Today’s interview is with Matthew Bailey, an entrepreneur, traveler and fellow Canadian. In his early twenties, Matt purchase two real estate properties as investments. Unfortunately, the costs and hassles weren’t worth the meager returns. I also lost my money in both of my real estate investments, so I can definitely relate to his experiences. Matt talks about the hazards of real estate investing, his experiences with niche marketing, his Canadian frequent flyer miles hacking site, studying in Malaysia and more.
Please tell us about yourself
I’m from Canada, born and raised in a small oil town called Fort McMurray. Like others in the town, my dream was to simply make lots of moola in the oil field and buy a big house, a couple cars, and lots of big toys. As I got a little older, I realized I didn’t want this anymore so I changed everything. My adventurous life started when I packed my bags and moved to Calgary just weeks after turning 20. Since then, I’ve earned a diploma in marketing, a bachelor degree in management, bought a house and a condo, and then dropped it all to travel the world and pursue other interests like entrepreneurship and online business. Right now, I’m in China after having traveled SE Asia for the past 9 months and completing a semester of university in Malaysia.
Please tell us about your experiences investing in real estate in Canada
My experience in real estate has mostly been a rough one. I bought a condo as a home/investment when I was 22, right before the market dropped. I then bought a house when I turned 23 and rented out the basement, upper floor, and even the garage to cash flow as much as possible. However, with the downturn, I also realized the major risks involved, not to mention the HIGH stress (with little payoff) when dealing with tenants, banks, lawyers, and so forth. So when the chance came to get rid of it, I decided to let it go. I learned a lot but wouldn’t do it again – or at least not anytime soon.
As for recommending real estate as an investment, I guess it depends on the person and their plans. Personally, when it comes to residential real estate, profits (cash flow) are quite low so unless you buy many properties or just watch it “grow” for 30 years, you’re going to feel like you’re working for free.
On top of that, if you’re adventurous and wanting to see the world, real estate is quite possibly the heaviest ball and chain you can attach yourself to. Between finding tenants, keeping tenants, managing tenants, and dealing with maintenance, I quickly found my soul being drained of all its energy and optimism. I prefer to travel with less baggage now.
How do university classes in Malaysia compare to Canada?
I would say that in general, the classes are much easier. Of course, it can depend on the course but for me, the management courses are much easier than those in Canada. It might be because I have an advantage with English but I also found that I didn’t need to study as much. It was different in other ways as well. It was much more common for teachers to not show up or to invite lackluster guest speakers that added little value to the course objectives. I noticed that the students in general are much shyer than in Canada. Even when the teacher is continuously asking a simple question, no one speaks up.
Other differences were how difficult it was to concentrate in class because of the cranked up air conditioning. It reminded me of a Canadian winter and I would need to leave every 15 minutes or so to warm up outside. I also had to carry my own toilet paper and soap since no bathrooms in Malaysia have these on supply.
What is Malaysia like?
Malaysia is a pretty unique place. Sometimes it really feels like a Southeast Asian country and other times, a little “western”. Penang, where I was living, is a mix of Indian, Chinese, and Malaysian ethnicities. Waking up to Muslim prayers is not uncommon and it wasn’t good to be a light sleeper there. The weather was always scorching hot and humid but when it rained, it really came down. The people are generally very friendly and interested in meeting you. The food is very good and regarded as the best in Malaysia. As long as you like Malaysian, Indian, or Chinese food, you should be fine. It was a great experience for 3-4 months but it isn’t somewhere I’d like to live longer unless it was sipping rum on the Perhentian Islands.
As for working online, internet was generally fine in our apartment but the quality goes down as you hit coffee shops and cafes. Entertainment is not very good in Malaysia and although nightclubs/bars can be found in tourist areas, I don’t think Malaysia is the best place for those looking to party. Beer can be expensive and most Malaysians don’t drink. There are no campus pubs and the top entertainment amongst the locals seems to be shopping in the extravagant air-conditioned malls. On the plus side, there are some good cheap cinemas, arcades, and karaoke bars.
What are your living expenses in Malaysia?
Living expenses are quite low although they are a little more expensive than many other countries in Southeast Asia. Our 3-bedroom apartment overlooking Penang Bridge was only $500 CDN per month. These are pretty nice high-rise apartment buildings with a very good outdoor pool but maintenance is lackluster at best. Food is cheap with an average price of $2 per meal if you buy from markets, street stalls, or at the university campus. Movies are only about $4 but beer is quite expensive. The nightclubs or bars charge western prices. Internet contracts are about $45 per month with a one year contract. Taxis can be a little expensive by Asian standards at about $7-10 for a 20 minute ride or so. Not many have meters. Public transportation is less than a buck. Overall, the living expenses are much lower than the western world. I’m really going to miss fresh squeezed orange and apple juice for a mere 80 cents.
How do you earn an income now?
