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Building Passive Income as a Digital Nomad

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Last Updated on November 30, 2020 by Yovana

Welcome to this newest series centering around entrepreneur stories and their journeys. I hope that these stories help empower you in your own experience and journey (if you’re an entrepreneur or if you’re not and still want inspiration for something else you want to start in your life). This is an interview with Sharon of DigitalNomadQuest.com who’s been able to build up multiple passive income streams and teaches others how they can do the same! Read on for her full story –

Tell us a little about yourself and your business.

Hi! I’m Sharon Tseung, and I’m a YouTuber and Blogger at Digital Nomad Quest. Back in 2016 I quit my job, traveled for 2 years as a digital nomad, and built passive income streams through Etsy, Amazon, affiliate marketing, and other means. Now I teach people how to make passive income and build online businesses to create a financially free and location independent life.

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Entrepreneur stories interview with Sharon Tseung about leaving her job at Google to become a digital nomad. How to build passive income as a digital nomad. Side hustle ideas for digital nomads. Image of RV in the mountains in the background. #entrepreneurstories #passiveincome #digitalnomad #sidehustles #sidehustleideas #sidehustle

What made you want to embark on this entrepreneurial journey and start your own business?

After being boxed in an office for so long, I decided to go on a solo month long Europe trip in 2014, where I saw people passionately enjoying life. When I came back, I thought what if there WERE another way of living and I just hadn’t figured it out yet? What would I see and create if I could remove financial restrictions?

I began obsessively self-studying over 20 books, blogs, and anything I could find about passive income and online businesses. I wanted to learn how to make money work for me so I could live life on my own terms. Then I could see the world, pursue my dreams, work on meaningful pursuits, and inspire others to live THEIR dreams.

So in May of 2016, I quit my job, booked a one-way ticket to Stockholm, and embarked on my entrepreneurial journey on the road. At first it was scary defying social norms and leaving the comforts of a steady paycheck and career, but it ended up being one of the best decisions in my entire life.

All the work I put in, the obstacles I overcame, and the risks I took paid off. I traveled the world for 2 years, met people from all walks of life, visited over 30 countries, all while growing my passive income streams to an average of $4,000/month and substantially increasing my net worth. I did this mainly through selling products on Etsy, Amazon FBA, Merch by Amazon, and blogging.

What were you doing before? What made you want to leave that and do your own thing?

After I graduated from UC Berkeley, I worked in Marketing at various startups and at Google for about 4-5 years. I wanted to leave because of a calling to see life outside of the Bay Area and the office as well as a calling to build passive income and online businesses. I knew there was a lot of life to be experienced, and traveling the world would give me much more perspective. I wanted to see what else was out there. Making money work for me would be the tool to create the life of freedom I desired. I also wanted to make sure I had no regrets in life, so I didn’t ever want to wonder “what if” if I never took the plunge to travel and start my own business.  

Starting a business is not easy. What was the hardest thing you faced when getting your business off the ground?

Building passive income is a gradual process that takes a lot of time. One of the toughest things is not seeing results instantaneously. However, passive income is a long-term play. It can be a while before you actually see results, and it can be demotivating when you don’t see them.

Rather than focus on whether or not it’s all working, you have to keep hustling and understand that the entrepreneurial journey is one with many ups and downs.

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Did you have any sort of savings that you applied towards getting your business up and running or did you take out a loan? Can you guide us through how that was like?

When it comes to quitting, traveling, and building passive income streams, I recommend saving at least 2 years of estimated expenses if you’re going to attempt the digital nomad / entrepreneurship life. I booked my one-way ticket about 6 months out and I decided to acquire some part-time remote positions during that period of time. This gave me an extra grand a month each on top of my full-time job, which allowed me to build my nest egg more quickly.

I ended up with a decent amount of savings, and I also booked six months of flights and accommodations ahead of time so I knew I wasn’t going to run out or have to worry about travel expenses. Because I checked sites like nomadlist.com and numbeo.com I was also able to look for locations that are cost-friendly, safe, and fun to visit.

The business expenses were not too high so I didn’t have to worry about that as much. Because I figured out ways to make passive income through means that require less capital, I didn’t spend that much. It required more time and effort versus capital.

How long did it take to actually start profiting from your business?

It only took about a month to start profiting on my Etsy shop (my first passive income stream). It wasn’t much – just a few sales here and there, but it was enough to show that it worked. In terms of my current business teaching people how to build passive income, I blogged for a few years without monetizing my site. Now I’m at a place where profits are slowly rising as I build up my brand.

What legal issues/road blocks (if any) have you experienced during this start up period?

I haven’t really found legal issues. Because I consulted with other entrepreneurs, established my LLC, and purchased a sellers permit for my businesses where I sell physical products, I haven’t run into issues for now (fingers crossed).

How do you find the time to still tend to your own personal life and needs?

I find it’s important to write down the different domains in your life that are important to you to make sure you spend sufficient time in them. For myself, I care a lot about my relationships (friendships, family, romantic), financial freedom, health, and passions. In this way I’m more aware and able to work on balancing all areas of my life, though it can be tough. When I find one part is lacking or I’m putting too much in one area, I step back to make sure the other domains are being fulfilled.

I also created a spreadsheet to outline my goals, milestones, 5-year plan, 1-year plan, monthly, weekly, and daily tasks. Each of my action plans align with the domains in my life that I care about. And I make sure to review this spreadsheet as much as possible. You can check out my blog post here where I talk about exactly how I do that.

What tools do you use and recommend to others to help manage your time, life and overall well-being while running a business?

I mainly use Google Keep and Google Sheets. I use Google Keep as a notepad for my daily tasks, while I use Google Sheets for tracking my goals, milestones, and action plans.

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What was one book, online article or other form of inspiration that guides you through your day-to-day work?

Here are a few books I recommend:

Tell us one way your lifestyle has changed since becoming an entrepreneur?

I’ve always been entrepreneurial at heart so having side hustles and executing on business ideas is not new to me. This lifestyle does require a lot of hard work and balancing of time.

In terms of my travels, leaving to be a digital nomad / entrepreneur in 2016 was an interesting experience. I learned a lot about perspectives of people from all walks of life, and I was able to see the world while working on my online businesses. My lifestyle changed as I was in new countries a month at each time.

I came back to the Bay Area after being a digital nomad for 2 years, and I found a sense of newfound ambition and excitement for building my brand. I feel more excited about freedom and endless opportunities because of my digital nomad experience.

What are 3 tips you have for others who are thinking about starting their own business?

Focus on one thing. Be patient and be persistent. Provide value for people.

Think back to a time before you had your own business. What would you tell the “you” that you were back then?

I would tell myself that there are going to be ups and downs, but you must trust your struggle and enjoy the process! Everyone’s path is different and everyone’s definition of success is different.

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us! Any parting thoughts?

Keep hustling, and make sure to live a life true to yourself!

Entrepreneur Bio:

Head shot of Sharon Tseung
Head shot of Sharon Tseung

Sharon Tseung is the founder of Digital Nomad Quest, teaching people how to make passive income online. She has been featured on Yahoo Finance, Bustle, Fast Company, and other notable websites and podcasts. Sharon traveled the world as a digital nomad for 2 years, visited over 30 countries, all while growing passive income streams to an average of $4,000/month

Check out her Etsy Entrepreneur course to learn how to generate $1,000 a month in passive income using Etsy!

Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

What do you think of Sharon’s story? Do you want to become a digital nomad and thought of ways you could make that work? What are some passive income ideas you’ve tried? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Related posts: How One Couple Ditched the 9 to 5 for Van Life

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