Business Resources for Digital Nomads
Welcome to the Minimalist Journeys Business Resources page, a curated list of the products and services we use and recommend to those who want to set up, run and grow their own small / home / location-independent business.
Many of the resources on this page were crucial to developing our business to where it is today. We have tried and tested many options, but only those resources that we recommend are listed here.
These are our preferences, and this is by no means an exhaustive list. Though we do add and change this list as we find more and better resources that help us all. As such, we always look for companies that are aligned with our values, so if you represent a company interested in working with us please get in touch.
We operate two separate business units operating within a legal company in New Zealand:
so the resources below are primarily geared toward those two enterprises in that geography.
When people are looking for an office productivity suite, Google and Microsoft tend to come to mind. And for good reason: while there are other alternatives on the market, they remain the most popular tools for business users.
Both offer similar functionality – such as word processing, spreadsheets and file storage – but differ in many respects. For example, Microsoft offers both desktop and cloud deployments of its Office suite, while Google’s G-Suite (formerly Google Apps) is cloud-only.
How often do you read a post (whether your own or someone else’s) and cringe when you stumble upon a spelling mistake? We always review our content before we push publish, but some spelling mistakes just manage to remain undetected. In addition to our own rigorous peer review process, we use Grammarly to spot check after we have conducted our visual process.
It helps you write mistake-free on Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and nearly anywhere else you write on the web, and offers accurate, context-specific suggestions to help you improve your copy. The basic version is free and this is the one we use as well. Why take the chance?
Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium
We use Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium as it contains the productivity tools (Excel, Outlook, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Word) that we have worked with in our corporate careers for many years.
- We use the app/desktop versions all our Surface Pro devices and iPhones. When we are online, the software updates can be easily managed and installed.
- Because we have good-sized hard drive space, the working files can be accessed online and offline. When we are online they sync automatically to our SharePoint site.
- Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium makes it easy to collaborate and work seamlessly across multiple devices, for example: Using OneNote, we record ideas on our iPhone SE. When we have an internet connection, these sync automatically to our Microsoft Surface Pros, and we continue developing our ideas and articles on our laptops.
- We have access to our latest files wherever we are and via any device, for example: If someone stole our gear we can still work, accessing the Office web version from a computer in an internet cafe or library.
- From experience, we have found the Microsoft 24/7 phone and web support excellent. We have used it several times over the past few years and they are always polite, answer the questions in a none technical way and follow up afterwards to make sure any issues are resolved 100%.
- It is subscription-based, which means you pay an annual fee to keep it up to date.
Even buying one licence, it would suit someone who needs the basic Office products and needs to ensure there is help available if they have technical issues. As to which version, you need to work out your requirements. Since we prefer to use an Exchange Server to host our emails, we went with Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium.
As travel bloggers, there are only a couple of necessities we need to have for our business and one of them is good internet access – both in quality and speed. We will often book short-term rental accommodation that promotes high-speed internet/fibre as one of its selling points. When we arrive at a property, one of the first things we do is check the internet speed using the Speedtest app from Ookla. To work effectively, we need speeds of minimum 10 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload.
Although we only use the iOS and Windows versions, it is also available for Android and Mac operating systems. The Windows browser version is free as it is supported by advertising. The iOS version is also free, but if you want it to be advertising-free, you can purchase through it the in-app purchase option.
The process works when you start a session and send packages of data to one of the 9400+ servers around the world that host the Speedtest server daemon. The simple speed test measures the speed between your device and a test server, using your device’s internet connection.
Based upon all the data collected, Ookla provide a summary of internet speeds globally as well as by country. For example, in November 2019, the global average for mobile devices worldwide was 30.93 Mbps downlaod and 11.88 Mbps upload speeds.
WiFi Map is a smartphone app that provides a crowdsourced list of public and private WiFi spots in venues worldwide – all for free. WiFi Map is simply the largest Wi-Fi community in the World with over 100 million WiFis spots available worldwide.
When you install WiFi Map app, and then download the country and/or city data where you are, you can access all the networks available.
Once you have downloaded the data, (you have to be on the internet to do this), you can then display the smart-search map with your location and all the networks in your area offline.
As a user, you are encouraged to enter new publically-available Wi-Fi networks (and their associated passwords) for all users to access.
