Neville Andrew Mehra
  • Neville Andrew Mehra

  • From Washington, DC
  • Founder of Snoozester and Nampora

  • Business Model: Cloud ServiceFreelance
  • $20,000+monthly revenue
  • $5,000+monthly profit
  • All info self-reported by interviewee
  • Published October 25, 2019
  • Edited by Rita Epps

Who are you and how do you make money online?

Hi, my name is Neville Andrew Mehra. I left my last “real job” working in a corporate office back in 2007, and then became a full-time digital nomad in 2012. 

I planned to start with a six-month trip in Europe and Asia, but seven years and 286 stops later, I’m still at it.

Neville Andrew Mehra horse riding in Patagonia
Horseback riding in Patagonia, 2018

I wish I could say that I have this really simple online business where we charge each customer $10 and profit $5 and that’s it. But the reality is a bit more complicated than that. 

My business isn’t just one business, but actually a collection of different businesses and activities that I do to make money. These days most of my income comes from consulting, but the business I started back in 2004 (Snoozester) still makes about $80,000 gross and $27,000 profit each year.

What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea for your business?

I’ve been making websites since way back in the 1990’s. In 2004, I co-founded Snoozester, a web-based, wake up call service. Yes, we actually get paid to call and wake people up. No, I’m not joking. 

The backstory is that one day, a friend of mine said, “Nothing wakes me up like a ringing phone”. We were all students at the time, so oversleeping was a pretty common problem (this was also years before the iPhone was invented, and not everyone had mobile phones yet). Hearing this, a lightbulb went off in my co-founder’s mind. As a programmer, his first thought was, “I wonder if I could program a computer to call you every morning?”

Neville Andrew Mehra in Hawaii
Hiking hot lava in Hawaii, 2017

We did a little research and discovered two things:

  • There was already one website that let you schedule wake up calls online. It seemed like they were making money, but their web interface was really bad. We knew we could do better.
  • It was possible, but pretty difficult to do any kind of phone call automation or programming. You needed to buy hardware, these special modem boards that IBM made, and then put those in a server, and co-locate the server in a telecom company’s data center. Very cost-prohibitive.

How did you prepare to launch the business?

A short time after that, we got lucky. 

Just as we were trying to figure out all of this phone programming stuff, Asterisk 1.0 was released. Asterisk is an open-source PBX. In other words, it’s a piece of free software that takes the place of thousands of dollars worth of phone system hardware. Exactly what we needed.

A few months of development later, and we launched Snoozester to the public. Users could go on our website and schedule a wake up call that they would then receive on their home or mobile phone. 

Snoozester homepage
Snoozester homepage, 2019

I can’t tell you how many people have asked me over the years if I wake up super early and make all of the calls myself. No! The wake up calls are fully automated. 

But… In our youthful innocence (idiocy?) we thought it would be funny to offer different options for the voice that calls to wake you up. So, I recorded the same “Hello this is your scheduled wake up call from Snoozester…” message in a bunch of different voices/accents. Later we added more voices (not recorded by me) as well as reminder calls (you can type in a message like, “Don’t forget to take your pill” and the service will call you at the scheduled time and read you the message). 

Editor’s note: making money online by waking people up is weird enough that we’ve added it to our list of weird ways people make money online.

How did you make your first $100?

When we launched, we called Snoozester a “beta” service since that was the cool thing to do back then 😆 (remember when Google was in beta forever?). We delivered around 20,000 calls during the beta period.

Finally, about one and a half years after we first launched, we actually started charging for the service. We offered users a couple of options for paying: they could either prepay for a set number of calls or sign up for a monthly subscription.

Snoozester pricing plan, 2019
Snoozester pricing plan, 2019

In the first month we started taking payments, we brought in $215.62. Over the next twelve months, we brought in $17,000 more. People were willing to pay for wake up calls! But we weren’t exactly on track to become dotcom billionaires. 

For context, we started Snoozester a few months after Mark Zuckerburg founded Facebook, and before YouTube or Spotify existed. Those may seem like ridiculous comparisons, but that’s the level of success that we were aiming for. 

