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Swagbucks Surveys – Can you make money?

Online surveys tested: Can you make money?

I always wondered if taking surveys online was truly a way of making money. You always see people talking about how much money they have made. I kept wondering, so I decided to find out for myself. I originally signed up for Ipsos i-Say and was unable to get an account setup with them. I ended up signing up with Swagbucks who as I researched further were highly recommended in the internet community and got to work. The set up was pretty straight forward, all I had to put in was my email and create a password.

Once I did that several options came up to “earn” Swagbucks right away, such as adding the Swagbutton, making Swagbucks the default search engine, taking a featured survey, explaining how I heard of Swagbucks, and any featured purchases or bonuses I could activate. Signing up cost me $0.00 in case you wondered!

You will be asked to check a box saying you will answer all surveys honestly. I checked the box as I wholly intended to be intentional and answer all questions honestly and thoroughly.

Afer you sign up, I recommend you go to the “Swagups” screen and check any of the items that will double your points or increase how quickly you can grow them. After I signed up I activated two Swagups, double points for my first 3 surveys, and double points on a Swagbucks search.

Last note before we get started: at the top of the screen there is a daily goal, once you reach the goal you will get a bonus Swagbuck allotment. It is usually 3-4 SB but is a free bonus for already taking surveys and earning. So why not??

A few things I am going to do through this test:

  • Attempt as many surveys as possible within my 1 hour allotment each day for 10 days.
  • Take the daily poll which will earn 1 SB each day
  • Document everything!
  • I will decide after the test is complete whether or not I made money, and if it is worth pursuing as a money making method online.
  • Document all of my attempts, time expended, averages, SB earned, and any other data I feel is relevant to giving you as much information as possible for this test.

What I will NOT do:

  • Activate the Swagbucks search engine
  • Watch videos
  • Play games
  • Any other income strategies on Swagbucks


Why? I want to provide you with an accurate depiction of what you can making taking surveys only. If at the end of this test I decide it is worth doing an additional test to see if the additional strategies are worth evaluating I will then mention that in my grade of the survey test and let you know how that goes!

Now it’s time to get started!

There is a daily 1 question poll I recommend you take as it takes no time and provides you with an easy 1 Swagbuck.

Survey time!

You’ll want to go to the left hand side of your screen and look for “Gold Surveys”. This is where you want to be to find the best surveys available for you to attempt, alongside any featured surveys that may be available at that time.

Side note: Before you can take the survey, you must first QUALIFY. The test to qualify can be quick and painless most times, but some take much longer than a couple of minutes.

If you qualify, you’ll be taken to the test itself and go along your way answering the questions to earn Swagbucks.

If you DON’T qualify, you are then brought back to the Gold Surveys screen and told you were given 1 SB for your time.

Once you’ve earned enough Swagbucks to redeem a prize you want, simply go to the left hand side and look for “Redeem your SB” and choose the prize you want.

Hint: You can only redeem 2 prizes per day.

Alright! Now onto the results of MY test!!

I tested 1 hour a day for 10 days.

My results? I earned 907 Swagbucks which amounts to roughly $9.07. My hourly average is $0.907 per hour, or $1.00 if you feel like rounding.

My experience with Swagbucks was bittersweet. Most surveys took me more than 10 minutes, while offering a variable amount of Swagbucks or “SB” as they call it. The most common result of my surveys was that I didn’t qualify and was given 1 SB as a result. The worst part was that most days I was disqualified from a minimum 2 surveys, while some being 3 or more. Once you are disqualified from 3-4 surveys, you stop getting the 1 SB. Which, let’s be honest, that 1 SB or $0.01 doesn’t change much.

The qualifying surveys varied in time and questions, while most seeming to take me 5-10 minutes, some more, some less. Questions varied from very little (10 or so) to way too many (50+ just to qualify!).

But what about the surveys themselves you might be wondering??

I had just a couple that took me less than 10 minutes, while most taking 15-20 on average, some even more.

I averaged less than 2 surveys per day over my 10-day test while averaging 3 disqualifications.

Get my daily results HERE !

The burning question… can you make money here??

