Interview: Jorg Bouman, In-House Online Marketing Manager

1. What do you do for a living, how did you become a digital nomad or remote professional and where you are based now?

Jorg Bouman - Digital NomadI’m working in the online marketing industry for 4+ years now. I’ve worked in different positions in Online Marketing Agencies, specialized in SEO and SEA, and worked as an inhouse Online Marketing Manager.

Besides working as an employee I started my own business on the side. I started with some freelance SEO and SEA work and later started with an ‘animation production company’ focussing on Explainer Videos.

Currently I combine working for a big Internet Agency in Amsterdam and working on my own business. After traveling around the world for around 8 months, i’m now living in Amsterdam, and I love it!

You can find me in twitter at @jorgbouman, Linkedin and my site.

2. Do you work by yourself or in a team?

I do my freelance work alone (SEO, SEA and Web analytics consultancy), I do my animation projects together with my business partner.

3. How many people work at your company? How many of you work remotely? / Where do you work from (where is the team based)?

I currently work with one partner in the Netherlands, and one person who is located in Madrid. So at the moment a total of 3. Of course I’ve got plans to expand the team in the coming year!

4. Why did you decide to start working remotely?

Before I left to Chiang Mai to start with this amazing journey I’ve already been thinking and reading about the whole lifestyle for a while. I have always loved traveling!

I love to explore new countries, new cultures, meeting new people and the excitement of the unknown! I’ve also been fascinated about the possibilities of the internet and doing business online.

Then I started reading about the ‘digital nomad’ lifestyle and I decided I had to try!

5. How do you keep connected with the team and clients? Do you meet somewhere frequently? If this is the case, where and how often?

Probably like almost all digital nomads I use Skype of other software to stay in touch with clients and team-members etc. I’ve got a Dutch phone number on my Skype account, but am not too happy with the service of Skype. So I might change soon. I try to keep contact on a regular basis, at least weekly! B.t.w. services like Whatsapp are great too!

6. Which are the biggest benefits and advantages that you have found by working remotely?

The benefits are, that I actually get a lot more done when I’m working. If I decide to start working, I’m a 100% focussed and dedicated to my tasks. I don’t let anything distract me. Combining this with the fact, that I enjoy building this business a lot and it has a multiplying effect.

Besides, working remotely usually means meeting other people who are working remotely too. Everybody has their own expertise, specialties, but also life story.

This makes meeting those people extra interesting! You don’t get the usual office talk like : “What did you had for dinner yesterday” , “Have you seen this amazing talent in X-factor yesterday”? “Only 6 hours to 17:30” , “Only 4 days to the weekend”. And that is truly great and inspiring!

7. What are the biggest challenges you face working remotely and how do you overcome them?

Although i’m quite good at focussing on my work while working, there are of course lots and lots of distractions while being in exotic places like Thailand, Chiang Mai, Indonesia Bali , Budapest, Istanbul etc. etc.

So, for me it was a challenge to say NO to doing cool things and do work instead. Another big challenge is the fact that people you meet will leave eventually (including myself). So, it might not be too realistic to expect to meet people you will see on a regular basis for the rest of your life.

I’ve got many friends and lots of family back home so it for me it will be quite hard to be away for more than half a year. I’ve decided that being away from home this long isn’t an ambition.

8. Do you think that you have lost something by working remotely?

Well, you don’t lose it. But it’s certainly possible to start missing the people you love from back home!

Secondly, if you do a lot of freelancing you could miss the concept of creating cool things with a team! I personally enjoy to work with other people a lot.But you can also create this while working remotely.

Sitting in a coffee place with other freelancers and playing some ping pong partly replaces this 😉

9. Which are the benefits and disadvantages for them to work with someone remotely? Have they ever told you something about it?

If you’ve got more time for your own business, and more time in general because you eat outdoors every day, got a gym in your apartment and don’t spend hours and hours of daily commuting, you theoretically have more time for your clients. This is a big advantage obviously.

Another advantage is that if you are truly happy with your life outside your work, this will affect the quality of your work. In other words, if you are happy you will deliver better work and are a more pleasant person to talk to. All advantages!

On the other hand, if you really like to meet face to face (which is sometimes just way better than Skype) it could be kind of challenging. But I haven’t experienced any big problems on this part. If you say “Sorry, but i’m unable to meet you face to face” you will work around it, and most of the times it will all work out.

One thing that I have experienced is that most people you tell about your lifestyle are VERY interested in it and it’s an eye opener for many people.

10. What’s the working philosophy and environment you look to have?

My ultimate goal is to have the TGIM factor for the rest of my life. In other words, I’d love to wake up every day, and especially on Mondays with the idea ‘it’s going to be an awesome day, and I will do a lot of cool stuff today’. I know that a lot of people are already experiencing this.

However, I meet so many people that are complaining every working day of their lives and are dying for the weekend to begin (of course, I have those days too). I think it is a shame to settle with this idea, life’s too short for this.

11. Which places, cities, countries have you work from since becoming a remoter? Which has been your favorite one?

I’ve worked from Thailand : Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Koh Phangan. Cambodia : Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kampot. Australia : Perth , Fremantle. Indonesia : Bali, Kuta, Ubud, Canggu. Malaysia : Kuala Lumpur , Vietnam : Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Sapa and more , Turkey : Istanbul , Greece : Athens , Hungary: Budapest , The Netherlands : Amsterdam.

It’s almost impossible to say which was my favorite, because every country and city is unique. If you’re looking for the most vibrant digital nomad community, there’s only one right answer : Chiang Mai, Thailand!

12. Which type of place do you work from in particular? Coworking spaces? Coffee shops? Somewhere else? Why and which are your favorite ones?

