Perpetual Freelancer: Six Flag Theory and you

This post have been making circles around my head for a while now (I mean a long while), mostly because I am lazy, and also because I am not really a fan of "I feel so important, when I state the obvious" posture, which is often seen in professional blogs. In fact Rants never have never become an active blog for these very reasons. Anyway... Even if stuff below seems obvious, the bigger part of freelance crowd never gave it much thought, but they really should.

I am talking about certain international lifestyle (keywords: Perpetual Traveller or Tourist (PT), Sovereign Individual, Six Flag Theory), which implies distributing your life interests across a number of countries (flags), and treating those countries as mere service providers without any patriotic sentiments. Consider your home country as you would consider a phone company, a mobile carrier or an ISP. Does it have all the features you need? Is it expensive? Is it a good bang for the buck? Is it any better than competing providers? How about fine print? Disclaimers, and limitations of service? You can also use one provider for broadband and another one for television, cut TV cable and go on with online services like Netflix, cut your landline wires in favor of SIP, etc. And most importantly, if quality of service goes down, or price goes up, or if there is something else you don't like, you just change your provider. This is a smart way to work with your service providers, and pretty much everyone applies this approach already. Six flag theory/PT is about the equivalent "smart" approach to the selection of countries for various aspects of your life.

As PT you spend the most of your time in a country that is good for living (your idea of good... from small, but dignified gingerbread town in the mountains to untamed seaside resort with blooming nightlife), legally reside (pay taxes) in a low or no-tax country, use a current account in the easiest banking jurisdiction, and keep your savings in safest one. You also carry your business in a top business haven, and acquire citizenship that gives you the widest travelling opportunities. And it's easier than it sounds, believe me.

PT lifestyle is generally applied by the lucky few, who can afford to move freely around the world — rich layabouts, international/online business owners and some C-level executives, but it is also available for your average middle-class fella (or gal), given that he (or she) is a freelancer. We are mobile, we can take our laptops, and go any place with a broadband, and stay there as much as we want, then go somewhere else. This kind of mobility is a basis of PT. Obviously a spouse can make things harder, and kids will make them discouragingly difficult. But nothing is impossible.

So... Which of the following applies to you:

  • You live in a country with very high cost of living, and find yourself with only 30 or 40% of your wage after all the bills are paid.
  • You live in an oppressive police state. They have come for your neighbor yesterday,and tomorrow they might come for you. Torchlight procession is just outside your window.
  • Taxes are unfairly high, and you don't know what are you paying for, because the place is a total mess.
  • Your country is just too dull, and far from everything you like, and you feel that boredom is killing you slowly.
  • Your government is very snoopy, and gets snoopier every day. Have they banned Tor? VPN? Are they planning to ban encryption altogether? What can they ban next? Window curtains?
  • Your government is very greedy, and gets greedier every day. Simply no comments, getting greedier is what governments do.
  • Your political views/religious beliefs (or the lack of thereof)/sexual orientation/idea of fun are prosecuted, or discontented in your country.
  • Your home country is dangerous/undeveloped/futureless for you and your kids.
  • You just feel like getting out for no specific reason.
  • You just feel insecure for no specific reason.

A lot of matches, huh? Despite the fact that you live in well-fed Western/Central Europe? If you are from a corrupt post-communist oligarchy like myself, the list probably got you slightly depressed. Relax, muslim countries are even worse, and USA is the worst of them all. Anyway the above bullets represent the reasons why people choose to become PT.

Before talking about what you can do, let's discuss some theory. First of all PT is a philosophy, and state of mind, not a cookbook or a checklist. For me it's about personal sovereignity, and freedom as libertarians view it, as well as invisibility, security, and privacy that come from being everywhere, and nowhere at the same time. Some people talk about world citizenship and cosmopolitism, others praise the untamed, unregulated capital, etc. There is something for almost everyone. If you care for some advanced reading to form your own view on the subject, start with H. G. Hills's PT, and The Sovereign Individual by James Dale Davidson. Bye-bye Big Brother (BBBB) by Grandpa is another title worth checking out.

So... without further ado six flags are:

  1. Citizenship/passport of a country that doesn't tax your worldwide income, and has a good visa-free list. If your current citizenship fulfills the requirements, then you are lucky. Otherwise you might want to get another.
  2. Legal or tax residence. It should be low-tax or no tax jurisdiction. Countries that tax only local income are also good.
  3. Business haven. For a freelancer (self-employed, private entrepreneur, etc.) it merges with p. 2, because you probably work under your name, pay (or don't pay) taxes as a private person. If you have a full-blown business with suppliers, sexy female secretary and other goodies, make sure it operates in a friendly low-tax jurisdiction. So called "classic offshores" look like an easy, and obvious solution, but there are implications.
  4. Banking haven. This is easy — place to keep your money, away from Europe, I would say. Obviously away from US.
  5. Playground, one or more. Places where you hang out. You probably already know what your playgrounds are (the place on your desktop wallpaper), but I'll give you some options to play with. What do you think about Amsterdam, Paris, Rio, Pattaya, Hong Kong? London perhaps? Montevideo? In case if you are wondering, my preference is South-East Asia.
  6. The Cyberspace to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. All things online: Your communications, web presence, collaboration, cloud, etc. You might want to keep those out of NSA's (or anyone else's) reach. Can also be the place of your primary and/or secondary online business.

