How To Thrive As A Digital Nomad And Choose The Best Coworking Spaces

August 18, 2021
Authored by:
Richard Lau

Riley Bennett has been a full-time Amazon seller since 2015, in doing so he has also built his brand to over 7-figures, he is the founder of the FBA lifestyle podcast as well as the 90 Day FBA Academy. He's also a digital nomad and in this exclusive interview, he talks about his journey.

Why did you choose to move to Thailand?

Riley, always being a lover of travel, first went to Thailand to visit a friend, and that prompted him to attend a conference five years ago, and ever Thailand has been where he's chosen to live. According to him, "it's been the life of a digital nomad."

As far as reasons that made him choose to stay, he mentions that it ranges from the cost of living being cheaper than the US, the great weather, exotic culture, as well as it being a hub for E-commerce, online and entrepreneurship community it seemed like the right fit for him.

How did you go about escaping your old 9-5 job?

Riley used to be a door to door salesman in the summer when he lived in the US and was attending college. It was that very two-week trip to visit a friend studying in Thailand, and that was a culture shock for him and made him reconsider his options.

Riley's journey to quitting his job began at the end of that trip. He decided that he wanted to travel for a year; while doing his research on living and working abroad, he came across Johnny FD's YouTube channel and found himself more invested in the 'digital nomad' lifestyle.

Riley and his friend Parker found themselves more intrigued by the concept of working abroad; it was through working in the E-commerce industry they began saving up after an announcement of a Digital Marketing conference in Chiang Mai. Attending that very conference in Thailand that October prompted him to stay on.

What has it been like working on Amazon FBA and private labelling?

Dropshipping was what both Parker and Riley were focused on. At the time, it wasn't taking off, as far as Riley's opinion on why that was, it's merely because they weren't doing any Facebook retargeting or email marketing at the time. Riley then found many friends working on selling products on Amazon prime and doing quite well, so they decided to get into it themselves. In doing so, they realized they were making enough money to continue staying out in Thailand.

With FBA, how it works is that Amazon already has their inventory in their warehouses, which is spread through the US, it's the fact that they are based everywhere that they can distribute the products based on that fast prime shipping of two business days. Given that their products are stored in the Amazon warehouses, it also becomes cheaper for Riley than using a third party warehouse, which is another advantage with the automated FBA.

Private labelling works based on buying inventory from a wholesaler and putting your logo and packaging on the products, making them your brand, then shipped to the Amazon warehouse ready for purchase. According to Riley, what's essential for success is creating products that aren't like others. For that, he's worked with the manufacturer to have unique functional features that make them stand out on Amazon.

How does marketing their products work?

With the products they create and put out, their marketing is only through Amazon, so there aren't any other social media platforms that they advertise on, for Riley meant during the design process, ensuring that the products would meet the pre-existing keywords that Amazon connects with its search bar.

How this works is that if someone were to create a search on Amazon, they want to show up on the first page of results, their page, pictures, and videos also do matter, but for Riley, it's that immediate attention they want.

As far as saturation goes with Amazon, in his opinion, Riley finds that there will always be specific niches that will be saturated, and it has a lot to do with timing. For example, there are multiple pages of good options with exercise resistance bands, meaning it's hard, but there are other products with only a few, so knowing that is important.

How to Find a Niche?

Riley has realized and recommends using the chrome extension known as Jungle Scott; it's an Amazon product research tool that enables you to get information on the numbers as far as sales volume and finding keywords.

You can do with this data to figure out if your idea is unique and in demand, or if there is a lot of competition that you want to avoid, using information like this is what he regards the key to success and has worked for him.

How does taking advantage of what is Trending work?

Riley believes that along with coming up with something unique, it's also essential to take advantage of the different pages Amazon makes available if that's the what's a new page, the top sellers, most searched for, or even the shark tank products page, doing this gives you an idea of what is in demand among users.  He prefers going about it is taking a couple of weeks to do that market research and crunch those numbers; his method uses a spreadsheet to jot down every idea. According to Riley, with products on Amazon, once you've got a solid idea and it gets going though it's hard work at the start later, it becomes just restocking inventory, so those initial stages of market research and idea formation are crucial.

What has life as a Digital Nomad been like?

Leaving his 9 to 5 corporate job, which he did for two years, was always a goal to Riley, and it was a job that left him feeling burnt out, so being able to travel and grow an online business has supposed surreal to him and been like living a dream.

As far as Covid-19 goes, it hasn't affected business for him to the point where he has to shut down. The products they sell aren't considered essential, so sales have been down 40%, but they are doing okay.