One of the first lessons that you learn in most businesses – and one that we learned early on at Snoozester is that, unlike the famous quote from Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will not come.

Not unless you tell them to. In other words, you have to market your product/service! 

We wrote and shared press releases, posted on message boards, and even printed and handed out little cards to promote Snoozester. But the thing that drove the most traffic and new users to our site was Google AdWords. Whenever someone would do a search for “wake up calls” or related keywords like “wake up on time” and “stop oversleeping” we would pay Google (and Yahoo back then) to show a little ad for Snoozester. 

Side note: People often say to me, “I don’t know who is dumb enough to click on those ads! I never click on ads!” To which I can only reply: You’re wrong. I’ve spent millions of dollars over the years on those ads, because they do work and I’ve got the data to prove it. But don’t just take my word for it. Google generated $32.6 billion in advertising revenue in the second quarter of 2019 alone.

Neville Andrew Mehra in the Sahara Desert
Visiting the Sahara Desert, Morocco, 2016

The other interesting thing that happened after we launched is that businesses started contacting us to ask if they could use our technology. One of the first projects was a marketing campaign for Axe (the body spray made by Unilever; also known as Lynx in the U.K.). They were launching a new shower gel, and their marketing agency had this idea for a campaign.

Teams of Axe’s “naughty nurses” would go out to nightclubs in big cities around the United States. They would offer wake up calls to help guys who were out partying and would probably be hung over in the morning. This fit well with the shower gel which was called Axe Recovery and claimed to “wash away your hangover”.

Axe Wake Up Call Campaign
Axe Wake Up Call Campaign 2006, in partnership with Snoozester.

It also fit well with Snoozester, since we were in the business of delivering wake up calls, and we had the technology to make this happen. The campaign was a hit and it ended up winning a couple of IMA awards. The same marketing agency started pitching similar campaigns powered by Snoozester to their other clients.

We created a separate website to promote Snoozester’s business services and did wake up call marketing campaigns for Body by Milk, Bustelo Cool coffee and the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper among others.

Bustelo Cool Wake Up Call Scheduling Form
Bustelo Cool Wake Up Call Scheduling Form, in partnership with Snoozester.

Unlike our consumer-facing wake up call service where each customer paid us a few dollars per month, our business engagements generated thousands or tens of thousands of dollars each.

That was real money!

All this time, from coming up with the idea for Snoozester back in 2004 through the launch of the consumer-facing service and the first few projects we did for businesses, my co-founder and I were both working full-time, I.T., office jobs in Washington, DC for another company.  I was also studying for my bachelor’s degree at University at the time. 

Snoozester was technically just a side project. We worked on it after work on the days when I didn’t have classes, and on Sundays. My schedule was crazy! Eventually, I dropped out of University.

Neville Andrew Mehra at work in 2002
Neville at work back in 2002. (Yup, that’s really him!)

How much money did you have to spend to get started?

We knew that if we wanted to take Snoozester to the next level, that we were going to have to devote more time to it than we had been. We would have to quit our regular jobs and go all-in on Snoozester. That was a scary prospect! 

What made it even scarier was the fact that neither of us really believed in the wake up call business. We built it on a whim, to solve a problem that we didn’t have. Neither of us actually used the service! We both used the built-in alarm apps on our phones to wake up. 

We wanted to build a real startup. One that we did believe in and that could make us billionaires. 

We read TechCrunch daily and watched as companies that had started after us were rising much further and faster than we were. But Snoozester did have some traction. Our plan was to pivot from being a wake up call and reminder service into a much more comprehensive appointment scheduling service. 

In those days, comparison shopping websites, like Google Shopping, were new and very popular. Those sites let you compare prices for the same product across multiple stores so you can find the best deal. My vision for Snoozester was to become a comparison scheduling website. A marketplace, in effect, where you would be able to go and say “I need a dentist appointment” (or a haircut or an oil change or whatever) at 5 PM on Tuesday, and the website would show you available providers in your area along with reviews and prices. The service would be free for users, and we would earn a commission from the providers.

