How to Build a Sustainable Portable Business, with Amel Derragui

Gabriela Molina

Amel Derragul is a business and marketing coach, founder, and podcast host at the Tandem Nomads, the place to grow a successful portable business. 



Remote entrepreneur

Read the transcript

Luis:

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, tri episode of the Distant Job Podcast. I am your host Luis. And this is as always a podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. My guest today is Amel Derragui. She is a business and marketing coach, founder and podcast host at the Tandem Nomads, the place to grow a successful portable business. Amel, welcome to the show.

Amel Derragui:

Thank you so much. I’m excited to be here with you.

Luis:

It’s an absolute pleasure having you. And obviously, you have your own podcast, so maybe some cross listenership already knows this, but I’d really want to start by asking you, what is your history with remote work, right? When did you first figure it out that remote work was a thing that you could pursue, and how did that affect your career path?

Amel Derragui:

Oh, this is such a good start. Okay. And I’m going to try to be as succinct as possible because it’s quite an interesting journey that I’ve been through that got me to remote work. But basically I’ve always been into my whole life, I’ve been moving from a country to another due to my parents, and then my studies, and then my jobs. And at some point I was ready to settle. I was like, “I’m done with this life.” So I went to France, I settled there, I got my career in advertising and I would say, “I will never move again.” Well never say never, because few months after I remember declaring this to my parents, “Forget about it I will never move again and I will never be a diplomat like you and I will never especially give up my career for a men.” But that’s exactly what I did when I went to visit them and met with the love of my life who lived in Iran at the time.

Amel Derragui:

So he’s Austrian, my husband is Austrian and he works for an Austrian organizations that takes him from a country to another. And, very quickly I had to make this hard decision. I mean, am I willing to give up my career? But, I always knew that at some point I would want to start my business, I just didn’t know that it’s going to be so early on. But what has happened, so for me was like, “Okay, no problem. I’m just going to quit my job, go to Iran, and start my business.” And that’s where the whole remote component started to come into my mind. And that was 2010 where all the technologies that exist now, were not here yet. And mind you, in Iran even using social media, you needed to have so many different codes of VPN and it was just a different context. But, what I realized is that having a business was not enough to give me the possibility to create my own financial independence and my own source of fulfillment while living from a country to another.

Amel Derragui:

Because what has happened is that I started in Iran, it took me a few months to develop my network, but then we were going to leave two years later and then all the work that had done was gone. My business picked up and it was time to pack our stuff and go. And this was not sustainable. Basically it goes back to looking for a job, the same problem every time you move. There’s always a time of transition and I did not want to lose that transition when you move all the time. So, that’s when I started becoming obsessed with how to make my business portable, location independent, but also sustainable through transition. It’s not just about having a location independent business, its how do you continue to have a sustainable business even when you’re transitioning? Because there’s a difference between going on holidays, and visiting countries, and traveling, versus actually packing your stuff and settling in countries.

Amel Derragui:

So that’s how it’s all started when I started building. So I built a business as a consultant. I was working with corporate companies providing the marketing tools and resources. And as we grew in this journey, six years later I noticed that I felt very lonely in this journey and had to figure all the way out alone. Other entrepreneurs who wanted to help me were not necessarily understanding the challenges of having to move all the time, but also I felt so annoyed and frustrated to see so many amazing other expert partners like me who had amazing careers, had to give it up and then would end up depressed and financially dependent and not happy in their relationship anymore, because they couldn’t take their careers with them.

Amel Derragui:

And that’s what led me to start the podcast show Tandem Nomads, to talk about this topic and to empower other people like me to start the businesses and make it portable. And it picked up and that’s when I gave up the consulting for corporates and started providing services to help global nomads and also global entrepreneurs to grow their successful businesses, that is basically aligned with their lifestyle, even if they don’t move. It’s about making your business fit to your needs, even if you just stay in one country.

Luis:

So how does that, because to me, you said you gave up the consulting, right?but to me what you just described, it still sounds like consulting, but it feels like it’s a different target.

Amel Derragui:

Complete different business model, yeah.

Luis:

Exactly completely different business model. So I guess that I would start by asking a bit more about that first shift where you started consulting as a portable business, right? What was your metric for success? How did you define for yourself, portable business?

