Meet the Nomads – Mike – Web Publisher Loving Thailand

This week’s interview is with Mike, an experienced Australian website publisher who has made Asia his home for over 10 years. He is currently living on Ko Chang in Thailand. Mike gives a ton of information and great advice for those of you wondering, “how the heck can people do this?” If you’d like to gain more from Mike’s knowledge base about web publishing, I recommend you peruse his blog, Retire Young and Wealthy

What is your business/profession?

I always find this question difficult to answer! If had to apply a label to what I do I would describe myself as a ?Website Publisher?. I basically build websites, which in turn I sell advertising on – not unlike what a magazine publisher does, but on the internet

What training/experience did you receive in order to be able to have this business/profession?

I completed a degree in Computer Science at university, but only started working in IT later in my career. It has helped me a little in my business in providing background knowledge, but you definitely do not need to be a technologist to do what I am currently doing. I worked on one of my former employer’s corporate Intranet, which helped give me some basic web development skills and in turn sparked my interest in creating my own website.

More than technological skills, you need to be a skilled marketer to be successful on the internet. Most of what I have learned is from reading and participating in webmaster forums like www.webmasterworld.com

How long have you been doing this?

I have been working on my internet business part-time for two years and just quit my full-time job in December 2006 to travel and work on my business full-time.

How long were you in your business/profession before you began traveling?

I developed my business part-time while working in a non-related job for a US company in Japan (I am from Australia). Tokyo, where I was living at the time is a very expensive city to live in so I had to work a regular job while I was developing my business.

I quit my job in December 2006. Then I moved back to Australia. I was fortunate that I was able to stay with my family, to save money and spend time consolidating and updating all of the projects I was currently working on. In March this year I bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok, Thailand and have spent the past month traveling around northern Thailand and a few weeks on the beautiful island of Koh Chang, where I am now writing this.

I had lived in Japan for 10 years in total and spend one year in China in 1998, so I have spent most of my adult life overseas.

What interested you in becoming mobile?

I knew I always wanted to run my own business. I have always known that few people ever became rich from working in a job. I had a number of ideas, but like many people I never carried them out. I was never really prepared to risk my money in a new venture. I wanted to find a business which I could develop in my spare time, so if I was able to achieve some success, it would then be easier to quit my full-time job.

I was living in Japan and even though I loved living there, I didn’t want to have a business that tied me to the country. Ideally I wanted to be able to spend time both in Japan and Australia. For nearly a year I made a bit of money selling Japanese antiques on Ebay. The business was going well, but I found the business model unsustainable as it was very labor intensive and a very difficult business to automate.

One of my other ideas was to sell real-estate in Australia to Japanese. I partnered with a real estate agent in Australia and developed a Japanese website.

I had a few enquiries, but I wondered how many Japanese were going to trust me spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a house, if I didn’t even have a proper office in Japan. It was also hard to try and meet potential clients as I was working full-time.

At the same time I was buying properties of my own and started my own financial blog: Retire Young and Wealthy I joined the Google Adsense program and started various other websites. One of my main sites is a travel guide to Tokyo: Tokyo Essentials I started making money from affiliate programs just by placing some code on my websites.

This is where it clicked for me. I could create websites, which I could then make money selling by advertising and selling products and services through affiliate programs. I could sell products which I did not have to buy or distribute. I directed any problems, which are generally very few, back to the affiliate company. I would wake up in the morning to find that I had made sales while I was sleeping.

I have always loved traveling, but I could only go once or twice a year during my vacation. With the business I was developing, I realized I could work anywhere I wanted to as long as I had a computer and an internet connection.

In a way it has made more sense to travel in countries with a lower cost of living, as my income does not change as to where I am actually living.

Where do you like to travel?

I have been in Thailand for nearly a month now. I can go to an air-conditioned restaurant and for the price of a coffee (or a beer) and utilize their free wi-fi internet for as long as I want. The water for swimming is beautiful and warm and you can find plenty of cheap places to stay.

It used to be possible to stay a month and leave to a neighboring country to get your visa renewed. Unfortunately at least for Thailand, this is getting more difficult. I am planning to travel to Cambodia and then on to Vietnam.

I like the warmer climates of the tropics. South East Asia is an ideal place to spend time if you are making money from outside of the region. Banking and communications function well enough now to run an internet based business. Living costs are low, so you can spend your time in the region enjoying what it has to offer while you develop your business.

Of course, if I can grow my income I want to travel to Europe and beyond.

How much of the year do you travel?

I come from Melbourne, Australia. The summers are nice but the winters are pretty cold and miserable. I haven?t decided yet how much of the time I will spend traveling, but I hope to travel at least for the next six months to a year.