Neville Andrew Mehra wedding day
Neville and his wife on their wedding day in Portugal, 2018

Obviously this was a huge pivot from what Snoozester was actually in the business of doing at the time. We figured it would take years of development to build the website and backend that would be needed, plus a lot of time and effort to market the service and to get businesses on board.

Our goal was to raise several million dollars of venture capital to cover those development and marketing costs (and to speed up the time it would take). We had virtually zero contacts in the startup world, and we didn’t know anyone else who had ever actually raised capital for their startup.

We decided to quit our jobs and go all in on Snoozester anyway. We made a deal to borrow $60,000 to cover our personal expenses while we worked on the business and raising more capital. Then, in November 2007, three years after we started working on Snoozester, we gave notice and quit our jobs. 

Talk us through your first few months in business.

When we quit our jobs to work on Snoozester full-time, I was 23 years old, but I had already been working in the corporate world for years. I think I was making around $70,000 per year back then. That was a lot of money for someone my age at the time. Then after quitting, I didn’t have a salary any more. And the money I made from Snoozester went from being “a little extra money on the side” to “a lot less than I’m used to earning.” 

Having that loan meant that we didn’t have to worry about not being able to make the rent or pay for groceries, but we were on the hook for that money. This made us very careful. We didn’t even take all of the loan at once. I think we took about half of it over a period of several months.

The other thing that happened when we quit our jobs was that our former bosses asked each of us if we would be willing to help them with projects from time-to-time in future. 

As with I.T. departments all over the world, there were some systems or bits of code that no one else knew how to fix. 

We had just quit our jobs to go all-in and focus on growing Snoozester full-time, so it would be unfair if one of us was making a bunch of money on the side, working on something other than Snoozester. At the same time, we were scared of running out of money. That loan wasn’t going to last forever, and we weren’t getting any replies, let alone meetings, let alone money from the VC’s I was reaching out to. 

So we told our former bosses, “Sure, we can help you, here’s our hourly rate”. We also agreed that whatever money we earned freelancing, we would put into the company. We each had friends and people in our professional networks that would occasionally reach out to us for help with some computer or website problem. We told them the same thing: we can help you, but we have to bill you through our company. 

It didn’t take long for them to take us up on the offer. Within weeks after we quit our jobs, we were being asked to help out on projects. 

When it came time to bill for our work, we thought it sounded ridiculous to send an invoice for serious I.T. services under the company name “Snoozester”, so we rearranged the letters in our own names and slapped together a quick logo in photoshop. Nampora was born.

Nampora logo

We didn’t even bother incorporating Nampora, we just made it a “trade name” of Snoozester. 

How does the business make money today?

Today, I earn most of my income from the strategy consulting work that I do for Nampora’s clients. 

Snoozester is still up and running, fifteen years later, and it continues to generate around $80,000 in revenue per year. We still get hundreds of new sign-ups every month, and Google Adwords continues to be our primary traffic source. We spend around $3,000 per month on ads. 

In total, we have generated well over $1,000,000 in revenue and delivered millions and millions of calls since we started. 

But I haven’t actively worked on Snoozester for years and our grand plans for the Snoozester Comparison Scheduling Marketplace never really went anywhere. 

Snoozester’s Google Analytics
Snoozester’s Google Analytics data, 2005-2019.

Instead, in those early days after quitting our jobs, our focus shifted from trying to build a billion dollar business to bootstrapping so we could make payroll next month. We did that through a combination of what can best be described as “odd jobs” – doing a Snoozester wake up call marketing campaign for one client, building a website for another client, and implementing SalesForce.com for another client.

What are some of the challenges particular to this kind of online business?

Because our revenue was made up of a bunch of very different projects for different types of clients, there was never enough of one type of work to justify hiring more people. For one project, we might need a PHP programmer, but we didn’t have any idea when we would have another project that would need the same skillset. Of course, we could hire freelancers, but that often took as much time or more than just doing the work ourselves.

Nampora client list
A few of Nampora’s clients. Source: nampora.com

The one exception to that was sales. We were always afraid that one day, we would run out of projects, unless we figured out a way to start selling to new clients, something neither of us had experience doing.

This ties in to another challenge that we faced. By being in the business of taking “whatever comes in the door” we were not in any particular business. 