In a short answer, YES, you can absolutely make money using Swagbucks. My question to you, however, is, what is your time worth in making money on this platform? For me, if I am averaging less than a dollar an hour, which I did, I definitely do NOT want to be spending any of my time here attempting surveys in exchange for pennies. However, you might have a free hour every day and choose to use it doing on online surveys which is absolutely great because you CAN make money here, it just takes time.




Because I was testing Swagbucks in just the survey format I was limited in what I was earning to whatever surveys the Swagbucks Gods would qualify me for.

In the end of the test, I redeemed my Swagbucks for 3 different $3.00 Amazon gift cards which are going to be emailed to me. When redeeming, keep in mind that you can only do 2 prize redemptions per day. Meaning, to redeem my $9.00 worth of gift cards it took me 2 days to do so.

I personally think there are better ways with which we can make money online than the survey method.

There are other methods with which you can increase your Swagbucks earned, though. You can set your browser to the Swagbucks “SwagButton” and get a 50 SB bonus right away. You will be alerted of websites you visit that Swagbucks offers deals on. In addition to this, as you search with the SwagButton you will earn additional PASSIVE Swagbucks.

UPDATE 8.25.17:

Since I started using the Swagbutton, I have averaged almost 100 SB a day in passive earnings just my using it as my search engine. Definitely something to recommend regardless of your intent to complete surveys.

Another very passive method of maximizing your Swagbucks earning potential is to watch the Swagbucks TV online or on the app. Most video packages offer 1-5 SB while taking 20-30 minutes. My recommendation is to do this on a device you aren’t using and just let it run for hours. I want you to only do this if data and battery life is not an issue, as this will drain both extensively.

I plan to test out more methods and show YOU what works!

Online Survey Experiment grade: I give this test a passing grade because I DID make money, but I recommend to use this method only when desperate.

On another note – merging the passive methods with taking surveys online will easily double your SB earned. If you want to sign up for Swagbucks, this is the best way to earn.

If you’re struggling with anything in particular – let me know and I’ll get it tested!

The Doldrums of Courier Life

The Doldrums of Courier Life


Confession time. If anybody reading has decided that courier life is for them, that flying around the world and collecting a check to do so sounds awesome… well it is, don’t for a moment think that I am about to disabuse you of that notion.

But this is not the kind of job for anybody that is shit at managing money.

Once a year, at different times per year, I get stuck in Shanghai for roughly a month without a trip. As I type this now, I am at 3+ weeks without a flight, and boy am I going a little batty. When the jet-set life becomes part of your routine for years, this “summer break” reminds you of crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the age of exploration and, without the shore in sight, losing the wind.

That’s where the financial planning comes in. Every month, I put a little bit away just in case something like this happens, and every year shows me that this is a wise decision.

However, and I admit this freely, due to the expenses of registering 1-2 Lab, that little cushion was used up and the doldrums hit right in the middle of the process when it would hurt the most.

The stoic philosophers of Greece and Rome had a habit of practicing poverty for a period of time each year, so that they don’t lose touch and become too accustomed to the finer material things in life. I like to think of the doldrums like that. This is a chance to cook every meal at home, avoid drinking and going out, work hard on other projects, and more importantly spend quality time with those close to me.

Even if the doldrums don’t come, it’s a practice worth imitating as the stoics suggest. To take part in this exercise is super easy and helps you discover a lot about yourself. It’s better you don’t do like I did, and wait for it to hit before practicing it.

There’s a lesson here for us, a lesson applicable to anybody in every kind of life situation, and it boils down to this process:

1. Calculate your burn rate

Your average burn rate is what you spend on average, monthly, weekly, and even daily. I usually use a daily burn rate as my frame of reference. This is regular life under regular circumstances and regular income.

This is very easy:

Money you have on the last day of the month – (money you have on the first day of the month + income for month). Then divide this number by the number of days in that month.

That’ll give you how much you spent. Or, you could be really smart and track your expenses with Mint. Do this now before you change anything else.

Alternatively, wait until the day you get a salary. Note how much you have after you get it. Then, the day before you get your next salary, note that two. How much did you spend? Divide it by days elapsed and you’ve got your daily burn rate.

