Interview with Chiang Mai Based Digital Nomad Rob Cubbon

Rob Cubbon - Chiang Mai Thailand

Please tell us about yourself?

I’m originally from the UK. For many years, I was living in London doing really crappy jobs. Looking back, I find it hard to believe I did that for so long. It’s as if it happened to a different person.

Tell us about your website?

I set up my website way back in 2005. It’s the same one as I use now: robcubbon.com (I didn’t spend long thinking about the domain). I originally started blogging about the technical side of print design. As I grew more confident, I started writing articles about web design, WordPress, blogging (yeah, I blogged about blogging), getting clients, etc. These days I write about anything and everything that interests me – passive income, cryptocurrencies, lifestyle, location independence, personal development, entrepreneurship, etc.

What do you do for work?

This is a really difficult question for me. The answer I give depends on whom I’m talking to.

I usually say I have an online business, but in reality, it is more complicated. I run a web and graphic design business where we provide services for clients (most of that is outsourced). I sell courses and e-books through my site and many platforms. I also sell physical products through Amazon. Also, I’m always trying a lot of business ventures most of which will ultimately fail.

How did you get started?

The first time I saw a “make money online” product I vowed to myself that I’d never buy one. So, maybe it was a lot more simple for me as there was less noise.

I started blogging in the summer of 2006 and by the end of that year people were asking me to work for them. I got business from SEO. Clients would give me design jobs after reading my blog. It quickly became apparent that I could charge more and do more interesting projects when I’d found clients this way.

So instead of going to work in boring corporate offices, I started to do the same work from home.

I became obsessed with running my own business. In truth, I was better at the business side of things than I was at design. I got really good at identifying bad clients and making the most of my relationship with good clients. Also, I improved as a writer and content creator. I kept blogging and my site was on the first page of Google for “freelance graphic designer London” for a long time.

Three years after starting the website I was able to stop going to work in offices for good. That was a nice feeling.

Subsequently, I’ve made most of my passive income from the material I create. Creating content is second nature to me now. I can not not do it.

How does creating courses compare with ebooks for income opportunity now?

I make more money from courses than ebooks. It’s always been that way. For starters, you can charge more for a course than a book. People attach more value to video products than books. Although I actually spend more time and money creating books than I do creating classes.

You wrote that you don’t write books for the money, can you please explain?

Yeah, I write books partly because I enjoy the process of writing and publishing. And books are also great lead magnets. They find new customers for my content. It’s a hidden benefit. For example, if you sell a Kindle book for $0.99, maybe the reader joins your email list and subsequently buys a training course for $199. This is impossible to track, of course, but I know it happens.

You also mentioned that you are experimenting with currency trading, Print on Demand and other income opportunities, how is that going?

My business is changing. I’ve gone from being super-transparent, telling everyone exactly how much I’m making and spending, on what, and from where. That was useful at the time. It got me a bit of online kudos and it helped some people. But after a while it caused a lot of problems. I don’t want to be the guy who makes money online telling people how to make money online. So I’m not going to divulge how I’m doing, especially in the area of currency trading.

When I was blogging about content creation and passive income, I was saying: “do this, it’ll be good for your business”. But that’s not the same about currency trading. The last thing I want to do is to advise people on that. It’s extremely volatile.

As for print on demand, that’s something I’m enjoying but, I’m sorry to say, no great successes so far. Watch this space!

How difficult is it to make money online?

Certainly, I’m really turned off by the gurus who boast of a “simple step-by-step blueprint” for success. However, that approach certainly works – I mean it makes money for the gurus.

Success, when you see it, is remarkably unremarkable. It’s usually a combination of a specific advantage (for example, knowledge and love of a market, a product, or a niche), sustained effort over a period of time, and a bit of good luck.

Also, in my experience, there’s never any clear-cut blueprint or secret that people employ that makes them successful. However, everybody’s looking for that secret. It’s human nature.

I really couldn’t say if it’s difficult or easy. But, it’s real good fun!

If you were starting today, what would be your first product or service?

It all depends on whether you have $10,000 to spend on a business or someone who’s flat broke?

If I had a bit of money, I’d spend it on buying physical inventory for an e-commerce business, either through Amazon or through a Shopify store. There’s still a lot of opportunities there. Although I would still attempt to create a brand, audience, and subscriber list off Amazon.

If I was flat broke, I would go the free content and digital product sales route. I’ve been doing that for over ten years now. It’s a lot of work and daunting at first.

Merch on Amazon is also something you can start without capital.

A huge opportunity of our time is crypto-currencies and blockchain technology. I’m getting more and more interested in that.

I know you spend a lot of time in Chiang Mai, Thailand, why Chiang Mai?

There are too many reasons…

Apart from it being welcoming, safe, friendly, cheap, with great food, great weather, good internet speeds, in a beautiful area, near to an international airport … It’s also one of the many global “hubs” of location independent entrepreneurs who work online.

This has meant I’ve been able to make friends with so many people who are as crazy as I am. It’s hard to talk about business with people who don’t understand what you do. You don’t have this problem in Chiang Mai. In fact, as I’ve learned from so many cool entrepreneurs here, I’ve been able to pivot my business into other interesting areas that I wouldn’t have back in the UK.

However, working in close proximity to other location-independent entrepreneurs is a double-edged sword. It’s great to discuss online business, get ideas, and form mutually beneficial business relationships. On the other hand, it’s a distraction that stops you from working!

How do you stay long-term in Thailand?

I had been here on tourist visas but I’ve recently decided to get a one-year non-immigrant education visa. The wider subject of visas and immigration is incredibly complicated and there isn’t the space to talk about it here. The issue of working online, being resident in one country and spending most of your time in another country as a tourist, is an international legal grey area and is unlikely to be sorted out in a logical way by governments any time soon.

What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of the digital nomad / expat lifestyle?

For me, there haven’t been any drawbacks but there are for some: culture shock, problems focussing when traveling all the time, health issues with different food and climates, lack of structure or on-going relationships, etc.

There are plenty of things you can do when the location independent lifestyle gets challenging. For example, vary your life up a bit: get involved in a local volunteering project or learn the local language. That will stop you focussing on yourself or thinking too much. You can use various online groups to meet up with people who are going through the same challenges as you are. Or again, mix it up a little, and try not to hang around with the same people all the time. Of course, basic stuff like exercise, healthy diet, and hydration, are all important.

There are going to be times when your life is not easy. That’s to be expected. Personally, I practice meditation and gratitude and I’m sure that helps.

It’s a fantastic, full and fun life and I’m incredibly grateful for what I have.

All these issues and more that are to do with location independence and working online are discussed in my new book: The New Freedom: Ordinary People Are Living Extraordinary Lives & So Can You!

If anyone has any questions, you can get in touch with me through my website at RobCubbon.com

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My name is John Bardos. My wife and I gave up our business, house and possessions in Japan to search for more meaning and fulfillment in our lives. We've discovered that a satisfying life is about rich experiences, quality relationships and meaningful contribution, NOT consumption.

One Response to Interview with Chiang Mai Based Digital Nomad Rob Cubbon

  1. A great interview with Rob. He’s amazing at what he has achieved and still keeps producing the goods. I look forward to reading more about Rob’s adventures in the future.

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