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When No One Knows Where You Are. Or Needs To.

This guest post is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.

As you’re reading this, it’s 80º Fahrenheit and sunny with a light breeze. Not necessarily where you are, but somewhere.

That somewhere is where I’ve chosen to blog for a living. Most of the time, that means Las Vegas. Right now, this being November, it’s Maui. In other years it’s been Mexico or South Africa. I’m untethered from any particular location, and able to give value to my clients while neither shivering nor wearing layers. It’s a lifestyle that I’ve merely adopted, but that Jon Morrow seems to have perfected. Also, it’s a lot less expensive than you might think.

What motivates you? Yes, money, health, family, friendship, I get it. Those are all the universal answers. But what motivates you in particular? Spend a few seconds thinking of an answer, then keep reading.

For me, money and self-determination are motivating factors 1 and 1A. Following right on their heels is the avoidance of cold weather in all its dreary, cloudy, soul-crushing forms. I would gladly starve my children if doing so meant I’d get to live somewhere warm, and if I had children. I might hate winter more than I hate terrorism.

If the idea of blogging on your own terms (and closer to the Equator) resonates with you, understand that the demands on your time will increase. (That’s not a typo. I did mean “increase”, not “decrease.”)

What you need

In this post-industrial society, blogging has few physical demands. In addition to blogging, I run an advertising business. I write radio and TV commercials. You and I happen to be living in 2011, which means that all we need to be productive in certain fields of endeavor are a laptop, a power source, a word processor, and an Internet connection. Oh, and discipline.

If you can’t motivate yourself harder than any employer can motivate you, do yourself a favor and return to your 9-to-5 world before thinking about the remote blogging lifestyle any further. The distractions abound when you determine not only your own schedule, but your own workplace.

The problem with many people who aspire to blogging remotely but who can’t actually make it happen is that they forget one crucial component—“setting your own hours” really does mean setting your own hours. Not, “I’ll blog today, maybe Monday, depending on whether the mood strikes me and whether the fish are biting.” Rather, it’s “From 6:00 to 11:00 tonight, I’m going to apply myself as diligently as a new hire on his first day. I’m going to pretend a boss is watching me on camera. This is my probationary period.”

Remote blogging is a tradeoff, like anything else in life. There’s freedom, but with the concomitant temptation to slack off. With respect to the latter, you’re at a disadvantage to people who work in conventional office settings. Discipline is easy for them, because it’s forced upon them. They can’t take a five-hour lunch break when there are coworkers in the adjacent cubicles. They probably can’t put their feet up and watch TV when the mood strikes them. It’s doubtful they can work pantslessly, either.

Taking the plunge

As a practical matter, researching before you pack up and go remote is critical. One of my favorite working spots is the village of Playa Naranjo (Orange Beach) on the Gulf of Nicoya in Costa Rica.

It’s bucolic, and it’s relaxing, but it’s miles removed from the metropolitan first-world bandwidth that many of us take for granted. Customer support is provided during inconsistent hours, and in a language I understand only the fundamentals of. That means that I have to allot slightly more time to my projects, and upload them in batches. It also means that if I want to travel any deeper into the jungle to look at toucans, I’d better do so on non-working days. But it can be done. It can all be done.

Don’t assume that ease of communication is correlated with human development, either. The fastest Internet connection I’ve ever enjoyed was on a free Wi-Fi network in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. (The Mongolians never had obsolete legacy equipment to dig up and work around, so they started with state-of-the-art.) Months later, my failed attempts to log on to a trusted Canadian network from a hotel a mere five miles over the U.S. border were met with lamentations and the gnashing of (my) teeth. And they charged $15 a day for the privilege.

The remote blogging lifestyle—and it is a lifestyle, more than it is an occupation—isn’t something you want to dabble in and then maybe reconsider. Yes, it requires you to make sure you’ll have the right tools at your disposal and readily accessible, but there’s more. Like finding and pricing a place to stay. And pricing your existing place on the rental market to see if the numbers can pencil out in your favor. They probably can, but it’s better to determine so before you make the commitment.

If you can somehow engineer the remote problogger lifestyle for yourself—and it took me plenty of trial-and-error before getting it right—most of your clients, coworkers and vendors will be disdainful. Fortunately, you won’t be able to hear them over the surf and the ukulele music.

Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].

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Comments

  1. Greg, thank you for this reality-check post for blogging entrepreneurs. The life of the self-employed, as you allude to, is not necessarily easier than a corporate job.

    My wife, Louise, and I coach entrepreneurs and seek to help them develop a proactive mindset and disciplined attitude toward day-to-day operations. It’s a rewarding process to see our clients grasp their unique branding as they remain committed to bringing value to their customers.

    However, with a growing number of entrepreneurs working remotely, having an immediate presence in the global market and more connected than ever, the work day is becoming increasingly more complex.

  2. Faizan Elahi says:

    I also think discipline is important for every aspiring full-time blogger. Also, we should set our work hours in order to be more productive.

  3. Tumbleweed says:

    I totally agree with this article. Being a good blogger requires one to operate as if he or she is running a small business. And this takes discipline and commitment that no one person can instill; it comes from within.

  4. Hi Greg,
    My discipline with working has to do with being able to shut it down and stop working so much. I love blogging, perhaps it’s an addiction, but I do tend to work at it for longer than I need to.

    Blogging and any online endeavor is great for those who like the ability to be able to pack up and move without having a job that is holding them back from doing so.