I love coffee places, when I travel around I like to try as much different places as possible, coffee places usually have a great atmosphere and most are great to focus. Of course, if you want to do client calls etc. it’s better to go to a Coworking space.

13. Can you describe a typical work day in your life?

Currently I also have a very cool job in Amsterdam besides my own projects. So at the moment my days aren’t filled with 100’s of different coffeeshops.

When I was a full-time digital nomad in Asia a typical day would be. Wake up at 8, open the curtains, walk to the swimming pool of the apartment complex, swim some laps for 15 minutes, take a shower, get dressed (shorts , t-shirt , flip-flops) , take my scooter to a nice breakfast place to meet a friend. Have a very nice breakfast for Asian prices, take the scooter to a Co-working place or coffee shop. Of course first some fun and talking, but than actually doing productive stuff until 13:00. Then, take the scooter to a nice restaurant have a great lunch (Googe: Massaman Curry).

After ‘lunch’ it all depends on the mood and the work that’s left to do. Feeling inspired and fresh ? Get back to work ! If not, a session in the gym? An afternoon at the swimming pool? A nice afternoon trip to a mountain / lake etc? It’s basically all open. At night time DINNER! You can get the best food for nothing (relative to western prices of course). After dinner many options : Go home to chill, go to the cinema for a movie for 3 euro’s, go to a nice bar for some beers, go to a backpackers bar to get wasted or go to a terrible club to go insane. Whatever you like 😀

Of course, these choices have quite a heavy impact on the day after and your productivity. But I guess we all know this 😉 During these times of intensive travel I totally lost the concept of “The weekend” and I loved it at first! However, eventually I started missing the reward of “the weekend” after a long workweek. So I think it is very helpful to stick to some kind of schedule and actually schedule your free time and working moments.

14. How do you manage work-life balance?

Of course while living a lifestyle like this people tend to lean more towards the “life” side of the work-life balance. That’s probably one of the reasons most people choose a lifestyle like this. And of course, there is a lot of freedom, and for most people it’s a lifestyle they can only dream of.

However, it is certainly possible, when things are getting busy with your own business the lines between working-time and free-time start to fade. For me this never was a real problem, because I truly enjoyed working on my own projects and building this business. However, if you are very strict for yourself, it can be hard to really think you’ve deserved this free-time. Because in the back of your head you always know you could also do more to make your business succeed.

So while you’re sipping your cocktails or enjoying your Sinhga’s and Changs you could also work on your business. In general though, I think the Digital Nomads I’ve met never seemed to had a hard time to enjoy themselves! 😉

15. How being a remoter / digital nomad has changed you?

For me it has been way more than just enjoying this lifestyle, enjoying the countries , partying all night etc. I think I’ve grown as a person on many different aspects during this journey. The excitement of starting an own business, growing it and getting your first client was an eye opener for me.

The fact that you start with an idea, start building towards it, and it actually works is just great. The idea that you can do things you want as long as you try hard enough truly applies (in this case).

So, while doing this you realize that lot’s of things are possible. A lot of people always tend to see all possible problems and obstacles while talking about great ideas. I learned not to do this.

You also have to be quite flexible while doing this lifestyle. You have to adapt to new cultures, new people, not too much structure in your weeks so you have to be able to “let go”.

Most of the time things will go right, so worrying about all the things that could possibly go wrong while doing new things is not very helpful.

16. What do you do to avoid distractions when working?

Wear big headphones with great music that gets you in a nice flow. Sometimes be strict for yourself and say no to another game of ping-pong, afternoon beers etc. You definitely need some discipline to be able to say no to all the distractions while being in different countries etc.

17. What would you say to companies that don’t believe in hiring people working remotely?

Do you rather pay for presence / input , or for output? Do you rather have exhausted, uninspired and unhappy staff, or energetic, inspired and happy staff / people working for you? The whole concept that work (always) means to suffer and to struggle is outdated if you ask me.

Of course, work can’t always be fun, and for some jobs this lifestyle simply doesn’t apply. But I think in the coming decades the whole concept of work for a lot of jobs will radically change, and I think that is great!

18. Which tools do you use that facilitate your life as a remoter?

Skype for business, Local sim-cards with 3g for forwarding your calls from your own Skype number, WordPress, and a whole bunch of Online Marketing tools. Other tools : Macbook Air and headphones.

19. Which places would you like to visit next -enjoy and work from- in your remoter journey?

Endless bucket list:

  • South America: Brasil, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia
  • Asia: China
  • Europe: All Eastern European countries.
  • Antartica 😉

20. Which is the best of working remotely? Which is the worst?

The best : Being able to decide when you can, and have to work and at what times you are at your best! The freedom to do different stuff besides your work.

The worst: While traveling around the world and working you don’t really belong to a “team” like you do when working at a company. So, If you move every 4 weeks it’s hard to get to know people really well. For me this would be the reason to always have a home-base in Holland (for now).

21. Which advice would you share with people looking to start working remotely?

Why do you want to do this?

Because you want to lay in your hammock and sipping coconuts all day? Or do you also / really have an ambition to build a long-term business for the future? Most of all : If you consider doing it.. What’s the worst that could happen if you try?! If you have some savings and you quit your job, sure it’s quite a step.

But (for a lot of people), if things don’t work out the way you hoped, you can come back to your home country. Spend 10 hours a day browsing vacancies and applying for jobs and you will find something. If you truly want to try, don’t wait, life is short. If someone else can do it, you can do it to 🙂

Enjoy!

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One Comment

  1. ” If someone else can do it, you can do it to” NICE!

    Bart
    17 December, 2015 Reply

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