Location-Independent Living: Interview with James Clark of NomadicNotes.com

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James Clark - Traveller, digital nomad and web guy

James Clark of NomadicNotes.com - Digital nomad and permanent traveler

“After years of travelling in search of my dream job, I found that travelling is my dream job.”
– James Clark

James is a web designer and web-entrepreneur who’s been location-independent for the past 8 eight years. Since 2003, he has travelled multiple times around the world to over 40 countries, all while working remotely from his laptop. I met James earlier this year in northern Thailand.

You can follow James Clark on:
His travel blog: nomadicnotes.com
Twitter: @nomadicnotes
Facebook: facebook.com/nomadicnotes


What were you doing before you started travelling?

I didn’t have a formal career job yet back then, so my work was mostly labouring and office work. Really boring stuff that used to drive me crazy.

During that time I was always searching for what I was meant to be doing with myself. After not finding any answers at home in Australia, I took up the chance to work in the UK for two years on a working holiday visa in 1999.

Being in London gave me a taste for the life of travel, and it was in London that I became fascinated with the internet. I knew then that I had to find a job that involved working with the internet or travel – preferably both.

What happened after your two years in London, UK?

After London I went back to Australia for a year. I had another office job and took a web design course at night, which is when I began making travel websites. I still had a desire to live in Europe, so I applied for a one year working holiday visa in Ireland. In 2002, I spent a year in Dublin working full-time while working on my web skills at night.

How did you transition to your new profession?

The transition was relatively soft and when I look back at it, I didn’t even realise it was happening at the time.

After my year Dublin, I went to Switzerland for 6 months where I was lived with my girlfriend at the time. I was already starting to earn a little bit of money when I arrived there, and by the time I left in 2003 I was making enough living money to be confident enough to go back to Australia without looking for another job.

My business had started taking off, so I was able to travel more while continuing my work.

What exactly is your online profession now?

To someone on the street I usually say I am a web designer, which is something most people would understand.

I actually work in a variety of different areas on the web. I do affiliate marketing and search engine optimization consulting on other sites (see beginner’s guide to SEO and what is affiliate marketing for more information.). In addition to that, I do tourism marketing, travel photography and travel blogging.

In total, I run 10+ of my own travel sites and have a handful of clients I do work for as well.

How do you organize your work vs. travel time?

This is a tough one in which I still haven’t worked out the magic formula.

I am currently a full-time working nomad, so I have settled into a pattern of one month on the road and one month off the road. When I am on the road it becomes challenging to get work done. During those times my work hours is usually reduced to a couple hours a day.

What countries are the best value to live in?

I just spent 5 weeks in Playa del Carmen in Mexico which costed $850 per month, and that included a well-appointed apartment and eating out every day. Mexico is good value for sure.

Southeast Asia is another popular destination for low cost-of-living expenses. I spent a month in Penang, Malaysia this year but Thailand is even better value.

Chiang Mai is indeed one of the best options in Thailand, as it is more affordable than Bangkok or the southern beach islands (see the external resources at the bottom of this post for sample living costs in Mexico and Chiang Mai, Thailand). Plus, all these cities have great internet connections.

What are your 5 tips for aspiring web-entrepreneurs?

  • Embrace the internet and independence. First of all, if you want to be a web-entrepreneur you should love the internet and the idea of working for yourself. That sounds obvious, but the idea of being a web-entrepreneur is sometimes sold as an easy way to make money. If you don’t love it, then it will be tough when you aren’t making any money initially.
  • Pick a subject you are passionate about. If you are are passionate about what you are creating, it won’t seem like a job. I knew early on that I wanted to work in the travel business, so that was a natural choice for me. I work many hours a day, but I don’t consider it work. As soon as I wake up I’m already thinking about what I need to do (and that I want to do). I think back to my office working days when I would stare at the clock just wishing to get out of there. That was no way to live.
  • Start saving money now. If you want to work for yourself full time, build up a little nest egg that you can live on while you are working on your project. Start by getting rid of unneccessary expenses and get out of debt.
  • Dont be afraid to relocate if it can save you money. You may live in what you consider the greatest city in the world. Nothing wrong with that. But if you are starting an online business then your location isn’t important. If you can live somewhere that can save you money while you are building your business then relocating is worth considering.
  • Associate with like-minded people, whether it be in real life or online. When I first started out, I told a few people I know about my crazy idea of being able travel the world while working online. Not everyone got my vision, and a few even laughed. So I just kept counsel with friends who encouraged my ideas. I also discovered resources online, such as webmaster and making money online forums, where people share goals and strategies of making a business working online. Two sites I’ve used are Sitepoint Forums and Affiliates4u.com.

