In this remote work interview, we sit down with Matous Vins, a Facebook marketer and author to get his thoughts on thoughts on working remotely, running a business from the road, and the future of the digital nomad movement.
I had the pleasure of meeting Matous at a coworking space in Chiang Mai last winter. Born in the Czech Republic, he has spent nearly the past two years working abroad and splitting his time between managing clients' Facebook marketing campaigns and developing the Travel Bible, a guide for other Czechs looking to get out and travel.
Where are you now?
I’m just enjoying the summer in Berlin and heading to Poland soon. I love European summer!
Can you tell me about your current job or business?
I spend around half of my working time as a Facebook marketing consultant. I help my clients mostly with paid advertising on Facebook, sometimes with the overall social media marketing & PR strategy. The other half goes to my project, mostly the Travel Bible. It started as a (printed) book about smart travelling, but we developed it to a big travel project. Today, we have a team of contributors for our travel website, we organise events, and we’re just working on two new online products. I also joined the team of TrulyTraveled.com.
How often do you change locations?
It depends. Usually, I like to stay at least three weeks in one location, and then travelling around for a week or so. But sometimes, I stay for two months, and sometimes I don’t like the place so much, and move on after five days.
How do you stay organised? Any tools you can recommend?
First of all, I need to stick to a daily routine – that’s why I don’t like changing locations too often. It means getting up, having shower, 10 minutes of yoga, breakfast, coffee, and going directly to work. "Eat the frog first” helps me a lot. I have to start with the most important task of the day and finish it before doing anything else. I use Todoist for simple to-do lists and Google Calendar for organising my days and planning calls in different time zones.
Any tips on how to get set up in a new city reading a place to live and work?
Start with one place to eat, and one to work. Later, you can explore much more, but for the beginning, these two are the most important to avoid distractions. I usually ask some locals on Couchsurfing, search nomad blogs and FB groups, or ask in the Nomadlist Slack group.
Where is the best place you have worked from and why?
Probably a tiny coworking space called M.A.N.A. in Chiang Mai. I love the super friendly and always helpful owners, the workplace, and the small community working there. It’s a very personal space, compared to some big coworkings where you hardly know more than 20% people, even when you stay longer.
What are some challenges of working/running a business remotely?
Internet, timezones, distractions, and cash flow. The Internet is getting much better almost everywhere (today, Thailand is often better than Germany, for example). But it can be a disaster in cafes all around the world. And I love working from cafes… On the other hand, timezone problem will probably be here forever. For my own business, I love to be ahead – which means Bangkok, or even Sydney time. Most of my team is in Europe, and this difference cut out most of the unnecessary communication, I have a lot of time for focused work, and most of the daily “problems” simply don’t exist. But when I was in Australia, the difference was sometimes too much for calls with my clients, and I had to skip some great events because of that. Distractions are usually the biggest problem for people who just started working from new countries. I remember my first nomad trip to Asia – I wanted to see everything, everything was new and exotic. It’s hard to get your things done then. And then cash flow. Being paid in € or $, but spending in Thai baths, Vietnam dongs, Indonesian rupees, and then in Czech crowns is just crazy. Somewhere, you pay 50 for your breakfast, then 35 000, then 150, and it’s very easy to lose the track of your finances. Plus a flight ticket there, another one there, a crazy night out… At the end of one month, I realised I spent three times more than I wanted. Apps like TrailWallet can help a lot, but I still really recommend using a spreadsheet, where you can track all your incomes, regular outcomes (like insurance, rent or subscriptions), irregular outcomes (taxes, flight tickets…), and your weekly expenses for food, and entertainment.
Do you have any advice for those starting a digital nomad life?
Try it somewhere close to your home, before flying half the way around the Globe. Two hours flight is the maximum. This way, you can set up the processes you need, and your daily nomad routine, but if something goes really wrong, you can always fly back. Also, be sure your work is very well organised, and you can communicate remotely with both your team and clients.
How do you meet other nomads/like minded people?
In nomad hubs like Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Saigon, Berlin or Barcelona, it’s very easy. Many events take place there, there is always an FB group, and a Nomadlist Slack channel, where you can just write "A beer tonight?”, and you’ll always find someone. In places like Da Nang, Vietnam (perfect nomad location, by the way) with almost no nomads, I often used Couchsurfing for meeting people, or just started to talk to someone with a laptop in some cafés.
What do you see being the future of remote work?
I just know the today's hype – as media often call it – is just beginning. It will be massive. But most of the remote workers will work from home, it’s the most natural way of living, and daily commuting is one of the biggest problems in many parts of the world. Yes, there will be more digital nomads living out of a small backpack, and startups with dozens or even hundreds of employees moving around the Globe searching lower costs of living and better weather. But the mainstream of new remote workers will be just ordinary people with families, houses, and nice jobs.