Why You Should Move to Thailand to Bootstrap Your Online Business

Five years ago, I was faced with a choice: sit around in Canada working on my then-new online business or venture off into the far beyond and become, in the truest sense, a complete digital nomad.

I wanted to live somewhere else while earning an income just to prove to myself that it was possible.

And possible it was. I moved to Thailand around the end of 2011, and it proved to be one of the best decisions of my life.

I firmly believe I owe most of my current success to that single, fateful decision.

It’s a leap of faith to leave your comfort zone, abandon your home country, and step into the unknown.

Moving from Canada to Thailand was a big step for me.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that my leaving the country to live in another country, while working online, is now an actual trend that’s called digital nomadism. That is, someone who becomes a digital nomad lives around the world, earning an income while on the go.

What is a ‘digital nomad‘?

Someone who can (and does) travel, working online.

If you can build an online passive income through websites, you can be a digital nomad too.

That is, you can leave your home country, travel around the world, while working on your business.

Now while becoming a digital nomad is the unicorn goal for a lot of people who want to travel, it’s also a great way to bootstrap your business.

Bootstrapping is the concept of stretching your resources as far as you possibly can.

How does this relate to you?

Well, if you are trying to build an online business, one of the best ways to jumpstart your business is to move somewhere economically cheaper than your current location so you can focus on putting that money, time, and focus into trying to build your business up as fast as possible.

This enables the following possibilities:

  1. You can focus on your business FULL TIME for an extended period of time
  2. You can put extra resources (money you’ve saved by moving to a cheaper country) into your business

This is one of the BEST ways you can bootstrap your online business.

How I Bootstrap in Thailand

In my own example, I have been able to live on less than $2000 a month while in Thailand.

I did move to Thailand when I first started making about $10,000 a month back in 2011. However a year later my income dropped significantly — and a good thing I was living in Thailand, as I was able to channel my dwindling resources into creating new websites and new content while living on the cheap, something that would not have been possible living in Canada.

These days, I’m making 20,000 USD+ a month. My current living expenses in Thailand?

But just because I make a pile of cash, doesn’t mean I’m blowing it on sports cars or strippers.

No, my intension is to live modestly and put the money into my business to grow faster where I can.

My current living expenses in Thailand?

Under 1000 USD.

Some months may go a bit higher — $1500 to $2000, but I try to keep things around $1000 while living here.

Compare that to somewhere like Canada. If I was to rent an apartment in a decent part of the city and set about creating a decent life, I’d probably be spending at least 3500 a month. And for a life of comfort, $4,000 to $5,500 as a single person in somewhere like Toronto and Vancouver.

I’m spending at least 1/3, maybe 1/4 LESS by living in Thailand.

That means, I can put in an extra $2000 to $4000 dollars directly into my business that I would, if I lived back in Canada, be spending there per month!

Do you see the power of bootstrapping?

Where To Bootstrap

Now there’s quite a few different locations around the world that you can bootstrap from digital nomads: Eastern or Central Europe, Asia, South America, or South East Asia are the usual picks.My personal recommendation is South East Asia, for some of the reasons I’ll give below. And in South East Asia, probably the most popular location is Thailand.

My personal recommendation is South East Asia though, for some of the reasons I’ll give below.

And in South East Asia, probably the most popular location is Thailand.

Why You Should Move to Thailand to Bootstrap Your Online Business

I’m sure you can easily fill in 10 or so ideas right away, but I’m going to give you some reasons why moving to Thailand is a great way to get your new online business off the ground.

This is something I’ve done myself and, in a lot of ways, living in Thailand has allowed me to build up an income that surpasses $20,000 USD a month at this point. I built this income from ground up while living in Thailand.

It’s worked for me and I’m sure it can work for you.

1. Thailand is Cheap

Thailand is significantly cheaper than North America, Europe, or any other Western Country. The average minimum wage here is about $300 per month. Food is dirt cheap.

The low wages and cheap food mean your costs of living is ridiculously cheap in Thailand — as long as you have an external source of income.

In Thailand, it’s possible to live on less than $500 a month, if you are willing to live like a local. In truth though, as a foreigner in Thailand, you want a minimum level of comfort. $500 a month is not going to give you that comfortable life. In my experience, $800-$1200 a month gets you a pretty awesome life in Thailand. You can get a decent apartment for a few hundred bucks, you can afford to eat out every meal, rotating between Thai food and Western food. You’ll also have money to go out once or twice a week, buy beer, and do some traveling around Thailand and the surrounding countries a few times a year.

