Meet The Dropouts – Locationless Jason Batansky
Meet Jason Batansky, a young webpreneur who seems to have fallen into my dream life — able to live and work anywhere in the world.
Jason set up a little online store while at university in the U.S. And it was so successful that by the time he graduated, he didn’t need a job. Writing from Guanajuato, Mexico, Jason explains his life and how he designed it.
Hi Jason. Can you introduce yourself, please:
I first started traveling independently when I was 19 and have not really stopped since. (I’m 23 now.)
I’ve done “normal” things like internships and graduating university, but much of my free time was spent traveling.
I traveled so much that I turned it into a lifestyle. I work for myself and travel at the same time. I make around 20% of my income running a travel blog. The other 80% is from a career consulting service and an online retail store selling physical products.
From 2007 until now I’ve traveled to Colombia seven times and visited most of the other countries in South America. I also took a little travel detour making my way to lesser known places like Chernobyl in Ukraine and Bangladesh’s capital city. I ran with the bulls in Spain, lived and trained in a Muay Thai gym in Bangkok, and danced at the favela funk parties in Rio. At the moment I am traveling in Mexico.
I see you’ve never had a “real” job. Tell us about your life, your home and your work:
It is not that I never wanted to work for a company. In fact, I did four business-related internships while at university and respect all of the people who do have a normal career. I never realistically planned to be working for myself by the time I graduated university, to be honest. But since I started my first reasonably profitable business as a teenager, my businesses had grown to the point that by graduation I was earning twice the amount of most recent graduates. Now, a year and a half after graduation, the businesses are earning even more.
Because I work on the internet, I don’t answer to a strict schedule. I chose to take my businesses on the road and travel full-time instead. I did this during my four-month-long summer vacations while I was at university so I knew it would work, even if traveling for longer is a bit more difficult.
A typical “work” day for me could go like this. Working on my laptop at the airport and on a discount airline flight to Spain. Since Spain is a more expensive country I’d take public transport to my hostel and my first priority on arrival would be to send the work I did in transit to my clients. Then I’d answer any important emails, which could take an hour or so. If I am lucky enough to meet someone at the hostel I’d go find dinner with them, and probably call it a night afterward. I’d wake up the next day without an alarm at around 8am and after working for around three hours I’d go sightseeing. My favorite thing is walking around a new city to take in the atmosphere, try new foods, and just observe what’s going on. I’d probably be back at my hostel around 5pm, exhausted. After a short nap and dinner I meet whoever is in the hostel to go out.
I don’t spend every month traveling like this, though. This year I spent a good amount of time living in Colombia and London (and soon Philadelphia) with a more normal schedule.
Life sounds great for you. Are there any drawbacks to your locationless living lifestyle?
Maintaining relationships is the most difficult part of this lifestyle. It is cool to have friends all over the world but the downside is that I don’t get to see them all that much. I actually moved to my home-city for the summer to work on this issue. I also rented an apartment there for the year because what I am learning now is that I really ought to build a home base so that when I do need a break from travel I will have my family and a good social circle around. It’s cool to give up everything and go traveling when you are young but the middle-aged people I see doing this are a bit depressing. I will never know what has led these people to take off aimlessly but I know at the age it won’t be the right path for me.
Geez, I hope you don’t mean me when you say “middle-aged people”!!! Can you explain how you fund your lifestyle?
I am currently running three web-based businesses. In the next month I will take on my first full time employee.
The first business is an online store selling physical products like clothing, neon signs, poker gifts and a lot of other things a teenage boy would probably like to buy. This used to be the breadwinner years ago but in the past couple years I have neglected it so much that it barely breaks even. But I have sold more than 3,000 orders so I’d still call it a success. I advertise the store with banner advertisements on a couple of targeted websites and with Google Product Search. Nearly all of the items I sold were dropshipped. This company ultimately had no real potential because my brand was targeting everyone as my customers, making it impossible to advertise well.
My most profitable business to date is a career consulting company. I rewrite resumes, CVs and cover letters in Microsoft Word and offer mock job interviews on Skype. I began charging a fixed price of $20 for a resume and five years later charge a base price of $140. Business is good and continues to grow each year. I attribute this to my being a damn good technical writer and my unique way of marketing. I advertise the service on a popular internet forum where customers are able to write their feedback directly in the thread. If my service sucked the feedback would show and I would have been out of business long ago. But since I do good work the customers post great reviews of the service which acts as good social proof to convince other potential clients to purchase my service. Nobody taught me how to write a resume. I just did it. More than 1,500 resumes/CVs later I can say I have become a good writer from all of the experience.
My third business is my travel blog, Locationless Living. I share stories and photos from my travels along with some businesses and lifestyle posts. It started out as a hobby and continued as such for more than four years. But in the past two months I began selling advertisements on the website, which has added up to a pretty decent amount each month. In the very near future I am going to implement a store selling travel products. Maybe someday I will transition the website into selling guided tours led by myself! Rather than share my passion for traveling in writing I could finally show people the coolest places in the world first hand.
What advice do you have for people considering a locationless lifestyle? What are the first steps they should take?
Do it. Just because most people who live a locationless lifestyle choose to travel does not mean that is all it’s about. I think anyone would say yes to wanting to create their own schedule. The idea is that you can then fit your work around your interests, rather than your interests around your work schedule. I won’t even get into the travel aspect. But for instance, I am able to take off for the afternoon to go meet my mother when she unexpectedly got a day off from work. Or I was able to follow my girlfriend so we could live together half way around the world at a moment’s notice without any real consequences.
First steps? This lifestyle came naturally to me. As a full-time high school and college student with limited capital a locationless business was the only realistic type I could build. I was never able to really consider starting a more traditional business like opening a restaurant. My advice would be to understand your limitations. You probably already have a full-time job or are a student anyways so you won’t be able to start a more traditional business either. Think small. You’re not trying to create the next start-up business. Then try it out on a small scale. If it’s a halfway decent concept and you’re willing to constantly adapt it as you learn, you may just find yourself in a similar situation as myself.
Business-wise my career consulting business is going through an expansion with the hiring of my first full-time employee. I am currently at the maximum workload so with his help I will expand my business. I have created a training manual, content database, and wiki. I expect it to take a month or two to fully train the employee. But once he is proficient I will work in a management role rather than doing the actual bulk of the work.
My online retail store only brings in up to 5% of my monthly income whereas five years ago it accounted for more than 75%. Maybe I’ll try to sell it sometime soon.
My travel blog is where it’s at. I look at it as easy money. And once I have finished training my new employee I will take more initiative to expand the traveI blog. I have negotiated with a web design company to redo my travel blog design for AS$3,500. My goal is that a new, awesome website design will give me a fresh start. Not only will more people pay attention, but it will also give me the motivation to write better articles and manage the website more professionally. In turn I’ll write a lot of articles for other websites to drive more traffic. With a more popular blog I should be able to earn more ad revenue and press trip invitations. I am also planning to use my experience in setting up an online store to open a travel products store on the travel blog, too.
Most of what I just wrote may not come to fruition. But even if most of my ideas fail, I’ll be a smarter businessman than before. And just the act of trying will lead to other opportunities that I can’t imagine at this point. That’s the best part.
Thanks for your time and your honesty, Jason. And good luck! I hope everything falls into place for you.
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8 years ago