Most of my money comes from savings. I tend to make as much as I can, as quickly as I can, and then hit the road. However, I have built up some income from online projects, some of which I plan to put much more time and effort into when I’m done traveling. Due to “travel”, it’s actually quite hard to work on the projects at the moment. I think one of the things people overlook (those wanting to build an online location independent income stream) is that working from the road is not easy, especially if you’re just beginning. I think if you already have a decent income coming in from online sources, then the best thing is to pick one spot and make that your home away from home while you work online. Trying to work while you’re actually traveling (going from country to country and city to city, etc) is very difficult and can become contradictory if you’re actually trying to “see” the world.
Basically, if you’re just starting out but also wanting to see the world, I would just pick one to begin with. I would either stay home (or one place), and really work hard to bring some online businesses into fruition or I would travel the world and not worry about the online businesses. If you only have 6-12 months of travel (and have little to no income coming online), focus on the travel and truly enjoy it. Don’t ruin it by sitting in coffee shops 75% of the time and “trying” to make a go of it. As for my online life, I currently run my travel blog, A World of Inspiration as well as a Canadian travel hacking site called Canadian Free Flyers. I also have a couple niche sites that I set up for practice. A World of Inspiration is my main travel site and has been for a couple of years now. I earn a small income from that site and its affiliate sales but most of the “profit” comes from traveling and taking part in adventures that some companies offer me thanks to the site. Canadian Free Flyers is my main “business” site and I see new members signing up each month. Right now, everything is in the beginning stages as I work out the kinks but when I return home in October, I’m really going to kick up the marketing by looking for affiliates, interviews, and SEO.
Please tell us more about Canadian Free Flyers?
Canadian Free Flyers is a Canadian travel hacking site. I teach others about the aspect of earning lot’s of travel points, using the points for world travel, getting great deals with hotels, and otherwise saving money on travel.
The membership has been growing slowly but backpacking across Asia has made it virtually impossible to market Canadian Free Flyers as much as I would like to. However, a few months ago I was approached by the Toronto Sun and interviewed about the site and my travel hacking experience. It went live on October 3rd.
I think CFF has high potential but it will depend on my marketing skills going forward. Right now, it’s offered as a membership site with a one-time fee. I think it’s a great deal as the $47 option gets full access to the information as well as life-time membership to a mailing list that sends out massive point bonuses when they arise. Although the Canadian market is very small compared to the American market, it’s the market I know best and it helps keep members more focused. I find it a huge distraction to get emailed countless deals every month that are only available to Americans. That’s why I created Canadian Free Flyers for Canadians only.
I like keeping the group small at the moment so people can continue to ask me questions and I can update the site with new information as well as fix any issues that arise. Come December, I will compile it all into an “official” EBook and find affiliates who are interested in partnering up.
How are your niche sites going?
The niche sites I have set up have mostly been for practice purposes. They make a little money and although I may continue to grow them, I’d like to focus more on projects that excite me.
Niche sites are much more work than some make them out to be. Countless articles, SEO, marketing, copywriting, etc. take up a tremendous amount time and the income is not instant or guaranteed. On top of that, organic traffic is becoming much more challenging due to Google and their constant changes.
Niche sites are a great way to practice a lot of web skills though. If you dive into a couple, you can really learn about simple web page design, SEO, finding product to sell, copywriting, and so much more. At the moment, I simply put them aside to enjoy my travels.
Do you think niche sites are good way to earn passive income?
I think niche sites are a great way to make near-passive income but they require heaps of initial work and are never truly passive – unless you have someone else working on their maintenance. That being said, I love the idea of niche sites but I don’t think all the eggs should be placed in the “Google” basket. Google is constantly making changes to their algorithms causing sites to suddenly lose ALL traffic overnight. I’ve seen this happen to friends who spent years building a top-end website only to see it suffer very quickly.
I think it’s important to start a few as practice sites and base them around things you’re interested in. Otherwise, it’s easy to lose interest as they can become quite boring and tedious. Once you know your stuff, it’s better to try to pick something that blends a little bit of interest but also something that has high potential to make money and gain traffic. Start by doing a lot of research on topics to find out what the potential traffic is as well as what types of products are available to sell. Sometimes you may need to create your own if no products are available. I actually learned a lot from Corbett Barr and his Niche site course.
What are your future plans?
My future plans are to make billions selling life insurance to digital nomads who made fortunes off iPhone applications and then retire on a quiet beach in the middle of the pacific. 🙂
Actually, my plans for the future still involve a lot of travel and will likely make up a big part of the next few years. However, my passion for entrepreneurship is beginning to outweigh my passion for travel so the next year is dedicated to building some businesses as well saving money on the side.
My first plan of action is to market Canadian Free Flyers and finish the eBook by compiling all the information on the site as well as the answers to member’s questions. I will continue to write about amazing adventures onA World of Inspiration but also interview people who have inspired me along the way.
Another project I started with some friends of mine has been a motivational email group. We keep each other updated and then develop goals and keep each other accountable. As we improve it, we’d actually like to develop an actual “retreat” where we meet up in a great location with like-minded people for a week or so and inspire each other.