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Hey! We're WooThemes - the remote company behind WooCommerce. AUA!

 

by @bryce | 6yr  | 35 comments

Hi everyone! Weโ€™re WooThemes, the makers of the now most popular ecommerce software in the world - WooCommerce.

Weโ€™re a distributed company and have been from Day 1. We do have a small office in Cape Town, South Africa, but the majority of the team is spread out across the world.

Ask us about building a business upon open-source software, scaling our product to millions of users and general nomad life!

Personally - Iโ€™m Bryce and am currently based in Thailand. Iโ€™ve met some you before in person + #nomads :smile:

Today we should also be joined by the founders of WooThemes - Mark Forrester & Magnus Jepson - along with several of our more nomadic team members.

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@levelsio | 6yr

Thanks everyone for asking questions and WooThemes team for answering them! The AMA is now closed.

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@levelsio | 6yr

Hi Woo team! Thanks for doing this AMA.

  1. What made you decide to start distributed from the beginning?
  2. Where do you see the remote movement headed? Is it a movement?
  3. Is this the future?
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@bryce | 6yr
  1. @markforrester / @mjepson

  2. It probably wonโ€™t be standard for a long time, but itโ€™s definitely moving forward and becoming more accepted - especially when weโ€™ve visited conferences, I think people are less surprised that weโ€™re remote as they would have been 3 years ago.

  3. Weโ€™re already there :slight_smile: At least for Woo, and hopefully more companies. Once we can past the few barriers to true nomadism, like phones, banking, insurance, etc. - there will definitely be a huge transition.

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@markforrester | 6yr

Hi @levelsio, this should answer Q1.

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@namehra | 6yr

Hey guys. Great to see you on the forum. Fellow nomad here, and I use your Woo Slider on one of my clientsโ€™ sites. Keep up the great (remote) work!

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@calum | 6yr

Hi WooTeam!

Very excited to see this AUA happening as WooCommerce has been a big inspiration for me and my business partner. We just launched our free WordPress plugin Ultimate Member on the repo one week ago and we will be using the same business model (free core + premium extensions).

There are only two of us but we are fully remote and live in diffierent countries and I am hoping the plugin will allow me to go fully nomadic in the very near future. With us using a similar business model and trying to replicate some of the succes of WooCommerce you can I imagine I would have a lot of questions but I will try limit what I ask here.

  1. This is a while ago now but do you remember how the first few months were for WooCommerce after you released it? Did you get very high downloads and growth immediately or did the downloads build up slowly? We have had close to 1000 downloads in our first 7 days so interested to hear how the beginning of Woo went for you guys.

  2. Your company is formed in South Africa but you sell your products in USD. We are a UK company so just wondering what payment merchant / strategies you use for minimising the additional currency fees that are charged when selling internationally?

  3. Do you use any particular strategies to encourage a passionate community of users behind your products or is it mainly a result of building great software?

  4. If you could go all the way back to when you started the business and released WooCommerce is there any advice you would like to have received back then which you only know now after running a successful business for several years.

  5. How long did it take you from releasing the plugin to hiring your first employees? And at what sort of revenue levels did you feel comfortable to hire your first employee. If our plugin becomes successful hiring support staff is something that we will want to do so interested to know how/when you came to the decision to hire.

I could ask more but I wont!

Thanks very much

Calum

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@markforrester | 6yr

Thanks for the kind words @calum and congrats on your product launch!

  1. I think we racked up 14,000 downloads in September 2011 - the month we released WooCommerce. We released 10 official themes and 20 extensions in the first month so we hit the ground running. We had a solid launchpad given the reputation weโ€™d grown over our years of commercial theme development. That obviously helped massively.

Iโ€™d say 1000 downloads in 7 days sounds very good. Remembering the download counter on the WP repo is quite a vanity metric, with each new version adding to the total download count. As long as you are seeing lots of engaged customers and iterating fast with their feedback.

  1. We use PayPal and WooCommerce to sell on our site. Given the vast majority of our customers are US based it makes sense to charge in dollars - which you can easily do in WooCommerce. Lots of our customers donโ€™t even know we are based in SA - nor do they need to.

  2. Building tech is relatively easy with the right team. Building a community is the all important differentiator. Listen attentively to your customers, make them feel special and allow for entrepreneurial opportunity upon your platform. That creates sustainability.

