09 Nov How I became a Location-Independent Entrepreneur
I can’t pinpoint exactly when I decided to take the plunge and become a location-independent entrepreneur. But I remember very well the circumstances around that very important moment in my life.
I was an equity researcher working at a mid-tier bank in midtown Manhattan in 2013. Lauren and I were on our first trip together. We started with Barcelona. It was my first time in Spain — I had enrolled in a week-long business class through NYU’s part-time MBA program — and Lauren’s third. She already loved the Catalan city from a previous visit, and I learned to like it almost instantly.
At one point, during dinner somewhere in Barri Gothic, Lauren looked at me with her signature, mischievous half-smile, and somehow I already knew the words that were about to come out of her mouth.
“Let’s live in Barcelona!”
My initial reaction to her proposal (call it her dream) was not the expected and almost automatic “that’s ridiculous”, or “sorry, we can’t.” Instead, the question that immediately came to my mind was: “how can we?”
Living in Barcelona… or Wherever
Today, I don’t live in Barcelona. (I have visited again, though!) Yet, I feel like I have somehow fulfilled the dream of living there.
Barcelona, in this context, is not just one gorgeous city on the coast of Spain. Barcelona is the representation of any city that I have ever wanted to live in. A layer or two beneath Lauren’s desire to live in Barcelona was the root of what we both really wanted: to have the freedom to live anywhere in the world! “Let’s live in Barcelona” really meant “let’s live in Florence”, “let’s live in Porto”, “let’s live in Rio”. Or all of the above.
How It All Started
Back in 2013, I did not yet know how Lauren and I could pull off living abroad. Neither did I know that the eventual solution had nothing to do with finding a job, or being transferred internally inside my company. In fact, simply looking at the job market as a way to relocate would have limited our options.
Late that year, I came across a blog that began to change my life. Derek, a.k.a. “Wandering Earl,” had been traveling the world since 1999 and documenting his experience. I remember thinking: “this guy lives in Playa del Carmen… and in Bucharest… and in Chiang Mai.” I was intrigued and bought his “How to Live a Life of Travel” ebook that taught readers how to affordably live a life of travel — emphasis on “a life of travel,” not a vacation.
I was onto something. Living a life of travel definitely resonated with me.
I had surely heard of “professional vagabonds” who roam the world teaching English, farming or dog-sitting in exchange for food and shelter. But looking at what Earl and other travel bloggers had been doing over the prior few years, happening in real-time and documented right on my computer screen, was certainly a reality check. Traveling while working, it seemed, was no longer within the reach of only a few lucky food and travel journalists. Dozens, hundreds, most likely thousands of others were doing it as well. They were armed with their laptops and their ambitions, turning coffee shops into offices. Not only were they travel bloggers, they were also photographers, web designers, ghost writers and virtual assistants.
The wheels began to turn in my head. I liked the idea. But I had, to be honest with myself: after 7 years of undergrad and graduate studies, another 8 years of experience in the field of finance (plus 4 years in insurance), and a recent career move into equity research that I had been pursuing a while, I was just not ready for a radical professional change. In fact, I loved equity research, and I did not want to become a traveling English teacher. I needed to find a way to marry my newly-discovered desire to “live in Barcelona” with the current career aspirations that had been serving me very well.
The Missing Link Was Entrepreneurship
I realized that what had been preventing me from living a life of travel and continuing to pursue my career goals at the same time were my professional roots — i.e. New York City and, most importantly, the ties with my employer. As well as my company had treated me throughout my tenure at the bank, there was nothing it could do to help me realize my career dreams while being on the road. I needed more freedom and flexibility than I believed I could find being an employee of the bank. I needed to reinvent my work, create my own content and find a way to market it.
Sounds ambitious and a bit complicated, doesn’t it?
This is when I discovered another pioneer, one that would have a huge influence on this phase of my life. His name was Pat Flynn.
Pat, unlike me, was forced to find a creative solution when he was fired from his company in the midst of the Great Recession. His career, it seemed, was about to crumble. Instead, in the face of adversity, Pat found a way to be successful — very successful — as an independent solopreneur working from his own home. Pat is not much of a traveler. But he has become an expert in online business and passive income ventures. Which, if you think about it, are great strategies for the mobile professional.
Pat’s podcast, “Smart Passive Income”, became my strategic and tactical guide to becoming a location-independent finance and career guidance entrepreneur. Noticing an unfulfilled need that business school students had to break into the field of equity research, I created my own company, Sell Side Researcher LLC. Additionally, I launched DM Martins Research and co-founded Idea Stork.
Wandering Earl and Pat Flynn, therefore, have both helped to turn me into a location-independent entrepreneur — through inspiration, motivation and hard-core execution. So far, I haven’t looked back.
Is Becoming an Entrepreneur For Everyone?
Recently I’ve read a few articles presenting opposing views on whether people should quit their jobs to start their own businesses.
I see merits on both sides of the argument, although I think the right answer is “it depends”. To be very honest, entrepreneurship is not easy, and it is not for everyone. There are significant risks involved with not having an employer issue your bi-weekly paycheck; a manager that helps you figure out what to do and how to do it, or a whole structure in place to absorb the impact and consequences of the mistakes that we all invariably make as professionals. Not everyone and I dare to say only a small number of us, feels comfortable stepping away from the comfort zone of a traditional job.
But taking calculated risks is what has allowed me to be the professional that I have wanted to be. As well as living the life that my wife and I had envisioned for ourselves. While success (however you define it) takes time and patience, and we are certainly still figuring out how to navigate our own path, I have experienced many more benefits from being an entrepreneur at this stage of my life, than drawbacks. The work has been rewarding, and “living in Barcelona” has been very enjoyable so far.
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How about you? Have you ever thought of starting your own business venture? What have you considered doing, and what have you done to make it happen? Are you afraid to become an entrepreneur, or do you welcome the challenge?
Leave a comment below!
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UPDATE: here’s a post that delves further into thoughts on entrepreneurship and how to examine if it’s the right course for you.