Mobile Creative. Sounds like some kind of iPhone artist app, doesn’t it? If you haven’t heard this term before, you are not alone. I will attempt to describe what it means to live a Mobile Creative lifestyle as I understand it.
I first came across the term Mobile Creative back in early 2014 upon reading an article on a blog I frequent. In his post on America’s Nine Classes, which describes the current state of the power/wealth hierarchy in the US, Charles Smith defines mobility not in any physical sense, but in the sense of “mobility between sectors and ways of earning income.”
Furthermore, Charles’ extends his definition of what it means to be a mobile creative:
- An emerging class that ranges across many income classifications and cannot be described by income alone
- A class of citizens that is self-employed (entrepreneurial) with adaptive skills.
- They collaborate with other Creatives rather than have employees
- They generally operate by the principle trust the network, not the corporation or the state
- Anyone outside of this class is hidebound by a variety of false choices and illusions of choice
I immediately felt an affinity for Mobile Creatives and could see exactly how I fit into the author’s definition.
Embrace Entrepreneurial Thinking at a Young Age
For a long time I did not know what label I should apply to describe myself or my life. I have struggled to be an entrepreneur as long as I can remember. Heck, I was an entrepreneur at the early age of 14 when my sister and I decided it would be a good idea to start a food vending cart.
Our family took a vacation to Disneyland and somehow my brain connected the dots and spotted an opportunity – sweet cinnamon covered donut sticks called churros. Back in the mid 1990s (that makes me feel old!) churros were just starting to become noticed and more readily available. They were delicious, not nutritious, and my sister and I knew people would gobble them up at the appropriate venue. After researching the market and designing/building our own vending cart, we started selling our wares on weekends and during school summer break.
I can say that we did end up turning a profit. More importantly, I learned invaluable business and life lessons from the experience. Looking back, I see my initial attempt at entrepreneurship was classic real-world training that laid the foundation for the mobile creative life I now live.
Starting a business at a young age planted a seed inside me. I now understand that I neglected to nurture and take care of this precious seed and that it may have gone dormant for awhile, suppressed by expectations of those around me and societal roles. It finally germinated over the past few years, and now that it has I feel like I can never go back to the way I used to live: corporate falsehood, stifling bureaucracy, mindless cubicle syndrome, and all the uncreative aspects of the work I performed for the past 10 years or so.
I don’t think I will ever be able to get rid of the yearning to create and grow something from nothing, to form business partnerships and relationships, or to think and act in ways that others might not fully understand. I wouldn’t want to anyways. I am sure my mom thought I was crazy when I announced I wanted to start a churro vending cart at the age of fourteen.
Even if you didn’t start a business when you were young, it is never too late in life to begin. I will write more on starting and growing a business in later articles. For now I will leave you with advice from the Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich, “the race is long and in the end it is only with yourself.”
So, what do you do?
When people start a conversation with, “What do you do?” they are really inquiring as to your source of income, your family, your aspirations, dreams, and world view. Very quickly it becomes apparent just who you are in this world and your values, political beliefs, religious beliefs, etcetera.
The veiled question people are really asking is what class do you belong in this society. In this way, someone who meets you for the first time is able to categorize you and make a snap decision whether they like you and want to continue a relationship with you, or not.
While not always the case, I have found the above to be valid when I meet someone in person for the first time. In our hyper connected and fast paced western society, it seems like we have little time to waste on conversations or interactions that do not benefit ourselves in some way.
Your job takes up the vast majority of your waking hours each day, and very little time is left over to define yourself by other terms outside of that vocation.
I struggled for many years with that question, what do you do? In my recent career I would simply say, “Oh, I work as a business analyst for the government.”
Talk about a conversation killer.
I might as well have said that I count jellybeans and stick them in packages all day long. Come to think of it, that would actually be a more interesting job to talk about than working for the mundane government … maybe I’ll try and get a side gig at a jelly bean factory!
The reality was that I didn’t want to talk about my soulless job, and I didn’t want to be defined by the place I showed up for 8 hours a day.
Network Building and Everyday Conversations
Today I find it much easier to stick with my unrefined elevator script when first asked, what do you do. I simply say, “my wife and I run an online wedding media company while we travel the world together as digital nomads.”
A simple, short, and intriguing conversation starter. No jellybean counting fluff. I don’t know too many other people that took action to create a life of travel, writing, and building online businesses.
I want to have deep and meaningful conversations with interesting individuals, regardless of age, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or what social class they presently occupy. I think that is part of being a Mobile Creative. You have be open to creating a sustainable and mutually beneficial social network.