  3. We would have tracked more information about our users from the start. Weโ€™ve struggled with data collection of the typical WooCommerce users - this would help greatly with development, marketing and support systems.

  4. We started as 3 co-founders so had quite a lot of capacity before having to hire. When we realised our time was better spent designing and developing themes than taking care of other business operations we hired our first team members - support officers. Who could help our customers installing and customizing our products.

Apart from our time we had very little expenditure so were profitable from day 1. Thatโ€™s not to say we didnโ€™t bootstrap hard and save every penny we could. Hire that first employee when itโ€™s an absolute necessity and youโ€™ve proven your business idea. Over time youโ€™ll become more proactive and strategic in recruiting.

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@calum | 6yr

Thank you for all this great advice and information. Much appreciated! Will try and put it to good use as we build up our business. Cheers.

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Have you guys ever considered running a Canvas childtheme marketplace similar to what youโ€™ve got for selected WooCommerce extensions? As far as I can see itโ€™s only really PootlePress that has forged ahead in this arenaโ€ฆ

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@mjepson | 6yr

Hi @colourblindcrayon that is definitely on our radar, but first we need to release Canvas 6 (due out soon). After this release, weโ€™ll be tackling extensions and child themes for Canvas, and maybe looking at a marketplace for others.

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@crigor | 6yr

@mjepson mentioned that payroll is a challenge. For the employees, do you prefer being an employee or a contractor in terms of the overall value that you get?

I work for a company based in San Francisco. Technically Iโ€™m a contractor. Everyone outside of the US is a contractor (we have people from Canada, Australia, Japan, and a few us in the Philippines).

I guess the biggest difference is not having medical benefits and 401(k) savings plan.

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@mjepson | 6yr

@crigor we started off with everyone as contractors, but once we get enough staff in a country like we have done in US, weโ€™ve registered a company entity there to handle payroll and withholding tax for employees. Up until now we havenโ€™t differentiated between contractors or employees, so there are no extra benefits (but we are working on this, especially for US health benefits).

The contract we have with our employees is the same regardless of being an independent contractor or a employee. The only current difference is that we handle withholding taxes for employees.

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Hey Woo,

Love the absolute transparency! Something that Iโ€™ve wondered about: When posting careers at Woo, Iโ€™ve noticed that they tend to stay โ€œopenโ€ for a long time - why is that? Are you finding it hard to get the right fit or is there simply more than one position for each job description?

I understand that talented, driven, self-motivated guys (and girls of course) that can work on their own can be difficult to find, but surely if youโ€™ve got the world as your recruitment-oyster, these should be easy to fillโ€ฆ

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@warrenholmes | 6yr

@colourblindcrayon We keep the posts up for quite a while because we run through trial projects with every single prospective candidate that can be anything from 2-4 weeks depending on the position.

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@markforrester | 6yr

@colourblindcrayon To add to Warrenโ€™s answer. Depending on the type of trial they are often paid contracts to not only determine the skillset/knowledge of the applicant, but also to get a better idea of their cultural fit with our team.

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@tonywr | 6yr

First of all, thanks to you for contributing to the community WooCommerce plugin!

My question is related to the this system itself. Whatโ€™s the roadmap for WooCommerce in 2015? Is there any specific direction you would go? Letโ€™s say getting more developers to create themes for WooCommerce or focusing on the local community helping spread out the WooCommerce around the world?

Thanks :smile:

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@markforrester | 6yr

@tonywr Weโ€™re aiming to strengthen relationships in 2015.

  • With our customers getting to know them better and how they use our
    products. Lots of polls, customer interviews, unit tests, etc.
  • With developers and designers building extensions and
    themes for our platform. Providing them with more flexibility with
    our robust API, and more thorough documentation.
  • And with our third party ecommerce service providers / partners. Getting the best deals we can for our customers, and trying to lower the barriers to entry into ecommerce as much as possible.

We want WooCommerce specifically to not only be the go-to solution for WordPress ecommerce, but for it to compete at all levels with other hosted solutions available.

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@markforrester | 6yr

@tonywr Itโ€™s something weโ€™ve given a lot of thought. It boils down to us promoting only developers, and products, we feel abundantly confident about in servicing our customers and representing our brand. When we feel we have enough to justify such a marketplace we might consider it.

