Meet the couple living the dream

LARISSA HAM
Last updated 14:09 24/07/2014

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There was a time when Nalisha Patel and her husband Janak dreamt of having an expensive house, fancy cars and a bulging bank account.

These days - after a radical shift in thinking - they have designed their own fairytale life, living in dream locations around the world while continuing to build a successful digital business from their laptops.

In August 2011, the Kiwi couple packed up their belongings, rented out their house and hit the road. They have since travelled to 16 countries including the US, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey, while earning more than they did in their former, more conventional lives in New Zealand.

Nalisha, now 33, and Janak, 36, had been progressing well in their careers - Janak climbing the ladder in his nine-to-five engineering job, while Nalisha grew her mobile personal training business into a national operation.

But there was a flaw in the business model - Nalisha's personal trainers, who helped the clients exercise in their own homes, were often poaching those very clients.

At the same time, she and Janak, who hadn't had much of a chance to travel, were hankering to see more of the world.

"We were just working so much that we were just sitting in front of our computers working 40, 50, 60 hours a week," says Nalisha.

After reading a range of business and self-development books, they decided the way forward was to join forces and take Nalisha's business online so they could operate it from anywhere. They also wanted a more automated and systemised business model that would allow them to create products that would keep on paying long after the initial work had been done.

"We didn't want to be trading our time for money," says Nalisha.

Tim Ferriss' best-selling book, The 4-Hour Work Week, was particularly inspiring.

"We were like 'wow, it really resonates', the fact that you don't want to wait until you're 65 ... to enjoy life," says Nalisha.

She and Janak now sell a range of online health, fitness and weight-loss programmes, including a 12-week programme and e-books.

About six months ago they also launched a small business programme called Escape the Photocopy Life, based on the idea that every day need not be a photocopy of the last. Nalisha says the programme helps to teach others how to create a business that can be run anywhere, through tips on creating, selling and marketing digital products online.

The products are aimed at a global audience, and the health and fitness programmes have so far been surprisingly popular in South Africa and Singapore.

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The US and British markets are now a focus as Nalisha and Janak work to expand the reach of their Escape the Photocopy Life programme. A book is also soon to launch.

While on the road, the couple shift locations roughly every two to six weeks, making travel decisions on the fly and renting out short-term, furnished apartments with Wi-Fi wherever they go, mostly through accommodation website airbnb.

While Nalisha and Janak enjoy working on their business, they have a work/life balance that would leave many small business owners green with envy.

"While travelling for short stints, we work about three to four hours a day, usually early in the morning so the rest of our day is free, or we flip it and work in the late afternoon," says Nalisha.

"When we are in one place for longer than four weeks, we can work around 30 hours a week, creating systems and marketing campaigns so we can take 'holidays' within our trip."

They also aim to have a proper six-week holiday two to three times a year.

Nalisha says the best thing about their brand of nomadic lifestyle is waking up to a new destination every few weeks or months, and experiencing the new cultures and sights in that place.

"We value our freedom over anything, so being able to literally go anywhere we choose is the best thing about this lifestyle."

Sledding down the Swiss Alps, and staying in Santorini, in the Greek Islands, have been highlights, and Nalisha says people they meet on their travels often ask them if they've won the lottery.

But she says living this way has been the result of "years of hard work and sacrifice", and deliberate planning to design their lives in this way.

"We've made loads of mistakes, and had lots of trial and error over the last 10 years of our business life," she says.

"We threw out our TV over five years ago, read loads of books instead and keep educating ourselves to give ourselves an edge in our industry."

While they are currently taking a short hiatus back in New Zealand, Nalisha says she and Janak are itching to get moving again, and don't see themselves living in any one location any time in the foreseeable future.

"We say we don't want to look at the same view. I think our mindset's completely shifted."

Five tips for going global from Nalisha Patel

1. Make sure there's a market

Test your product idea in the marketplace first by setting up a quick landing page and gauging the response through "expressions of interest" or pre-sales.

You could also discuss your idea on your Facebook fan page, through newsletters to your database, or on your blog.

2. Do the work once, but get paid repeatedly

Using the power of marketing digital products online, you can create an information product once, and then sell it repeatedly. Focus on creating various digital products or automated online courses to free up your time.

3. Aim small and build

Choose a small niche to sell your idea to first, which sounds almost counterintuitive for growing a business. For example, if selling a weight-loss programme, target mothers under 30.

The goal is to have a well-defined niche. You can then choose specific magazines to advertise through, or Facebook demographics to focus on when advertising, for example.

4. Leverage technology to free up your time

Forget cold-calling. Online technology like Aweber allows you to set up automated systems that encourage prospects to contact you instead. Tools like WordPress and PayPal also allow customers to buy independently through your website so you do not have to be actively involved in the selling process.

5. Think globally and outsource

Leverage the power of the internet and reach customers across the planet. Facebook, Google and Yahoo, for example, allow you to target almost any country.

Also, consider hiring a virtual assistant, content creator, or any other "virtual help" through sites such as online marketplace Elance so you can build your business faster. Anything can be outsourced these days.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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