What do you spend a month in your country? Even if you are living near the poverty line, it’s probably more than $1200 USD a month! But in Thailand, you can live a life on that amount that’s comparable to 3-5x more that in the west.

Now, besides living a better lifestyle for a fraction of the cost of living in your home country, there’s some solid logic why you might want to live in a place like Thailand if you are starting an online business.

As a digital nomad looking to build your business, cheap means that you can live on a shoestring while channeling all that extra money you save into your business.

Putting that extra money into your business, done right, can vastly expand how fast your business grows and, ideally, make you more money much sooner than would otherwise be possible.

For example, you can spend extra money on outsourcing content, paying for website development, hiring a VA to increase your productivity, investing in productivity tools. The bottom line is that all your money you save by living in a cheaper country can be invested back into your business.

2. Thailand Has Great Infrastructure

Another point you need to consider, if you move abroad as a digital nomad with the intent to bootstrap your online business is the quality of infrastructure in your host country.

By infrastructure, I mean the level of development in the country.

One reason why South East Asia stands out as one of the best places for Digital Nomads to live is the level of infrastructure development: it’s very high.

For example, in Bangkok, you get a combination of First World and Third World coexisting side by side. You can, for instance walk into a mall, go to the cinema in serious style that would shame any movie theatre back home, eat at a five star restaurant in the mall, then go shopping for Lamborghinis in the same mall (yes, you can buy such a car in a mall), then walk across the street and eat from a street stall restaurant for $1.

There’s an abundance of western restaurants and chains. Starbucks, for example, is found practically everywhere (and is a great place to get free internet access). There’s every fast food chain you might like: McDonald’s, Burger King, Carls Jr., Pizza Hut,

There are world class services readily available in all the major cities: fast mailing services that ship things around the world, FBA (full fulfilment centers) that will handle all shipping services for you if you ship out items from the country, high speed mobile internet (4G), mobile phone service, and just about every other first-world service you might need.

3. Thailand Has Fast, Stable Internet

You can’t work online if you have shitty internet access. Thailand, fortunately, has some of the best internet access in the world. I would say far better, on average, than in Europe or North America.

For home internet, you can connect to cable internet, ADSL internet, and fiber optic internet. For example, my apartment has fiber optic internet that with connection speeds ranging between 7o to 130 Mbs. You can also easily just get by one fast mobile internet instead by using 3G or 4G. Thailand’s telecommunication companies have a wide variety of very affordable mobile internet packages (far better than what’s offered in Canada, for example).

You can get unlimited Mobile Internet (4G) for about 20 bucks (after 15 or 20 gigs, your speed is capped). I’ve seen unlimited fast data for around 30-40 bucks a month. Some of these services will throw in high-speed public wi-fi services as well. For example, while I was in Bangkok, I signed up with AIS (a local telecom) for 799 baht (about 22 USD) for 1 month of 15 gigs of 4G mobile internet with unlimited (but slower) access after the 15 gigs was used up. This also included FREE wifi access to any hotspot offered by the company, which was practically every single block in Bangkok.

Not bad. In comparison, it costs $20 bucks a month in Canada for a measly 500 megs of 3G mobile internet.

With Thailand’s very cheap, very fast internet, you can work practically anywhere in the country — even some of the more remote islands! There’s always some form of internet access somewhere. And in the major cities like Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, you’ll get blazing fast internet everywhere.

All the popular tourist destinations are well connected to the web as well (Krabi, Phi Phi, Koh Phangan, Kou Samui, etc).

4. Thailand is Safe

While there are plenty of cheap, poor countries in the world you can try bootstrapping an online business from, not all of these countries are safe.

There are some great Central and South American countries that are cheap (Nicaragua, Equador, Chile, Argentina, Columbia) compared to North America.

But many of these places have high crime rates and are not at all safe places.

I’m not saying you can’t move to these locations and bootstrap. But, these are places you might not want to walk around by yourself at night in.

Thailand, on the other hand, is very much a safe country.

Crime still exists, yes. But unless you act incredibly stupid looking for trouble, you are unlikely to encounter any personal safety issues.

5. Thailand Is Easy to Stay for Long Periods

If you want to move to another country, you also have to consider how you can stay in that country.

Moving to a place like Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, or the US can pose problems with visas.

Provided you have a good password (from a Western country), you can usually stay Visa-free for several months. However, it’s not easy to stay as a semi-permenent resident.

For example, as a Canadian moving to the EU, you can only stay for about half the year before you have to leave the EU and live somewhere else.