Before you decide that this move would be too drastic, note (again) that PT is not a checklist. You can employ any number of elements, start small and move forward at your own pace... or start small, and stay small. No need to take any irreversible steps, such as selling your apartment or denouncing your current citizenship. In fact you can even physically stay in your home country, if you are fine with it, which might not be such a bad idea after you secure your business and assets offshore. Nothing is fixed, and specifics depend on your own situation — citizenship, goals, tolerance to risk, etc., however there some common common principles. If this post generates any interest, I will describe my own experience and findings on the subject in the series of posts, one for each flag. Please subscribe, use Share block on the right, or add a comment. This way I can assess the level of public interest to the subject. Bottom line or what was it all about:

  • Living in paradise (your idea of it)
  • Ditching taxes legally (four-zero amount directly to your pocket y/y)
  • Getting off the your oppressive, snoopy and greedy government's hook
  • Decreasing your cost of living radically (if I told you, what are the monthly food-and-lodging costs in Chiang Mai, you would call me a liar)
  • Stashing your hard-earned cash in a really safe place, away from the imminent storm, as well as sticky-fingered bureaucrats (for example Russians were robbed to the cleaners twice by their banks and government within last 25 years)
  • Reaching that elusive thing they call freedom... or something very similar
  • Personal feats — higher self-esteem, broader outlook, dense and diverse experience and impressions... all these will make you wiser, and more relaxed, driving away whatever brain bugs you might have
  • Did I mention women? I do now J

Android phone for a Freelance Translator


This may sound unobvious, especially for a conservative bunch, skeptical about all that gadgetry, but Android qwerty slider is arguably one of the best productivity/GTD tools a Freelance Translator can get. I am pretty sure, that Windows Phone 7 devices can also do the job with different tools and methods, and so does Blackberry, but I don't know much about those two. And no, iPhone is not an option here. Give it to your kids. In this post we shall cover capabilities of Android phones in context of Freelancer's life, and workflow.

Mail Client with Push notifications

All your customers naturally want you to reply their emails ASAP, and you want to comply. From my experience, reaction time is one of top Translator's qualities from PM perspective, 20 minutes during your business hours is a good figure, and in case if you think that it would be like "conforming to a customer", you are right, that's exactly what it is.

Why Android? Because of its integration with Google Apps, and specifically Gmail. You are getting immediate push notification on incoming emails, the phone can vibrate if necessary. When you receive such notification, you simply swipe the screen, and type your reply. The experience is as smooth as with your regular texting.

Why slider? Onscreen keyboard would make it much slower, and more painful. Trust me, you don't want to try that.

Your phone provides seamless access to your business email when you're away from home, AND when you are on your couch, in your kitchen or your garage. You don't have to attend your desktop to check the email anymore, which is a good thing. Spending 10-30 minutes less per day in front of the monitor can actually help you live longer.

Wi-Fi Tethering

Any freelancer needs a backup Internet connection. Period. If you don't think so, wait untill you loose a customer because of missed deadline. Android phones can tether (share) their 3G connections via USB or Wi-Fi, which means that all your Wi-Fi devices will stay connected during the outage, and switchover will be relatively transparent. I know, that there are lots of smarter/more efficient/cheaper ways to get a backup connection (you can buy a USB 3G/LTE modem, or a router with two WAN inputs), but this one is good enough to stay online, use email, and various online resources. Besides, if you already have the phone, you don't need to buy anything.

The feature is called 3G Mobile Hotspot, and it's available with all newer versions. There should also be unofficial mods/apps with the same functionality.

Getting Things Done

Another great feature is project tracking/GTD across all your devices: tablets, laptops, PCs, etc. At any point of time you may have 4 to 10 and more projects on your shoulders with deadlines ranging from "ASAP" and "in 3 hours" to "in 5 weeks" and "whenever you have time" (the worst of them all). Even seasoned translators make mistakes here, forgetting about very small tasks with very large timeframe, confusing "Noon" with "EOB", and "EOB our time" with "EOB your time" (happened to me recently).

You can register your project emails as events or tasks in Google Calendar, and access your project schedule from all your devices — PCs, tablets, laptops, et cetera. Even from Internet-enabled TV, if you have one.

This will work not only for your projects, but also for other stuff your need to do at some point as a business, or house owner (financial reporting to government, paying your bills, and taxes etc.), and even as a partner/spouse/parent/child (birthdays, and other important dates, school events, you name it). Adding GTD to one's lifestyle requires a major change of habits, and it is not for everybody, but anyone will benefit from using this approach for production, and bookkeeping.

There are plenty of free, and paid apps, that synchronize with Google Calendar. My preferences are Gtasks, and Pure Grid Calendar.

Social Media

I am only starting to use Social Networks for marketing, my Twitter account is like 2 weeks old, so I don't have much to say on the subject. Pretty obvious however, that it makes much more sense, if one maintains their social influence (tweeting, retweeting, answering comments, etc.) on a small screen, and while doing something else, like travelling in a subway, or waiting in some kind of line. There are plenty of native and 3rd party clients for your social accounts. Things to try: Hootsuite, Twitdeck.


To sum up: qwerty phone improves your relationships with your customers, ensures peace of mind as a backup connection media, helps to maintain your schedule, and bookkeeping, as well as to stay away from your monitor. In the end it saves great deal of time. Worth a try, don't you think?

I have probably missed one or two interesting use cases, so comments/additions are welcome. I also encourage WP7 owners to describe their solutions for issues above.