Once upon a time in a land not so far away, if you wanted to start a business, you had to choose a city in which to settle–not just for the business but for yourself. A lot of thought went into figuring out where to set up your new company’s home base. Delaware and Nevada, for example, have been popular choices because of its business friendly regulations and corporate tax laws. Once you got your central location up and running you could think about expanding to multiple locations or turning your company into a franchise.
Those days are over. Sure, there are some who prefer to build businesses traditionally, but today thanks to advancements in technology and the rise of the internet and the ability to receive and send money online, even internationally, people can start a company anywhere and operate it from anywhere else (provided local incorporation laws do not require a specific length of time spent on site).
Migrants have long moved to a new country for work, and then transferred funds home. This has been nearly completely those migrating from poor countries (or poor areas in the countries) to rich countries. Now individuals from rich countries are taking advantage of low cost countries to lower their living expenses while running most of your day to day from…just about anywhere.
Businesses Can’t Really Be Nomadic, Can They?
It’s true: not every business is suited to a nomadic lifestyle. Independent retail shops, for example: though it is possible to oversee basic operations from wherever you are, until you have a full support staff you are going to be needed onsite. Local service businesses that specialize in trades like contracting, plumbing, electrics, etc. Those are difficult to operate via telecommute. Most other companies, however, can be adapted to a global marketplace and base of operations fairly easily.
I traveled for 4 years in SE Asia while operating my business. During that time my brother took a year to travel around the world with his family while running his business. He visited clients during his travels which took him through Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, India, Singapore, Australia and more. We met up for a week in Bali. There are challenges but there are great rewards also for businesses that allow you to travel while you work.
Which Businesses Are Best Suited to the Nomadic Lifestyle?
As previously stated, if you work hard enough at building your company and support team, you can run just about any sort of business from anywhere. That said, there are some companies and business types that lend themselves more easily to the nomadic lifestyle.
Chris Guillebeau covers a few of these businesses and the entrepreneurs who started them in his book, The $100 Startup. One entrepreneur, for example, runs a linguistics and translation business internationally. He loves languages and loves teaching so he moves from country to country, learning the local languages and then teaching them to tourists and expatriates who choose to move there. Guillebeau himself has turned his book into a tour, a conference (The World Domination Summit) and a series of Unconventional Guides. He travels all over the world and writes from wherever he happens to be at the time.
Other types of businesses that lend themselves well to travel and the nomadic answer include freelancing and consulting, travel based businesses, hospitality businesses, arts-based businesses (music, film, etc), teaching and anything that you can base on the web.
How to Launch and Run a Business that Travels Easily
The first thing you have to do is choose a “home base” for your company. More often than not this “home base” will need to be located within your current country of citizenship. This is because there are many strict laws governing when/where/how someone can work and run a business in a country of which they are not a citizen. It isn’t always necessary to do it this way but it is often wise as the complications of doing something else are likely not worth it unless you are making a lot of money and can afford to hire an attorney.
If you are starting up within the USA and aren’t attached to your current residence, spend some time looking at local laws and tax codes for startups and start up in the city and state that offer you the best rates and codes. Also consider setting up a company in Delaware, which will allow you to operate overseas. There are still issues with requiring business registration in any state in the USA from which you do business and personal taxes which will be based on your residence state no matter where the business is based (and you have to have some USA residence state – even if you haven’t lived in the USA in many years – it will most likely be the last state you lived in though as always you need to figure this out for your specific situation). This process can be intimidating and complicated so, if you can afford it, it’s worth hiring an attorney to help you ensure each detail is administered correctly.
Make sure you can get paid. There are lots of ways to accept payments via web payment portals. Some payment systems require you to have a current bank account in the country in which you are accepting or sending payments. It’s also a good idea to keep track of exchange rates so that you can adjust your rates to get the best deal for your expenses.
Market yourself. One of the best aspects of the global marketplace is that you can market your business as far and as wide as you like. Most of the time, however, you’ll want to start small–in your local area–and expand as you are able to afford to do so. Trying to go global right away could overwhelm you.
Work and expand. As you build your business, you’ll likely want to hire people to help you manage your operations. Take this process slowly, just like you did with your marketing. Begin searching locally and then expand beyond your local borders. Make sure you mind your tax codes.
Why limit yourself if you don’t have to? In today’s world, living and working as a nomad is easier than it has ever been.