Amel Derragui:

So for me, the portable business has three pillars. The first one is the legal aspect. If you are living on the move, right? You need to figure out the legal aspect, like taxation and all of that. That’s not what I do, but I do provide a lot of content with experts about that through my free podcast. The second pillar is about technology, having the right technology to be able to make your business portable. And the third pillar is the business model and the marketing strategy. So, these are the three things that make a business sustainable on top of the mindset and all of that, obviously that’s important to be successful. For me, these are the pillars that I work with my clients to make any type of business successful, and portable, and flexible. I have clients, for example who have businesses that are not at all traditionally supposed to be portable, like interior designers, horseback writing teachers, and things like that. And we managed to turn their businesses in something that allows them to be able to move from a country to another.

Luis:

Yeah. So, I assume that those people, even though their businesses are portable, that they are still working in location. I mean, I guess it’s possible for someone to do interior design via webcam or phone camera or something like that, but I have to believe that at least some of your clients have a portable business, but they actually go to the location to meet the client, et cetera, right? Or is it fully virtual?

Amel Derragui:

Oh, this is so good. Okay. Not necessarily completely virtual, mostly. So, here’s the thing and that’s leased. And second part of what makes the business portable is this rule that I created to help my clients figure out that balance between what has to be local or not. Sometimes you want to have that local experience, you don’t want to have all your clients virtual, right? So, that’s where I came up with this rule that’s called the 60/40 rule of how to design your business model so that you have at least 40% of your revenue streams that are portable and remote, so that you can have that continuous revenue stream that comes to you even when you’re in transition. And then, the rest is local. But my ideal balance is more actually reversing it, making 60% of your revenue remotely, and then that rests of 40% developing a local network.

Amel Derragui:

This is how basically I recommend to do it most of the time when we want, I mean you can make the business a hundred percent remote, but if you want to keep a little bit of the local aspect, then that’s how we do it. And I can give you maybe an example if you want of how that could look like. A very good example for me as a yoga teacher, yoga teachers are traditional people who provide a course either individually or a group in a room. And one of the ways if you want to make a portable business as a yoga teacher is to develop at least 40% of the revenue, which would be remote. Sorry, let me just back up here, 40% let’s make it local. That could be revenue coming from one on one clients and group classes in a school, for example, or a club.

Amel Derragui:

And then the 60 other percent could be many other things. For example, online courses, apps, also virtual. I remember before COVID, I was telling one of my clients who was like, “You can do it on Zoom.” I said, “Never. I can’t do my yoga course on Zoom.” And then since COVID, I don’t know how many millions of people have been starting to do yoga on Zoom, but also we can be creative by creating other types of revenue streams. For example, affiliate partnerships. If your yoga teachers, you might have an affiliate partnership with somebody who sells essential oils or mats and that could generate extra revenue. You could also have an app or other, There’s so many ways to create digital and remote revenue streams that can allow to have that sustainability because if you move to another country or something happens, let’s say you have a baby or you have a family, you don’t have the time anymore to be able to present all the time with your clients.

Luis:

Yeah, that’s absolutely true. I’m actually a fan of the sync business myself, right? I mean that’s part of the reason why I am on the side, right? Apart from my main thing at Distant Job, I’m also a fiction book writer.

Amel Derragui:

Wow, good to know that.

Luis:

I like the feeling of books. I put a lot of work into a book, but then it sells while I’m asleep, which is very nice.

Amel Derragui:

Exactly. And technically this is how we call the passive income, right?

Luis:

Exactly. But I do have a question for you, which is obviously my friends and colleagues, they know that I work in this field, right? They know that I work fully remotely. A lot of people would like to have their own remote business and they ask me questions about how distant job works, et cetera, et cetera. Even though distant job is not my business, but I’m involved in it at a high level. So, one thing that I noticed is that a lot of people come to me with many ideas, many, many ideas, just the kind of ideas that you told me.

Luis:

And my advice to them is, maybe I’m wrong, you let me know. But my advice to them is, before you decide what you’re going to do for the next year, find 10 clients. And I find that 99% of the people get stuck at that, right? It just seems that people, whatever they have to offer from, I don’t know from Instagram consulting, to as you pointed out yoga teachers, to do it yourself remote control repair, let’s say. A lot of people get stuck at that. I have no idea how to get my first client, my first five clients, my first 10 clients.