After more than three years of travelling full-time, we have reduced our actual hardware requirements down to the bare minimum to do our jobs. This is the collective list of what we have in our carry-on luggage.
For any company, data security is paramount.
Being location-independent, there is always a (higher) risk of (y)our devices being lost or stolen: someone tries to snatch your phone in a cafe while you’re momentarily distracted, your bedroom door at your Airbnb may have no locks. While a degree of vigilance goes a long way, there are many factors you have no control over.
It is imperative to be able to store (y)our files securely (with sufficient back-up), but also be able to access them easily as and when required. This holds true for home businesses too, BTW.
- store and access our files from our smartphones and Surface Pro tablets.
- Sync the files between all the devices (as long as we are connected to the internet)
- Scan all our invoices, receipts, travel documents, etc. While we don’t finally store them in the Dropbox system, the Dropbos scannig feature is quick, easy to use and saves our files as PDFs or PNG files as requred.
- share any files with anyone – even if they don’t have a Dropbox account.
- back up our smartphone folders and files, including all our scanned invoices and data from our Password Managers;
- back up our website database, folders and files (so that there is an offline copy that is not associated with SiteGround); and
- share files with our accountant and other professionals.
We use Dropbox Plus, which currently comes with 2TB of storage (we have not even used 25%) and additional features. Dropbox Plus is a paid subscription. You can choose to subscribe monthly or annually.
The features of Dropbox Plus we like and use are:
- Ability to back up files automatically
- Restore content after mishaps (yes, it has happened)
- Remove data remotely from lost and stolen devices (no, luckily this has never happened).
As mentioned above, we use Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium, so naturally, we use SharePoint as part of our collaboration suite. Although we are only a small company, we take full advantage of the SharePoint features.
- As a central repository, it stores all your company data and maintains an audit trail.
- You can customize it to suit your business needs, and its’ comprehensive set of features helps with your productivity.
- It complies with ISO standards and other legislation.
- It integrates with most other software, and there is lots of third party / consulting support if you ever need help.
- The multitude of features means that it takes time (and sometimes paid expertise) to customise the site in a way you get the most out of it for your business.
- It’s browser-based, which means you have no SharePoint access without the Internet. Files are available offline though, you just need to ensure your files sync whenever you are online.
Security and Protection
Our intellectual property (our brand, logo, copy and images) is an important part of our business and as such, also requires protection.
- The first factor is something you know (for example, your user ID and password).
- The second factor is something you have (for example, a device – including your phone or tablet – that can receive or generate a single issue code / one time PIN).
Financial institutions may send you a single issue code / one time PIN (OTP) to your mobile number before you can complete a transaction. They may provide a token (a small physical device) that generates an OTP at the push of a button or have an OTP generating application embedded in their mobile/online banking solution.
Authy effectively does the same for many other online accounts you may want to protect with two-factor authentication, including DropBox, Facebook and Amazon.
Every computer must have some type of antivirus or malware protection. Period. No questions asked. Since 2012, we have been using products from Avira, a German multinational security software company mainly known for their antivirus software Avira Internet Security. At the time, they were ranked sixth in the antivirus market share. So not the big boys, but certainly on the way up.
We started with their free individual application, Avira Free Security Suite and have slowly increased it to the point where we subscribe to Avira Prime. The free suite version includes 10 applications including their award-winning Avira Free Antivirus.
Because we log into various Wi-Fi connections, we need to have the best protection for our laptops, tablet and smartphones. Avira Prime allows us to download all the latest software from Avira premium services. We pay an annual fee that is cheaper than paying month by month. Using the premium service means that we qualify for any new products or features that are creating. It future-proofs the entire solution we have.
If you are planning to set up your own blog/website check out what common technology mistakes you should avoid when starting a website for more learnings.
Your yearly cost for a personal blog should be less than $100, in most cases:
- Your website name (domain) will cost you USD12-15 per year.
- Web hosting space (hosting account) normally costs USD4-8 per month, depending on the host company you choose.
Plugin: Advanced Ads
Advanced Ads is by far the best and most comprehensive graphical ad delivery service for WordPress. We couldn’t present and track our graphical advertisements without the feature set that Advanced Ads provides. We use it to
- create and manage all our graphical advertisements
- add advertiements automatically at specified locations in posts and pages
- display adertisement based on your location
- choose whether to display an advertisement on mobile, desktop, or both devices
- define groups of advertisements which auto-rotate based on specified weightings.