If you are moving to Canada or the US, you have even less time.

If you plan to live somewhere for a couple years straight, this is a problem.

Thailand is very friendly to long-term visitors.

If you have money, you can simply ‘buy’ a five-year VIP visa for around 15,000 USD. However, most people trying to bootstrap a business are not going to throw down this kind of money just to stay in a country.

Fortunately, there’s a variety of easy-to-get visas that allow you to stay pretty much permanently in Thailand.

Most people opt for the regular tourist visas which allow you to stay for up to 3 months in the country before you have to leave the country and apply for a new one. However, there are so many foreigners doing this that there are dedicated ‘visa’ companies set up to facilitate this. Typically, you stay for 3 months, pay a company around $120, then hope on a 8 to 12 hour bus that takes you straight to the  embassy in one of the surrounding countries.

This fee includes the hotel and transportation. Your visa application and ‘processing’ is also streamlined, so you are pretty much guaranteed the visa.

What does this mean?

Every 3 months, you leave the country for 1 or 2 days to get another 3-month visa.

This is not necessarily a permanent solution, but you can easily stay over a year on these type of visas. You will, however, need to switch to a different visa eventually though. One such visa is the MEV visa which you can only apply for back in your home country at a Thai embassy. If you meet the qualifications (10,000 in your bank account), you can get up to 9 months in Thailand off this visa, then switch to regular 3 months tourist visas after.

This will give you up to 2 years in Thailand!

You can also easily start a Thai company and get an official work permit, if you wish to go this route and make a more legit presence in Thailand.

6. You Can Focus More

While I can’t guarantee you’ll work harder while living in a place like Thailand, if you come down with the right mentality, you can certainly focus and work harder than you do while back home. Living abroad may mean less time invested in social activities.

One things I’ve found is that moving to another country takes you away from your social and family circles, leaving you with a lot more time to focus on your business.

Living abroad may mean less time invested in social activities.

While I’m not advocating becoming a hermit, you may not realize just how distracting the obligatory socializing aspects of your life can be on your productivity.

If you building a successful business is your main priority in life, then you may find cutting back on social activites and putting that time and energy into your online buisiness can boost your productivity, significantly.

7. You Meet Like-Minded People in Thailand

Thailand is full of digital nomads and entrepreneurs. If you set up shop at some of the popular coworking offices in Thailand (Phuket, Koh Lanta, Bangkok, Chiang Mai), you can easily meet other digital nomads who are doing the same thing as you — and very successful ones at that.

This is a great way to network with successful people, get new ideas and create profitable relationships that can grow your business.

The fact that these people are away from their ‘home’ country too and living as a digital nomad often means they too are eager to meet like-minded people.

Other Benefits of Moving to Thailand to Build Your Online Business

8. Thailand’s The Beaches

With world class beach destinations like Koh Phi Phi, Krabi. Thailand offers some of the best beach scenery in the world. If you head to the south of Thailand, there’s are dozens of well-connected islands you can live a laid back lifestyle on.

Some of my favorites are Phuket and Koh Lanta — both great destinations for digital nomads.

As a digital nomad, you can fulfill that fantasy of working while at the beach.

9. Thai Food

If you work hard, you need to eat hard too. And Thailand has some of the best food in the world — and cheap.

There are world-class hospitals in the major cities, staffed by both foreign-educated Thai doctors and foreign doctors. These are not fly-by-night facilities but world class.

For 1-2 dollars, you can have a delicious local Thai meal. If you want to splurge a couple more dollars, you can eat like a king.

Cheap, good food? Hell yea.

10. Thailand’s Excellent (and Cheap) Medical Services

Thailand has some of the best affordable medical services in the world. It’s super cheap — far cheaper than the US.

Going to the dentist for a filling costs you about $20 bucks. More serious dental (root canal) will cost you $150 to $200. Visiting the doctor will cost you between $2 to $15 dollars.

More complicated surgeries, a couple thousand dollars.

Medical and dental is 1/5 cheaper than you’ll pay back home!

Even if you are ‘insured’ for medical, it’s often cheaper to just pay out of pocket in a place like Thailand.

Indeed, Thailand is a popular medical tourism hotspot with people paying for a vacation + surgical procedures with the bill still coming up much cheaper than you’d pay back in your home country.

Ideally, you won’t need any medical help while here, but if you do, it’s easily affordable.

11. The Nightlife

Thailand has world-class nightlight. From crazy night clubs, to 24-7 parties, to cheap beer street stalls, you can find it all in Thailand.

While you are in Thailand to work hard, you also need to play hard once in a while.

