Chris Guillebeau is the author of The $100 Startup – a book which shows you how to lead a life of adventure, meaning and purpose – and earn a good living. He is also in the process of visiting every country in the world, having travelled to over 180 so far. He is self-employed, having never had a “real job” or earned a regular paycheck. He encourages people who want to opt out of traditional employment and create the time & income to pursue what they find meaningful.
Chris is the rock star of the ‘lifestyle design’ niche. As well as being a best selling author, he also has several hugely successful ebooks. Currently touring Asia promoting his second book The $100 Startup.
Easyspace recently caught up with him for an interview:
Q1. One of your goals is to visit every country in the world. So far you have visited 189 out of 193 countries. What equipment/resources/tools do you use for your “mobile office” which allows you to work while travelling?
I’m pretty basic. Everything is run on a single MacBook Pro. I try to keep as much data as possible in the cloud so I can work from anywhere. My small team and I use a combination of Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Docs to share information. Most of the development we’ve done is WordPress-based. In other words, the more simple, the better.
Q2. You write about entrepreneurship and other kinds of unconventional work on your website Art of Non-Conformity, which has a theme of “non-conformity” i.e. “the refusal to accept established customs, attitudes, or ideas.”. For many people, a 9-to-5 job is conformity, and launching a startup is non-conformity. Are entrepreneurs born or made? Can everyone achieve a “non-conformity” mind-set?
Entrepreneurs are definitely made, not born, and it’s not necessarily my goal to help everyone become an entrepreneur. However, I do hope to encourage everyone to define their own success, understand their own motivations, and seek to contribute something bigger than themselves. I do believe everyone can do those things.
Q3. One way you earn money is by producing “unconventional products” – including ebooks such as “Become A Travel Hacker”. What software/systems do you use to create, promote & sell these? What advice would you give to somebody wanting to write an ebook, to promote their product/services/website?
Again, it’s very basic. For the guides I work with a great designer who formats them to look nice. Far more than focusing on technical issues, I’d encourage someone who wants to write an ebook to focus on creating strong content that meets a clear need or solves a problem for their intended audience.
Q4. For your book The $100 Startup, you identified 1,500 individuals who built businesses earning $50,000 or more from a modest investment (in many cases, $100 or less), and from that group you chose to focus on the 50 most intriguing case studies. Which was your favourite & why?
I’m a bit of a renegade, so I’m personally drawn to stories of other renegades who were determined to go it alone no matter what. I like the story of Megan Hunt, who was just twenty-years-old when she stepped out to work on her own as a clothing and wedding accessories designer. Four years later, she now owns the co-working space she works from, and takes her young daughter to work every day.
However, most of the people I talked with for the study weren’t like Megan. Most were a bit older and had been established in some kind of traditional career. Then something happened—several had lost their jobs or otherwise had a big, scary transition moment. The scary moment turned into an inspiring story as they ended up starting a business instead of returning to the traditional workplace.
Q5. Can people with no special skills really develop a successful startup?
Everyone has special skills. Not everyone has special, technical skills, but that’s not the point—many of the people we talked with found a way to apply the skills they already had in a specific way that was useful and helpful to others.
Q6. Leaving a 9-to-5 job and launching a startup business can be very risky – what advice would you give to a person who is considering doing this?
I’d ask them to take a hard look at their perception of risk. Could it be that remaining in a traditional job while the world continues to change, bypassing opportunities to take responsibility for one’s own career, is actually much riskier?
Q7. Your websites get a lot of visitors, as well as a loyal following. For somebody wanting to start an online business, what advice would you give to develop a popular website i.e. regarding web design, domain names, blog, email subscribers, newsletters, social media, etc?
These problems are easy to solve: just ask Google. I do think design is important and I do believe email subscribers are the most valuable asset many businesses in the new economy can maintain. However, I still think it’s more important to focus on some core issues of value: what really matters? How are you changing the world—at least a small part of the world—with your business idea? When you go to bed at night, is it with a sense of satisfaction and achievement, feeling tired but eager for another day?
If you get those kinds of things right, it’s not that hard to figure out how to sign up for Twitter.
Thanks Chris, from everyone at Easyspace. Good luck with your travels and book tour.