The year 2018 has been such an amazing ride! So many things to write and talk about. That’s why I decided to reflect on 2018 in a 3-serie article. The first article is about my life as a Digital Nomad in 2018. In the 2nd article, I reflect on some amazing experiences I had last year and in the 3rd part of the series I reflect on my personal growth (insights, learnings, and wisdom). So, let’s go!
Digital Nomad Lifestyle
This year marked the start of my lifestyle as a digital nomad and solo entrepreneur. A decision I made after working as Managing Director of Ve Interactive Benelux for almost 4 years.
Starting a business while traveling
After two months of traveling through Nepal and India, it was (in March) time to do what I planned for in the first place. Living as a digital nomad. This entails traveling the world and working remotely. Sounds kinda cool right? Well, it actually is. But to be fair it took me a week to get into WORK mode. Many questions/doubts what in return developed a lot of procrastination. But after a week of contemplating and feeling miserable, I got my act together and started pushing the throttle. At the time I planned that I would make a living through 3 sources: a personal website, digital marketing and video production (bought an expensive drone). Below a short summary of how this looked:
1) My personal website.
In the beautiful Rishikesh I put many hours of work in building my website (platform) and created a routine of creating content two times a week. The content consisted of articles and podcasts. It started off by being themed towards personal development and productivity. The challenge wasn’t gathering the knowledge – in the last years I’ve gathered a lot of information and experience on several subjects. The biggest challenge was writing quality articles and spreading the message through social media. For about 3 months I was writing articles and kept up the posting frequency. The feedback I received on the articles was great. I also started podcasting (something I had never done before). I screwed up with the audio the first time, however, the last podcast sounds a lot better already.
Just do it!
At the time there was the international yoga festival in Rishikesh and I sent all the speakers a message with the question if I could do a podcast with them. I received several positive responses. However, no fixed appointments. I went to the event and saw a lot of inspirational people. One of them was Tommy Rosen. I approached him and asked him if I could do a podcast with him. He said yes and a month later it happened. I did the podcast and it was amazing. What an inspirational guy! Writing and especially podcasting are out of my comfort zone. However, with the mindset of a toddler, everything turned out pretty well. My writing got better and so did my podcasts.
2) Video production
Next to creating my own platform I also wanted to gain experience in video production. To be fair, before 2018 I actually had no experience in video production. To get started I tried the fake it-to-you’ll-make-it-strategy and printed 100 ads I hung up in cafes and restaurants across Rishikesh in India. The ads were simple and I offered the PWYW (pay-what-you-want) method. This was great because I could get experience and find out what people/companies were willing to pay for the videos.
Within 1 hour I received messages from several interested companies. The most seriously interested was an organization named: the ART OF LIVING. What is (I later found out) the largest NGO of the world. Really? Check this video where they celebrate their silver jubilee). I drove over to their local Rishikesh office and unexpectedly had a meeting with three senior people (two senior teachers and the director). At the time I still had no idea how big this organization was. They asked me to create a promotional video and they sounded pretty professional (meaning they new a lot about film production). Fortunately I have a weird skill of acting professional as well and thankfully I had done an immersion course into the basics of video creation and editing. But what really helped me big time was that I created a promo video for the yoga ashram my girlfriend Lotte was staying at in GOA. Thankfully I could show them that. My assignment was to create a video for their yoga teacher training course in Rishikesh. They wanted to present the video to their GURU Sri Ravi Shankar. This guy is a legend in India and has done some astonishing work across the world.
At the start of the first day, I was introduced as the video director to a group of 50+ people. I got a bit nervous but quickly thought: JUST DO IT. So being a video production director was my role for the next few days. After filming for a couple of days I started editing the video (with the help of my lovely girlfriend). Fortunaltey I was able to finalize the video. The people liked the video, payed me what they wanted (60 EUR – at the time a bit disappointing but now I can laugh about it) and I had an amazing experience. Check the video out!
However, although I liked creating videos it also gave me the realization that this was not a great ROI. So after a few months of creating videos, I decided to make this a smaller side project/hobby.
3) Digital marketing entrepreneur
Marketing and especially digital marketing is what I’ve been doing for almost 10 years. So it was quite straightforward for me that I decided that to make some money while traveling digital marketing would be the best short term option. To be fair, I love digital marketing: the dynamic environment, the entrepreneurial people, the data, the creative part, the strategies, the tactics, etc. etc.
I went through my entire Linkedin network and contacted everyone working in digital marketing that I was available for freelance consulting work I could do remotely. I received positive feedback and with the help of my network, I was quickly working for several customers.
Although I’ve been in the space for almost a decade, I was working in a managing director position for the last years. This meant I I needed to up my knowledge level. So I immersed myself into several training programs, chatted with a few specialists and subscribed to the best FB marketer in the world (a.k.a Jon Loomer). This got me back where I needed to be and upped my game big time.
Looking back at the second half of 2018 I focused mainly on my digital marketing business. Probably because this was giving me the greatest ROI. I acquired some great customers, did an interim role and was able to give a few in-house pieces of training in Growth Hacking and Facebook Advertising. I did all this while being abroad for more than 9 months and only in the Netherlands for 3.
It was totally worth it
All in all this year has pushed my limits and my comfort zone. I had to immerse myself in several subjects so that I could acquire the necessary skills. But looking back I’m both thankful and proud of what I’ve achieved. While ending this year with a good financial result is not the most important thing, it does give me the FREEDOM to live the lifestyle I live today and focus on the things I care about most. The last is something that I want to put more attention towards in 2019. I gained the confidence and experience self of being sufficient while traveling. So I want to put more energy in things that matter most to me! Sharing valuable content, meeting inspiring people, building a brand, growing into a better person.
My biggest learnings in regards to my digital nomad life:
Full immersion is fun and exciting
I have never immersed myself in so many new skills. I immersed myself in advanced subjects about growth hacking, programmatic and social media advertising. Furthermore, I became a better writer, podcaster, video creator (with a drone). I have zero to no fear of trying new things and failing. Besides the directly work-related stuff, I also became a massage therapist, learned to surf, practiced more yoga than ever and did a 10-day vipassana meditation course.
Fake it till you make it (but stay yourself)
A few times this year I implemented the fake-it-to-you’ll make it strategy. This doesn’t entail lying or not being yourself. For me, it means taking opportunities when they are presented to you. As Richard Branson puts it: if somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!’
Creating content is fun
I really started to love creating content. Writing helps me organize my own thinking patterns and podcasting is way more fun than I ever could imagine.
Consistency is key (but damn hard)
I was very consistent with certain things: eating healthy, meditation. But I slacked off with some big things. Like creating consistent content on this website, my focus changed to my digital marketing work.
Less travel more routine
The biggest productivity screw up was being at a new place every few weeks (I visited 9 countries this year and a few more than once!). I’m a person that needs to get used to a place before I’m comfortable setting up a good working routine. Too many stimulus… So I’m happy I’ll be staying a bit longer at certain places in 2019.
Thanks for reading the first part of my 2018 reflections. Check out the second article (about my crazy experiences in 2018).