Amel Derragui:

This is so good. And I agree with you, Luis, before you go in wasting your time in building a marketing strategy or website, you can’t need to start with a website, by the way. The first thing that people do when they want to start their business, is their logo, and their website. I’m like, “No, you don’t need to waste your energy and time on that. Start like you said, by first getting your first clients.” And I always say develop also your prototype. Sometimes we need to develop a prototype or a better version of what you envision to sell, and test it not only to get your first revenue, but also to make sure that you’re putting out a good product there. So how to do it, for me it’s pretty simple. I mean hindsight is always simple, but it’s actually, for me marketing is very easy in a way that it consists only in answering a couple questions.

Amel Derragui:

The first one is, who is your ideal client? The second is, where is your ideal client? And then how do you reach out to them and connect with them? And finally, the fourth one is, the one that most people forget once they get business with a client is to understand that each client, how do you nurture that client? How do you keep them happy so that they can encourage more referrals and word of mouth? So these are the four pillars for me of being good at starting your business. And you don’t need a website for that. So, understand who is your ideal client, and then figure out where they are, and how you can get in touch with them. Let’s say your ideal client, let me give you an example, do you have an example of a business? Let’s just like…

Luis:

I mean, let’s go do it to yourself remote control repair. Sure why not.

Amel Derragui:

Oh, I love that. So remote control repair. So, let’s say who is that ideal client? You could say to yourself, “Well everybody could need that.” Well that’s the first mistake, you don’t want to do that. So, first figure out what niche you can focus on, because if you try to reach out to everybody, you’ll reach nobody. So, let’s say that remote control is, okay it’s a very stereotype, which I don’t like, but I’m going to do it. A person over 70 and doesn’t know anything about technology and does not understand how to use that. Then you know that you want to find all the places where these older people are. And if it’s a male or female they can go to different activities. You could create partnerships, for example with, I don’t know, with social helpers who have access to them. You could build a partnership with retirement homes that have private apartments for each person there.

Amel Derragui:

You see what I mean? So, this is a very silly example, but this is how it starts, right? So, think about it. And even if you don’t know yet who is that ideal client, figure out two or three different profiles and be strategic with each of them instead of going all over the place. And this is where people get discouraged because they spread themselves too thin and then they feel like, oh, this is not working, then they’ll give up, right? So be strategic, try one niche, if it doesn’t work, move to the next, move to the next. But the first, as you said, get a couple clients who would say, “Yes.” And then figure out from that experience what are you learning and how would you move forward from there?

Luis:

Yeah, yeah. A bit of background about that example, it just came to my mind, because I am in a fiction add though of old school CRT TVs, right? Those big bulky monsters.

Amel Derragui:

That’s why.

Luis:

Right. And just last week, one of the remote controls went poof. And I had to search. It took me the better part of the week to find some place that would replace it, not even repair it. And I’m like, well in 10 years if this controller breaks and these guys have closed shop, I’m done for it, I should learn not to do that myself, right?

Amel Derragui:

Oh my God. One of the funny story that…

Luis:

Oh yeah, it is, It definitely is. So, that’s to say that there are definitely some, you don’t want to be the guy or girl that’s trying to sell ice to Eskimos, probably not, don’t try to bet your lifetime on that. But, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your idea is too niche before you test it. That’s what I would say, right? Because in the days of the internet, the internet is so massive and getting more massive every day. I mean, for example, India is a massive population and a lot of them are coming online in the past three years. So, there’s such a massive population in the internet that even the most niches businesses should be able to find enough people to make a comfortable living.

Amel Derragui:

The more niche, the easier it is to find those clients.

Luis:

Yeah. And we found one guy in Spain that repairs remote control. So what about that.

Amel Derragui:

Do you see?

Luis:

How much business does that guy get?

Amel Derragui:

Wow. So amazing. Yeah. Yeah. My head is spinning now in terms of strategies here, but lets…

Luis:

Yeah, sure, sure, sure. Going a bit forward with that, right? You said people don’t need a website, people don’t need the logo. By the way, I have to admit that I have spent more hours in my life trying to create logos for businesses that I never created, than I care to admit, right? So yeah, that’s probably not the best place to start folks. Don’t start with the logo, start with the clients. How would you advise people to get that first client, those first five clients? And you mentioned something interesting, which was the referrals. I personally, I always tell writers, I advise a lot of writers aspiring freelance writers, and I always tell them never work for free, your work is worth something. But working for referrals is actually pretty good. If you can get someone to promise you to commit, that’s the thing to commit, to give you referrals then that they might not be paying you with money, but they’re paying you with something of work.

