Retool Your Business to Take it on the Road

Regardless of whether your business sells a product or supplies a service, you can run it seamlessly from anywhere in the world. Plenty of people are taking their businesses overseas: digital marketers, graphic designers, ecommerce entrepreneurs, online publishers…

Not only are they saving thousands in overheads and improving their quality of life, but they are free to explore any destination where the Internet is accessible…and that’s most places these days.

I’ve lived in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, a variety of cities across the U.S., and I’ll shortly be heading to Thailand. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to know that I can pack up all of my belongings in just a few minutes and move my home and work into a new exotic country as often as I’d like.

And you can, too. But before you book your tickets, here are some critical considerations that will make or break your location-independent business.

Communications

Your virtual office could be an Internet café in any country around the world…on a train or plane…or a home office in your new tropical abode. Whatever environment you choose, you’ll need a reliable Internet connection (via Wi-Fi or hotspot that runs on the cellphone network), smartphone, laptop, and a few applications that will help your workflow. My favorite “office” is a local coffee shop.

Download the online phone and videoconferencing tool Skype on your laptop and smartphone. Purchase your own number so you can be reached easily with a number from your home country while you travel around the world. Depending on your phone habits you can pay for minutes as you use them, or purchase unlimited plans ($2.99 unlimited calling to the U.S. and Canada, or $12.99 unlimited worldwide). I pay $60 a year for my dedicated U.S. number, and $2.99 a month for unlimited calling to the U.S. and Canada.

Documents and Logistics

Never has it been so easy to share files with colleagues and clients…or even across your own devices.

Bookkeeping

Being creative and productive is one thing, but it’s vitally important to keep track of your invoicing and accounts to make sure your money is coming in and is properly accounted for.

  • Dropbox : Keep your work documents backed-up and accessible to your team. By saving them on Dropbox you can share folders, documents, photos, videos, and other files and access them from any computer or smart device around the world. No more headaches when your computer crashes. • Google: Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Keep, Google Drive, Google Docs, Gmail Offline, and numerous other Google apps that integrate with Google and Gmail will simplify your life and will sync across your devices.
  • Freshbooks (starting at $9.95) is an easy, non-intimidating way to tackle your accounting with tools that will track your time, create invoices, manage your expenses, and more. Plus, your books are always backed up on their cloud.
  • Shoeboxed ($10-$100 per month) is a painless scanning system. Pile your receipts and docs into one of their blue envelopes and send away. Also you can integrate your Gmail, Outlook, and other email providers so that your recipes are automatically sent to Shoeboxed, filed, and stored away.

Outsourcing

Whether you’re the sole employee in your business, or you employ an army, creating a virtual team is a no-brainer. You save thousands in overheads. You also give your employees location independence and freedom.

Elance and Odesk are excellent websites to find independent contractors or to hire a virtual team. You can pay them per hour, automatically charging your credit card after you’ve seen and approved their work. That way you spend time doing what you do best and save the stress and headaches of doing the things you aren’t proficient in by hiring those who are. I’ve personally contracted workers from Elance who are based in India. It’s been cost effective and incredibly easy to accomplish. For example, for just $100 you can have a WordPress-based website developed or for $25 have your eBook professionally formatted for the Kindle platform. If you create standard operating procedures (SOPs) for those things you’d like to outsource, you can have others do the work exactly as you’d like them to from anywhere in the world. Outsourcing has been a game- changer for me.

Market Reach

Thank you social media, RSS feeds, podcasts, YouTube, and every other marketing tool created in the last decade. Because of them you can reach your target market from anywhere in the world for free. Make sure your company creates a detailed online marketing plan. Learn from your Facebook insights which posts attract the most views and interaction. Pay to boost your most productive posts, starting at just $5.

The Hootsuite app is a great way to schedule and organize social media campaigns. You can post to your Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest with the app. This allows you to save time and meet your social media goals without interrupting workflow.

Location Independence

There are thousands of different situations and countless ways to manage your overseas location(s). Consult with an international business attorney to see where you should register your business and how you should organize. If you’re an international citizen, you might benefit from registering with a country other than your homeland.

You will have to file returns with the IRS but, as a U.S. citizen, you are entitled to the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (it runs to to $100,800 in 2015 but changes every year). Make sure your CPA advises you what tax implications you will be faced with for each potential move.

Less is more. Your goal is to get rid of all leases, landlines, and file folders. Get used to the idea that your “office” can be you lounging in a hammock with a cellphone, laptop, and Wi-Fi connection. I’ve even worked from a beach chair in the sand—risky with my electronics, but so worth it!

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