Lifestyle Design Porn and Other Digital Nomad Bullsh*t

In any gold rush the ones making the most money are the ones selling the shovels. Here are a few tips for wading through a deep blue sea of infoproducts, and how to differentiate a snake oil salesman from the genuine article.

Digital Nomad Scam
Too much hype

Digital Nomad “Scams, Exposed!”

Some folks are crying foul over the actions of a small handful of rogue internet marketers and calling bullshit on the whole digital nomad lifestyle. As ridiculous as this is, there is some truth to it. And since so many people are going Reddit on the movement, I thought I’d drop my two cents.

Before I criticize a small group of digital nomad scam artists I want to make something clear; not all infoproducts, ecourses, and blogs about this lifestyle are promoting a lie –although yes, there’s plenty of shills out there in nomad land.

All nomads have personal failures, and just because they don’t blog about their failures all the time it doesn’t make them dishonest.

When it comes to being a digital nomad, I can show you the way with a free guide, but you may decide to brush up on existing skills or learn some new ones –and you’ll likely need a chainsaw to cut through all the obnoxious bullshit and hype surrounding digital nomad culture.

What is “Lifestyle Design Porn”?

Lifestyle design porn is anything that promotes a happy-go-lucky, always be crushin’ it, laptops on the beach and selfies –bullshit way of looking at location independence.

If you are investigating a new money-making skill, what’s the emphasis on in the pitch for the infoproduct? The benefits of the skill, or the lifestyle it says it will create?

Lifestyle focus can sometimes be misdirection –of course lifestyle is a huge benefit, but it’s long game. What’s the short game?

Avoid lifestyle design porn at all costs; chances are you’d learn a lot more from someone who seems boring and isn’t pedaling a dream.

If you catch yourself brushing over hidden complexities with rose colored glasses; make it a point to call yourself out for it. There are some mistakes you can’t afford the time to make twice.

Even this very book needs to be viewed through the same level of scrutiny. I wrote it with a focus to ensure it isn’t pedaling a dream. When you’re done reading this book ask yourself if I delivered on my promise of making it easy to get from point a to b.

There’s an Infoproduct for Bloody Everything

The infoproducts are probably the main reason people are trying to distance themselves from the term “digital nomad”. You really, really, really need to look at the person behind the product.

I hate to generalize Millennials because they’re a mixed bag. I really value their desire for experiences over material things, and they’ve got a lot of problems they didn’t create to contend with. But I will say this –they sure make crappy infoproducts, and they make a whole lot of them.

Here’s my theory; too much focus on self esteem growing up, made up awards so no one is left out, bla bla bla. Zero expectations set about the shit sandwiches they’ll be eating in a few short years. So they stay in school longer than Van Wilder to avoid hard choices. When they finally enter the workforce, they hate it. They don’t like how they’re treated –and then many will quit and go become a digital nomad life coach at the ripe old age of twenty-two.

Or they’ll make a website and sell an infoproduct. They’ll position themselves as an expert in something when they haven’t applied it long enough to truly be one. And among nomads, a lot of that crap is about “how to become a digital nomad”.

Some people think being a digital nomad is a job title. And there is an infoproduct for everything, because the most educated generation does what they know –they spoon feed information to others because they were spoon fed information by others. And how much quality is there when the infoproduct creator hasn’t lived independently for more than 5 years? Or was a pickup “artist” the year before last? Or worse.

Snake oil has always existed so whining about it is wasted energy.

If you buy a course for $1,000 or more about “how to be a nomad” from a person that only knows how to teach people how to be a nomad and you feel ripped off –that failure is on you. Why would you pay for a course on how to become a digital nomad, are you on drugs? The people paying for that garbage are the real annoyance, not the ones selling it.

I added an email opt-in, shoot me

Weak Income Reports for “Social Proof”

Digital nomad income reports are unwise –you’re giving people a reason to mug you. And this is the main reason why we won’t share them.

Many will pull out their income reports as social proof, and yet so many income reports used as social proof fall short.

If you’re familiar with Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income Podcast –the man is as honest as they come with his income reports. Clear, concise; an ideal example of income reporting.