Amel Derragui:

Yeah, I think definitely, especially when we start, I do think that sometimes giving a couple samples for free it helps to actually spread the word. And, sometimes you can think of, you don’t have to give your full product for free, but maybe you can give a bit of a taster of it. Let’s say for example, you’re a coach, you coach for one hour, you can offer 10 spots for free of 30 minutes coaching sessions, right? And that will help you grow your list and get to be in touch with people who need that. And then, you can follow up with them to say, “Okay, after this 30 minutes, where is the takeaways you get? What is the changes that happened for you? Now let’s take this to the next level. Let’s sign up for 10 sessions where it can help you go deeper into this problem and solve it.”

Luis:

Yeah, that’s definitely a good point. So again, I’m still feeling that a lot of people still get stuck in those things that don’t really matter, right? Other people get stuck on that. I need to have this full body of work and this thing planned out completely right before I start doing well, where do you recommend people start? And if they’re stuck, if they get stuck in this starting, how do you advise to unblock them?

Amel Derragui:

So I love that you say that a lot of people get stuck in things that don’t matter, because that is true. And there’s a lot of myths about, one of the things, for example, when people start a business after the logo and the website, the next step is, “Oh, social media, I need to be on social media.” I’m like, “That’s the last thing to do.”

Luis:

On every social media, right? Not just…

Amel Derragui:

Your social media and every platform. And this is basically what I do is help people build a business that works for their lifestyle, that works in their own terms. And if you start burning out with tons of tasks like these, you will never get successful. So, for me, the first step is, like I said, figure out whose your ideal client, and then do the market research to know where they are, for example, you could figure out what media they consume, what podcast shows they listen to, what blog posts and magazines they read, what TV shows they watch, what conferences do they go to, what organizations they’re part of, what events they go to. And so, list all these different things. And, also what other companies that go to for the similar, and look at the competition, Where are they present in terms of their marketing?

Amel Derragui:

Because they’re giving you, oh by the way, that’s another thing. A lot of people just don’t want to see their competition because they fear it. And I’m like, “Wow, that’s a blessing. If there’s a lot of competition, they’re giving you so much information about the market that they had to work to get.” And it’s just there by going to their website, and watching their platforms, and their marketing, what they’re doing. So, they basically set the path for you. And the other thing that I see a lot of people in doing the market research is, “Oh, I don’t have competition. Nobody’s doing what I do.” And that’s not true. By the way if you don’t have composition, there’s a problem. It means that there’s no need for your product, but also maybe you created something unique.

Amel Derragui:

What you need to look for when you do the market research is not somebody who does exactly what you do, but is somebody who tries to solve the same problem as you do, right? For example, you have, I’m trying to be creative here with ideas, but I have the silly idea that comes to me. You do counseling for couples or the problem is the relationship, right? But there’s so many different ways to solve that problem. The traditional one is the counselor, the other one is maybe a future teller or I don’t know what exists, coaches as well for relationships.

Luis:

Well I’ve seen counseling for cats, so you can go wild.

Amel Derragui:

But maybe talking about tech, maybe you came up with an app or a game to communicate better with your partner. And suddenly you’ll say, “I don’t have competition.” You actually have, your counselors are your competition, you just have to see, because that will help you look at it in a different way, right? That’s a good idea, actually I never thought about it, developing an app or game to communicate better, using technology that could be, okay an idea for somebody who’s listening out there. But yeah, so research is very good. And then once you finish that research, you are going to decide what marketing strategies you need to start reaching out to them. So there’s not a ton of marketing strategies out there actually when you think about it. The first one is networking. The second one is PR. The third is speaking engagements. The fourth is, I don’t know them all by heart, paid advertising, obviously.

Amel Derragui:

And the other one is events, being in trade shows and things like that. And being also a content provider for a platform. And the other one is SEO as well. So, SEO can be also very helpful as a strategy. So, the other mistake that I see is that people will try all of these and then spread themselves too thin, instead with your market research, when they tell you where are your ideal clients, then you choose a marketing strategy. Let’s say most of your clients consume podcast shows and go to x, y, z conference. So, you could say to yourself, “My top priority in terms of marketing is going to be PR and networking and speaking engagements at those events.” And just focus on that, that’s it.

Luis:

Yeah, that’s true. In fact, that I know that’s how my friend and boss, Sharon, he built distant job initially just doing that, just to trade shows. There was a website, but there was no SEO strategy, there was no social media strategy. There was a guy, a smiley face going into the conferences in a suit, right? And obviously eventually as the business grow we expanded. But that was the beginning. And I do think that that is a very big point that you don’t need to get stuck in everything you need to do, right? You can pick something and do it for a month, or two months, or three months, and then evaluate it, right? And then, you can branch out from that, right?