The regular product updates, the technical support and the ease of use are just a few great reasons why we continue to use this plugin on our WordPress site.
We dislike spam as much as you do. We, therefore, use Akismet to identify and remove spam comments and other malicious content entered via our website forms. We subscribe to the Plus Plan for USD60 per year, which provides us with priority support if we encounter any issues.
Our website had a major failure several years ago and the backup service provided by our website host at the time, didn’t cut the mustard. So we investigated a backup solution that worked well with WordPress, was easy to create backup images and just as importantly, easy to restore from those images.
iTheme’s BackupBuddy was the best choice we made in regards to a solution that worked seamlessly out of the box.
Google Analytics and Google Data Studio
Google Analytics is our primary analytics service that tracks and reports our website traffic while Google Data Studio is the advanced dashboard and reporting tool that makes it easier to relate the data back to our Key Performance Indicators.
So if you have a website, you should install the Google Analytics code as one of the first tasks when you set the website up. Why? If you don’t, you’ll never know how successful it is (in regards to the data captured) or where improvements can be made.
Both help us track how our readers find us, what pages are read most, where people are from, their age groups, their genders etc. None of the data can be traced to an individual, but it is consolidated into demographical data.
Given that we are very results orientated, we track the following metrics against our desired goals:
- Website visitors
- Page views
- Average Session Duration
- Bounce Rate
- Domain Authority
- Page Authority
- Number of Backlinks to the site etc.
While it has Lite in its name, it is anything but light when it comes to features and functionality. Having used a combination of several tools (including MailChimp, Yikes and OptimizePress) in the past. we have been very impressed with this platform and its customer support.
On top of that, it is free while you have 1,000 or fewer subscribers! If you have a larger subscriber base, the cost is still reasonable at USD10/ 20/ 35/ 50 per month (1,001 – 2,500/ 2,501 – 5,000/ 5,001 – 10,000/ 10,001 – 15,000 subscribers). Sign up here to set up your own account.
While it misses some pro features such as templates and advanced reporting and doesn’t integrate well with social media platforms, it is loaded with great features:
- Its freemium is generous: Every feature including their marketing automation is included in the free plan up to 1,000 subscribers, allowing you to test the full suite.
- It has a modern and simple user interface that is available in 10 languages, and reports are easy to access and understand.
- make comprehensive changes to all your domain records (for example, nameserver, mail, who-is records – including the ability to mask the who-is data from prying eyes);
- easily transfer domain names in and out of the registrar; and
- select between manual and auto-renewal.
Its online customer support is excellent.
The price varies depending on the extension of the domain name, ranging from USD0.89 per year to USD32.88 per year. There are no hidden fees (such as a fee for transferring a domain out to another registrar).
Hosting Provider: SiteGround
For many years, we were with another hosting provider, but in 2019 changed to SiteGround. The biggest benefits over the previous provider were:
- Easy-to-use site tools with simple help wiki pages
- Very efficient and knowledgeable support desk
- Ability to host our files in the geography where the majority of our readers are
- Free daily backup and restores
- Use of SSD Storage
- Free integration with CloudFlare CDN
- Staging platform if we needed to test special or new functionality
Plugin: Thirsty Affiliates
Although we have been dabbling with affiliate programs since we began our website, it was only in 2018 that we really looked at managing our advertisements in a more professional way. Thirsty Affiliates gives us the tools we need to monetize our website with affiliate marketing. It is a affiliate link management plugin that allows us to add, manage, and easily insert affiliate links into our post and pages.
- It’s free, and you own your content.
- As an open-source platform, it is versatile and highly customisable, supporting thousands of themes and plugins.
- Its’ dashboard is easily navigable, even for novices.
- With more than 30% of all websites using WordPress.org, technical support is never far away.
- WordPress.org does not include web hosting: you will need to obtain the services of a web hosting company.
- You manage your own platform. As such, you are responsible for the end-to-end solution, which requires more technical expertise than many of you may have.
- Standard functionality is free. However, to differentiate your website/blog you need more advanced themes and plugins, which cost money.