It may seem counter-intuitive, but saying “yes” to everything makes it very hard to market your company, because you don’t know who you customers are or how to reach them.

So, we looked at the clients that we did have, and tried to get more of the same. We had done a few marketing campaigns for a newspaper publisher, so we hired a sales rep and told him to go sell our services to newspapers. 

A university purchased a custom, white-labeled version of the Snoozester Wake Up Call service on behalf of their students. We figured that, if one university wants the service, others might too. So, we built another website marketing our services for universities, hired a sales rep for that market, and started attending trade shows and conferences aimed at University administrators.

The biggest challenge of running a business this way, is that by chasing all of these different projects and clients, across different industries, we weren’t focused on becoming world class at any one particular thing. At least, that’s how it felt at the time.

Neville Andrew Mehra in Tokyo
Traveling in Japan, 2016

Oh, and there was one more challenge too. Within the first year after we quit our jobs to focus on Snoozester / Nampora full-time, the global economy crashed. The most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression.

We didn’t realize it at first, but this ended up being a blessing in disguise as it shaped Nampora and turned us into what we are today. 

In the beginning, as I mentioned, we really had no focus for our freelance/consulting work. We just took whatever projects came our way. They were all technology-related, but that was about the only common denominator. 

But as the recession set in, I noticed a trend. The proposals that we sent out for purely technical projects, things like server upgrades and backend data center stuff, were rarely accepted. But the proposals that we would send out for things like adding a shopping cart to a client’s website or doing some email marketing, those proposals were accepted more often. 

In both cases we were simply proposing to do whatever the client had asked for, but the proposals that tied directly to their revenue were the ones that got accepted. 

That seems pretty obvious to me now, but at the time, it was a revelation.

Once I had that revelation, it wasn’t long before I connected the rest of the dots. Virtually all of the projects we did for Snoozester’s business clients (like the Axe Wake Up Call campaign) were somehow marketing-related too. Then of course there was the Snoozester consumer-service itself, which we had grown from zero to tens of thousands of users.

Putting it all together: we had researched, experimented, and learned how to grow businesses with new, digital mediums like content and email marketing, display ads, search engine marketing and advertising, and later video and social media. These turned out to be areas that many other businesses needed help with too. 

I realized that we had found our calling: digital marketing. 

Digital marketing is such a huge field that it seems laughable to call it a niche, but it was a radical departure from how we saw our consulting and freelance work prior to that. Over the past ten years or so since we made that first pivot from technology generalists into digital marketing specialists, we’ve further refined how we describe our work. 

As someone from a web development background, all of the other things like SEO and Facebook marketing, seemed like little add-ons that you could do for a client in addition to building their website. But these days, something that sounds as basic as “managing the corporate Facebook presence” is now an entire department of people in a bigger company, possibly multiple departments or agencies, split between paid and organic (to say nothing of Instagram or other social media).

Neville Andrew Mehra and wife in Uzbekistan
Neville and his wife travelling in Uzbekistan, 2019

At first, thinking about this made me panic a bit. As a small firm, there was no way that we could keep up with all of these different marketing technologies, especially at the speed that they were emerging and evolving. I struggled with “imposter syndrome.” How could we call ourselves digital marketing experts if we didn’t know every nuance about every new marketing technology and platform? 

But then, I realized something. 

I’ve been working in this field for a decade already. This is what I do all day. If I feel overwhelmed, how do the clients feel? How does a business owner with no background in marketing or technology feel about all of this innovation and change?

Today, I describe our work as Digital Strategy.

We help our clients, who are not technology companies themselves, navigate through the complex intersection of marketing and technology. 

In some cases, especially for the clients who have been with us since the early days, we help them with the implementation too. But our most important job is creating the strategy for how all of the pieces fit together – their website, or online store, social media and email marketing, online advertising, etc.

I love doing this strategy work, since it’s a natural fit for my personality. And most of all, I love working with other startups and small businesses, and helping them take their business from an idea in the founder’s mind to the first $1,000,000 in revenue and beyond.

Shopify analytics
Shopify analytics screenshot for one of Nampora’s clients

So how did you become a digital nomad?

