How to Create a Successful Online Business as an Expat

It used to be that if you were a non-working expat, you couldn’t work. Period. You couldn’t get a visa, you might not speak the local language, and your particular skills could be irrelevant to the culture you were living in.  Fortunately, those days are gone, and I’m happy to show you how to create a successful online business as an expat.

Now, almost any expat’s skills and experience can be adopted and rebranded as an online business.

As an online therapist and coach, I have helped many expats, mostly women, birth new careers (or a new version of an old career) via an online business.   I’ll share some examples below along with 3 tips I think are essential to follow before starting a successful online business.

Tip # 1: Identify areas of your expertise.

This may sound like a no-brainer. You can’t after all, start an online business, or any business, for that matter,  around something you know nothing about.   But I have found that most people, especially women, tend to think of this too narrowly.

Just because you don’t have a degree or work experience in a specific field doesn’t mean you don’t have expertise in that area. I’m thinking of one expat client I worked with who was the mother of 5 children and wife of a CEO with a large multi national organization. She and her family were living in India where she organized a domestic staff of 5 on a daily basis, plus involved herself in the 3 different schools her children attended and entertained her husband’s colleagues on a regular basis.

She was truly the CEO of her family and staff. Her organizational skills were phenomenal, and she carried it all off seamlessly.   When I first started meeting with her she lamented her situation, feeling like she had no marketable skills, and was tired of working without pay!

As we delved more deeply into her life, and her deepest desires, it emerged that she loved organizing, was brilliant at sharing her skills with others, and seemed to shine at any volunteer position she was given.

It soon emerged that she would love to teach these skills to other women without organizational skills, and that is precisely what she eventually offered as an online business.

The point here is to cast as wide a net as possible and be creative when identifying areas of expertise. Write them all down, even the silly ones. You never know where the germ of a brilliant idea will come from.

Tip # 2: Find you passion.

It’s not enough however, to just be good at something; it’s important to love doing it. If you wind up starting a new business, you’re going to be involved with it for many hours a day.  If it’s not something that has meaning for you, you will soon get tired of it, or it will come to seem like a chore.

I’m thinking of another client, a young mother of 2 small children who was trailing her husband in the Middle East. This arrangement had worked for her for several years, as she wanted to stay at home while her kids were young. Now her younger child would soon be starting kindergarten and she was thinking of her next step.

This woman had worked in HR for many years before she had children so it seemed like the natural place to return.
But she didn’t have passion for it; in fact, it now seemed rather boring to her.

Through our work together, she found that what she felt passionate about was helping women return to work, who like herself, had taken a mommy break. And what she felt especially passionate about was helping them write resumes that reflected their unique experience. She had always had a flair for writing which she was able to put to good use, thus her online business was born!

Tip # 3: Find your niche market.

Niche marketing is what all articles about starting an online business list as the first step. For expats this is particularly relevant as your niche may have something to do with being an expat as well as other areas of expertise.

I’ll use my own business as an example. I had worked as a licensed psychotherapist and coach for many years. When I decided I wanted to work in India, I first went to the American School and told them I was available to work with students and families. I was welcomed with open arms by the school psychologist as at that time there were no other American therapists for them to refer to, and they found that when they referred to the few Indian therapists they used, families didn’t return as there was too great a cultural divide.

I soon built up a private practice with expats, and as these clients were rotated to other postings, they wanted to continue seeing me online. Soon they referred other expats to me, and Expat Counseling and Coaching Services was born, really through the back door.

When I decided to market my services, my niche was expats in need of counseling, both because I was a trained therapist and coach, and also because I was an expat, and could relate to the expat experience.

The common wisdom regarding niche marketing is the smaller the niche the better, which is most likely true.   But what I am more concerned about is that your niche be something that you both have expertise in and that turns you on.   Make it something that excites you and makes you want to get out of bed in the morning!

If you follow these three interrelated tips of identifying your areas of expertise, finding your passion, and your niche, you’ll have gained a strong foothold in starting a successful and exciting online business.


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