Riley's lifestyle allows him to wake up and go to sleep when he wishes. It's that freedom and flexibility that he considers the best thing.

Before the pandemic, his daily routine consisted of waking up and going to the gym, now it's a run or home workout, followed by getting lunch and doing some work for the next couple hours, usually would be at a coffee shop or coworking space if things were normal but now is just at his condo, he then takes a break eats and finishes up work before goes to bed.

Is there a beginner's guide to being a Digital Nomad?

Riley has been working on an Ebook that can be seen as a beginner's guide after being frequently asked about his life and its steps to having his current lifestyle. It covers the ten best business models that his friends who are digital nomads and explains each. The book goes over what he has seen work and what digital nomads do, so with 2 of them being a freelancer or a remote employee, everyone's goal long-term is to be an online business owner.

According to him, "It's about choosing a business model, working on your side, hustle until you're ready to blast off." Riley finds everyone has their situations and factors to consider, so quitting your job depends on your savings and plan.

Choosing the best co-working spaces

As a digital nomad, a key area that you would consider thinking about is choosing the best coworking spaces. We know that many small and medium sized businesses, as well as remote workers for large companies, and of course, individual contractors love to use co-working spaces. Before you join one though, consider what others have to say about their experiences. We asked for input on what people wish they knew before choosing a communal workspace such as WeWork and others.

Hera Zee

It's a lot harder to get work done than I had thought. Rubbing elbows with so many amazing entrepreneurs became more like a networking event than a place to get a job done at first. After I got to know everybody, we were able to get down to business, and the community space was beautiful. I bought some noise-cancelling headphones and tapped into the supply of unlimited coffee and snacks. Still, after a while, three days a week I would take myself out to a long lunch and get work done at a table at a restaurant and be served a full meal for what it costs for a day at a workspace (I don't need a printer.. or that much coffee!

Paul Strobel

I initially moved into a communal workspace to add a social aspect to my work life as well as getting more structure with my hours. A year later, I can say that shared workspaces aren't for everyone. I felt that there was a lack of privacy that I didn't know I needed, and for my particular workspace, there were set hours. This meant that I only had the opportunity to go there between 9 AM and 5 PM.

I like to work odd hours and often feel more motivated at night, so this was very counterproductive and limiting for me. I can easily do with a little more noise than at home, but the fixed hours was a make-or-break deal for me in the long term. My recommendation would be to check up on whether there are set hours or if you can freely access the workspace at any time of the day.

Stacy Caprio

I wish I knew that it was possible to buy a global coworking pass on the website that you can use at different spaces a handful of days a month for a correspondingly lower price when compared to purchasing a full-time coworking space membership at a single location.

When you have a full-time membership at a single space, you don't get the opportunity to try a variety of spaces in your area, and you are forced to go in every day and work as opposed to changing your scenery when you want. It is also nice knowing you can use the pass when travelling for fun or business in spaces in different states and countries.

Jeff Howell

Coworking is marketed as a way for solopreneurs to find community while maintaining their freedom and independence. Coworking websites show people sharing laughter over coffee in a communal kitchen, working on beanbags, and having beers on a rooftop after work.

While this is the experience that some entrepreneurs receive, the vibe of many coworking spaces is far from the commercial. Most members are not in the office frequently, and there is no typical problem everyone is working on together.

Most of these entrepreneurs have a work style of wanting to be in a silo, and so they remain in a silo. We have plenty of clients who have signed up for coworking only to cancel their membership due to the let down of the social life that it promised.

My advice is to do some advanced scouting of the culture of the coworking venue to see if it has the community you are seeking. Ask the community manager what the attendance is at events, and ask to speak with some of the members – you should try to make some friends with existing members while you do your tour.

Rachel Johnston

I wish I'd known that Regus, who owns Spaces, wants to force you into contracts at any cost. I signed a 12-month contract for myself + 2 employees, and they don't tell you that if you don't cancel your contract at least three months in advance, it auto-renews for another 12 months.

Luckily, I did notify them of my desire to cancel early because I was so unhappy with the place -- the front desk people charged us for add-ons without telling us, couldn't remember who we were after 6mo+ of working there, plus amenities were always unavailable, subpar, or out of order -- that I decided we needed to work elsewhere.  

Our other office location is located in the Riveter, which has been much better for us to work with (friendly, flexible, professional), but sadly there wasn't one where I was. The Riveter is also much more in line with our mission, as we are a queer-owned company that works with non-profits and early-stage start-ups to tell stories of underrepresented founders.