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@tonywr | 6yr

Thanks a lot for a clear write up.

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@tonywr | 6yr

Thanks for the details answer, @markforrester!

Is there any plans of improvement WooCommerce extensions page in order to support 3rd party developers at http://www.woothemes.com/product-category/woocommerce-extensions/ ?

Letโ€™s say integrate new features for marketplace with evaluation system and trust. Right now, itโ€™s not clear whether the 3rd party provider really care about the product and support.

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@stevie | 6yr

Great company, been following the team and new developments in WooCommerce past year now, such an inspiration. Must be great managing yourself and have more time on your hands, cutting out the travelling to work and even traffic. Sure this must be much more productive environment for everyone. How do you all communicate within the company? Emails? Skype?

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@bryce | 6yr

Hey @stevie - Iโ€™d say that 90% of communication goes through Slack. Of course with differing timezones, email makes more sense sometimes but I personally feel like things get done quicker over chat, as you have instant communication (which makes everything a lot more productive).

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@mjepson | 6yr

Hi @stevie

We started out with just email and Skype chat. Funny story is that we actually didnโ€™t talk on Skype voice for the first 16 months of working together!

We now use P2 (WordPress blog) for announcements, Skype for 1on1s, Slack for daily group chats and Google Hangouts for meetings.

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@skatkov | 6yr

Good day,

Iโ€™ve meet some of WooThemes people and so far all of you guys are great and that you are doing looks really interesting.

I have couple of questions:

  • A lot of people come from different backgrounds and cultures. And US is so way ahead of all countries with equal rights for everyone. Is there any issues with communication? How do you handle that? As an example, somebody used โ€œGood luck with finding a proper man for a jobโ€ sentence and someone found it offending (sexist). How would you handle this?
  • How do you handle international salaries for people? As an example, 2 people doing exactly same job, but one lives in NY and second one in India. Will their salary be different? What will happen if guy from NY moves to Thailand?
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@mjepson | 6yr

Hi @skat

Cool to hear youโ€™ve meet a few of the WooTeam!

  • Iโ€™m not sure I agree about US being way ahead of all countries with equal rights for everyone :smile: Check out Norway, which supposedly has the highest rate of women leaders in the world. I believe the people who work with us are well travelled, and understand how cultures differ, and if mis-communication in such form were to take place, we would be able to understand why and how to tackle it. I canโ€™t remember any incident of this kind though.

  • We discuss salaries with each employee, and look at their expectations, and what is a market salary in their country and position. We do pay different salaries based on location, and do adjust salaries for those that move to a more (or less) expensive location, in similar fashion to how Buffer do for their staff.

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@markforrester | 6yr

Hi @skat,

I think weโ€™ve answered your first question already in the other threads.

Regarding international salaries we use http://www.trinet.com/ to administer salaries, and online cost of living calculators (e.g. http://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/comparison/cape-town/istanbul) to ensure we are paying market related competitive salaries in each city.

If someone moves from a city like Cape Town, which might be a category D, to a city like San Francisco, which is a category A, weโ€™ll try adjust their salary accordingly by the corresponding multiplier. We discuss this individually on a case by case scenario.

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@nieldlr | 6yr

Hi WooThemes!

Congrats all your amazing success and paving the way forward with remote teams. Love it!

  1. Iโ€™m curious how the setup of having a Cape Town office and having others as remote have been for you? Did it start out with just the office then remote, or the both at the same time? Curious to hear your journey here!

  2. Iโ€™ve seen some blogs/articles on your company retreats! They look amazing! Do you still have regular retreats? How have these been? Any lessons here you could perhaps share?

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@markforrester | 6yr

Hi @nieldlr,

Thank you!

  1. Good question. In 2008 when we founded the company Magnus was in Norway, Adii in South Africa, and myself in the UK (Iโ€™ve since moved to Cape Town), so we were distributed from day 1.

We registered the company in South Africa so it made sense initially to grow the team in Cape Town. Itโ€™s also a pretty cost effective place to hire skilled WordPress dev/design people. So Adii rented an office.

But we had the luxury of hiring from anywhere in the world, because we had confidence in a distributed task force. The team grew over the years quite organically, some local, some distributed.