When we quit our jobs in 2007 and started working for ourselves full-time, we explored the idea of getting an office. There were no coworking spaces in those days, at least, not like the ones that exist now. There were only these awful little one-or-two-person mini-offices that were designed for lawyers and accountants to look very serious and professional. 

Or you could rent an entire office, which was way out of our budget, and came with all kinds of strings attached (long contracts, personal guarantees, and opaque extra costs like “CAM charges”).

So we decided to set up an office in my parents’ basement. 

That’s how all the best startups start anyway, right? They moved a couple of times over the years, and later I bought my own house, so our office moved too, but we never upgraded to a “real office”. We worked like this for five years, from November 2007 to October 2012.

That was the same time period when we were also churning through all of these different ideas for what business we should be in and how to grow (the Snoozester comparison scheduling marketplace, the services for universities and newspapers, etc). None of it was really going anywhere. And we always felt like we were going to go out of business any day now if we didn’t figure out our niche and start actively growing.

I remember one conversation in particular from around that time, I said to my business partner, “all of this work that we are doing to try to figure out how to grow Snoozester is not what’s keeping us in business. In fact, if we just spent half of our time doing the work that comes in the door, and the other half doing nothing, we would make more money!” (since we were spending money on going to trade shows, hiring sales reps, etc). 

That was a major turning point. Prior to that time, we had never considered the idea of this being a “lifestyle” business. 

We were so hell-bent on building a scalable startup that fit the “dotcom” model, that we failed to notice or fully appreciate that our existing client work was pretty steady.

The other realization that came around the same time was that, although we were based near Washington, DC, we also had clients in New York, Chicago, and Miami. Obviously there was no way we could be in all of those places at one time. So… If we could work for a client in Chicago from our home office in DC, then why not from Bangkok, or Barcelona, or anywhere else in the world with wifi?

Neville Andrew Mehra in Patagonia
Hiking in Patagonia, 2018

Sure, we still had a few clients in the D.C. area that we did work for on-site, but we didn’t absolutely need those projects. So it was technically possible to do the work from anywhere. I had already proven that. 

The biggest hurdle that I had to overcome to become a digital nomad was my own mindset. What held me back from becoming a digital nomad earlier was this idea that when you’re building a startup, first you hustle and grind and then some day you “make it” (whatever the heck that means). You’re not supposed to enjoy your life during the hustle days. 

There was also this fear that if I started to travel, somehow it would all go wrong. The clients would find out and abandon us, and we would be out of business. 

With any big decision in life, you can always find reasons not to do it. 

For me, the most important step towards becoming a digital nomad was making a decision to do it and setting a date to leave. Then trusting myself to figure the rest out along the way. This is exactly what I teach aspiring digital nomads and remote workers today.

I moved out of my house on October 15, 2012 and never looked back. 

What does a typical workday look like for you?

My main focus at work these days is digital strategy for our Nampora clients. I’m also making a concerted effort to write and share more on my personal website, and helping people who want to become digital nomads too. 

My actual schedule varies quite a bit depending on where I am in the world. I spent the past four and a half months traveling through Central Asia and the former Soviet Union, most recently in Georgia, a country I had been dying to visit for years (highly recommended, btw). I rented a two bedroom Airbnb apartment in Tbilisi that served as both home and office for me and my wife for the past month.

Neville Andrew Mehra in Tbilisi
Working online at a cafe in Tbilisi, Georgia, 2019

Tbilisi is eight hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast, where most of Nampora’s clients are. That kind of time difference works really well for me. 

I wake up whenever I want to, and spend the first part of the day exploring the city, exercising, and enjoying time with my wife. Then, in the early afternoon, I settle down to work. 

I start every work day with two hours of (hopefully) uninterrupted thinking and writing. It’s very important that I do this first, before doing any client work, or checking my email, both of which put me into “reactive mode”. 

This is a relatively new practice for me – something I started doing within the past year. Prior to that, I would spend virtually 100% of my time on client work. As a business owner, you can’t afford to do that! You have to make time for your own strategy.