Amel Derragui:

Exactly.

Luis:

Yeah. Okay, so speaking of branching out, now I want to go to the next level when you’re in a working business, you have clients and you want to expand, right? You want to scale the business, right? So, let’s talk a bit how do you do that? How do you hiring, seeing as you probably have no office, you do your work from a laptop or even from your mobile phone. How do you go about, I mean, one thing that you could do is you could get in touch with distant job and we can hire for you.

Amel Derragui:

Exactly.

Luis:

But apart from that, how can we get you go about it?

Amel Derragui:

Yeah, okay. So I’m very passionate about this topic, so stop me if I’m going too far.

Luis:

No, please go as far as you want.

Amel Derragui:

I think the first step if you want to scale first of all, is to figure out how you want to scale, right? I think every entrepreneur at some point that has some vision for their business should hire, and I always say hire as early as you can and you don’t have to spend a lot of money at the start. But scaling can be also with your business model. So, reflect on your business model first and then figure out what are the tasks where you need help. I just want to make a side note that wouldn’t talk about something when we talked about marketing strategies. A lot of people confuse marketing strategies with content, like creating your own content, blogging, podcasting, that’s something else, that’s about nurturing the people that you attracted through your marketing strategies. And that’s also a piece where sometimes we need help.

Amel Derragui:

That’s about basically making sure that you spend your time and your expertise in your zone of genius instead of spreading yourself thin and wasting your energy and all the tasks that somebody else can do, right? So the first step is really to think about what’s the vision of your business and where you want to go with it. This is really important. Years from now, what is your company going to look like? Is it still one show business? Is it five to 10 employees? And what is the impact you want to make? So that’s important. And for that, I have a resource for you, a book that I love and it’s called Rocket Fuel. And that Rocket Fuel is all about how to make sure to stay the visionary in your business and not just the implementer. And that’s the danger a lot of people work in their business all the time instead of working on their business.

Amel Derragui:

So make sure to stay in the visionary role as you grow and think about who can become your integrator, the person who integrates that vision into the business. So the earlier start thinking about that, or even if you can’t do it right away, the better it’s going to be because you’re going to be a better HR person in your business and you’re going to hire better if you have that vision in mind. And then, the second step for me is about making sure that you are trying from the get go. Although when you start, it’s okay to be scrappy, but as soon as you start making revenue and having results, start thinking of putting in place systems in the back end of your business. I’m a huge fan of SOPs. I don’t know if you know what it stands for a standard operating protocols. And for me, the more you have systems in place in your back end, the easier it’s going to be to hire and also the better and the more clear-

Luis:

And to work in general. I mean, that’s how you progress your own career, right? Is having procedures that you can hand to someone in written form or in video form, that means you don’t have to do that anymore, right? And that’s how you upgrade. I mean, basically the story of my career was giving my last job to someone else so I could do a new job, right?

Amel Derragui:

… Exactly, right. And, it is true even as an employee having a good SOP can help you become a better employee, but also not burn out on your own job, right? If you have a system in place that everybody agrees on. I used to be an employee, that’s something that every boss would make fun of me because I would come and I’m not a manager and I would immediately tell them, “Okay, let’s change this. This is not how…” And I will put in place in SOP not just for me, but the whole team so that we can work better together. But, I think this is really important. And to build an SOP, sometimes you also need to have a very clear strategy of your business. So if you don’t have a clear strategy, then it becomes difficult sometimes to know how to implement and turn that into SOP. So that’s the second step. Now the hiring process, I think, and I have another book for you that I would recommend that’s amazing by-

Luis:

Nice I usually ask for book recommendations at the end of [inaudible 00:28:20], but I’m loving it. I’m getting them already.

Amel Derragui:

Oh good. Yeah, it’s called Clockwork and it’s all about figuring out what is your queen bee role, The queen bee in hive, she has only one job is to actually, I forgot actually, it was to actually create bees. And so, you need to know what’s your queen bee role and then be very clear about all the different other roles that you’re playing in your business, so that you can know exactly what you want to delegate, right? And sometimes the mistake is that we try, and that’s what I’ve seen a lot people, my clients when they come to me and they struggle with keeping a sustainable team, is when they try to give all the roles to one other person.

Luis:

Yeah, exactly.