We only faced challenges later on in our journey. Why should the Cape Town team work from an office, whilst the rest of the team had the liberties of working where they wanted, when they wanted?

So we decided to remove the office restrictions of the Cape Town team, and moved the office to somewhere a lot more fun and inspirational - in the heart of Cape Townโ€™s creative district - Woodstock. Now the team decide when and if they want to come into the office. And lots still do.

Some prefer working from a dedicated work environment, that promotes social interaction, and where they can close the door at the end of the day and leave work stress at the office.

The Cape Town office also gives us an identity and a place we can call home where all our team are welcome to visit. It works well for us.

  1. I think Iโ€™ve answered this in my reply to Chris :slight_smile:
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@mjepson | 6yr

Hi @nieldlr

Thanks for the compliments!

  1. When we founded the company, my two co-founders were located in Cape Town, which is where we hired our first employees. I was working remotely from Norway. It was good to have a workspace for those working so close together, and this is now our HQ where our Cape Town crew and others can come and work if they donโ€™t want to work remotely.

  2. As Mark mentioned, weโ€™ve been to some awesome places on our WooTrips, which we have annually. These have been amazing each time, but keep getting better the more people we gather. Last November we were 46 people in SF and hosted our own conference as well! Planning is key for these trips, and the last one was one of the smoothest because of how well planned it was beforehand.

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Hi WooThemes!

Nice to see you guys here :smile:

I would like to know about the challenges you guys encountered and the lessons you can share with us :wink:

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@mjepson | 6yr

Hi Chris,

Payroll and taxes is a challenge for a distributed company, as there arenโ€™t many accountants that understand the laws in different countries. This is definitely something we are still slowly learning on how to deal with.

Communication is also key in a company like ours, which is why we rely heavily on Slack/Skype/Google Hangouts etc, and we ask everybody to over-communicate.

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@markforrester | 6yr

Hi @ChrisJankulovski Chris, to add to Magnusโ€™s points above, and beyond the administration struggles of a distributed team, a healthy company culture is a vital ingredient to a successful remote team. And with a distributed, multi-cultural team you have the huge benefit of baking all those personalities into one rich, colorful, unique brand.

Itโ€™s important, not only for internal use, but for your customers to tell the unique stories of all your team members. It helps them build confidence in the business and ensures a personal connection with the brand.

Getting to know your colleagues online can be challenging, when you are often in different time zones and far removed in your work responsibilities. We use knowyourcompany.com, originally a product of Jason Fried and 37Signals, to stay up to date on all our various work activities, as well as getting to know each other more personally - with fun questions asked weekly.

We also try meetup in the physical sense as regularly as possible. Challenging when youโ€™re a team of nearly 50 across 16 countries - and costly. We ensure one annual team meetup somewhere different. Weโ€™ve visited Austria, UK, Netherlands, Cape Town and San Francisco. This time together is hugely valuable, yet difficult to tangibly measure. Our time together is largely spent sightseeing, socialising over meals and doing team building exercises. We also house workshops and more lately hackathons.

We also have smaller meetups, e.g. the European team, the WooCommerce team, the US support team. I think itโ€™s safe to say everyone feels quite energised and more unified after such trips.

Iโ€™d strongly recommend the Buffer blog for great posts on distributed teams, open salaries, transparency, and the importance of autonomy in the workplace.

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@theroamingpint | 6yr

Hello fellow nomads!

Maria here, Iโ€™m the Internal Community Manager at WooThemes. For the past 4.5 years Iโ€™ve lived in my RV, affectionately named Stanley, traveling the US, with my two dogs, Buddha and Ernie.

Photo credit: www.sethkhughes.com

Iโ€™ve grown quite fond of craft beer in the last 8 years and as a result have visited quite a few breweries across the U.S. as a part of my RV travels which you can read more about at TheRoamingPint.com. Iโ€™ve found that visiting craft breweries is an excellent way to meet locals who always have the best advice about where to go and what to do.

I always love to say that good people drink good beer and have found that to be true all across the US. And hey, Iโ€™d be lying if I said I havenโ€™t slept in a brewery parking lot or two. Bringing your bed with you everywhere you go can be quite convenient!

