As a Digital Nomad it is really important to be able to create a network as well in the local environment as online. Our first destination, Hong Kong, was a good test to find out whether we truly were able to blend in and find clients. But where did we had to start, in a city we did not knew at all?
A network will not be handed over to you on a silver cupboard. You have to work hard for it. The first important thing was research. It is important to get to know the city. We asked ourselves: What are the trends and which neighborhoods are upcoming? The start-up scene for example, was for us important to keep an eye on. This research period took at least one month browsing through the internet, reading articles and talking to people that already live or had lived there. By doing that, the city became less a total unfamiliar territory so we wouldn’t have to start from zero after arriving.
After the research period, it was time to take action. That ment that we had to go out, talking to managers of trendy bars and restaurants, visiting co-working spaces and galeries and just tell everybody what we did and what our goals were. By doing that, we found out that many people have stories to tell about the city itself and the people living in it. Also, we found out that there is a huge start-up scene in Hong Kong and a lack of good designers that can provide proper graphic work for this segment. A lot of entrepreneurs we talked to worked with foreign design agencies from Singapore, Tokyo or even Amsterdam.
We did our homework and we explored the city. What then? Of course that is not enough to actually seal the deal with clients. We needed something that we could make people say ‘wow’! Of course: a portfolio! That sounds like a basic thing to have right? But we didn’t have one, so that was priority number one: creating a portfolio. We made a digital portfolio, designed some awesome name cards and we brought that with us to every possible event, meeting, and even when we went for a hike. You never know who to meet and where, especially in a big city. By showing our portfolio people started to recognize us more often and we got a lot of feedback, as well positive as constructive.
Both types of feedback were extremely important to start to understand the work culture and taste of Hong Kong entrepreneurs. With this information we could create a pitch that really would match the demands and needs of corporate and entrepreneurial Hong Kong.
We believe that one of the mistakes foreign entrepreneurs make is that they think they can copy-paste their way of work and what they made in their own western country to a country with a totally different culture. Fellow nomads and expats started to ask us how we managed to integrate so well in the local industry in a very short amount of time. Well, there is truly one answer to that: step out of your comfort zone! We saw so many western people living, eating, drinking, working with other western people. We really wanted to dissociate with this sub-culture in Hong Kong, not because we didn’t like this subculture, but because it did not fit our goals: to work and live with local people and getting to understand the local work culture.
Our 3 months in Hong Kong were not perfect. There were a lot of ups, but also a lot of downs. Looking back though, it was a perfect decision to start in a big city, because it really forces you to stay active and focused. We can definitely say that we succeeded in our goals. We worked with 5 local clients: a small startup, a bigger startup, an established corporate business, a restaurant and an entrepreneur. Further more, we met a lot of inspiring locals and foreign entrepreneurs that all work very hard to earn their spot in the city and by sharing their story they inspired us in many ways. We discovered a whole new world, one that we did not knew from our hometown Amsterdam. We were truly forced to step out of our comfort zone, more then any other city we have visited so far.
After 3 months we were pretty exhausted, working from 9am to midnight, strolling around the city, exploring new things every day. But we learned to love the Hong Kong style, with their crazy streets, amazing infrastructure, impressive skyline and multi-cultural vibe. It is truly an exceptional city, one like no other. Curious how we settled down in Hong Kong? Read our article about how we managed to do that.