>> Have you ever wished for a location-independent job? What do you enjoy doing that you could potentially turn into an online business? Leave your thoughts below :)

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External resources on web design

External resources on living around the world


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  • http://newlifeontheroad.com/ Lisawsdream

    This has been a very interesting read. As I am a full time blogger and we are about to embark on our journey of travelling around Australia Motorhome. To read that it is possible to combine both worlds is amazing :) Thank you for sharing James Story of Affiliate Marketing, Internet and Travelling. Gives me motivation to keep going!

    Cheers
    lisa

    • http://www.nomadicnotes.com/ James Clark

      Hi Lisa, thanks for that. I just had a look at your blog and your bus looks incredible! Good luck with the trip – I look forward to following along.

  • Anonymous

    Inspiring post! We have yet to taken the plunge and “embrace” traveling as our “ultimate dream job”. We both still hold our 9-5 jobs while squeezing time to travel and write about travel. Posts like this continue to inspire us and show us the possibilities and opportunities out there. Thanks for sharing!

  • Flipnomad

    great interview lily… im excited to learn more from other successful digital nomads… really inspiring for digital nomads newbies like me…

  • http://www.balancedworklife.com/blog Bryce Christiansen

    Thanks for sharing this interview.  It’s hard to grasp location independent lifestyles when you are sitting in an office everyday.  Hearing someone’s first had account is super helpful in considering whether that kind of lifestyle is best for me or not.

  • venturing viking

    A wise man once advised:  “Embrace the detours.”  James personifies this ethos and goes one step further by consciously and conscientiously seeking & exploring the detours.  Cheers to your passion and venturesome spirit.

  • kinetic kin

    Creating the architecture of our lives is a beautiful, bewildering, courageous, chaotic, poetic, and profound process.  It is this willful sculpting that fashions art.  Thanks to James Clark for picking up the chisel, rolling up his sleeves, and sharing with us the blueprints for constructing a location-independent lifestyle.

  • island nomad

    Heartfelt mahalo to James Clark for his inspiring & insightful interview regarding Location-Independent Living.  Devoid of the prevalent self-laudatory vanity too often found in the blogs of digital nomads, his writing in Nomadic Notes is consistently, well, woohoo wonderful.  After years of discerning surfing, it remains my favorite blog on the internet.

    • http://www.nomadicnotes.com/ James Clark

      Thanks for the kind words, fellow nomad :)

  • kaizen kaiser

    Practical prose and poetic perception.

  • http://nomadicsamuel.com Nomadic Samuel

    It’s nice to see James featured in this interview with Lily.  Nomadic Notes is one of my favourite blogs that I check out regularly.  I think the point about following something that is your passion is very important.  I’m back in Korea to earn and save money for my next journey but I’m also trying my hardest to transition from being a teacher to a digital nomad with my mind focussed on my next post rather than the lesson plan :P

    • http://www.nomadicnotes.com/ James Clark

      Thanks Sam, I appreciate the feedback :) It’s been great seeing you around online, and I am looking forward to seeing where you take you blog over the next year.

  • http://migrationology.com Mark Wiens

    Great interview James and Lily! I especially loved the tips for aspiring web entrepreneurs. I guess I’m on the living-off-the-savings step right now while trying to create things to become a sustainable traveler. Awesome inspiration!

    • http://www.nomadicnotes.com/ James Clark

      Thanks Mark. Good luck with getting yourself set up. I loved your article on living in Bangkok for $285.06 Per Month as well.

  • http://www.roundtheworldtravelchallenge.com Tyler Woychyshyn

    James, thank-you for your point on finding like minded people to associate with. When I first shared the vision of working online and location independently I encountered a lot of “good luck”‘s murmured under even my friends breath. Made me wonder if my vision was actually just a pipe dream. It’s hard enough to make it online that you really can’t afford to have any more doubt or negativity.

    • http://www.nomadicnotes.com/ James Clark

      Thanks Tyler, it made a big difference to me me to have some like minded people around. Not just business minded people either, but people who like to dream big.

  • Anonymous

    Great tips and inspiration to work and travel at the same time.

  • http://globetrooper.com/ Globetrooper Todd

    Loving the inspiration, Lily. Sounds like the James is really living the life. A shame we missed him in Chiang Mai. Wes spoke highly of him too. There are a few other people in our apartment building running online affiliate sites and they seem to be doing similarly well. Hope we bump into both of you around the world sometime soon.

    • http://www.nomadicnotes.com/ James Clark

      Thanks Todd, would have been great to meet up with you and talk about business and travel. No doubt we will cross paths somewhere eventually.