The goal of Hardly Hustle is to provide inspiration, drive and motivation in a 10 minute read or less. What you see is what you get. This is hot off the press without an editing team. Jonathan Howe is up.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Jonathan Howe and I am the founder and owner of Montenegro Digital Nomad Agency (MDNA). This business specialises in relocation services to Montenegro, real estate, Montenegro visas and residency, and travel services like tours and car rentals. The intention from the beginning was to create a single point for information and services for any visitors to the country. This all started as a side project without a clear plan or strategy back in 2019. I was involved in travel blogging since 2014 and had been travelling all over the world, including living on a boat and sailing around the Caribbean while working online. After moving to Montenegro, buying real estate, setting up a company and obtaining residency here, it became clear that there was space in the market to offer professional services to others wishing to do the same.
What did it take/how did you get started?
After nearly 7 years of traveling and living in different countries, I already knew that one of the biggest challenges foreigners face is navigating local rules, regulations and processes. The experience of relocating and establishing a base in Montenegro solidified that belief. Frankly, anyone can move to a new country and spend time, effort and money to learn how everything works without any help. However, I know from experience the true cost of all of that trial and error. What might take someone else a week to figure out how to do here, I can get done in a single day. Furthermore, with a personal and professional network built up over three years, I can do it without the level of risk that is inherent in starting from scratch in a foreign country. Having always navigated these challenges without someone to do these things for me, I understand that experience, peace of mind and convenience are worth paying for!
What does the future look like for you and your business?
In short - expansion and diversification. I have always believed in multiple income streams, so I want to offer a range of services for both relocation clients and tourists. I am also starting to work more on affiliate integration. Beyond that, the intention is to go beyond the borders of Montenegro and into surrounding Balkan countries. Outside of Montenegro Digital Nomad Agency, I'm also working on several other side projects, or hustles, that can grow steadily and are not vulnerable to geopolitical changes and conflicts that are totally out of my control.
What drives / motivates you on a daily basis?
My main motivations for working for myself are always the freedom and independence to decide my own outcome. I cannot tolerate my situation being reliant on the decisions of others. I'm also too stubborn to be told what to do. This combination makes me a terrible employee, so I have to work for myself anyway! On the other side, what motivates me within the business is seeing the difference in my clients from the first day I meet them, compared with several months later. That initial uncertainty and trepidation about what they have decided to do, contrasted with when everything is set up and they are happily settling into their new lives. That's always very satisfying to see!
What advice would you give someone interested in doing what you do?
There are certainly easier ways to make a living! You have to find some enjoyment in spinning plates and filling a number of different roles. The most important factor is to take the time to understand your environment and the people you are working with. While most countries have fairly similar laws and processes, I couldn't simply take what I do here in Montenegro and replicate it somewhere like Colombia. You also need to become a jack-of-all which is probably true of any startup. Web design, SEO and copywriting, project management, networking, logistics, legal, accounting, taxation... all of these and more are in my head all the time, in varying combinations depending on each client's situation.
What has been the hardest part of your business journey?
The hardest part has definitely been learning all of the finer details associated with every process. Having said that, you can never know everything about everything all of the time, so there is always more to learn.
How have you managed burnout thus far?
I don't really understand burnout. If I need to rest, I rest. If I need a break, I take a break. If I feel like I'm on a roll and can still get something useful done after 11 pm then I'll do it. If not, I close the laptop and it's still there when I wake up. It's just another decision. Like many things in recent years, I feel like "burnout" has become a bit of a buzzword that gets good engagement on LinkedIn and Facebook posts.
What are a few resources that you'd recommend?
For videos that give clear, actionable advice on earning money online with a focus on affiliate marketing, I really like a Youtube channel called @Buildapreneur. I highly recommend him. For reading - Love him or hate him, no one says, "sort your shit out" and tells you how to do it quite like Jordan Peterson, so 12 Rules for Life is a favorite of mine.
List the founders
How many hours a week do you work on this hustle?
# of Employees?
When did you start?
How much did it cost to launch?
What were your funding methods and ballpark amount raised?
All self-funded and grown from business income.
What's the #1 thing you need right now?
To decide on an advertising strategy and social media automation.