The beauty with what I am currently doing is that I don\’t need to spend any length of time in a particular place.

Do you travel alone/with a partner/with children?

I am traveling alone at the moment. If you were traveling a partner, I think you would need to both be doing something similar. Sometimes you need to spend a bit of time at your computer. It could be difficult to work, if your partner is out enjoying themselves.

Is there any special equipment or infrastructure you must travel with in order to run your business?

I have a pretty compact laptop. Wireless capability is essential. I also have a digital camera, video camera, USB memory stick and an external hard disk for storing data.

I have an iPod mini which is a great device for traveling on long bus trips. I listen to a lot of podcasts, which I download listen to later on. I listen to podcasts related to my business, so I can be learning new things while walking along the beach or traveling on a bus or plane.

I have Skypeinstalled on my laptop, but only use it for personal use. I do all of my business communication via email.

After getting work related calls at all hours of the day while I was working, I haven?t had a mobile phone since I quit my last job. I might get one in the future, but l am currently enjoying living without one.

If so ? what brand/models do you choose and why?

I bought all of my kit while I was living in Japan. I don\’t use any particular brands. I have a Fujitsu FMV Biblo LOOX T75L/T which is a great little computer (this is a model sold in Japan, for a U.S. version, try the Fujitsu Lifebook P-2040) . A laptop is also good source of entertainment, whether you are waiting in an airport lounge or staying somewhere with no television.

Are there any services you use while you travel in order to run your business?

I use Google’s gmail for email. I rarely delete my messages and still have only used a fraction of the storage. My sites run on Dreamhost.

I have a number of applications like Firefox installed on my USB memory stick, so I can go into an internet café and have all of my bookmarks accessible. You can download a number of useful applications for your thumb drive from portableapps.com. I use Filezilla for FTPing my files, but there are plenty of good programs available.

Most of my sites run on the open source CMS Joomla and blogs on WordPress. NVU is useful for creating basic sites. GIMP is an open source picture editor, I use. I use Google’s calendar service for creating reminders to myself.

Are your clients/customers located at your home base or scattered?

The companies I work with are mostly in the US and Japan. Since most of the advertising systems run automatically I rarely hear from them and them from me.

What kind of reaction have you had from your clients/customers about your traveling lifestyle?

The few advertisers I have in Japan, actually said to me ?you could run your business from anywhere?. Perhaps they were surprised when I did actually move, but since I am creating value for their businesses and I can respond to their queries by email, there generally is no problem.

What would you say are the pros/cons of the nunomadic business and lifestyle?

Positivies:

– Freedom to live and work where you want
– Work when you want
– No commutes
– More time for relaxation as you are free from having to do many of the usual daily chores
– More inspiration for your work
– New life experiences
– Opportunity to meet new people

Negatives:

– You need to keep yourself disciplined and motivated
– Sometimes difficult to stay abreast of technology changes
– Need to keep track of visa regulations in various countries
– Could experience problems if you have trouble with your equipment
– The feeling of living out of suitcase all of the time.

Do you have any advice for those people wanting to set up their own mobile business?

– Spend a lot of time on your preparation. You need to develop a new mindset if you have never lived overseas before.
– Flexibility – conditions on the road can change at any time.
– Have multiple sources of income. If you are having trouble with one source of income, you will still have money to continue traveling.
– Have a couple of different bank accounts and credit/ATM cards.
– Be very security conscience when working in internet cafes.
– Get the appropriate travel insurance for both yourself and your equipment.
– Have at least one person who can help to open your (snail) mail.
– If you have an internet website, set the domain renewal to automatic or pay for 10 years in advance.
– Have several backups of all of the work you do, both online and offline.
– Be honest with your customers/clients that you are traveling and sometimes your email response will be slow. If your clients require you to be there all of the time, you might need to consider changing your business if you would like it to be mobile.
– If you have never lived abroad take a few short trips before you go for a long haul. It is a good way to prepare both yourself mentally and your equipment.
Have fun and enjoy yourself, don\’t waste time thinking about work/your business all of the time

3 Comments

  1. Great retirement ideas for myself and my wife – not there yet – but pluggin away at it!

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  2. Hey Moneymonk,
    You’re right that mobile business is simpler if you’re single. However, you might be interested to know there are a lot of mobile families out there. Check out http://www.welcometotheworld.org.uk and http://www.familiesontheroad.com. I’ll try to drum some up for future interviews. Personally, I had a blast traveling and working with my family last summer (3 kids, ages 13, 11, 6) but it does take a lot of planning (not to mention money!)

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  3. awsome interview! Mobile business is mainly for singles. It’s hard to do if you have a family. I travel about 4 times a year. That is as much as I can handle.
    It’s hard for me to live out of a suitcase.

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