2. Discover your minimum burn rate with a month practicing poverty

This is a little harder. You have to pick a day to begin, and then for an entire month, live as cheaply as possible while still paying all your bills. Housing, phone, internet, these sort of bills you can’t do so much about, but you can cut out buying new toys, extra clothes, unnecessary things basically. Then do the same calculation as above.

Your minimum burn rate is the barest minimum you need to take care of all ongoing expenses in your life with a lifestyle reduction plan. Remember steak dinners are the Met? Not anymore you don’t, you’re eating rice and beans for a week with chicken as a splurge. Your average burn rate includes a Friday and Saturday out drinking? You’re going to need that $400 to go to your rent or mortgage or most importantly internet bill now. Sorry.

You may think this is crazy, but it’s actually incredibly easy, and it’ll pass in no time. At the end, you’ll appreciate what you have more than ever, and realize that you don’t fear poverty. In fact, with frequent applications of this trial, you will find yourself having a far more stable existence, leading your to greater happiness than ever.

3. Save your damn money

Now that you know your average and minimum burn rates, start to take the difference and apply it to your savings and investment accounts. Leverage it for your future.

Practice poverty like the stoics for a month every once in a while, not just so that you have a better grasp of what is important, but so that in the case that you get stuck in the doldrums like I am in right now, you won’t panic, you won’t have your internet turned off (worst nightmare), and you won’t lose your home.

Try it.

Side note: since I wrote this short post, I realized that Tim Ferriss has published a podcast with a similar bent, which you can find here: https://tim.blog/2016/02/02/how-to-practice-poverty-and-reduce-fear/ . Not sure how I missed it, considering how often I listen to his podcast. But hey, bonus material!


Hidden Content

Patrick’s Top Audio books

I’ve always had trouble finding the time and patience to sit down and read a book. Be it 300 pages or 1000, it has always been something I found difficult. When I first started listening to audiobooks, I found the patience to listen, process, and even listen again if I felt I missed something. It took me dramatically less time to listen for 8-10 hours in total for a book than sit down for days, weeks, even months to finish just one book.

I know I’m not the only one out there, and if you’re like me you’ll understand!

So, with that in mind, here are the top audio books from Audible (in no specific order) I’ve listened to so far this year (but that does not mean the book is FROM this year) on. I will be linking up the actual books should you want to buy them in book form rather than listen on Audible.

  • Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
    • This is a classic. I have listened to it a couple of times now and there’s always something new for me to learn. It takes a couple listens to get used to language because of the age gap from when the book was written versus today when you are listening to it. I consider this to be more of a mindset book. In that I mean it is telling you how you need to think and act to be successful.
  • The ONE Thing by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan
    • I’m not going to spoil much on this book, but it’s a quick lesson and I recommend this book to all because it has ONE (see what I did there?) primary lesson.
  • Zero to One by Peter Thiel
    • Easily one of the best audiobooks I’ve listened to. There were lessons that resonated with the current times, alongside timeless lessons. Zero to One provides actionable steps that even the wantrapreneur can use to take the next step forward.
  • How to Win Friends & Influence People By Dale Carnegie
    • This was another book so the audio version depicted the time with which it was written. Much like Think and Grow Rich this book was a harder one to listen to. I knew I needed to though, as everywhere I looked this was a highly recommended book to read or listen to. And man, was that spot on! Another success mindset book in my opinion.
  • The 4-hour Workweek: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich By Timothy Ferris
    • Any Tim Ferris book is going to be a killer read. I’m also currently reading his newest book, Tools of Titans. Yes, I said I am actually reading it. Which for me is a big deal because I don’t have the patience to sit down for that long to actually get any legit reading done! This is a top audiobook post, but I felt inclined to mention how awesome Tim’s latest book is. But, back to The 4-hour Workweek, this was the very FIRST audiobook I listened to and I’d say I’ve learned the most from it. With that said, a must listen (or read!).
  • BONUS: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
    • This is another short but great listen. In a nut shell, it is teaches us to do less, to achieve more. Don’t muddy up the water with distractions but instead only do those actions that yield the highest results.