Having to replace an end of life theme (only) three years after purchase, meant strong, ongoing theme support was a critical selection criterion for our new theme. X Theme has been around since the end of 2013, and features are being continuously improved upon:
- You can choose between four different designs, each containing multiple features, making it highly customisable.
- Custom pages can be created easily, either by using Cornerstone (the theme’s own page builder) or by activating WPBakery Page Builder.
- Your licence includes 29 Premium plugins (and support).
- The ThemeCo website has ample documentation to help you during set-up. If you get stuck, great technical support is not far away.
Plugin: Yoast SEO
The Yoast SEO Premium plugin helps us to optimise our site in a number of different ways including being search engine-friendly.
Some of the features we use are
- Able to edit the SEO title and description
- Add suggested internal links
- Creates XML maps to help search engines understand the structure of our website
- Provides convenient readability analysis
Making Money on the web
One of the ways to make money through your website is from affiliate marketing. It is a good way to make passive income from your blog. And obviously the larger your traffic volume, the more chance of referral.
In addition to joining affiliate programs through directly through companies we recommend, we have also joined the following affiliate program management aggregators. The benefit is that once you join them, it becomes easier to apply to the individual companies that they provide program management for.
Minimalist Journeys does not currently produce, market or sell any of its own products or services.
Amazon Affiliate Program
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. It is probably the world’s most popular affiliate program because of its relevance to all bloggers. There is always something you can promote on Amazon no matter what niche you are in.
What makes AvantLink stand apart from the other affiliate programs is their comprehensive list of merchants to choose from, their ad tools and their reporting.
We generate revenue on the click-through sales of products and services on their list.
Awin makes it easy to sign up and join programs of interest in order to earn money online. Their dashboard provides all the statistics to encourage you to gain more blog readers and promote products and services. If you need more information, the section of reports allows you to drill down to days, weeks, months and years. They have a great wiki section and video tutorials in a number of different languages.
We generate income through clicks and sales of products and services we promote.
CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction) is the world’s largest and most established affiliate marketing network. Over the past few years, they seem to have purchased, acquired and assimilated other smaller affiliate marketing companies. Their corporate headquarters are in California with offices around the world.
And because they are big, they can be quite picky and a little impersonal. That said, their list of merchants (product provides is massive).
FlexOffers is aan affiliate network of publishers and advertisers that offers high quality partnerships. We only use them for a couple of affiliate programs, but their platform is user-friendly.
Impact (the brand) is owned by Impact Tech, Inc, and was created by a team of people who had previously founded Commission Junction (now called CJ), Savings.com and LeadPoint. They are affiliate industry distruptors who introduced a SaaS platform to manage all revenue generating partnerships.
They still offer an affiliate management platform called Radius hat manages several advertisers we, as a media partner, work with.
TravelPayouts is a nich affiliate management platform deisgn to help travel bloggers and other consolidate their affiliate advertisers in one place.
It has allowed us to monetise our travel blog by allowing us to recommend and promote certain travel and tourism-based suppliers.
Social Media Management
CoSchedule is a content marketing calendar that allows you to plan, create and promote your content on various social media (namely Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter) – all in one place.
CoSchedule allows you to
- create different types of content (for example, blog posts, social messages and email marketing);
- identify SEO opportunities (for example, by leveraging its headline analyzer);
- schedule social media messages at set dates after the initial publication of a post;
- assign tasks to team members; and
- analyse hits and clicks for your campaigns.
We use CoSchedule to schedule our Facebook and Twitter posts as well as plan our basic editorial content for this website.
It took us a while to cotton on to Pinterest is a search engine in its own right, rather than just a place to collect pretty images, recipes and the like. These days, we use Tailwind to manage our Pinterest account. It allows us to bulk schedule pins for days or even weeks in advance, recommending related pins for re-posting and leveraging analytics to identify the best timing for our pins.
Fiverr® is one of the original online marketplaces for freelance services, so much so that they have registeed the trademarks of Gig® and Gigs®. Founded in 2010 and based in Israel, the company provides a platform for freelancers to offer services to customers worldwide. And it is these freelancers that we have used in the past for small, short projects.
In using this service over the years, we have found that the number of Asian freelancers has increased and in general, the quaity of work has decreased. That said, when we have needed the freelance services, we have written a strong brief with detailed requirements so as to narrow the selection criteria.