The next thing that I do every work day after my thinking and writing time is to check my email and Asana and get a handle on what needs to get done today. Then we have a Nampora team call to go over the priorities for the day and any updates. We have this call every work day, except on Tuesdays. It may seem like a waste of time or an unnecessary burden to have “status update” calls nearly every day, especially when we already have so many other technology options for keeping track of projects (Asana, Basecamp, Jira, Slack, etc). 

We are a team of digital nomads (it’s not uncommon for us to have calls where each person is on a different continent) and I have found that having a daily call is worth the inconvenience. 

Being a digital nomad can be very isolating, and having the daily call goes a long way to combat that feeling. 

So it helps morale and fosters the sense of being a team. It also keeps everyone accountable. When you are a digital nomad, there are so many temptations — things to do instead of work. But nobody wants to show up to the call and have to say, “I didn’t do my part.” 

We have the call at the same time every day, otherwise we would go insane trying to keep track of who is in what timezone. In fact, we schedule all of our work according to U.S. Eastern Time, because that’s where our clients are. After the team call, I usually have calls with Nampora clients to discuss strategy and ongoing projects. 

Sometimes, that’s my entire work day, but most days I also spend a few hours after the calls answering emails, writing proposals, putting together reports, and doing a bit of technical work for clients.

Neville Andrew Mehra in Thailand
Traveling in Thailand, 2016

If you were starting the same business today, from scratch, how would you do it?

You would think that the answer to this question would be very different depending on whether you are asking about Snoozester (the wake up call service) or Nampora (our digital strategy consulting business), but the answers are actually the same for both.

I would start by answering the following two questions: 

  • Who do we want to help?
  • What problem do we want to become the best in the world at solving?

I recommend that every business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, and freelancer start there.

Instead, we started by building a wake up call service and then asking, “Who can we sell this to?”

We took an engineering approach, not a customer-centric approach. This helped us in the beginning, since we knew exactly what we wanted to make, but it hurt us in the long run, since we had no real direction.

Neville Andrew Mehra in Patagonia
Traveling in Patagonia, 2018

In the early days of Snoozester, people were actually excited about wake up calls. We were covered online, in print, and on TV (Tyra Banks and the CBS Early Morning Show). We regularly received inquiries from businesses who wanted to use our technology, like the examples I mentioned before.

But over time, especially once the iPhone came out, the novelty of a wake up call service wore off. And aside from people who were going to Google and typing in, “wake up call service”, we had no idea who on earth to market our services to, what their actual needs were, or how to reach them.

Imagine if, instead of seeing ourselves as being in the business of selling wake up calls, that we had seen ourselves as being in the business of “helping people wake up on time”. It’s a subtle shift on the surface, but it makes a big difference. 

By being in the business of selling wake up calls, we saw the launch of the iPhone as a threat. 

We sold wake up calls, and if more people started using an alarm app, it would be harder to sell our calls (of course, today no one can even believe that it was ever possible to sell wake up calls).

If we had been in the business of “helping people wake up on time” then the launch of the iPhone would have been an opportunity, not a threat. We could have made the first iPhone alarm apps. We are developers and technology early adopters. We also had a strong brand in the “wake up” space. So we were perfectly positioned to do it, but building an app didn’t fit with how we defined ourselves.

The same was true for Nampora. When we started we had no clear direction. And taking every project that came our way made it impossible for us to specialize and become world class at one thing.

Google Analytics for one of Nampora’s clients
Google Analytics for one of Nampora’s clients

The other thing that I would do differently and recommend to others, is to get crystal clear about whether your goal is to be an entrepreneur or a freelancer. 

Seth Godin has a very helpful bit about this. In his view, an entrepreneur’s job is to invent new jobs and hire people to do them. If they are doing any of the actual work themselves, then they are being irresponsible. A freelancer on the other hand, is in the business of doing the actual work. A freelancer could be a graphic designer in the Philippines charging $5 per hour, or a world renowned expert like Seth himself. They are both in the business of selling the work that they produce.

We lacked this clarity ourselves, and we started selling our hours to clients while we were supposed to be building a startup. 

NEVER DO THAT! 

