Interview with Sebastian Canaves from Off-the-Path.com
Meet Sebastian Canaves. He’s one of the most famous digital nomads in Germany and runs international travel adventure blog Off-the-path.
Learn about his productivity secrets from the road, opinon on digital nomad hotspots like Bali and Thailand and his new plugin that helped him to generate over 8000 € with his new blog in 3 month.
Sebastian, tell us a bit about you. How do you make a living online, how did you get started and where are you right now?
I’m currently in Monkey Mia in Western Australia and just swam with dolphins a few hours ago and will continue our trip up to Exmouth to swim with Whale Sharks in a few days.
Next to traveling more or less fulltime I run multiple online businesses in mainly two niches: Travel and Blogging!
It all began in 2011 when I started my travel blog Off-The-Path.com. The aim, back then I didn’t know too much about positioning and branding, was to just become a big travel blog. Once I started to get more into online marketing I rebranded and started to pursue the goal of becoming the largest multilingual adventure travel blog in German and English. Today, the blog is the largest adventure travel blog in Germany as well as one of the largest in the English market.
At the end of 2012 / early 2013, Conni from Planet Backpack and I had the idea to share our strategies and failures with other bloggers and teach them all the things we did right and wrong. We founded Blog Camp where we organized weekend workshops around Germany in Berlin, Cologne and Frankfurt. After a year we raised prices from 99 € a weekend up to 499 € and found that this was the maximum we could scale the prices with our target group.
We wanted to reach more people and make our knowledge more accessible to others while working less (organizing a workshop weekend is a lot of work.) Thus we took all our knowledge and worked for one year on an online course containing 10 Modules, over 100 lessons and a lot of video and bonus materials around the topic of successful blogging in German!
Once this hit and positioned itself as the go to resource for blog beginners in Germany I had the time to start other projects.
I created a productivity app called Swapp-app.com. Where you can quickly send notes and to-do-lists to your own email inbox or your most important contacts with a simple swipe. I am the co-founder of NBEFinland, the largest travel blogging campaign in Northern Europe, which takes place every January around the travel fair MATKA, and until recently had some really big clients who I regularly planned online marketing campaigns with.
End of 2014 I finally had the time to launch my new blog for digital business and travel called TravelWorkLive.de. An idea I was running around with for a very long time and finally found the time to realise in November. With this blog I created a plugin that helped me to collect heaps of E-Mails and to identify who my readers are and what situation they are in. The plugin is called Survey Lead Calculator, and finally ready to be launched!
Furthermore, I have founded and launched Support-Camp.io, a WordPress Support Service where we offer unlimited support on small technical problems. I’m no technician or programmer, I only take care of the strategy, online marketing and operations management. I have two other people that do a fantastic job in solving all the problems of our customers!
This is about it… quite a lot of projects but all in two niches that I can overlook!
Oh… I forgot, I just wrote a book with a big publishing house that will be published in Germany in July later this year. It’s a guide to backpacking for German travellers and closely linked to Off-The-Path.
You’re constantly on the road and almost never at the same place for more than a week. How do you manage to stay so focused and productive?
More or less… I have scheduled downtime here and there but I’m on the road for most of the time.
The secret to travel and work is discipline. I try to work three days a week and travel two days a week. The other two are a mix of both. Here in Australia it can be a challenge to have internet all the time. So when I get to a place where I have no internet I plan to spend my two travel days there…
We are now doing a 4 weeks road trip from Albany to Darwin and will continue to New Zealand where we are travelling the southern island in more or less 2 weeks. After that we will travel back to Europe to stay in one place for 2 or 3 months. This is the scheduled downtime where I will get most of my work done!
I also had 1,5 months downtime before coming here, when I was living in Bali with other digital nomads!
You’re not only making a good living as a blogger but also teach others how to do the same. Which advice would you give digital nomads who want to start to make their living with a blog?
First of all validate your idea. We hear this all the time but I see very few people actually doing this. Instead we still invest a lot of time into ideas, products and services without testing if there is a market for this. Except of Off The Path all products and services I run have been validated. Some are more successful some are less, but they all work and bring in profit one way or another!
Let’s take the Survey Lead Generator which I’m launching today. A pretty clever but complex plugin that let’s you create awesome and qualitative leads, increase your revenue and helps you analyze your readers. I had the idea about 7 or 8 months ago when working on the concept for TravelWorkLive. I sat down thought about it and when I launched the blog and built up credibility for the blog I published the idea in a blog post and asked people to buy the product without it actually existing. I only had a prototype which was working on my blog. Very far from being a whitelabel software or plugin – and people bought it.
I financed the whole development of the plugin with presales and this way it already made profit before the actual release! People understand that the plugin is unique and the data they get from it is worth a lot, which was the whole idea behind it!
In a nutshell, what the plugin does is, it offers a survey that you create for your blog. On my digital nomad blog the survey asks how the visitor/reader can become a digital nomad. They answer following questions:
- What do you do? (Student, Employed, etc…)
- What do you want to do? (Blogging, create Apps, etc…)
- How well do you know to create Websites/Blogs? (Good, Bad, ok…)
- When do you want to become a digital nomad (in 3 months, in one year, in two years…)
- Do you want to travel permanently or just once around the world?
- How old are you? (<18, 18-20, 20-25, etc…)
Once a reader/visitor fills out the survey and enters his email and name he receives an e-mail with a link back to his personal result where I give him a recommendation based on the first two questions (what do you do & what do you want to do) all the other questions are important to me because I want to know which characteristics my readers have and what their problems are.
The personal result page is full with recommendations how they can become digital nomads with products and ideas how to get started. These products are either my own (Support-Camp.io, Blog-Camp.de, etc…) or affiliate links.
For example: I now know that my readers are between 25 and 30, are employed, want to learn more about blogging and become location independent permanently.
This information helped me to make more than 8.000 Euros with my new blog in just 3,5 months!
Getting back to the question.
It’s important to validate ideas and to know your readers / customers as this helps tremendously in your future endeavours as a digital nomad and online preneur. It will make your future steps so much easier and much more profitable!
You’ve travelled a lot over that past years. What are you favourite digital nomad destinations and why?
I haven’t really found it yet. I’ve been to almost 100 countries so far. Bali was pretty cool but the unreliable internet situation was awful sometimes. Even in Ubud, which has some of the best internet connection on the island we often had outages. Not ideal if you have a scheduled skype call with a client!
Chiang Mai was pretty cool but I missed the beach and the waves. Canggu in Bali again is cool but not enough people and the co-working space just closed down!
In Europe I love Barcelona. I haven’t visited South America yet, but for now South Africa is next on the list this winter!
What do you love most about the location independent lifestyle?
Freedom and diversity. While it is difficult to actively travel and work it helps me to be more creative. I am more creative when I come to new places and meet new people.
This definitely is one of the perks as a digital nomad.