This post is one in a series of interviews with digital nomads, and their experiences (good and bad). If you’d like to be interviewed, shoot me an email!
My next guest is William Bay of Flaunt Your Site.
I have to say, I’m amazed and inspired by the stories I’m hearing! I’m sure you will be, too.
Where are you from (city)?
I was born in Yokosuka, Japan, to parents that were both from rural Oregon. We moved to San Diego when I was 2. And I’ve lived a few other places, but San Diego would be considered home. (And with my answer, to such a simple question like that, you can’t help but to think I’m a super pretentious asshole, and that I can only eat my fish tacos with fair trade, organic avocados and spelt tortillas).
What’s your job?
I run Flaunt Your Site. We do SEO and custom site designs. Our clientele is primarily professional photographers. I was in the industry for a number of years, and still do take on the occasional wedding photography client. But most of my time is spent behind a computer working on other photographers sites now.
I’m also working on a couple plugin products that will take some of the custom features we’ve built into our sites and make them available for sale.
How has traveling changed your business (for the better, for the worse)?
Well, I’m not sure I will attribute the state of my business directly to my travel. This year has been a tough one for me. My worst in 5 years actually. And I did spend 2 months in Bali last November and December. So there’s a little correlation. But if I looked objectively, I’d say it was more due to having the mindset that since November and December are traditionally slower months for me, that I could fully take the foot off the gas, go into full-on vacation mode, and surf for 3-4 hours, follow it up with yoga sessions and then drink a few Bintangs with friends, fall asleep, then do it over again the next day.
Sure there were days that I did work. A handful of 8-10 hour days. But there was no building of the business going on, no great blog posts written, I didn’t even have a beginning of the year SEO Webinar planned like I normally do. So when I got back, there wasn’t much on deck for 2014.
So that trip was intended to be an experiment, and it was a bit of a failure. Which was surprisingly a revelation for me to witness the impact through the rest of the year. The travel wasn’t the only reason for how the year turned out, but it did set the tone for the year.
The biggest takeaway is the challenge; Running a business by itself, and then running a business while traveling. Having at least a strong handle on the first is incredibly important to making the second one a reality.
How much do you work weekly (i.e., 40 hrs per week)?
If I don’t have client work, I’m working on some plugins. I like to stay busy on projects. So I’d say 30-50 hours a week or so when I’m at home. I’m about to hit the road to Thailand for December and I’ll probably be working about 25-30 hours a week there.
How do you keep up relationships and look for new business while on the road?
Well, since that was essentially ignored last year in Bali, it’ll be interesting to see how it goes this year. I rarely meet my clientele, they tend to be worldwide and they find me through photographic communities, word of mouth, SEO, etc. So staying active in the groups is important.
Recently started my own Facebook group devoted to talking about SEO, UX, What potential customers need/want, etc. And I do a free website review each week. It’s been a great way to deepen the Flaunt Your Site brand, and stay connected, as well as great lead generator. It’s small, and it’s picking up a couple members here and there. Keeping up with that while I’m traveling will be a big priority.
I also have a lead generation ebook that’s in the pipeline. It’s tied to one of the plugins I’m working on. So in my downtime in Thailand, those will be the focus.
And I’ll spend 10-20 minutes daily on Facebook and promoting my SEO webinar in January. At least enough to stay on the radar.
When did you start (and possibly finish) working while traveling?
I guess you can say 10 years ago in Thailand. I was there as a volunteer building homes for villagers affected by the tsunami (The 10 year anniversary is the reason I’ll be back in December). And I had gotten my first laptop, primarily for all my photography and to blog. But 6 months in, I ended up working on the redesign of our organization’s site. It was the first project I had ever done other than my own personal html only websites. And that’s when I started learning about CMS’s and using CSS, accessibility… That led to SEO, and down the rabbit hole I went. Up to that point, I had done everything with Tables. Then in 2006 I discovered WordPress and it was all over.
I’ve worked and traveled after that, but smaller week long trips. Telluride for yoga retreats. Baja for surf trips. At the time, I didn’t know about working locally with MAMP, or Desktop Server. Telluride was pretty easy because of internet access. But with Baja, it was almost impossible. I could only design mockups in Fireworks (Opinion Alert: I’m not a fan of Photoshop for web design). Where I stay down there, internet and phones are handled via satellite. I first travelled to this little town 16 years ago, and even back then they didn’t have hard lines running to this town, they actually had a ‘village satellite phone’. I remember having to use it to call my mom, dad and boss cause I was stranded without a car down there.