Amel Derragui:

And I’m like, “No, define first all the different tasks, and then find a person for the different tasks.” And sometimes it’s also more sustainable because then if somebody needs to leave, you’re not hanging in there with all the tasks on your shoulders and in times transition if you don’t find somebody. So this is really important.

Luis:

And it also forces you to really understand the value of a task, because you might find out that there are tasks that really don’t have a good ROI so you can handle them to someone else because it’s not worth the cost. But then why are you doing it? So that’s also a good exercise.

Amel Derragui:

And you see, we haven’t talked yet of hiring at all, right?

Luis:

Yeah, yeah.

Amel Derragui:

From the whole process. But this is how you lay the foundation for a successful hiring process, I’m sure you can pitch in because you have the expertise on that too, but I think this is the first steps. Then I want to talk a little bit about the hiring process. So once you have the clear roles, what happens to me, especially with small business owners, I see a lot of frustrations of people telling me, “Oh, I can’t find the right people. And it’s so hard to find the right people.” It’s true there’s so much out there that it’s becoming more and more difficult to find the right people. But the other reason why people are making it hard for themselves is because they’re trying to find the right person right away, and have that person operational right away.

Amel Derragui:

And that’s not always like that. So, the first thing for me is to make sure that you have this common, but still sometimes we forget to have a clear transition time, like three months, to say, “Okay, lets both of us test this for three months before we commit for longer term.” The second thing is to not give all the tasks at once, start with a small, and that’s how you also are conservative with your costs and are smart about how you evolve with those is to start with a small role, a small task and then you incrementally increase the responsibility of that person. I know for example, my communication director when she came she was only doing my newsletter copywriting. She was not communication director, and I only hired her for that. When she did a good job, I said, “Okay, let’s increase that to look social media copy.” But she would not manage the social media.

Amel Derragui:

And then I said, “Okay, you are actually good at thinking of strategy.” Then included her as my integrator. And then I realized, “Okay, I can delegate the relationship with my guests and my clients.” So that’s how slowly, and slowly, and slowly she grew into the company and became the communication manager of the company, and is now managing all the communications and actually she’s managing my own team, the other people in my team. So take the time to grow that relationship with that person. And I think that’s important, not rush too fast and get to learn each other. The other thing, and last tip, when you hire an interview, a lot of the time we ask a lot of questions that are related to the job. And I think spend time to understand what is the vision of this person in this job? Why are they looking for this job?

Amel Derragui:

And for example, when I was looking for an OBM, OBM stands for online business manager, somebody who manages all the backend technology in my business. And, there’s so many of those. And I was like… they all know how to do this job, but how I’m going to make the difference? And for me, it’s important to find somebody who’s going to be committed on the long term, so that we have sustainable team. And that’s where you asked the right question to understand what is the vision of this person. For example, I interviewed people, I asked them, “Okay, why do you do this job? And where do you live? And do you travel?” And more personal questions that help you understand. And that’s how, for example, initially I was going to hire somebody who just wanted to get cash and that’s it. And to be able to travel and that’s not going to be somebody who’s going to be feeling involved in my business.

Luis:

No, no, not at all.

Amel Derragui:

Right? And it’s good that this person was honest and it’s okay to want to just travel the world and have fun and just make some cash to sustain that lifestyle. I’m fine with it, but not for this role. I have other roles where I could hire somebody like that, but not this one. So ask questions are related more to their lifestyle, what they’re looking for, and how long they’ve seen themselves doing this job.

Luis:

And that’s an important point as well, with the learning on the job and not being too strict. I mean this is very different from the usual distant job client mentality where distant job has a specific target where we go after a specific set of companies that are usually looking for senior developers, right? We are in the IT industry, so they usually look to us to find senior developers, so that’s what we do. But when I’m hiring for myself and when I’m recommending my friends that are building their own small businesses, when you’re small, you certainly probably don’t want to get a senior, right? You want to get someone that will grow with the business, right? In some countries and cultures, intern is a bit of a dirty word because people exploit interns a lot. But as envisioned without exploitation, an intern is usually a good idea. Someone that’s there that sees themself growing in that career and that wants to learn in a job. And then, obviously they tend to be more affordable, which is important in small businesses and starting businesses. Budget is a concern.

Amel Derragui:

That’s how I hired my first person. She was a listener of the podcast and I hired her as an intern.

Luis:

Yeah.

Amel Derragui:

And then let’s give it three months, I train you, if it works well, I pay you.