If your goal is to build a startup, then you need to spend 100% of your work time, focus, and energy on that. Clients “on the side” are a huge distraction. Inevitably, the work that you are doing for them will become more urgent than building new features or doing whatever else you need to for your startup.

In our case, taking on clients was also a symptom of a bigger underlying problem:

We didn’t fully believe in our own business idea. We were hedging our bets. You have to believe in your idea, be willing to give it your best effort, and not afraid to fail.

Having said all of this about what I would do differently, I think that those were all mistakes that I needed to make. I never could have predicted it at the time, but the lessons that I learned making those mistakes fed directly into the strategy work and virtually everything else that I do today.

What books, podcasts, courses or other resources would you recommend to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

If you are a freelancer, or if you want to quit your job and become one, then I highly recommend that you consume every piece of content created by Jonathan Stark. There’s a ton of great, free stuff on his website as well as a daily email newsletter, and his podcast, The Business of Authority, together with Rochelle Moulton. 

I also recommend reading the Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns. 

Finally, I suggest that you check out Brennan Dunn’s course, Double Your Freelancing

If you do even half of that, you’ll be at least ten years ahead of where I was when I started freelancing.

If you want to be an entrepreneur, rather than a freelancer, then I suggest that you start by reading The E-Myth, at least just the first chapter. 

There’s a good chance that, once you do, you will realize that starting and owning a business is a very different job from the one you had in mind. Maybe you do actually want to be a freelancer? 

If you are starting a high-growth startup, then check out Stanford University’s CS183C class, taught by the leaders of Google, LinkedIn, Airbnb, Stripe, and others. You can find the lectures on YouTube

Another good option is Y Combinator’s Startup School

What are your top 5 business tools?

Our entire team tracks their time using a web app called Harvest. Every minute of time that we track is associated with a client project or internal task. 

Logging our hours this way makes it easy to generate invoices for those clients that we bill hourly. It also helps me keep track of who is working, what they are working on, and how we’re doing relative to estimates and budgets.

We use Asana for managing projects and assigning tasks. I also use it for keeping track of “to-do’s” for my own website and in my personal life. 

We use DropBox for Teams to share files with each other and with our clients. Pro tip: DropBox also has a file request feature that lets you send a link to someone else (say a client, or your freelance video editor), and then they can upload files straight into your DropBox (without having access to your other files). 

We use Google Apps (aka gSuite) for email, calendar, and docs.

I use Evernote to jot down and organize my notes on virtually everything I do, from new business ideas to logging my workouts. I have close to 5,000 notes in my Evernote database! We tried using the team version of it for a while, but it didn’t stick.

Even with all of this technology, my ultimate productivity trick relies on old fashioned pen and paper. 

Every morning, I sit down and write my goals for the day. I write one thing that I must accomplish that day as well as two or three other things that would make the day great. Usually the list is a mix of working towards a bigger goal as well as some healthy habits and fun things (go to the gym, go for a walk, etc). 

I do this before checking anything on my phone, so I’m not distracted. 

I used to write all of this in a little book-like journal, which I would then close and put away until the evening. At some point I ran out of blank journal pages, so I made my own little morning journal template and printed it out on regular paper. That turned out to be an important change. Now, instead of closing the journal when I’m done, I keep the sheet of paper in front of me, on my desk all day. Unlike a digital note, it can’t be minimized or closed by accident.

In a world of overflowing inboxes and infinite scrolling feeds, I get immense satisfaction from checking off the little boxes and knowing that I’ve accomplished the most important tasks for the day.

Where can we go to learn more?

Over the years since becoming a digital nomad myself, I’ve helped my friends, my girlfriend (now my wife), to become digital nomads too. Now I’ve made it my mission to help 1,000,000 people escape the unfulfilling “default life plan” of commuting to a corporate cubicle and to live their dreams instead. 

It’s a huge and scary mission, but I’m going to make it happen! 

Of course, I realize that becoming a digital nomad isn’t everyone’s dream – some people want to become football players or to bake vegan cupcakes — but I’m starting with what I know best. 

A few resources people might find helpful on my website:

If you are launching a new business yourself, or if you need help with your digital strategy, go to the Nampora website and send us a message. 

And if you need a wake up call check out Snoozester 😃