And no, I’m not talking about joining the latest online social network like Snapchat, SnapMyDog, or SnapWhatever!
I’m talking about real world in-your-face human connections that you need to have. Your social network is of primary concern as a Mobile Creative. With it you can accomplish much, without it you face a steep uphill climb towards how you define success. Potential opportunities to add someone to your network exist in everyday life, and you never know where or when a lasting connection will be developed.
I confess, I can improve in building the social skills and capacity I require in order to form a standout network. I know I am not alone. I try to be more involved with everyone and everything around me, which is one key to unlocking a successful Mobile Creative life.
That being said, I would love to network and get to know more Mobile Creatives! Get in touch, my online door is always open. 😀
My Current Mobile Creative Lifestyle
Like many who have transitioned to an online income (passive or not), I too read the 4-hour work week. I came by that now famous book when a summer student at my former place of employment identified me as someone who would benefit from it.
I see now that she must have understood I was someone who would live the tenants that Tim Ferris so eloquently writes about.
This article is not about the 4-hour work week and what that lifestyle entails. However, I do credit a small amount of inspiration and insight to the 4HWW for my current path.
Here are 8 reasons why I consider my wife and I a couple that lead a Mobile Creative lifestyle:
- We earn income independent of our location. We can work in Bali as easily as we can in Vancouver, Canada.
- We define when and how much time we allocate to work each and every day
- We are developing multiple streams of income
- We are always on the lookout for opportunities – business or otherwise
- We are freelancers with adaptive skills
- We are happy doing what we do regardless of how much money we make. It is the process and the journey that provide fulfillment more than the number in our bank account.
- We are willing to take on a short-term gig if it is the right circumstance
- We are not dependent on the State or a corporation
Mobile Creative Lifestyle Design
The lifestyle I live now was not an accident, nor was it entered into on a whim. It was a calculated risk that took Meredith and I the better part of a year to plan and figure out. We knew that we would be taking a drastic pay cut and that we would require another source of location independent income. We also knew to expect changes in terms of living arrangements (house sitting), expenses (frugal), social networks and support, and all the other factors that go into living a lifestyle of slow travel, freelance work, and everyday adventure.
My wife and I currently live in a wonderful 3 bedroom house set in a lovely neighborhood in London, England. We get to live in one of the best cities in the world and explore London together by way of the house/pet sit opportunity. All the while we get to create and build our online businesses.
Even if you are not in a position to leave it all behind right now, you can plan an exit strategy to embrace this lifestyle. Becoming location independent is not as difficult as you may imagine:
- Shift your mindset. Be open to new interactions, experiences, and take control of your daily life.
- Don’t be reluctant to get rid of your possessions. Stuff that you collect and hold onto ends up owning you instead of the other way around. Selling everything on Craigslist is an extremely liberating process.
- Don’t be scared to leave or take an absence from your current employer. I know the economy is tough. The greater risk is not being in control of your own destiny. Companies can always go out of business and you can be laid off, but if you have the skills to pay the bills, you will always be in demand.
- Don’t worry what other people think of you. There will always be naysayers and detractors that either do not want to see you succeed or are jealous that you have the courage to live on your own terms. Minimize interactions with such people and maximize interactions with the supportive people in your network.
- Money comes and goes – create a life less dependent on money. It seems the more we earn, the more we spend. There is never enough money. A Mobile Creative makes due with the income he has and the circumstances he finds himself. Getting a part-time job (at a winery for example!) could be the best thing you do. It doesn’t mean you failed or have fallen down in the social ladder. Be open to the right part time gig in order to live your lifestyle.
- If you are not flying solo, make sure your significant other is on board and like minded. This is probably the single most important aspect I can think of in terms of gaining success as a Mobile Creative couple. Meredith and I communicated about many aspects of our future together, and continue to do so. Very important.
I love the freedom and creativity that I am afforded by living a mobile creative lifestyle. I wake up every morning and have to pinch myself just to make sure that this is not all a dream.
Kevin Mercadante (Out of Your Rut) sums it up nicely when he explains that being a Mobile Creative is a different way of living, thinking, and being. He is right. Although I have always thought about certain aspects of the world through a different lens, actually being present in the lifestyle I live now is totally exhilarating. Everything in my life seems to be falling into place.
Kevin makes a comment that, “vacations and weekends are less important – there is joy and adventure to be had every day … You develop a sense that you’ll survive what ever happens. You see more opportunities and fewer obstacles.“
I couldn’t agree more. That is the spirit of this blog and the lifestyle the Nomad Newlyweds live. We take every day as it comes and try to embody a philosophy of mindfulness. Life is not planned too far in advance and everyday is meant to be a gift and adventure.