Why I Chose the Location-Independent Life — and 4 Ways To Dip Your Toes In, Too

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How To Use Your Offline Travel Time Productively For Your Business

Location, location, location. It’s not just an expression used by real estate agents. It’s something you might want to give some serious thought to.

Three years ago on a particularly rainy day, I was sitting on the train doing my normal one-hour commute to work and I was thinking about the meaning of life. Cue existentialism central.

I was working crazy hours as a city lawyer in London (I once arrived in the office on a Monday and left on a Thursday -- no joke) and I was starting to think that maybe, just maybe, this was all some horrible joke. In the time it took me to finish my latte I made two very important decisions:

  1. Since, by the age of 28, I had still not decided what the purpose of my life was, I decided to make the purpose of my life a life of purpose. It’s not as circular as it sounds. It just means that I’ve decided to do a lot of living and learning.
  2. If my life was going to be a joke then I should be the one laughing. End of story.

So, with nothing even resembling a plan, I headed straight to my senior partner’s office.

And no, I did not quit my job. I know that’s probably what you were expecting to hear, so this is a good time to explain that I’m adventurous...not impulsive. Sure, some people just quit their job and fully commit to their new goals in a sink or swim sort of fashion. I prefer testing the waters.

First step: new location. And that’s what I asked for. An assignment to a different office (in Dubai, as it happened). That first step lead to another (a roadtrip through Oman where the idea and the first sketches of Tibba App was created), which lead to another (finding partners and building the app). A year later, the app was built and launched in Dubai -- and it will very soon be available in London and the wider world.

It started with a small step, not a giant leap into the unknown, but I had to start somewhere -- and that starting point was a new location. The growth will come from many, many more locations.

I decided to live a life of purpose, and becoming location independent is helping me do that. Here are four ways I recommend dipping your toes into the location-independent life, yourself:

1. Start with the purpose and work backwards

Why are you running your own business or looking to create one? Money and financial freedom is a very good answer to this question. So is adventure, lifestyle design, independence, freedom or anything else that you feel passionate about. Whatever it is, really think about where you are best placed to make this happen.

2. Don’t assume you have to live in Bali. What other options are there?

Have you ever researched the living costs in other places? Could you maybe save a small fortune by living in Barcelona instead of London? It’s really not that far, the cost of a flight is super cheap (£25 or so) and the cost of living is a fraction of London prices. You don’t have to live in digital nomad havens like Bali to be location independent and get the same benefits. Check out places closer to home that would allow you to maintain regular meetings with co-workers or clients, but that provide your preferred weather and cost advantages.

3. Trade skills, not bills

I might be slightly bias here since this is what my company, Tibba, does but trading skills instead of bills makes a huge difference to your cashflow. If you’re a photographer, why not trade your skills for everything from free yoga lessons at a local studio to help with your website from a SEO specialist. Work smart. This is often easier in digital nomad hubs and remote coworking spaces as everyone is already doing it, but we’re hoping to bring it to the wider market. What would you do if you didn’t have to pay for everything?

4. Outsource

The cost of hiring a freelancer varies dramatically in different countries. And if you’re actually in the same place as the person you’re outsourcing to (be it Poland, Buenos Aires or Manila) they can effectively become part of your team. The biggest frustration with outsourcing is miscommunication. The odds of successful communication increases drastically if you’re actually working in the same place (even if it’s just for a short while). Posting a job advertisement (in English) on Craigslist in whichever city you’re visiting will get you applicants that speak English (helpful), and you have the benefit of actually working with this person for a period of time. The difference in efficiency is massive compared to training someone over emails or the phone.

Determine your purpose, then get out and pursue it

It’s not all or nothing -- and going after the location-independent life doesn’t have to be hard. Know your purpose, then find ways to start small while you fully explore the adventure.

Digital nomad and location independence resources

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Erica Werneman is one of the the two co-founders of Tibba App -- a barter marketplace for freelancers, small businesses and creative professionals. Erica is a former City lawyer that swapped the daily commute for the sun, sea and tax-free lifestyle she’s always wanted.

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