And you can do so in style in Thailand.

12. Easy Transportation

Getting around in your city or the country is not a problem.

You can rent (or buy) a scooter quite cheaply down here. Rentals will typically cost you about $60 dollars a month. Or you can buy a scooter for under $1000 and resell it when you leave Thailand.

If you live in Bangkok, taxi’s are dirt cheap. 20-30 minutes in a cab will cost you $3 to $5. Or you can take one of the many subway trains that connect most of the city for a few dollars (and skip the traffic).

There are long haul buses that will take you across the country for $15 to $20.

You can also fly via AirAsia.com between cities for less than $30 a flight sometimes. A roundtrip from Phuket to Bangkok, for example, can be had for $40 dollars sometimes if you get a sale or $70 if you don’t.

13. It’s Always Sunny in Thailand

Ok, an exaggeration. There’s a few solid months of rain during the year. But overall, the weather is warm. If you worship the sun, Thailand is the perfect alter.

If anything, you look forward to cloudy skies and rainy days with the amount of sun you get in Thailand.

If you live in a country that suffers from cold spells, you’ll probably never want to leave Thailand once you experience a full year with a climate that allows you to walk around in a T-shirt every single day of the year.

14. Because It’s Thailand

Thailand, is quite simply, an pretty good awesome place to live. People coming down here are usually here on vacation and in a great mood. The weather is great (warm and sunny most of the year), the food tastes good, rent is cheap. If you want to party and go out, Thailand is a crazy place to be and will facilitate that. But if you want to sit around and focus, it’s also a great place for that and will enable you to do so on a shoestring.

There’s also the fact that your entire family and social circle will be jealous when you move to Thailand. And it’s a great converstation starter, telling people that you live in Thailand.

Most people spend their 2 weeks off a year coming to Thailand and spend the other 54 weeks of the year dreaming about their next two weeks in Thailand.

You, on the other hand, get to spend alk 56 weeks of the year here.

Need I say more?

How Much Does It Cost To Live in Thailand

You can live for as cheap as $500 a month (not counting visa run costs) or you can spend $10,000 a month.

This depends entirely on you.

Typically, a ‘good’ life by western standards, if you are willing to live locally (rent a decent local style house, eat a portion of your meals at local Thai food places) and within budget, about $1000 USD a month.

For a more ‘comfortable’ life that gets you more western food, more nights out, and some more traveling, $1500 a month.

Spending $2000 or more will get you a very good life which may include a western villa with a pool and frequent traveling around the country.

Most people required $2000-3000 a month in North America. And this will get you a very limited lifestyle in places like New York, Toronto, Los Angeles, Miami.

Spend HALF of this in Thailand, and you get a very good life indeed, leaving you with a lot of ‘extra’ money you can spend on your business, or if you wish, to save.

How Can You Bootstrap Your Business in Thailand?

The whole goal of bootstrapping a business is to stretch your resources out as far as possible.

You’ll need to figure out exactly how much you have to work with and how long you plan to stay.

It may work out that you end up living in Thailand, which happened to me.

If you already have an online income of sorts, then you might be able to live partially (or completely) on that sum.

How Long Should You Boot Strap For?

If you have some limited savings, plan on coming down to Thailand for at least 6 months. Anything less than that is not really long enough. It will take you a few months likely to get into your groove and establish a routine and life for yourself. You don’t want to start putting down some roots only to have to pack up and head back.

Personally, I recommend coming down here for at least a year. Plan on 1.5 to 2 years even. But you can accomplish a LOT in just a single year, if you come down here with the singular goal of making your online business work.

This means you should come down with about $10,000 to so dollars and plan out your budget down here to make that last for about a year. You can supplement that income, hopefully with your online earnings.

Can you come down and bootstrap your business on less than this?

Yes, but I recommend coming down with at least $10,000 so you can last a full year. Any less than this and you are in a tight squeeze.

Coming down with limited savings also puts the gun to your head and forces you to make things happen. You easy make it, or you go back home bust.

That’s some serious incentive and can be used to channel your focus and drive.

If you have $20,000 in savings, you can probably last a year and a half to two years on that, with the plan that around that by the end of the two-year period, you are making a part time or full-time income online!

How You can Apply Bootstrapping to Your Online Business

You need to SAVE money and put that extra money into your business. This is what bootstrapping is.

This means you need to look for ways to cut your costs.

In a place like Thailand, saving money means:

  • rent a cheap place to save money
  • eat local meals to save money
  • restrict going out too much to save money

What do you do with your extra money to make your business more productive?

