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Q&A: Cape Town kitesurfer details what it takes to be a digital nomad

With ever improving technology and a search for a better way to work, many South Africans are turning to the possibility of working remotely, as digital nomads. Cape Town born Justin Nothling, 26, is one such person.

A survey last year by employee engagement firm TinyPulse of over 500 US employees who work remotely found they tend to be more satisfied and more productive than office-bound workers.

Nothling today runs an online app school cloneable.io, develops apps (such as Zumalator) and is also working on a few projects involving bitcoin. He’s worked remotely for four years now in several countries and is currently in Montenegro, where he’s been for a few weeks.

Ventureburn popped Nothling a series of questions via email to find out more about his life as a digital nomad and what advice he has for others looking to run a business remotely.

Ventureburn: Why did you take up being a remote worker? What are you currently doing and where are you based? 

Justin Nothling: To start I just wanted to save money, I was living in London at the time and didn’t really need to be there.

VB: Do you move around a lot to different countries?

JN: Yup, I’m usually in at least three different countries each year and then come back to Cape Town for Christmas.

VB: Which countries have you visited before?

JN: The UK, Estonia, Finland, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, the US, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia and Greece. I plan to visit Croatia in September.

VB: When picking a country do you try to go to places that are more affordable than South Africa or at least go to those with a similar price band?

JN: Yup, I try find a place that is similar. When I started I was trying to find things as cheap as possible, but now that business is going well I can afford more expensive places (in line with South African or Cape Town prices).

VB: Are you the only one in the business or do you have partners or employees? 

JN: Sometimes I have partners, sometimes not. It depends on the size of the project or business and my skills. Cloneable.io and my apps are just me. I have partners on the bitcoin projects

VB: What are some of the coolest things you have done while working remotely that you would not have done in perhaps a fixed nine to five job?

JN: I kitesurf, and I get to do that basically whenever I want.

VB: What are some of the biggest challenges for someone working remotely?

JN: Having the discipline to work when you could just go to the beach and being able to take a break without feeling guilty about not working. Also, sometimes there’s bad WiFi and that can be frustrating.

VB: Any bad experiences?

JN: Honestly can’t think of any really bad things, though I did once lose my flip-flops on a beach in Thailand.

VB: What kinds of people are best suited to this lifestyle and how does one make money? What is the trick to running a good nomad business or working remotely?

JN: Anyone that can find a way to make money online — freelancers, programmers, marketers, designers, day traders etc. Nomad businesses are just like normal businesses (except you can do everything with your laptop and an internet connection). So the trick to running a good nomad business is to just run a good normal business.

VB: Also, what kinds of strengths does one need to hone to work remotely? Does one necessarily have to be a good programmer or web writer or marketer?

JN: Self-discipline, a hustler mentality and willingness to learn are essential — all the practical skills can be learnt on the go. When I started I didn’t know how to program and now I teach app development and build my own apps.

VB: What kind of business costs does one have to consider when running a business remotely?

JN: It really depends on the business and where you are. Currently I work from my apartment in Montenegro so that doubles as an office, but in most places there are co-working places where you can go to rent desk space. For example I work from here when I’m in Thailand: http://kohub.org/. I spend $100 to run my school online and accept payments online. I pay a yearly fee to Google and Apple to put my apps on their app stores. I think it $50 to $100 each

VB: Is there anything that is more costly running a business remotely than say from SA?

JN: I can’t think of anything.

VB: How long can one continue being a remote worker for?

JN: Indefinitely, I think.

Featured image: Justin Nothling (Supplied)

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