For two years we contracted Tifiny from SharpCookie, through Upwork to assist us, with nearly 100 hours of technical support. The site would not have functioned as well as it did without her input and advice. We have now moved on to using Ankit Bhatia from Reliqus.
Photography and image management
Images sell – more than words. So if your small business includes a website, you need a good camera, a smart editing suite and the skills and talent to operate both. The skills can be learnt through practice and reading and talking to people. The talent, well…
So you need a graphics application that ties in well with your social media platforms? So did we. For Pinterest or designed web advertisements, we could look no further than Canva. Even as non-design people, we can easily create beautiful designs using Canva’s drag-and-drop feature and professional layouts. The best part is that the free version is feature rich, but when you subscribe to Canva Pro plan, you get even more.
Here are just some of the features of the free version:
- 1GB storage for photos and images
- 200,000 free photos
- Provides access to over 8,000 templates
- Able to upload our own images
- Provides access millions of photos starting at USD1 each
- Resize our social media designs to make us look great
- We can set our brand colour palettes – to reinforce our professional image
plus much more…
The Canva Pro plan extends the free features with these:
- 100GB storage for photos and images
- 2 million free photos
- 20,000+ premium templates
- Upload fonts + use 500 premium
- Unlimited access to over 500,000 premium illustrations and icons
- Unlimited folders for designs
- Resize to any format
- Create animations and GIFs
- Roll back to previous versions
We are not experienced photographers by any stretch of the imagination and have for several years used stock photos or photos we have taken using our trusty old smartphone camera (which no longer cut the mustard). So when it came time to purchase a camera that we could use to take appropriate photos to use on our website, we did a lot of research. This may not suit everyone, but the criteria we considered, following weeks of research, in order of priority were:
- Large sensor size – the bigger the better
- Smaller aperture – the smaller the number after the f, the better
- Optical zoom (x.times)/focal length (mm) – the larger the better
- Minimum of 12megalpixels
- Image stabilisation (OIS/EIS)
- Water resistance (ideally/to also replace GoPro)
- Video performance
- Image stabilisation
- Wi-Fi and bluetooth network interface
- USB charging
We didn’t acheive all our criteria, but in 2019, we purchased the Canon PowerShot G5X Digital Camera. This lightweight, compact digital camera is absolutely ideal for travel bloggers who, like us, travel full-time, but aren’t seasoned photograpers.
While many bloggers use the more advanced (and equally expensive) Adobe Photoshop, we prefer the graphic editor PaintShop Pro from Corel Corporation. PaintShop Pro has continued to improve over the years since it was originally created by JASC. We have regularly upgraded to the latest version when we saw the value. We now use PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate.
We use it to:
- Add layers to our files to help manage the final image
- Retouch certain images to remove blemishes and hide unwanted subjects.
- Batch process images to add or adjust file property information
- run the optimiser to improve the file size.
Pixabay is a community of photographers and artists who share copyright-free images and videos. The content is released under the Pixabay License, which makes them safe to use without asking for permission or giving credit to the artist – even for commercial purposes.
And because our photographs are not always of the best quality, we use Pixabay images in our website articles to highlight or illustrate a point.
We use Pixabay as it has a large library and the keyword searches are very accurate and appropriate.
Communities are invaluable to anyone starting and growing a business. As your professional support network, communities enable you to connect and interact with peers and mentors across industries, skill sets and locations.
There are primarily two types of communities: virtual communities where members interact with each other primarily online; and more traditional face to face communities where people meet up in person.
Obviously, different communities offer different benefits to members. Here are just some that we have joined over the years and found beneficial to building and growing our business.
Nomadtopia Collective is the brainchild of Amy Scott, who also hosts the Nomadtopia Podcast, where she interviews people to find out more about their location-independent life. We started tuning into Amy’s podcasts before we left our corporate careers. Many of the stories have inspired us and helped shape what our Nomadtopia looks like today.
The Nomadtopia Collective gives you access to up-to-date, relevant resources for living a location-independent life and a small but supportive community for your journey. Especially when you’re on your own, having the backing of the community makes location-independent life less lonely, and more sustainable.
Last Updated – Saturday 11 January 2020