How to Run a Business from the Road as a Digital Nomad in Asia

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Evans Walsh, Negosentro |  Running a business from the road as a digital nomad isn’t as easy as the gurus like to make it out to be. It’s also not as hard as you would imagine either. Like most things, you just have to work through the issues one by one and figure out the best solution to each problem. This way, you’ll get a great result, your business will grow year-by-year, and your team will expand along with it.

Here are some tips on how to run your business better as a digital nomad.

Setup the Right Company Structure

Depending on which country you originally come from, you may have set up a business framework before embarking on being a digital nomad. However, it’s also possible that you traveled across the country, to Europe or possibly into Asia to get the lay of the land first and haven’t set up anything formally yet. If the latter is the case, then it’s worth looking into setting up a company in either Hong Kong or Singapore.

Hong Kong is a banking capital in the Asia region and is a popular place to set up a business. Payment providers like Stripe are already located there, so you should have no problem taking online payments. Singapore is another base for business operations that are worth exploring to compare the costs and benefits vs Hong Kong. You can learn more about the pros and cons of offshore company setups at Asia Explorer.

Streamline Your Equipment

It’s tempting to move around in Asia carrying expensive computing equipment – many digital nomads favor the Mac in a lemming-like ‘follow the leader’ move – but this is a pricey option. Essentially, what you require is reliable computer equipment that’s affordable to maintain, repair, and replace. PC’s are far cheaper than Apple products, which now have the same Intel chipsets as a Lenovo, Dell, or HP laptop does. Buying a Mac is often about paying for appearances; form over function. This is an expensive way to work and travel.

Depending on your main line of business, most brands of computers have enough functionality to do what you need. As a freelance writer, a lowly N-class Pentium is fast enough to use Office 365. Even graphics designers rarely need a quad-core chipset to get the speed and facilities they need. Avoid overspending on tech gear to fit in with the nomadic crowd. You’ll need the cash for expansion and to weather possible hard times.

Forget the Idyllic Digital Nomad Fantasy

The picture postcard image of a digital nomad sitting on the beach with a laptop balanced in front of them, typing away, is cute, but not close to reality. In truth, the laptop would overheat, get sand inside, and quickly stop functioning. In Asia, the challenge is to keep a laptop cool, so it functions properly and doesn’t break down.

Divide your work time and relaxation time. This way, you can relax on the beach without worrying about work and hunker down on other days in your co-working space or apartment to get work done when you choose.

Travel Very Slowly

When you get out to Asia, if you think that you’ll be skipping from town to town every couple of days and changing countries every week, just try it. You will quickly realize that between packing time, traveling to a new destination and catching up on sleep, you won’t get much work completed. Whether you’re developing your own projects or working as a freelancer for clients, everything will grind to a halt.

When you arrive and settle into a new place, you’ll want to look around like a tourist. The problem is that you’ve likely lost 1-2 days just preparing to relocate and executing a move, so you need to get back to business! You’ll be sorely tempted to sightsee and that’s just as true when you travel too fast.

Adapt by traveling slowly. Stay in each country for 3+ months to create a regular working routine to ensure you stay productive. Then you have time to explore over that 13-week period and each move won’t be as disruptive to your business operations either.

Stay Regularly in Touch with Clients

Given that you don’t work in their city, it’s important that clients feel that you’re contactable on a regular basis. While they likely will accept that you’re on a different continent and have a variable time-zone, when they need to reach you, they’ll still expect a fast response.

The best way to handle clients’ expectations for being contactable is to be responsive to their messages during your uptime. This way, when you’re asleep or traveling, they’ll be more accepting of delays in replies. They won’t merge both situations in their head and think that you’re always hard to reach, which can happen when you take a day or longer to reply to messages and email.

Laisse Faire Attitude Won’t Please Your Clients

In many Asian countries, there’s a tendency for people to be fairly laid back. The locals don’t work competitively or at the rapid pace of developed nations. They want you to be like them. Walk slowly, never rush, and be laid back. It’s easy to get a relaxed attitude towards all aspects of your life. Just remember, when you’re dealing with Western clients, they won’t have the same relaxed attitude.

Clients have the same high expectations they always had, regardless of your personal circumstances. Therefore, you must be able to switch back ‘ON’ when you get back into work mode and not carry a relaxed attitude into your working life. They don’t really care about your work/life balance. They care about deliverables that they’re waiting on.

Being successful as a digital nomad means balancing travel and work well enough to get the job done regardless of circumstances. When your 4G LTE mobile internet connection drops out, you need to have a plan in place for what to do about it. If you’re sick, how will you handle client delays? In each case, it helps to plan for a few bad eventualities to ensure that your business stays on-track regardless of your current location or personal circumstances. That’s never easy, but it’s a balancing act that you must maintain to grow your business into a successful one while on the road.