Let us know what questions you have about travel, working in a distributed company or whatever youโ€™d like!

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@bounding_steps | 6yr

Hey Nomads! Iโ€™m also a WooCommerce Ninja, currently based in Florida, but have lived quite a nomadic life so far. I grew up in Canada, lived in Germany for a couple years and spent almost 3 years in Thailand. Working remotely with WooThemes has been amazing, and I look forward to many more nomadic years ahead! :slight_smile:

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@michaeltieso | 6yr

Hi everyone! WooCommerce Ninja here as well. Iโ€™m now based in Seattle but have been traveling around the world since 2009. The freedom to work from anywhere in the world (as long as I have internet) is pretty great :wink:
Iโ€™m usually active on the Nomad Slack chat as well :smile:

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Read and participate in 13,970 discussions on Nomad List

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Bali to focus on attracting remote workers when the island reopens for tourism


by @levelsio | 2mo 1 month ago | 0 comments

When reopening for tourism, Bali says it will focus on attracting remote workers to choose the island as their workplace:

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thebalisun.com/bali-tourism-will-target-digital-nomads-and-those-who-work-online/

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Transactional Attorney with a focus on US Immigration. Burnt out doing the law firm thing. Trying to leverage skill to get on this digital nomad tip. Love the traveling experience, hostels, seeing new places, new cocktails etc etc.

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What do you use to work together remotely?


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What do you use to work together remotely with your team?

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What have been your biggest challenges working remotely in your team?


by @wanderer | 4mo 3 months ago | 2 comments

My interest in DN lifestyle started when half of our company have been taking 1 month for remote work @ Ko Samui. It was truly cool but we observed quite some communication challenges. Communication seemed just โ€œriskierโ€ when online.

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Has anyone created a list of co-living spaces around the world?


by @keegansard | 5mo 5 months ago | 4 comments

Iโ€™m a big believer in co-living but Iโ€™m finding hard to find all the options available in different cities.

I have found the major players like Roam, The Collective, and WeLive but havenโ€™t found many others.

Has anyone seen a list or should I start making one?

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What investment options are open to e-resident?


by @64tankman | 5mo 5 months ago | 1 comment

I know from experience that if you have residential status in countries where IG (a broker) serves, you can buy stocks and other assets through this broker. But I wonder what doors to the stock market, asset market or broker can be unlocked with e-residency? Some banks open a terminal for customers to buy assets overseas too, is one of the e-residency friendly bank offering a good portfolio of assets to invest in?

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My first time nomad-ing... Spain or Portugal?


in Portugal by @jasraj | 7mo 6 months ago | 6 comments

Hey everyone,

Iโ€™m a freelance + nomad newbie, off for my 1st proper trip in May. Iโ€™m wanting to spend a month somewhere and go from there.

I just came back from Slovenia/Ljubljana and loved it there (just a week). I donโ€™t mind โ€œsleepierโ€ places par-say, as long as theyโ€™re close to a beach or nature of some kind. In fact, I kinda like places less-busy and a bit smaller/cosier.

Iโ€™m been swaying towards Porto, but have been impressed by the rave reviews Iโ€™ve seen for Valencia.

-> Have you every nomad-ed in a Spanish/Portuguese city? Iโ€™d love to know where and what you liked/disliked :slight_smile:

Thanks! :slight_smile:

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Warm and dry place - June to November


by @nomadsince2010 | 7mo 6 months ago | 4 comments

I have been doing Southeast Asia during June to November for 11 years. Rainy, Typhoons - is wild - still warm but ya - getting older so not as into that. Where can go is warm and dry - not super hot like Vegas but warm and has to be DRY. Good Internet and affordable. Ty

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Central America - Where and what's next?


by @as11 | 7mo 6 months ago | 11 comments

Currently in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico and heading to Santa Teressa, Costa Rica next week.
Then Aruba in the Caribbean Sea for Christmas and New Year.

However I feel I want to head back to Central America to bring living costs down, rather than staying in the Caribbean Sea among the expensive Islands.

This means I have around 2 - 2,5 month of unplanned travelling.
Any digital nomads who have ideas about where to head in that timeframe?