So I got design work done, but very little got put up. And email communication was a little tough at times.
As far as being finished… I don’t know. I hear about all these “Wantrepreneurs” trying to make their nut on their next SASS or plugin just to get rich and relax. But they can’t relax. They’re just as addicted to the process of getting sucked into the computer and creating stuff as I am. People that create solutions, always find problems. I’m probably annoying to be around because of that.
So, while I may have a tendency to swing towards the “let’s surf all day” mode, I’m usually back trying to figure something out for myself or other people pretty soon.
Best place to travel?
Thailand for the food and the lovely, amazing people, Bali for the surf, and Baja to remember who you are purely; it jars you in a way that you never recover. It’s kinda like getting a societal layer of prairie shit shed from your body every time you turn left at El Rosario and head into the desert.
Worst place to travel?
I’ve been blessed to have some pretty cool places stamped in my passport. The only thing that makes a place lesser is when some asshole western traveler get’s an aire of superiority over the locals, or some sense of entitlement. That ruins my experience of a place.
(Soapbox Alert! The biggest problem I see with the traveling communities, especially on the Banana Pancake Highway, is that they think the whole idea of traveling is to fly or trek halfway round the world to talk to people in English who are doing the same thing. And in the process the local people, are there to merely serve them. I have been guilty of this too, but it’s not really my intention when I travel. It just tends to happen.
People even go to these places to teach people to speak English. Why? So they can serve white people in English better. I think it’s disgusting. I won’t ever do it. I travel with the intent to immerse myself in the native culture, and in the native language. /Soapbox)
Dream trip still on the horizon?
Too many to name… The Mentawaiis. A small island chain off of Sumatra with incredible surf. I’d like to live in Western Australia for a year or two. Borneo. Lao, Vietnam, Cambodia. Then there’s Central and South America, the Sub-continent, Gobi Desert. Maybe someday when I’m old, rich and retired, Europe.
Biggest issue when working while traveling?
Batteries and internet.
And for me, I’m always losing ATM cards. I am the worst. My mother knows when it happens too. She’ll get an email or a call, and she knows right away… First thing she’ll say “Did you lose another one?”
It’s terrible… I’ll have to tell her to forward me a new card when the bank sends it. And the address isn’t even an address… it’s usually just some store on a random dirt road. I swear, I don’t know how mail works in developing countries.
Outside of that, managing your work time. Other travelers you meet want to go out and do stuff. But you’re working for a living. So you have to figure out a rhythm, or adapt if you want to go have fun. Maybe you skip the social beers and dinner with everyone and work during the night instead.
What is your setup for working remotely?
Macbook Air 11”
I brought my iPad Air to Bali as second screen with Air Display, but it didn’t work out really well with the poor internet and wireless there.
What are your travel tech must-haves?
Desktop Server by Server Press
Please share your website(s), Twitter, FB, or other URLs you’d like to share.
My site is: http://flauntyoursite.com
Twitter: @williambay (I check only occasionally)
Anything else you’d like to share for those looking to work while traveling?
Figure out the balance. Do a small one or two month trip. See what works and what doesn’t. Don’t have the stakes be too high, and have some runway so you’re not coming home broke. Look at the trip as an experiment, you’ll learn more when you succeed or fail, because you can pull back a bit from the emotional aspect of things, or having regret, and have it just be the fact finding that it was.
And then just to be amazing with people. The warmest people in the world I’ve ever met are the Thai’s. I’ve been invited to random family picnics just by pulling up to a waterfall to enjoy the view. It didn’t matter than my vocabulary at the time consisted of “Hello”, “left” “right” and “1-20” they just loved inviting and feeding a stranger. If a country full of people can be like that to outsiders, there’s no reason to treat them like they are supposed to serve us. This is for everywhere. We’re guests in the lands we travel to. We owe it to them to be amazing guests… You know the kind that offer to help with the dishes after everyone has left even if you don’t really want to do the dishes. That kind of guest!
When you’re that kind of guest, then everywhere is home.