What’s the point of using an income report if you’re not going to give people the goods? An income report as social proof isn’t a bold move at all, unless it’s done transparently. Here are some things to consider;

  • A bank balance or proof of a deposit is not an income report
  • Does it clearly state the gross profit and expenses?
  • Is each revenue stream articulated (i.e. product across multiple platforms, marketplaces, websites, assets)?
  • e. If someone states they make $10,000 per month drop shipping, how many drop shipping websites do they have and do they provide URLs, ever?

A solid income report doesn’t create more questions than it answers. And being a digital nomad doesn’t make you good at everything. You can’t just put on a white jacket and call yourself a doctor.

Be mindful of dream peddlers who make more money as an affiliate for an infoproduct than they do actually using the skills taught in the infoproduct. Do they practice what they preach?

Take a long hard look at the expenses vs revenue; are they stumbling through their own income project foolishly or do they know their stuff?

How often do they switch it up? Have they done any one thing long enough to get so good at it they’re worth the bazillion dollars they’re charging you?

Having a good look at the pitch of an infoproduct and its creator’s background will put you closer to the real thing, and help you avoid having to get too familiar with anyone’s return policy.

“Free” Proofreader Scams

When you’re experimenting with a new idea or taking the leap into writing for the first time, you’ll likely want to have a second set of eyes on your work.

Whether it’s an offer of free proofreading in a Facebook group, or that new nomad friend you made over a beer the night before –it’s best to keep your fresh ideas to people you know and trust. It’s important to understand the difference between a casual acquaintance and a solid friendship.

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of stories, from mild suspicion that another person “borrowed” concepts from their work to blatant plagiarism. All in all, it’s a time vampire to deal with both emotionally and figuratively when someone scoops and spins your work and then puts their name on it.

Avoid the heap on, and try asking the right questions when you want to explore the efficacy of an idea instead of laying it on someone’s doorstep in its entirety and then asking what they think.

Self-Serving Online Communities and Trolls

This one emphasizes the importance of your email list.

Much less a scam, but equally frustrating –some digital nomads are incredibly competitive and equally desperate. So much so that they’ll try to stifle your product launch because they have a competing product. Or hell, they might not –they just don’t like your face.

If you’re going to invest your time into a Facebook group or any other online community, get to know the moderators. While they might appreciate the value you build into their community on a daily basis, anything outside their comfort zone may be unwelcome. As in, any chatter about your offering even if you’re not the one initiating.

Their group may just be about their own lead generation, and many won’t be transparent about that fact –your contributions might just be adding value to someone else’s den of pitch.


Laying Down the Ban Hammer

As with most Amazon Kindle KDP book launches, I offered this book for free for a week (back when I used to charge for it) to put it in the hands of people who’d give it an honest review. A few friends of mine had mentioned this on two prominent online digital nomad communities only to be threatened with a ban for sharing the link. One community had a 20-page guide to Chiang Mai on sale for $19.99 at the time and didn’t take kindly to a free 190+ page competitor.

Fake Negative Reviews

Following that, a negative review that made false claims stating key information present in this book was missing kept appearing and disappearing on its Amazon product page.

After repeatedly responding to their review referencing quotes and page numbers that contained the information the reviewer claimed was missing, they eventually gave up and deleted their review when they saw they were doing more good than harm.

Spam Email Shit Storm

A few weeks after that I was the lucky recipient of 10,000 newsletter subscriptions on every topic imaginable from across the interwebs. I assume all of these occurrences were unrelated, and a few of the points in this article about infoproducts offended some sensitive egos.


And more recently, I had to ping the group creator behind the another popular Facebook group because she simply would not approve any contributions from my lady. And they weren’t spam, either. An interview request (rejected twice) and later, our remote work website directory which is quite popular everywhere it’s shared –but the snowflakes over at this group, who approve blatant self promotion often, thought the directory to be useless spam.

When pressed about it she obliged my wife, approved the post, and our traffic surged.

Digital Nomad Communities

It’s petty, but it happens. Hell, I sound like a malcontent just talking about it. Wrestle with a pig, everyone gets covered in shit, right?

This is another reason why building your email list is important. Launches can be left to those who genuinely value what you offer, and you don’t need to pander to strangers and trolls.

To Sum It Up

The moral of the story is to not become a shitty nomad as in these examples. Everyone has it hard, and being supportive of anyone taking a serious shot at something will build that karmic piggy bank.

Always give more than you take, and the community will stand for you and back you up. People are always sensitive to a sell, just like on Reddit. So keep it real, and always focus on what’s in it for the people you serve with your product launches. “Sell” benefits, but don’t oversell the lifestyle.

