I recently wrote an article for Hackaday based on my experiences in Shenzhen, especially teaching …
One of the things preventing people from moving out to the countryside and trying to live a different lifestyle is money. It’s one of the biggest worries people mention when they ask us about how we go about living out here. Actually, we have a bi-weekly business meetup at hackerfarm where we address this issue and talk about things like starting your own company, what form of company, what kind of product to design, how to market products, and much more. It’s usually an intimate affair and we each go around the table and discuss our business, progress, problems, and questions.
There’s a pretty mixed bag of people out here, some experienced at running their own business, some just starting out, some contemplating it, and many freelancing or doing contract work. When we have the meetup, people can ask questions about whatever’s on their mind and we put together goals for each other to do by the next meetup. It’s kind of like a support group for people running businesses. There are all types of questions like: “how do I start a company”, “what should I sell”, “how come nobody is buying my products”, “how do I manufacture X”, etc.
To address some of these questions, we did the Hackerfarm Shenzhen Tour earlier this year. That’s an annual event we’ve been doing to expose people at Hackerfarm to the wholesale markets and manufacturing services in Shenzhen. Once they see it for themselves, then we can explain the complete supply chain from the wholesale markets or factories in Shenzhen to the logistics, distribution, and retail/online markets in Japan or any other country.
There are also people here that were former employees and have had to switch over to freelancing and consulting. The transition is usually difficult because career employees are ill equipped to do things like market themselves, self promote (in tasteful ways), and generally understand how to find and groom clients. It’s actually pretty similar to marketing a product, where the product is “you”. We also try to help out with that, since we commonly see freelancing and consulting as an intermediate step to starting your own business.
Since we’ve started the business meetup, I’ve been surprised how much I got out of it. Even though I’ve been running my own business for around ten years, I still get into bad habits, procrastinate, and avoid things I don’t like to do. A lot of it is even done unconsciously, so even when I give other people advice, I’m a bit surprised at the words coming out of my mouth. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking “Hey, I should be doing that too!”. It’s quite a nice feeling. Teaching or mentoring about how business is “actually done” is also good for me because it helps me distill what the core concepts of business are, at least to me.
The Hackerfarm business meetup is one of the big positives about having a community around and even spawned an annual travel event for us. Running a solo business can be really isolating and lonely so it’s nice to be able to hang out with people that understand the same pains you’re going through and have others push you to meet the goals you set for yourself. We’re hoping in the future, as peoples’ businesses get more mature, they can start teaching others and demystify what business is all about. You’re never guaranteed success, but it feels damn good living life on your own terms.