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What's the first step now that I can work remotely?


by @mariaplslourdes | 10mo 10 months ago | 4 comments

Hi everyone and nice to e-meet you!
finally, after so long I found a job that allows me to work remotely.
But now? Do you have any practical advice that I can use to approach this new world?
In particular, I have to put my tax situation in order, do you know a good tax advisor from whom I can ask for advice? (Iโ€™m Italian but I live in Franceโ€ฆI donโ€™t know how long it will beโ€ฆ) )
Beyond that, any advice is welcome.
Thank you!
Maria

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Where to move for tax purposes as a non-US citizen?


by @mender | 10mo 10 months ago | 5 comments

I am a New Zealander looking to travel for a couple of years in different countries. For this purpose I would ideally like to shift my company to a lower tax territory where I will live part time, as I am currently taxed at roughly 33% in New Zealand, however itโ€™s closer to 40% when I add in all the hidden taxes.

With a move I wonโ€™t be living in NZ so Iโ€™ll no longer be obliged to pay any tax after 320 days.

I ideally would wish to be a tax resident of the country I incorporate in. What country is easiest to do this through? A large chunk of my business relies on PayPal which requires your bank account to be from the same country your company is registered. Thus I canโ€™t do anything such as BVI or small islands.

Tbh my best bet looks to be Dubai Free Zones at this point and I can do some travel in europe from there.

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What is your ergonomic set-up while traveling?


by @caseyr | 11mo 10 months ago | 18 comments

What is your ergonomic set-up while traveling?

I personally have an external keyboard, and am currently exploring getting a laptop stand, some lumbar support, and a trackball-mouse.

What do you use? How are you balancing health / portability?

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Property Ownership - should digital nomads buy properties?


by @sparrow_23 | 1yr 1 year ago | 16 comments

I have been a digital nomad for the last couple of years. I have always worked in tech and now run a couple of profitable online businesses that give me a reliable income and allow me to fund a nomadic lifestyle.

I recently exited one of my businesses and I am considering to invest the income from the sale in properties, mainly for 2 reasons:

a) I donโ€™t want to keep wasting my money in renting apartments across the cities I stay

b) I believe in properties as investment and I want to diversify my investment portfolio (mainly stocks)

After years of constant wander from one place to another, now I am the type of digital nomad who sticks to few locations: I mainly rotate across 4 places each year (San Francisco, Medellin, Berlin, Bali). Buying a house in each of those location would be difficult and too expensive. Therefore, I was wondering if there was any sort of service that combines an investment opportunity with the ability to access different properties around the world (even if just for a limited time per year) ?

Imagine living in 4 cities per year and having a house in each place that you can exclusively use for 3 months and at the same time having your investment growing (this depending on the market, of course). Wouldnโ€™t that be great? I believe it could be done via a property fund selling you a share and giving you access to some of their properties for a limited timeframe each year.

Has anyone heard of anything like that?

Thanks!

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Any Estonia e-residency company viritual office provider that accepts cryptocurrency?


in Estonia by @64tankman | 1yr 1 year ago | 0 comments

I previously use Profia. Contract is ending and I want to have someone who accepts crypto payment instead.

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Recommendations for UK/Scotland accountants that understand remote businesses?


by @eduardoyi | 1yr 1 year ago | 1 comment

Looking for recommendations for reliable accountants who understand how remote businesses with off-shore freelancers and clients work. Thanks!

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Ko Lanta or Ko Phangan - which island is better for a digital nomad?


in Ko Lanta, Thailand by @melinda | 1yr 1 year ago | 6 comments

Iโ€™m currently in Penang, Malaysia and I was thinking to head to Thailand next. What are the best islands in Thailand to get some work done? I was considering either Ko Lanta or Ko Phangan because those both islands have coworking spaces. I might need to take some client calls, also video. Is the wifi good enough? Are there any other differences between the islands?

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Greece- WIFI- how is it really?


in Greece by @amandamay | 1yr 1 year ago | 0 comments

We are leaving for Greece in 60 days and need good wifi for the 3 months we plan on staying there, this is a must! Iโ€™ve heard mixed reviews and the 8-10 ranking on nomadlist are not super encouraging. Has anyone recently worked from there? What should we expect? We plan on renting an apartment after staying in airbnb and would like to work from the place we are staying in. Thanks so much for helping me decide if we can continue on or change plans.

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