May 14, 2013 @ 5:56 pm - posted by Robert

Sinead Macmanus outlines her journey from reading the 4 hour work week ( 4HWW) in her corporate cubicle to becoming a digital nomad, through to leading a location independent lifestyle.  She recalls both the highs and the lows and offers sound advice on the subject and explains the difference between being location independent and being a digital nomad.  Sinead is passionate about building a minimal viable product (MVP), market testing and delivering awesome products of value.  She is refreshingly honest and a far cry from the many Ponzi schemes that seem to dominate this niche.


Sinead Mac Manus on Living & Working a Location Independent Lifestyle – Transcript

My name is Sinead Mac Manus, I run a digital coaching and training company.  So basically back in 2007 I was in a really really boring job, we all know what those are like, and had a lot of time on my hands, so I spent most of my day in my office on the internet.

I got really inspired by watching and reading about a lot of people around the world who seemed to be doing really interesting things. And I read the book that you guys have probably all read Tim Ferris ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ and I think there’s a lot of stuff in there that’s, (you know you can take it or leave it), but I think the essence of it is very very interesting.  It’s like why do useless work when we can actually do something that frees up our time, more meaningful work so we can get out in the world and do more interesting things, and I think that’s something that has resonated with me since I read the book in 2008.  So, inspired by Tim Ferris and Lea Woodward, who for me is the Queen, she’s great, of location independence,  I thought well, I want to do this, other people are doing it; I can do it too.  So I was working at the time; as I said; in this boring job; but I was also working freelance as an Arts Consultant.  So the majority of my work I could do online, so I thought well; what if I take my computer and go work somewhere in the world?  So I thought Asia and I thought umm, what if I need to get back for meetings and things like that so I thought well lets go somewhere in Europe and I wanted to go somewhere warm.  So this is a story on how not to pick somewhere to live, so basically I read a story in the Guardian about ten nice beach places in Europe.  I literally packed up and went to live for a year in a small beach town in the south of Spain.  Please do not do what I do. It was very very cool; like everything is for the first few months, and then it gets really boring.  So now I live what I call a part time location independent life so I have definitely a base here in the UK but I try to spend every winter and other longer periods during the year abroad, so for me this is a more sustainable thing and something that suits my lifestyle so that’s why I wanted to share five lessons.

So the first one is about the difference between location independence and digital nomadism [ digital nomad ] .  So if you think of a digital nomad, for me I have the picture, can you have that picture in your head of the person on the beach  in a bikini, the laptop and the sun is shining, maybe there’s a cocktail beside them.  As somebody who lived in a beach town, if you’ve ever taken your laptop to the beach, it’s a really bad idea, you get a lot of sand in it, you can’t see the screen, seriously, when I lived Spain I had to work indoors all the time, there was no laptop on the beach.  So it’s a nice idea but it’s pretty hard to do. Also when you do work abroad, depending on where your clients are, it can be quiet challenging because you do, we forget that living in somewhere like London where there’s so many opportunities that when you go work somewhere else, especially if your’’ far away, like I was in India this winter, so I was very far away from my clients, and it was really really difficult to do stuff, so it was a big learning curve for me which I’ll take about a little bit later.  So for me instead of the digital nomad what I’m really interested in doing is ‘how can we build flexible location independent businesses that means you may never ever leave the UK, you may never leave your house, that doesn’t matter, but how can we build these businesses that are designed to really suit what our lives are.  So whatever that is for you, for example, as a mum maybe you want to be more flexible and you want to do some work at home, maybe you have, you want to go visit people down the country or you maybe want to live in the city for parts of the year, or whatever it is, whatever your lifestyle is.  For me I think this is really interesting that we can design our businesses to suit our life so its not about grabbing your laptop and go travelling around Asia for six years with the sun and the cocktails and things like that.  I think there’s something more tangible that most of us can probably get our head around because the idea that digital nomadism is quite, it can be a tough one to think of, I don’t think its for everybody so I want to share some of the ideas of how we can think of this in a slightly different way.

So the idea about building a minimal viable business, so its about: don’t build you app or your website or your massive web application with everything you ever think a customer will need.  Get to what the smallest unit you can think is possible that the market will bear, get it out to the market and see what happens, test something and I think this is really applicable to the small businesses building a location independent business.  Its not about stopping your job and then building this massive business plan and then having this big launch, and guess what, nobody comes.  Think about what’s the smallest unit, what is the thing you can sell, getting it out there as quickly as possible to the market and testing something.  So for me I think this is, for me it was key about moving to working for myself was about doing this while I still had a salary so the first time I started working for myself was 2006, but I maintained, I had a full time job at the time and I built up my freelance clients on the side so yes it was hard work, it involved evenings and weekends but it meant that I could build up that client base while I was still working and still had that salary as well. And I’ve done this for all my career shifts over the last twelve years, so this idea about getting to a minimal viable business, and I think the wonderful thing now with technology and digital is that you can get there a lot quicker so you can have an idea tonight for a business and you can have a wordpress website set up tomorrow.  You can get your social media going so you can start marketing so its really really easy to launch a business compared to ten years ago where you may have to pay £5000 for a website or something like that, so there’s a lot of really tangible things you can do to get going quickly and to get out to the market place.

So the next thing I wanted to throw out there, since 2006 I’ve been what I suppose you would call on the internet, a ‘minimalist’, which is I don’t buy new things and it was a really interesting experiment and I decided to continue it on so to this day I don’t buy shoes I don’t buy handbags and clothes and ….  My point is I can live in London, in a zone 1 flat and not have a very large salary so for me money is a very interesting concept so when you have a salary and you earn a certain amount per month it can be very difficult to let that go so my advice to you if your thinking about travelling down this path; which is a great path, is to start to see where you can start to free up some of that money and that time so basically you start to live a little bit more simply a little bit more minimally and this can really really help with making that jump to maybe going down to four days a week or three days a week as you are building something on the side, and I call it the no risk way to freelancing.  It’s defiantly something that worked for me.  The best place to find top information is the website, so Lea has put together some of the best free resources on really how to do this from everything from setting up a website to how to market yourself to how to come up with products and services that can basically work online.  Its really comprehensive and there’s lots and lots of free information out there.

The next think I wanted to say quickly was about making something awesome.  So if you follow; which you probably do, the digital nomad, location independence world you’ll see a lot of people doing absolutely rubbish work and I think it’s a real problem.  So I’m really into how we can create meaningful work and really create something of value that people will actually want rather than just creating something that will bring in some cash just so we can go sit on a beach somewhere.  That for me is not what life is about; so as people who are building businesses; location independent or otherwise, how can you take the road less travelled and not the traditional route of you go to college, you get a job, you retire and then you die.  So how can we shape things up, how can we do life a little bit differently.  And I just wanted to share that with you because its not easy and I would encourage you to embrace your inner entrepreneur and to build your location independent business and I’ll leave it at that.  Thank you all very much for listening.


About Robert

Robert was born with a Wonderlust and nothing excites him more than travel. He recently spent time living in Vietnam teaching English. Upon his return, he and Liz set up CareerBreak360 to help others achieve their Career Break goals.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Break out of your routine and do something sensational

Register and get exclusive content, from interviews with REAL career breakers and experts in HR, TEFL, volunteering and other career break advice.

* indicates required