August 3, 2016
I’ve lived in some breathtaking places – a small Alaskan town with views of multiple glaciers; the remote Hawaiian island of Kauai, where my window looked out on palm trees and blue ocean; and Sedona, Arizona with it’s soaring natural sculptures of red rock.
But it wasn’t always like this. I used to work in a viewless cubicle, serving a tech company as a design engineer. That all changed when I backpacked through the Canadian Rockies, and realized I could never go back to working in a small box.
That doesn’t mean everything has been easy. I’ve faced the challenges of launching businesses from some of the most remote places on earth. A group of angel investors I pitched were astonished that I had developed a new product and got it on the shelves of hundreds of retail outlets while living on a remote Hawaiian island. I’d proven that you can start and run a business from anywhere.
1. Save up as much money as possible.
It takes at least a year of hard, committed work to build a new business from scratch. If you’ll be selling a new physical product, you can expect to put in several years before you start seeing any return. In my own experience, I spent about three years working on my first product before I pulled in any income from it. So before quitting your day job you need to build up your savings.
2. Trade your skills for location-independent income.
If you’re not working a steady job while you launch your startup, it’s easy to burn through your savings much more quickly than you expect – and a looming fear of going broke can stress you out even more, hurting the creativity and confidence you need during your launch. That’s why it’s helpful – even essential – to find a supplementary source of income that’s not connected to a specific location.
Start outsourcing any marketable skills you have – whether that’s engineering, programming, writing, graphic design, or marketing; or even translation or data entry – by creating profiles on websites like Upwork or Guru.
Eventually, depending on how long it takes to launch your product, you may want to expand beyond these freelancing sites by starting your own sevice business. For example, I began by doing freelance engineering through Elance (now part of Upwork), but eventually I started my own electronics design business.
3. Start building your audience right away.
Independent income is great – but to truly build your own business, you’re going to need a loyal customer base; a.k.a. an audience.
The ideal situation is if your service and your product appeal to the same audience. If this isn’t the case then you may want to consider building two audiences. One to sell your services to immediately, and one that you can sell your product to once it is ready.
4. Outsource what you don’t do best.
Almost every new product startup requires specialized teams of engineers, marketers, managers, and salespeople among many others. You don’t have to wait until you’re an established company to start hiring these people. If you’re less than proficient in a particular task, hire a freelancer to do it.
5. Use independent sales representatives to sell your product.
Here’s a fact that may surprise you: most sales representatives (also known as manufacturer agents) won’t charge you a penny until they’ve actually made a sale for you.
Sales reps can also help you get around another common problem facing entrepreneurs: big companies usually don’t want to deal with a supplier that only sells one product. But since your sales reps will represent a dozen or more manufacturers, they’ll stand a much better chance of scoring a deal with a big distributor.
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