You’re an adventurer. You scale freezing mountains, traverse scorching plains, and surf raging waves. You’re an intrepid traveller who has seen the world but is always thirsty for more.

The thing is, that lifestyle isn’t free. Even if you’re on a shoestring budget, you need to find a way to bring in an income whilst still hitting the open road. But how? The answer lies in ecommerce…

What is ecommerce?

Ecommerce is simply the buying and selling of goods online. Amazon, Etsy, ASOS — they’re all examples of ecommerce stores. The dawn of the digital age has blown this sector wide open, and cheap online store builders have made it accessible by anyone and everyone, as long as they have a wi-fi connection, and that includes you.

Why should I choose ecommerce?

There’s any number of reasons why you should choose ecommerce to support your digital nomad lifestyle. For a start…

It’s a growing business

Global ecommerce sales are expected to exceed $4 trillion by 2020. Everyone all over the world uses ecommerce on a daily basis, and you can find just about anything online. For some, it can be extremely lucrative. But even if it’s not, it can provide you with enough money to support you on your travels around the world.

It’s accessible

If you want to enter the world of ecommerce, all you need to get started is a good laptop, an internet connection, and a little hard work. Everything else can be found online, including all the tutorials and resources you might need for building an online store.

You don’t need stock

If you’re worried about lugging a suitcase full of stock around with you, don’t. How? Through dropshipping.

Dropshipping is where stores use a third party, such as Doba, to handle and deliver goods safely and securely to the customer. And with sites like Alibaba, you don’t even need to source your stock because they do it for you, so you won’t ever need to handle what you’re selling.

Dropshipping is a popular choice for digital nomads, as it saves them hassle and doesn’t tie them to a particular place.

It’s flexible

When you’re running your own online store, there’s no such thing as the nine-to-five. As long as you put the work in, it doesn’t matter when you do it. Stuck at a rest stop in the Australian outback? Waiting for your delayed flight in Singapore? Your online store is there, so get on your laptop.

What does a successful digital nomad look like?

Meet Doug and Jimmy.

Doug and Jimmy.
Image Minaal

Doug and Jimmy are from New Zealand, but met in Canada. Both keen travelers, they had a vision of creating high quality travel gear that you could take into the office in the morning, but then haul up a freezing mountain in the evening.

So in 2013 they created Minaal, selling bags and accessories that are hard-wearing and durable, but don’t look out of place in a board meeting. Today it has expanded to a successful ecommerce enterprise, and in the course of their work they have traveled the world. While some of their trips are to meet manufacturers from all four corners of the globe, they also have the time to have some adventures of their own.

Doug and Jimmy are the epitome of the successful digital nomad. They’re as happy working on some far-flung beach as they are in a crowded airport. These guys are truly living the dream — and you can too.

How do I create an online store?

Feeling excited at the thought of diving into the world of ecommerce? Great! Here’s what you need to do next…

Set up your online store

First things first: build an online store. Setting it up is easy and probably quicker than you think. However, you need to consider which option is best for you.

If you’re a dab hand at coding, you can build it yourself from scratch and host it yourself. This has its positives, but it’s not for everyone as it does require some technical know-how. (A good DIY option is WooCommerce). For good quality ecommerce hosting— try the guys at SiteGround.

If you want the easy approach, use a dedicated hosted ecommerce builder. These often come with support teams that are ready to assist you, day or night — very handy when you’re halfway across the globe! They also have easy-to-use interfaces and resources, making it easy when you’re just starting out. Building an online store is easy using tools like Shopify, so make the most of the free trial period to figure out how to configure everything.

If you don’t get on with it, you can always switch it up and head over to Etsy or Ebay instead. Depending on your niche, they might actually be a better fit. Selling on marketplaces is increasingly fueling people’s ecommerce dreams.

Pick your niche

You’ll also want to pick your products. You’re going to spend a lot of time on your online store, so pick something that you’re interested in. or you already know a little about. For example: travel gear for those on a budget? Art prints from around the world? Digital nomad survival kits?

Spend time on product research engines like JungleScout to help widen the range of products you’re considering selling. Social media and Reddit are also great ways to find good niches that are ripe for ecommerce.