[ninja_form id=2]



How I Maximize My Layover

How I Maximize my Layover


People always ask me when I’m flying around the world if I have any time at all to see anything worth seeing or do anything worth doing on one of these super-quick-turn-and-burn courier jobs. Let me tell you, people, it isn’t as impossible as you may think.

All you need to do is have a little system in place.

Keep reading as I show you how I Maximize My Layover.

This is a simple X-step process that allows you to escape rollaboard minefields in the airport and get to at the very least, a selfie with the Eiffel Tower.

[link to IG of me somewhere cool here ]

  1. Time

You need 7 or more solid hours when public transit is running to have a chance.

If you have a one-and-a-half-hour layover at LAX coming in from an international destination, you’re going to struggle to get to your gate, let alone the closest In-N-Out burger. You should abandon all hope, in that case.

After a few years of doing this, I’ve come to realize that the lucky number to make any trip from the airport to the city really enjoyable is 7. 7 lucky hours. Any fewer, and you’re likely to spend more time on transit into the city than you would in the city anyway. What a waste of time.

If you’re lucky enough to have 7+ hours, then we go to step 2.

  1. What’s good?

In a situation like this, where you have at max one day, and maybe as few as 3-4 hours after getting into the city, you have to prioritize. I’ve got my own criteria, and you should build your own based off of your lovely personality. If you struggle to think of anything, you can use mine as a starting board. It’s served me well these many miles. The trick is to have must-haves and nice-to haves. It’s a tactic I use with my clients for digital projects at 1-2 Lab. In no particular order, here are my must-haves and nice-to-haves.


  • The most stereotypical food possible. That food that I ordered before, every time I went to a restaurant serving this country’s cuisine. China – fried rice and dumplings. Mexico City – tacos. Thailand – phad thai (preferably from a cart). Italy – pasta. That’s just for the first meal, to have a comparison between the authentic version and the Americanized version. From there, I split off into the most local food possible. My second day in Shanghai involved drunken shrimp.
  • The most local drink. This is dangerous… but very rewarding… most of the time. Snake wine in Vietnam paid off. Baijiu in China did not. None of the first 5 times I tried Baijiu ended well, so you should probably avoid that devil’s drink. Unless you hate humanity, in which case feel free.
  • Something Instragrammable. Ok, I confess, I don’t actually use Instagram more than once a month if that, but let’s put this another way. You’re in a faraway place, and what would your parents and grandparents like to see you seeing? This is your Eiffel Tower, your Empire State Building, your Colosseum.
  • Friends or Family. Say no more; saved the best for last. If I visit somewhere with friends or family, they get a meetup. It’s so hard to see friends who live overseas. Don’t have any friends there yet? You’re an international traveler, and wherever you’re getting that local drink and food is sure to be a fantastic spot to meet someone new. Get their Facebook or WeChat or whatever.

Nice to have:

  • Every capital city has a fantastic museum somewhere. What are you into? When I’m in San Francisco, I beeline for the Exploratorium and call my friends and jump next to the Richter scale, and think of dumb names for the earthquake we just made. Winning name: “Hell yeah we made an earth quake!” Could use a few review sessions.
  • As a traveler, no matter where you are from, it’s just good juju to learn a little about where you are. Locals will cut you some slack for being ignorant, as a foreigner, but they really appreciate it when you can join them in conversation and say something appreciative about their culture. That’s on top of the merits of just being a cultured person in general…
  • If you’re reading our stuff then you’ve probably had the same thought about trying to become a digital nomad. This is an opportunity to prove to your company if you work fulltime that you can stay in touch and be productive while abroad.


  1. Gear

When you’re only in a city for a short time, and have a list of things to see quickly, you should probably not bring a rolling suitcase or easel and canvas. Whatever you’re missing, you can buy where you are. Everywhere has everything. Maybe it won’t be your favorite brand of toothpaste, but if that’s an issue for you, you likely wouldn’t have read this far. The best to bring is the barest minimum.

  • Backpack
  • Smartphone
  • Battery pack
  • Laptop
  • Comfortable, breathable, clean clothes
  • Walking shoes – look forward to 8-10km on your feet.
  • Toiletries
  • Credit card
  • Rainproof coat
  • Passport/ID
  • Wireless data

I’ve discussed this in a little more detail before with some gear recommendations, see that post here.

