I’ve mentioned many times before that the best part of living a digital nomad lifestyle, is all the great people you meet. In Chiang Mai, Motoko and I had the opportunity to meet up with André Gussekloo and his girl friend Marta many times over the last few months. André is a dutch SEO consultant but has recently got into Kindle publishing in a big way. He is now making $1000 per month in passive income from books that he outsources the writing for. Enjoy the interview.
Please tell us about yourself?
I was born in the Netherlands in 1980 a spent a large part of my youth flipping through travel guides in my local library. I graduated from armchair travel when I went backpacking through Australia in 1999. The Working Holiday Visa program allowed me to see the country while working odd jobs.
I remember watching the Leonardo Di Caprio movie, The Beach in a cinema Down Under and thinking I should check out Thailand. After returning to the Netherlands I decided to study International Tourism Management & Consultancy. The highlight of the course was an six-month internship in the Solomon Islands.
I met my Spanish girlfriend –Marta– when I hitchhiked through Europe in 2004. In 2006 we fell for a well-paid job at Shell’s IT Helpdesk in Manchester (UK). There I realized I wasn’t wired to work for a boss and started looking for a way out. Since I always loved writing, becoming a freelance copywriter seemed the most logical step.
Please tell us about your travels?
After one year in cloudy and rainy Manchester we moved to probably the world’s best climate: the Canary Islands. On Gran Canaria, Marta studied a Master’s degree and found work, while I started getting more clients for my freelance writing.
We have seen all 7 of the Canary Islands, visited Cape Verde and Morocco, drove around Jamaica and fell in love with Greece. In 2010, two things happened that made me see the light: I read The 4-Hour Workweek and we went on vacation to Malaysia. There I thought many times: If I can work from anywhere, why do we stay put on Gran Canaria?
Mind you, we both love the Canary Islands and will return there sooner or later. But now that we don’t have kids or a mortgage, it simply makes no sense not to take advantage of my location independence. After searching for other nomadic freelancers and entrepreneurs , Thailand seemed to be the place to be, with Chiang Mai at the epicenter.
How do you like Chiang Mai?
After a brief stint in Bangkok, we flew straight to Chiang Mai. It is a very good place to start an Asian adventure, I’d say. You’ve got all your Western necessities, housing is easy to find, English is widely spoken, the food is great and prices are among the lowest in the world, according to other travellers.
Back on the Canary Islands, I met maybe one truly location independent worker per year. Apart from some surfers, sailors and deckhands, the islands don’t really attract a lot of adventurers. Here in Chiang Mai you can find digital nomads from all around the world in your nearest coffee bar. Anyone who stays over two weeks will probably end up going to one of the meetups organised through the Facebook group CM Biz.
In the dry season, these meetings can attract up to 100 nomads. I’ve seen people with lists in their hands of the people they want to talk to. I prefer the spontaneous approach. After all, everyone has an interesting story and they can introduce you to others in their network.
I also like meeting one or two nomad workers at a time for a coffee or to have a beer. The big meetups are fun, but there’s a lot of noise and distractions. Just look in the Facebook groups for digital nomads in Chiang Mai, shoot someone a message on Facebook and set up a ‘date’.
You’re travelling with a cat, is that difficult?
If you think you’re used to jetlag, you should try a ‘catlag’. We travelled with Lima as hand luggage and placed the cat carrier between the seat rows. We tried one leg of the journey without sedating her, but that was a bad idea. Fortunately the plane engine made more noise than Lima’s meowing. It was a long trip for all of us but Lima recovered faster than we did. She loves spying on the pidgeons and squirrels in the big tree behind our apartment.
As for the paperwork, we found this blogpost on 8 Miles From Home really useful. Even though we thought we had everything prepared, the quarantine guy in Bangkok found a flaw: the Spanish health certificate wasn’t printed on the right sheet of paper and didn’t bear the correct stamps. “4,000 baht (US$130), khrap.”
We’ve heard horror stories of pets in the luggage holds, so we only pick airlines that will allow cats to travel as hand luggage. This really limits our travel choices. In Thailand, we can only fly Thai Airways. I wish Air Asia would welcome Lima, but they have a no-pets-anywhere-on-the-plane policy.
How do you make money?
A growing revenue stream for me are the ebooks I publish for the Amazon Kindle. Also, I get some commission from affiliate links on my digital nomad website (which is in Dutch). SEO copywriting still is my main income and has been for the past six years.
How do you find your SEO clients?
When I began looking for writing gigs in 2006 I used the freelancer marketplaces. Then when I had some experience and some references to show for it, I cold emailed internet marketing agencies, which got me more and better paid work.
