4 Ways to Earn a Living in a Non 9-5 Job (From Digital Nomads) Especially in the New Norm

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I’ve been an Airbnb host in KL city center for about five years since 2015. Throughout this time, I’ve met all sorts of people from all over the world. 

If you also have been hosting, I bet that you would also have your own story to tell. In today’s compilation, I will be sharing about four eccentric guests that stayed in my apartment and how they earn a living.

I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, I was indirectly told by my parents, teachers, family, and society to get good grades and get a good-paying job, get married, buy a Honda and a house, pop out some kids and that is it.

What I find interesting about these four people is that they opened my mind (from a typical Malaysian perspective) on how to make a living. 

As we can see with the current situation and moving forward in the ‘new norm,’ the way we work in the future will be vastly different than what we all are used to. 

All of these are western travelers who booked my apartment in KL between 2015 to 2019. All of the exchanges that I had with them are during check-in small talks, or when I had the chance to go out for dinner or drinks with some of them.

The German Coder & His Xiaomi Phone

There was this one German guy in his mid 20’s that booked my apartment for two nights. Let’s call him Lucas (not his real name). He was traveling around Asia, but at the time he was settled in Danao Toba, Indonesia.

He looked like an unkempt backpacker. Imagine Shaggy, from the cartoon series, Scooby-Doo:

He started his career working as a web designer, building, and coding websites. This guy had a few side projects where he builds sites and flips them (build a website with 0 visitors and create content to achieve thousands of visitors each month). 

He had a few websites in different niches, but none of them made him a significant amount of money, except for one project: 

A gambling website for the Indonesian market. 

He built it up and promoted it until he had a few thousand visitors each month, at which point, he sold it to a gambling conglomerate.

He made a handsome profit from that deal that he technically doesn’t have to work anymore if he doesn’t want to.

The Vintage Watch Restorer

I had another German-Turkish man that booked my apartment for a week. Let’s call him Asif.

He told me that he was a former cook at a Hotel in Munich, Germany. Besides his day job, he is really into vintage watches. 

In Germany, he couldn’t afford to buy restored vintage watches from the shop. So he did the next best thing. Buy damaged old watches that nobody wants next to nothing; then, he fixed them himself through guides and parts he found online.

He was a proud owner of his restored watch until somebody noticed his masterpiece. Long story short, he was offered money for it. That’s when he realized that he could build a business out of his hobby.

He started to buy more damaged watches and hire restorers to fix them up before selling them online.

He made enough money to quit his job as a hotel cook and dived headfirst into the watch restoration business full time with his brother.  

The business was great, but labor costs in Germany were killing his margins. That’s when he started traveling to Asia.

He told me that the best place to buy damaged vintage watches was in Japan. But the best and cheapest place to restore them was in India. He booked my apartment in KL as transit before Japan and knocked KL off his visit list.

Asif regularly gets new purchases from Japan shipped to India. After a month of restoration work, the watches are shipped to Germany, where they’re sold online for European based clientele.

The Danish Online Jeweler 

I had a Danish couple in their mid-twenties who booked one of my apartments in KL. They flew in from Bali, Indonesia. Let’s call them Jan & Emma.

One of the nights, we went out to socialize at a neighborhood bar. Over there, I get to know what they do for a living. Back in Copenhagen, Jan worked as a butcher, while Emma had a typical office job. Emma finds joy in designing and making jewelry. 

Jan helped to handcraft her designs after returning home from their day jobs, and they managed to sell them on Etsy.com.

After a while, they managed to establish their brand and set up their website to bypass the middle man. Their customers are primarily Scandinavians and Central Europe.

Jan & Emma needed to expand their business, but they need to get out of Denmark, where everything is super expensive. 

They did their research and moved to Bali. They set up a workshop there and hire local artisans to materialize their jewelry designs. 

A small percentage of the completed jewelry is sold locally in Bali to the western tourists and the remaining sold to Europe through their website.

The Blockchain Girl

I had this girl from America who booked my apartment for four nights. She was very animated and passionate about what she did. We had the opportunity to go out for dinner and shisha nearby.

After graduating in the US with a psychology degree, she got her first job with a logistics company (like FedEx).

She was grateful for the job, but she felt like it wasn’t her true calling. At some point, she was introduced to bitcoin and Blockchain by some of her friends. 

Here’s a quick definition of what these two things are:

  • Bitcoin (is a cryptocurrency)
  • Blockchain (is the system bitcoin is run on)

She was intrigued and started to learn everything about Blockchain during her off time. Then, she even taught herself coding (Python) for free just from YouTube tutorials. Using her coding skills that she learned online, she coded a few projects that were a solution for a trending problem.

She then updated her LinkedIn profile and marketed herself as a ‘programmer’ and uploaded some of the projects that she has done in her portfolio. After some time, recruiters started to notice her LinkedIn profile. 

They matched her to a programming job at a company that uses Blockchain to revolutionize real estate purchasing transactions in the US.

As part of the interview, she had to code a mini-project. When the employer read her work, he was so impressed; he offered her a job immediately, which she gladly accepted. Over a few months, her deep passion for blockchain came to fruition as she later owned equity in the company.

Being a programmer, she could work remotely (she was doing it before the lockdown ). Her office was in Silicon Valley (where all the tech companies are) and she worked from home, in Texas.

Since everything was done online, she decided to move to Thailand to save on rent and brag to her friends back home that she’s living abroad.

She booked my apartment in KL because her friends from the US came to visit her in Thailand, and they were going around South East Asia.

Key Takeaway From All These Stories

Here’s what we all can learn from these stories, especially with the changing job market in the new norm:

  • If you’re not happy with your job or income, you are the only one who can change it. 

You can’t expect a new job or business opportunity to welcome you with a red carpet.

  • All these people ventured into businesses that they have a deep passion for. 

Running a business will have its ups and downs. The passion will help to push you forward during your downtime.

  • All of these people’s businesses are predominantly online, which is the new norm. 

A lot of traditional businesses will collapse when consumers are restricted to physically travel. Having a business that is predominately online will significantly increase your chance of survival in the future.

For more stories like this, read: Backpacks, Visas and Language Schools – What You Didn’t Know About the Digital Nomad Life and Career Trends in Malaysia – What’s Popular Today?

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I'm Helmi. I write about Personal Finance and Entrepreneurship for Malaysian Millennials at www.balkonihijau.com
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