A majority of digital nomads are epic humans, unequivocally –but there is still that group that never mentally graduated high school and it’s best to steer clear.

There are plenty of nomads out there who aren’t what they seem. They aren’t doing as well as they boast, and they will lie, cheat, and steal out of their own desperation. It’s a tough life, this is your test.

Avoid those who puff themselves up to appear as ambassadors and thought leaders when all they did was memorize Tim Ferris’ “become an expert” chapter in the original 4 Hour Workweek. Some people are just too good to be true and it’s up to you to figure that out on your own.

It is what it is.

Nomad Blog - Michael Hulleman

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  1. nice article, the words “lifestyle design porn” are extremely accurate, and this kind of scams are getting more and more every single day, there are also people faking to be nomad just to sell thirdy parts guides… I hope this will get to an end one day! 😀

    1. Thanks, Fabio! lol yeah, it’s pretty funny. As long as people are learning, there will always be a guru. Some good, some bad. The trick is having an eye that can see through fantasy.

      Happy you stopped by, don’t be a stranger.

  2. This cracked me up! We are so annoyed by the falsifies that we decided our “brand” is that we are normal human beings. Kind of sad that it’s a unique perspective, eh?

  3. Message From FTC: We have given guidance. You are all on notice. (June 12, 2015)

    It’s now law in the US that if you’re connected to an offering, you need to voice it and false claims can land you in hot water. About time, awesome if executed properly. A crackdown is likely on its way.

    From the article:

    Guidance For Influencers: When In Doubt, Disclose

    Does an athlete well-known as a spokesperson for a product need to disclose that he’s being paid every time he tweets about the product? That depends on whether his followers know about his relationship with the brand. So Michael Jordan and Nike back in the day? You’re probably in the clear. Short of that, the FTC seems to be saying, err on the side of caution: “Determining whether followers are aware of a relationship could be tricky in many cases, so we recommend disclosure.”

    Fake Facebook Likes Might Be In FTC Crosshairs

    The FTC doesn’t quite know what to make of Facebook likes. It recognizes that there is no way to disclose when a like has been given and also isn’t sure how much stock social network users put into likes when deciding whether to patronize a business. Still the agency recommends against incentivizing likes, which is now possible a moot point since Facebook officially ended that practice on Facebook Pages when it shut down “like gates” last November.

    As for fake likes, FTC is not at all conflicted. Both buyers and sellers of likes from non-existent or people with no experience with a business’ product or service could face enforcement.

    And back in 2013, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority stated the following in this article;

    “We’re reminding bloggers who are paid to write positive reviews or comments about a product or service that they must be up-front with their followers by making clear that it’s advertising. Not only will this help bloggers avoid misleading people and breaking the ad rules, it will also stop them from potentially breaking the law.”

  4. And don’t get me wrong; income reports –especially in ecommerce– are key to gaining client confidence. If you check my Linked In profile (link in the footer) I have years of experience with enterprise-level ecom; planning and selling ecommerce sites that cost 6 figures to deploy and transact in the millions of dollars annually.

    Case studies are everything. I was platform agnostic for most of that time and clients wanted to know what a platform has been proven to transact at and how much it could handle. But most of us haven’t worked in the industries we play in once we get on the road.

    There’s a lot to say for best practices, and that goes for sharing income reports. The background of these instructors is very important; like I said, you can’t just put on a white coat and call yourself a doctor.

    1. I bet this article rattled a few cages. Here’s another post that takes it a bit further called “Identifying False Gurus and Spiritual Teachers”. The article starts off with “Charging Large Amounts of Money” and progresses down a list that compliments your article well.

      “Actions speak infinitely louder than words. Anyone can proclaim magnificent and wonderful things but do these words live up to how the person lives and expresses themselves in his or her daily lives? Perhaps the biggest problem that I have found is the issue of money. I have seen self-appointed gurus, spiritual teachers, and whatever other title they go under charging unbelievably large amounts of money for information, knowledge, or so-called higher wisdom, that is available to everyone (by looking to sages who charge little or nothing and also looking within for the answers via meditation and other self-induced spiritual practices), as well as several money embezzlement cases. If you’re paying someone $295 for a spiritual ’12 strand DNA activation’ then you’ve just been conned.”


      Agreed. Too much hype.

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