakening.com/fritz-the-cat-miracles-of-healing-continue. And later even the vet agreed I could take him off subcutaneous fluids.

      Still his care was high maintenance so I kept tapping, and miraculously people showed up to help take care of him. Traveling abroad helped me break free from the co-dependency that we had all developed in this situation. And now I’ve got our regimen almost back to normal. Other than putting extra water in his food three times per day.

      What amazed me in this experience was how much all the limitations were self-imposed. I believed I could not leave my cats so I could not travel. Yet when I tapped all my fears, the Universe provided solutions. Been thinking about writing a new article on this subject because this was a blind spot for me for a long time.

      So glad you are here, and I hope you will visit often :)

      cheers,
      Erika

  22. Stella says:

    Erika,

    I distinctly remember that I met you in 2008. At the time we were both at a crossroads in our careers. At Thirsty Bear and at View Lounge (Marriott Marquis) we (Jamie, Rich, You, and I) shared ideas on how we would step up and out of fear. As I read this blog post, I recall my journey and stopped answering questions such as “Why do you live in one of the most expensive cities in the world? Why not live where the cost of living is lower?” The last paragraph hit home the hardest. Thank you. Thank you.

    • Erika Awakening says:

      Hi Stella, thanks so much for stopping by to comment. Yes, that last paragraph is the key to everything. Fear has to be faced directly. It cannot be sidestepped or it shows up in another form. The confidence I gained by “making it” while I owed $200,000+ in debt and had enormous monthly bills to pay is priceless …

    • Erika Awakening says:

      p.s. Stella, what are you up to these days? We need to catch up sometime …

  23. Simon says:

    This is exactly what I have been thinking about lately. I have started to really discover what my life purpose is which is what is inspiring me to think about making money doing it plus being location independent. Without that inspiration I would never think in those ways because I know it won’t work if I am not living my highest calling. But when I am living my highest calling I have the deepest deepest trust that the universe will support me in every way. Very interesting to read this right now Erika, thank you.

    • Erika Awakening says:

      Yes Simon, when are are living your deepest calling, the Universe will support you in every way … Just as when I was doing this on my recent trip to Southeast Asia, the Universe handled all the details for me (cat care, car care, getting urgent bills paid and so forth). The more you live your purpose, the easier everything becomes and the more freedom you can enjoy! :)

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