Luis:

Exactly. And that’s one of my favorite dynamics. I like doing that for my marketing team and also for my book team teams and et cetera. I think that it’s nice. It is important, like you said before, that you have a plan to scale them with the business, because guess what? If I hire someone at, let’s say these days in South America, you can get starting a junior copywriter for something like $400. So very, very, very cheap. And I grow them to a person that’s worth let’s say $3,000. If I grow them to that level of quality, then at some point I need to be able to pay them that salary. Otherwise, they’ll say, “I love working with you, you’ve taught me a lot, but it’s time I move on.” So you do need to have that plan of scale, as you teach people and as people grow with you, you also have to have a plan of how will the business grow to support them.

Amel Derragui:

Right, exactly. I think that’s really important. One thing to know is that sometimes you just don’t have time to train. And that’s also criteria to look into it when you decide to hire. Either you have the time or you have the capital one or the other. And if you don’t have the time to train, then you need to have a clear operational executive person who comes in into the role, right?

Luis:

Absolutely. Okay. So, I think it’s time we start winding down the interview, but thank you so much for all the-

Amel Derragui:

This is fun.

Luis:

… But I do have to ask you a couple of rapid fire questions, but you don’t have to feel pressured to answering rapidly. You actually already answered about the books. You gave two great books recommendations. And so, if you want to give more, I’m not stopping you, but I think I’ll skip that. And I wanted to ask you, if you were to give one thing that you need to buy in bulk, you can’t give money or gift cards and you can’t ask them what they want. But if you were to give one buy in bulk, something could be a tool, an app, an experience, for everyone working with you or for you, what would you give them?

Amel Derragui:

Oh, such a good question. Depending on what role they have, I would first offer them a book depending on their role, for example, Rocket Fuel is something that I would offer to somebody who I would hire as an integrator. And the second that I would buy, I think it has more something to do with mental health and also making sure that we don’t break ourselves. One of my motto is breaking the glass ceiling without breaking yourself. So, maybe having group coaching or workshops together to make sure to look into our mental health and our physical health, or self care in general, training people and making sure that they keep their self care in check.

Luis:

So, what about for yourself? What have you purchased for yourself in the last year, 12 to six months that has improved your work life, your focus, your work life balance, whatever metric you care to measure?

Amel Derragui:

I’ve spent the last six months actually winding down and working less and having a lot of fun. So I spent a lot of money on holidays and things like that. But for me, one of the greatest things that I’ve invested in is e-Learning and self learning. I love learnings, I’ve got a lot of different courses and things like that. Pat Flynn is somebody who has some great courses that was in beginning of my journey that I would recommend. I have another resource that’s more, can feel a bit whoo-hoo, it’s more about mindset. I have the podcast of Jim Fortin.

Amel Derragui:

Jim Fortin made a big change for me in my life. I’ve always thought that to succeed I needed to work hard. And that’s a belief that I had my whole life. And I was very close from a burnout at some point. And through Jim Fortin’s podcast and programs, I’ve learned to actually change my energy and my mindset around how I perceive money, and have a better relationship with money. And I always thought, you know in our cultures and some cultures, money’s dirty, money is shameful. And, as I realized that I was actually sabotaging myself as I was growing in my business, I was not welcoming that money, I felt a little bit subconsciously shameful of that money. And through Jane Fortin, I’ve actually completely shifted. And I actually love money now because I see the impact it helps me make.

Luis:

Yeah, I mean, I have my own thoughts on money, but definitely they are mostly positive. But to your point about hard work, I agree with that. I mean, I have nothing against hard work per se, right? I think that there’s definitely a time and a place in our lives for hard work. And the hard work will get you what you want. It’s just not sustainable, right? So.

Amel Derragui:

Here’s an invitation. I invite you to change the word hard work with commitment. Because I think we have to work to get results, we need to do something, we can’t just sit around and wait for things to happen.

Luis:

Yeah, exactly.

Amel Derragui:

But we tend a lot of times to do a lot of things and work a lot for things that don’t get any turnover. So being committed, I think is a different way to look at it than working hard, which is very negative somehow for me now.

Luis:

Yeah. It also depends on the stage of life. Sometimes people ask me, “What would you tell your 20 year old self?” And I’m like, “Work harder.” Right? Work harder. But what would you tell your 30 year old self? Work less.

Amel Derragui:

Oh, interesting. You see?