Mike Falahee

Many small businesses want to be able to attract the best talent but may not be able to afford the amenities that these prospective employees expect. Shared workspaces give multiple small businesses the ability to share the costs of these amenities between them so they can all attract the right talent. Here are my best tips:

Nothing is "Yours" - One important thing to know when you're using a communal workspace (like WeWork) is that, for the most part, there are no assigned spaces. Aside from a reserved conference room, you have no claim to a particular area. Depending on your employees, this can be something of an issue when someone feels they have "claimed" a specific area of the workspace as theirs, and it's taken the next day. It's important to know, especially if you're coming from a business where everyone had their private places, that it's first come, first serve here.

Keep it Mobile - Because you never know where you'll be, make sure as much of your business as possible is mobile—the less tethering you to an outlet, the better.

Sukhi Jutla

When working in a communal workspace, beware of the many distractions around you, which can prevent you from focusing correctly on a task, especially when you are an introvert and need quiet and silence to get the work done.

This could include the noisy sounds of the coffee machine to people inadvertently holding ad-hoc standing meetings right next to your hot desk!

Events being held in the open spaces can also act as a distraction; when you need to do work that requires 100% of your focus, you may find your progress slows down. As human beings, we are always seeking pleasure over pain, so when you are trying to tackle hard tasks like reviewing financial data, you may find the lure of the free coffee and cake wins far more often than you might have wished for!

You also need to be very organized and can book meeting rooms weeks in advance to ensure you have a quiet professional space to welcome clients, partners or team sessions.

Adam White

When I moved SEOJet into a communal workspace, I honestly didn't know what to expect, but I learned a couple of things the hard way. I'm not the type of person to try to force my business down someone's throat, so that probably caused me to go the other direction and not be social enough with the other companies in the space. I remember, after being in the co-workspace for about six months, a business owner approached me and asked if he could talk to me.

I could tell that he was a little nervous about contacting me. He asked me what SEOJet was and then when I explained it, he said: "why didn't you let me about this sooner?" When a second company in the building approached me in the same way, I felt a little ashamed for not being more social and vocal. This situation worked for me because businesses in my target audience shared the space with me.

But I quickly realized the value of having a bunch of business owners that I could network with. I was also able to find a good web developer as a referral from someone in the workspace.

Alexa DeKalb

We spent some of our early months of being a business in a communal workspace. While there were many benefits (printing/sanitation being taken care of was so lovely), I wish I understood and thought about the limitations of the client's reactions when they met us at the coworking space. For smaller and newer businesses, they know the benefits of us working out of there - we could save on rent, and pass those savings onto them.

But more traditional, old-school businesses, could be worried about a couple of people working in a place where they don't even need to pay months ahead for rent. Over time, we learned to emphasize our anchors in our city, so that these clients would understand we were here for good. But for those thinking about coworking spaces, I highly recommend remembering to ensure your clients know this is likely temporary til you make a permanent home for yourself.

James McGrath

I'm a co-founder of the NYC real estate brokerage, Yoreevo, and I'm sitting in a WeWork as I write this.

Before signing up for a communal workspace, I wish I had known how loud it could be. That's especially the case if you're planning on working in an open area like WeWork's Hot Desks. There are phone booths, but not enough of them and not enough people choose to use them.

We have an office, but even that can be loud. We're right next to two doors, which are very loud every time they're opened. It's not a deal-breaker, the space still works for us, but depending on how you like to work and what kind of industry you're in, the noise can be a deal-breaker.

Mike Miller

I work exclusively out of a local coworking space. The #1 problem I have is all the events they host. When you visit the area and do the tour, the owner usually schedules the tour during quiet hours. They know you want quiet, so they make sure you get it.

However, many coworking spaces double as event spaces. This means they could have loud parties, or mic'd up presentations, going on always. I don't know about you, but I have a hard time concentrating when there's a bunch of chatter and movement in the background.

Even if you have your own private office, most doors aren't sound-proof. You'll probably still be able to hear the ruckus going on outside.

When you check out a coworking space, make sure you double-check their calendar to see how often they host events. This could turn an otherwise impressive coworking space into an absolute nightmare.

Become a digital nomad

Since you may be living in remote areas or countries without a strong infrastructure, you’ll also need to get creative when it comes to the things you need to work. While the reality of remote work can be less glamorous than some of those pictures, the lifestyle is extremely rewarding, even when you do have to track down a dark, dingy café that’s the only place on the island with Internet.

The thing with the digital nomad lifestyle is that there isn’t exactly one blueprint for everyone to follow. Everyone has a slightly different set of skills and varying degrees of professional or career experience so some of you might be able to skip a few steps, while some may need to do a little extra legwork at the beginning.

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