The past few years I’ve written some guest posts, have been interviewed and landed a column in the entrepreneurs’ section of the biggest online newspaper for the Netherlands. I reluctantly agreed to be paid for that in backlinks, which wasn’t a bad deal after all: I am now number 1 in Google for “seo tekstschrijver” and top 10 for other related search terms in Dutch.
Can you please tell us exactly what you do for an SEO client?
In an ideal situation, I focus on what I enjoy the most, which is writing. A client will send me a list of search terms he wants to rank for and the URL to his website, after which I write 300-500 word texts that include a few mentions of the search term. The client will then place this content on so-called landing pages that are technically optimized for the relevant search terms.
More often than not, I will have to edit existing content to make sure it’s optimized for reading off a screen and for search engine findability.
Is SEO difficult work to get into?
Anyone can learn the skills, but it takes time to convince clients that you’re the guy/gal to do the job. There are tons of blogs and forums out there that will answer any SEO doubts you may have. When I started looking for work as a copywriter, I didn’t really know what SEO was.
Of course, there are different levels of SEO. Nowadays, all digital nomads have their own website and a basic to intermediate understanding of SEO. There are still many individuals and businesses out there who hardly have any idea about SEO and are willing to pay for your advice and help.
Can you please tell us about Kindle publishing?
The ebook market is exploding and the planet’s biggest bookseller allows us to publish on its platform. After hearing a podcast interview with a guy that went from $0 to $1000 in five months, I thought I’d give publishing for the Amazon Kindle a try.
As for how to be successful: the trick is to publish in categories that have high book sales. Since I’m not a native speaker and because outsourcing can be so cheap, I order my ebooks to be written by experts at The Content Authority. I used to pay around $200 for 7,000 word ebooks. At the moment I’m waiting for an Elance writer to complete a 17,500 word ebook for me for only $ 175. I have attractive ebook covers designed on Elance or Fiverr.
Uploading an ebook to Amazon does not guarantee any success, though. I’ve seen lots of quality books with a very low ranking, which means they don’t sell. Your book will need reviews to gain credibility and a higher ranking. If you don’t want to rely on friends and relatives for this, you can exchange reviews on publisher forums, which is what I do.
How do you research what will sell or not?
The very first step is going to the Kindle bestseller page. Then you can go into the categories to see what rankings the top books have. If the numbers one to, say, five have a high ranking (meaning they sell well) your next step is seeing if you can break the top 20. The first 20 books are displayed on a category page so once you’re on that page, you can start climbing to the top. A good-looking cover and a high star rating help you with this.
Is there good money in ebooks on Amazon?
Yes, I almost hit $ 1,000 in royalties in December with only three ebooks in the Kindle store. My goal for this year is to publish one ebook per month so I now have a total of five ebooks up.
I’ve only been publishing non-fiction, so I want to outsource some fiction writing and see how sales go. If you look at the bestselling Kindle books, most are romance novels. I’ve read some rags-to-riches stories of indie novel publishers.
In the end, it’s a numbers game. The more books you publish, the more income streams you create. The only catch is that Amazon won’t pay you until 60 days after the months in which it sold your ebooks.
Can you recommend some good resources for new publishers?
There are many self-proclaimed gurus out there and I’m naturally suspicious of them. When I heard a podcast in which Eric Allyn almost reluctantly told about his successes, I became curious and got his guide. I followed the steps and some of my ebooks are doing better than his.
The forum access that is included with the guide is really useful. I don’t know where I would have gotten my reviews without it. In terms of ROI, this is the most valuable internet marketing product I have ever bought.
You’re a member of the Digital Nomad Academy, can you please tell us about it?
I joined in 2011 when I knew I wanted to eventually work from Southeast Asia or South America. The mentorship calls in the archive got me up to speed, after which I listened in and asked questions on the new calls. It’s great to be able to get in the minds of successful internet entrepreneurs.
On the forums I met a people in all stages of their location independence. Some are struggling to leave their jobs, others are hustling on the side or have quit. Some are already on the road. There’s always someone who can offer you advice because they’ve been in your shoes.
If you want to reach a new milestone in your life, you should surround yourself with people who are doing the same or have reached the same goal. The community helped me change my mindset into one of a digital nomad.
What’s next for you?
I can’t sit still. In fact, I’m known to complain there are not enough hours in a day! I’m working on a course for SEO copywriters, I’m collecting video stories from Dutch digital nomads around the world and I’m working on a secret project for my flight hacking website Melookyoubook. I also have a neglected dream of building and running an eco resort and/or beach bar with Marta.