I love the freedom to move in 3 dimensions, similar to the fascination of diving. I spend my days now being in the sun, above the clouds all day and it’s mainly the view from above that I love most.
The freedom of technomad work feels a lot like flying a private aircraft. Being your own boss and piloting your small business puts you in control and lets you navigate in any direction you want. Location independence grants the ability to live and work from anywhere. Once you master the lifestyle, the view is amazing.
But just how does one become a successful consultant or contractor? Ant Bilsev shares with us how he’s managed to do so while spending his days above the clouds.
The Flying Technomad
In the late 1990s, Ant decided to make the leap to get out of the office. Being boxed in a cubicle or having a set schedule did not give him the flexibility he wanted. He chose to become self-employed, and worked as a consultant for several companies on short term contracts around the world. He was extremely successful, building a clientele, and having the freedom to move as he pleased. Flying so much one year, he recalls, “I flew 124 flights in a commercial airliner, which was very exhausting!” He’s now traveled to more than 40 countries.
Making the change to this lifestyle has it’s considerations; he points out, “you give up the security of a fixed salary, health insurance and potential unemployment benefits.” For Ant though, the flexibility to choose his projects and move around the world has been worth it. He says this approach has opened up a world of opportunity. “After I landed a consulting contract in the aviation industry, I was able to fulfill my childhood dream to get my commercial pilot and flight instructor license.”
Since then, flying has become his passion. New opportunities have led him to launch a start-up business in the general aviation market. His company recently unveiled a line of flight training mobile apps for pilots and students that has already revolutionized flight instruction. Each of his apps includes actual in-flight high-definition videos, simulations, and interactive content creating a superior learning experience not available before. “The only flight instruction products out there were filmed years ago in low quality and were mainly available on VHS or DVD . It was time to bring training in general aviation to the next level.”
Advice on Creating a Successful Consulting or Contracting Business
First, lets start with the basics. A “contractor” is typically hired for one project (via a “contract”), and the relationship is often more technical than personal. As a contractor, you could be hired to write a communications controller, build a website, or modify some software. When the project wraps and the agreement has been fulfilled, you move on to the next client.
A “consultant” typically has multiple clients at a time, and it’s more about a long-term relationship than it is about a specific project. There will certainly be projects in the course of a consulting relationship, sometimes big ones, but the general idea here is that you’re an always-available resource they can call on for big matters or small.
What has Ant learned in the few decades of loving and living this lifestyle? Here are a few pointers to help you take off on your own technomadic journey:
1. Manage Your Cash
“Take a risk, play hard, but be careful with every cent you spend,” says Ant. “It’s hard to earn it back if things don’t work out the way your carefully developed business plan might have told you.
“The most important thing is to keep your expenses low. I knew some entrepreneurs who used their investment capital to buy themselves a big car and nice gadgets before they even had the first contract with a customer signed. This can spell ‘chaos’ quickly.”
2. Live in The Moment
“Not signing any lease agreements or long-term contracts will help keep things flexible. You never know when you’ll get your next contract and when the next payment from a customer will be in your bank account. Some of them don’t pay at all which you have to consider as well.”
On living in the moment: OWN IT. Once you are in the flow of things, you will notice that the work just keeps coming your way. Keep at it, and there will be rewards to reap.
3. Set Yourself Apart
“Quality is still what matters. Work hard on being the best in your field. Question everything and develop unique skills and knowledge. This is what gets you the contracts that an unorganized, unprofessional competitor will not get.”
Remember, it’s all about customer service. Develop nice working relationships, and show your customers that you value them. That warm fuzzy feeling they get from working with you will go a lot further than any technical skills.
4. Give Back
“Find something that you can do to give back, and pay it forward. I started to volunteer for a dog rescue organization about 9 months ago. I usually go down to our facility in Tijuana, Mexico, about once a week to take care of our dogs and give them lots of TLC.
“We currently have almost 90 dogs in our 60,000 ft² facility. Every weekend we bring 5 or 6 dogs to an adoption event in San Diego and find them forever homes. Stray dogs in Mexico are often very sick, starving and many require surgeries on eyes, legs or hips. Therefore, I am happy that I can help them at least a little bit. Please feel free to donate! We need any help we can get.
Let Your Adventure Take Flight
If a more flexible life is what you are after, move your idea from gate to runway TODAY. Do research, make a plan, and take action. If you have come up with something so grand that you get overwhelmed and intimidated by it, start at the beginning. You may not have all the ‘hows’ of your plan worked out, but if you can identify a starting point and are able to take that first action step, you are already closer to landing your dream.
Even if alot of time and effort is spent working out a detailed plan, have the courage to let your ideas evolve over time as information changes, opportunities arise, and lessons are learned along the way. Learn to tune in to your intuition as your own personal air-traffic controller, even if it means you change course en-route. When Einstein spoke of intuition he referred to it as “a sacred gift,” saying that it is “the only real, valuable thing.” Persist and the adventures you bring into your life are up to you. Ant has definitely had many interesting and fun experiences. He shares with us:
“Of my travels, my most memorable adventures were to places in the Middle East, like Lebanon, where I visited Palestinian refugee camps, and in Jordan where I trekked to the ancient city of Petra – what a breathtaking landscape! Though, I got myself into an interesting situation on the Allenby Bridge crossing the river Jordan. I had not a single cent in cash left! Luckily, a nice lady from Bulgaria helped me out and paid for a taxi ride back to Amman!
“In 1996. I randomly met some people from Lucas Film in a small fishing village in Mexico. They invited me to George Lucas’ ranch, and I was able to get a full day tour of Lucas Film Studios in California. That was very exciting!”
He has also completed an Iron Man Triathlon, run various marathons and mastered the art of photography.