    Finally, The older I get the less that I like cold weather.

    take care…

  5. Mark Aylward says:

    Hey Greg
    I’ve been an “entrepreneur” almost my entire adult life and so I’ve been challenged by these issues for a while. For the most part, I’ve managed to conquer the challenges of self motivation and changes in work environment. If I may, I would add that part of it is simply breaking away from what used to be a powerful societal norm (maybe not so much anymore). That you have to be working Monday through Friday from around 9am to around 5pm.
    It may sound trite, but being able to go for a run with the dog on Tuesday at 11am can really make your Tuesday night from 7pm to 12am VERY productive. For me this was a paradigm shift that still taps at my traditional guilty conscience from time to time. It’s OK to be non traditional. In every way.
    Lastly, it’s just not for everyone. I know some very competent people that just can’t do it. What makes THEM successful is that they realize it and stay within their strengths and away from their weaknesses. That’s really what success is all about.
    Cool post!
    Mark

  6. is something wrong with this article ? i’ve seen many blogger managed to get out and still enjoying without worrying much about blog.

    atleast i do.

  7. Tony says:

    Ah, metropolitan first-world bandwidth! I remember that. I live in a town in the Peruvian jungle — not ideal for internet connections, but I’ve managed to set things up to a workable level. That said, I still have to contend with frequent power outages, random internet connection slowdowns, bizarre insects and vampire bats (the latter, not quite so often). Motivation is also tricky when it gets too hot to think (that’s when I slack off).

    For me, it’s important that readers know where I am. I write about Peru, so living here gives me an added dose of credibility (I hope!).

  8. I tried to try blogging for a living this summer but failed. I think my biggest mistake has been not “setting my own hours” resulting in me Facebook poking rather than actually doing work!

  9. Luckily, or not, I didn’t have to choose between blogging or keeping my office job. My office job went overseas without me.

    Although I’m working from a home “office” right now, I’d love to get to the point where I can (justify) working from other places. The whole “verge of starvation” thing is a pretty good motivator. We’ll see how well I keep to a schedule if and when things settle down.

  10. Dave says:

    Its all good preaching how you can make fortune blogging when you have smuchs like Greg McFarlane writing your content for $10 a go. Pro blogger? or pro pimp? you decide…..

  11. Bougie Girl says:

    Consistent discipline can be difficult to achieve in the world blogging or anything for that matter. I have a musical playlist which listen to whilst blogging. Great post!

  12. It would be cool to start every year in a tropical climate!… Awesome work!… ;]

  13. Brad Dalton says:

    Blogging from home for a living is harder than a 9-5 job but if you find something you’re really good at its easier.

    I think writing useful content that solves real problems and content that’s vital to the solution to those problems, not just relevant, works.

    Its hard to find genuine bloggers that sincerely interested in helping first before making a buck

  14. Guy Hogan says:

    I like the changing seasons. So, my home town of Pittsburgh is perfect for me.

  15. Tom Parker says:

    Great post Greg. So many people think that working for yourself is an easy option. However, I can tell you from personal experience it definitely is not. If you want to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week you should stick to your regular job. If you want to become a full time blogger you need to be prepared for some 16 hour days, all nighters and a lot of hard work.

  16. I would rather quit my 9-5 job if i am very sure on what i am doing online, especially, blogging or internet marketing. Setting clear goal in blogging is very important.

  17. Thanks for your comments, everyone. Except for the guy who called me a “smuch”, which I’m not clear on the definition of but it sounds uncomplimentary.

    @William de Ora:

    I hear you. I started working for myself because of a genetic predisposition to not being able to follow orders from a boss. Therefore I had to push myself harder than any arbitrary authority figure might.

    @Mark Aylward:

    Amen. I know when I’m feeling sluggish, uninspired, or unproductive, an immediate bike ride or a trip to the gym can work wonders. An employee in an office doesn’t have that luxury: he has to pretend to occupy himself at something else instead.

    @Matt, Tao of Unfear:

    Sorry to hear about your job sprouting wings. Trust me when I say it’s good you didn’t chase after it.

  18. James Greg says:

    I think money and self determination are my motivating factors too, but that does not mean I do not appreciate praise for my work. Yes it can boost my morale and I tend to be more productive when I receive valuable comments.

    Discipline is also a great factor in running a blog I have recently not posted any article for a month on my blog due to some matters and this has stricken my credibility a lot. i learned discipline the hard way and now I’m seriously back in business and have updated it with a useful post today. I think discipline is really important or else there’s nothing as a good blog let alone successful.

  19. I like this article, and I think it’s a decent motivator if you’ve been sitting on the fence. Thanks.

  20. naijadotcom says:

    Determination and motivation,they keep you going when all else is lost and trust me.there will be lots of the time when it ll be.

  21. Lisa wood says:

    Hi Greg,

    Its good to read about blogging and living where ever you want to. It gives me the inspiration to keep going, and to live a life of travelling! We have five boys, and a passion for travel…funny enough we don’t mind heading to colder climates!
    I love how you can work anywhere anytime, and that you have set your work hours (as if your boss was watching you). The key is to be consistent, and to working smarter online.

    Cheers
    Lisa

  22. We actually packed up / stored all of our things and started traveling over a year ago. We both work online on different projects and realized that the only thing we need is a reliable internet connection. That’s it!

    So our Travel Blog “For 91 Days” was born and we have been in Oviedo, Spain – Savannah – Buenos Aires – Bolivia and are currently in Palermo.

    We turned 3 of our “sub” travel blogs into eBooks and are generating a little extra income.

    Working remote like this is not easy sometimes. Especially when we where in Bolivia, good internet is rare but we are both loving this lifestyle and will continue couple more year.