Luis:

Right. So, I do think that there is a rhythm to life and you can’t ignore it at your own peril, right? That’s how I feel it. But yeah, of course consistency, especially as again, depending on the rhythm of your life, as you grow older, as you have a different energy, working consistently at something.

Amel Derragui:

That’s very important, yeah.

Luis:

Definitely compounds, right? Let’s say, I think that compounds is a good word for it.

Amel Derragui:

100%. One of my keyboards and everything I do and teach my clients is consistency. 100%, yeah.

Luis:

Yeah. All right. We’ve had a nice run, right? So, I need to close this.

Amel Derragui:

Yeah, we could keep going, but I think at some point somebody needs to go for lunch.

Luis:

Exactly. And we do need to close this off, but I have one final question before I ask you to tell where people can find you. The question is, let’s say that you are hosting a dinner, right? In a time and place where it’s okay for a lot of people to dine together. I know that some countries are not there yet, but a lot of them are. And so that’s cool, appreciate that. And let’s say that this dinner, you are inviting decision makers from tech companies from all over the world. And the topic of night, the team is remote work and the future of work. So here’s the twist. You’re doing so at the Chinese restaurant, and because you are the host, you get to choose the message that comes inside the fortune cookie, what is the message?

Amel Derragui:

Wow. You ask some good questions. I need some reflection here. The first one would be just the word “Care.”

Luis:

Okay? Care is good.

Amel Derragui:

And the other one is, bring in people from other perspectives.

Luis:

Got it. Bring in people from other perspectives. That’s a good fortune cookie. All right. Well Amel, it was an absolute pleasure having you here. Thank you so much. Now I want you to tell our listeners where can they continue the conversation with you, where they can find more about you, about your business, about what you can offer to them.

Amel Derragui:

Yeah. So, I would love to connect with you. I hope you enjoyed this conversation. If you’re looking at building a portable business or growing it. The best way to find me is to go to tandemnomads.com. And if by any chance you want some guidance on reflecting on your business, I do actually have a free workbook where I take you through my methodology to build the foundations of your business. So you can download it on tendamnomads.com/3c.

Luis:

All right. We’ll have the link to that in the show note, of course as for the links for everything else that we talked about. Including the book recommendations, software, et cetera, et etcetera. So, again thank you so much, it was an absolute pleasure.

Amel Derragui:

I had so much fun. Thank you for your group questions and for this great conversation and hope to connect with your listeners.

Luis:

I add a lot of fun too. And thank you as well, listeners for listening to the Distant Job Podcast, your podcast about building and leading remote teams. See you next week.

Luis:

And so, we close another episode of the Distant Job Podcast. And if you enjoy the episode, please you can help us out by sharing it on social media. That would be great. It’s how we reach more listeners and the more listeners we have, the more awesome guests I can get in touch and convinced to participate in these conversations that are a joy to have for me. And, I hope they’re a joy for you to listen to as well. You can also help a lot leaving reviews on iTunes or your podcast syndication service of choice reviews are surprisingly helpful in helping the podcast get to more listeners. Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to distantjob.com/blog/podcast, click on your favorite episode and any episode really, and subscribe. By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up and whenever we get the transcripts of the episode up, so you can actually cruise the conversations in text form.

Luis:

And of course, if you need to find a great employee for your team, a great remote employee, you should take the whole world into consideration and not just look to hire locally, not just look to hire in your country. Look around the whole world because that’s the talent pool that contains the best talent. And to help you with that, again, distantjob.com is the perfect place to start. You will tell us who we need and we will make sure that you get the best possible candidate, 40% faster than the industry standard. And with that I bid you adieu. See you next week, on the next episode, Distant Job Podcast.

Building a portable business allows you to create a flexible lifestyle where you adapt your work to your life and not the other way around. 

During this podcast episode, Amel Derragui shares key strategies everyone needs to keep in mind to succeed in building a remote company and the core questions location-independent entrepreneurs need to ask themselves before launching their product or service.

Highlights:

  • How to build a sustainable business as a digital nomad
  • Insights about building a portable business 
  • Tips for building a business that fits your needs
  • The three pillars of a portable business
  • How to start a remote business? 
  • Tips for identifying your ideal client and if your business will work or not (before starting it)

Book Recommendations:

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE so you won’t miss all of the other interesting episodes that we have coming up every Monday!




Are you our next superstar remote developer?

You live, breathe and eat code, and have fun figuring out how to solve problems. And you love living in South America or Eastern Europe. But you don’t feel as fulfilled as your friends in North America.

I NEED A JOB