  • Put extra money into outsourcing content for your websites
  • Hire a VA (if needed) to handle some of your routine tasks so you can focus your energy on the important areas
  • Utilize your extra time to work on your business — writing content, promoting your content
  • Where possible, take advantage of the cheap labor
  • Look for local opportunities in Thailand and tie them to websites (import export ideas, websites that offer services in Thailand, website ideas for local businesses, freelancing opportunities on your part)

Some other things that can boost your business:

  • Go to coworking spaces in Thailand and meet other like-minded people doing the same thing as you. You can develop relationships with these people, get new ideas, and even create content partnerships, link exchanges. There are LOTs of such people living in Thailand. You just need to meet them.
  • Buckle down and focus on building your websites. This means you need to be working HARD. You should be working harder while in Thailand than you do back home!

What Bootstrapping is Not

Bootstrapping is a great way to really push a new business idea forward. But it’s not a failsafe method.  And YOU are solely responsible for the kind of success you achieve.

This means you are in Thailand to work, not to fuck around and waste your time.

You are not bootstrapping a new business if you come down to Thailand and waste your money on going out to party and socialize. Keep that in mind.

Working on a business is NOT the same as being a tourist!

Real bootstrapping means you CUT your living expenses and put that extra money back into your business. It also means you work fucking hard too.

If you plan to sit around and drink beers on the beach most of the time, then stay home or come to Thailand on a 2-week vacation!

You should come out of Thailand with a more successful online business than you arrived in Thailand with!

Some Negatives about Thailand

Now look, Thailand is great, but it’s not perfect. It’s one thing to come down for a drunken two weeks of debauchery as a tourist and get the wrong sort of impression about  Thailand being paradise on earth.

Living here is not the same as being a tourist.

There are some issues you’ll find.

The Constant Hassel with the Visa Situation

While you can chain together various tourist visas to extend your stay in Thailand for a few years (I’ve done so for five years!), it gets annoying having to deal with leaving the country every 3 months or trying to figure out the next visa scheme you can take advantage of. There are other countries like Vietnam or Malaysia or Bali which do offer proper no-hassel long term visas. Thailand though makes you jump through hoops.

And you can never quite get permanent residency. You are always a ‘visitor’ in Thailand

The People Rip You Off

There are two people in Thailand: farangs (foreigners) and Thai people. This means you’ll sometimes be charged the foreigner price, while the local’s pay less. It’s not always the case, but you’ll run into it at some point. And the locals, some of them, consider it their god-given duty to rip you off if they can get away with it.

No Proper Legal System For Your Protection

If you suffer from some altercation with the locals and need to call on the services of the police. Or end up in a court situation with a local, you’ll always lose. Thai’s stick up for their own.

Not Easy to Make Real Friends

It’s also challenging to meet legit people in Thailand. There’s a lot of people here, but most of them are tourists for a couple weeks. You can’t make lasting friendships with those. And the other foreigners living here can be a bit odd and even dodgy. There are some cool people here, but you have to be careful as you’ll start to see why some foreigners choose to leave their country and live in Thailand — and those reasons are not good ones!

Despite these downsides, the upsides far outweigh them. But I just wanted to point some of the issues you may face if you move to Thailand.

The Final Word

Convinced yet?

You should be. Thailand is a great place to start investing in your online business.

These days, there’s quite a few other digital nomads doing the same thing.

Bootstrapping my online website business in Thailand helped me achieve success. It gave me the breathing room to focus on building up my business and it also helped me survive some lean times when my income took a dive for a few years.

While I realize not everyone is in a position to drop everything and move to Thailand — especially if you have a 9 to 5 career and a family — but for those who are single and who are willing to take the plunge, making such a move could be exactly what you need to kickstart your online business idea.

While my business focuses on creating websites with awesome content, this is not the only type of online business out there — it’s just one possibility among many. You can certainly start a completely different sort of business.

I’m actually moving into selling physical products through my website (eCommerce) because of some ideas that were nurtured while in Thailand. There are other people down here who have started successful FBA business or who simply have found online jobs as marketers, programmers, content writers, social media consultants, and other such jobs.

The takeaway point is that you can come down to a cheap place, like Thailand (or another cheap country if you wish), and live for cheap while focusing everything on getting your business going. Doing so gives you the TIME needed to get your new business up and running.

If you have taken the leap to move to another country to bootstrap a business idea, please do share!

Ben

Comments 2

  1. RedSentra December 14, 2016
    • BenK December 14, 2016

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