Need some inspiration for that money-making niche you need? Here are some popular avenues for you to explore:

Healthy food and drinks for customers on the move

One trend that has blown up in recent years is healthy and convenient food and drinks. Think smoothies and nutritious but delicious snacks, delivered straight to your door. People are busier than ever, so are looking to others to provide them with wholesome goods that are tasty and convenient.

Stylish socks for cool customers

It turns out that when your grandma buys you socks every year for Christmas, she might be onto something. Socks are something we all need (especially if you find yours disappear one at a time after every wash!), and people want to be able to bulk-buy them without spending hours on it.

Beard oil

This one is particularly handy for those digital nomads who can’t find a shaver plug on their travels. Sometimes when you’re traveling, taming your facial hair gets sidelined, so you know the importance of keeping your beard looking good. Beard oil sales have exploded in the past few years, and it’s a worthwhile market to explore.

Environmentally-friendly feminine hygiene products

Millennials are leading the charge in sustainable and eco-friendly products, and the feminine hygiene market is no exception to this change. There’s been a variety of period hygiene innovations recently, from period underwear to menstrual cups. It’s a growing market that will always have relevance, and an avenue worth considering.

Look after your customers

The great thing about ecommerce is also the worst thing about it: everyone can do it. That means you need to work hard to make your online store stand out from the rest.

To do this, you need to make sure your customer’s experience is an enjoyable one. Keep your product pages organized so they can easily navigate them, and make sure your customer service is exceptional. If they contact you with a complaint or query, make sure that you answer them promptly and be as helpful as you can.

Ways to do this on a budget and from faraway:

  • Chatbots
  • Automated helpdesk messages
  • Social media support
  • Hire a VA to help you manage your customer service operations.

Work out a marketing strategy

To get your store seen and bring in paying customers, you’re going to need to ramp up your marketing game. It’s all very well having a great online store, but if no-one knows about it, it’s all for nothing. So what should your marketing strategy entail?

On-point social media

Social media is a huge part of your marketing strategy, as it lets you reach your customers where they’re active most. Building a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram will help you increase sales and boost brand awareness, as well as letting customers get in touch with you directly.

Regular blogging

You’ll also need to create a blog for your online store, and update it regularly with fresh, interesting content. Write posts that are relevant to your products, and that your customers will find useful. This will help your site appear higher up in Google searches, which is hugely important in the digital age. Google treats new domains and websites with suspicion, so work hard to earn search engine trust and don’t do anything spammy.

Paid ads

You might also want to consider investing a little in paid advertisements. You might have seen these in your Google searches appearing at the top of the page.

These are bought through Google AdWords, in which you bid on keywords related to your product or service. Google only charges you when someone clicks on your ad, and you can set a budget that suits your individual needs and doesn’t break the bank either.

Alternatively, you could look into investing in paid social ads on platforms such as Facebook or Instagram. The price and reach of your ad will depend on the platform and type that you choose, but they offer a variety of features for you to change and customise your advert.

Image Rogue Fitness Europe

Some platforms, such as Facebook, offer you the chance to test your advert to see which one works best. This is done through a process known as split testing. Firstly, you create two adverts with different features, such as a change of image or call-to-action. These then get shown to different audiences, and the one that is most successful is identified for you to select as your main ad. With so many people from all over the world using social media, this is certainly an option you’ll want to consider.

Email marketing

Despite its modest origins way back in the early Seventies, the humble email is still a big player in the world of marketing. People check their email on a daily basis, and it’s a great way to get your message directly to your customers.

Build a mailing list using opt-in forms placed on your website (e.g. “subscribe for our free newsletter!”), or through the advertisements we mentioned earlier. Once you’ve built up a good address book, craft an attractive and effective email with a snappy subject line, engaging content and a bold call-to-action to get customers to your store. There are a variety of tools out there for you to use, such as MailChimp or Hootsuite, which can automate your marketing emails that save you time and makes the process a whole lot easier too.

Marketing is perhaps the most crucial part of running an online store, and you should never stop your advertising efforts. Your strategy should be evaluated regularly to see how you’re doing — and what you can do better. You are going to have to hustle hard to make those first sales with a brand new store.

Managing your own online store isn’t easy. It takes time and effort, and a little patience. Replying to customer queries, marketing your store, creating content — it all requires hard work and concentration. But the benefits far outweigh the negatives. No more nine-to-five, be your own boss, and work anywhere in the world. Sure, it requires a little work, but do it right and you’ll have a steady source of income to support you in your travels.