Do you need anything else? If you have a suggestion for an awesome product you can’t live without, please let me know. I have to say, I love upgrading my travel gear.


Then when you get there, and when you get through immigration and customs, just do it. I always find that immigration and customs take longer than I expect, except when they don’t, so being flexible is a must if you want to get to see as much as you can with quick turn and burn layover opportunities like this.


  1. Get out


This strategy has served me well through many years of flying around the world, and I hope that you can make use of it to, when you find yourself on any quick turn and burns throughout your travels. Just remember to leave yourself enough time to get back to the airport, grab your boarding pass, and get out.


While this framework works great, be very careful not to make the mistake of enjoying yourself too much. Missing a flight could be a very expensive way to ruin the rest of your trip. But if you decide you like this place so much, then maybe missing that flight wouldn’t be such a bad thing.


I want to give you an example of a trip where I used this framework to plan an effective itinerary. This isn’t supposed to be a complete tour guide, just to show you it’s possible. These time estimates are just that – estimates. Itwon’t be exact, but it’ll be close.



Using Wikivoyage and my tried and true criteria, I chose a few objectives to go see. The old town of Prague is quite compact, so it was very easy to get it all done in my roughly 10-hour stay.

1030: finish with customs (courier life) and I’m free to go to the ticket office and pick up a 24-hour ticket for 110 Kč (or two regular 32 Kč tickets) to get me to the city and back. Bus 119 from the airport, then line A to Malostranksa station and a walk takes about 45 mins. Easy.

1115: After climbing up the castle, I don’t bother to go inside, since the view from the outside is just so stellar. The inside is highly recommended online, but I’ll always prefer a view over a museum. You can just chill up there and take a nap (it’s a goal of mine to take a nap at every castle I can). Should be able to catch the changing of the guard, too. On this trip it was a little wintery to do that.

1ish I head back down to the Karluv Most aka Karl Bridge, the prettiest bridge ever. Good place for some of those photos for your parents, as is the cathedral at the other side. The cathedral has concerts at various times of the day.

2 or so I find myself in the main square, grab food right away from one of the street stalls plus a mulled wine to warm the bones. Om nom nom. Great spot for photos of the biggest cuckoo clock in the world (I may have made that up), gorgeous churches, a fantastic statue, and more. Just gotta dodge some annoying Segway tourists.

3ish I head north from the square to the Jewish district, first stopping by the synagogue, then visiting the Museum of Communism. It’s tiny but packed, highly recommended.

5:00 walk over to Nase Maso for some fantastic butchery, and scarf it down in the packed interior. Super packed. Worth it.

Retreading my steps, I get to the church I mentioned earlier with concerts. Well, I couldn’t miss a Vivaldi Four Seasons concert! Middle of winter, snow on the ground, it was freezing, freezing, freezing to the point of cuddling with my non-English-speaking stranger neighbor in the pew. How could the musicians possibly play? Amazing.

Following the conclusion of that at about 7:30, I was too frozen to continue, and trekked back to the subway and the airport.



Got it? 5 steps to success for a super quick trip. Anyone that can use Google can do it. If you can’t use Google, then you’re… Lost.


Keep reading here for more information about how to Escape the Suck and do things like this.


Hidden Content

What is The Suck? – Pat’s Take

What is The Suck?

It was a warm summer Saturday night…

My wife just went into labor and we rushed into the hospital to welcome our new child. Hours later we welcome our magnificent baby boy to the world. We are full of joy and nothing else for making him and having our lives changed forever in taking care of him.

He looks up at me and wraps his hand around my pointer finger, and knows he is safe. I am his protector, his champion, his never-wavering rock.

For the next couple of days, I stayed home with my wife to help her take care of our new son. We welcomed him on a Saturday morning, and I stayed to help through Tuesday. Why did I only stay two days to help out with my new boy? My boss wouldn’t allow me more time off because his business was more important than my life changing new arrival.

I was forced into a circumstance, where, as my baby boy’s rock, I had a decision to make… stay at home to care for him, and jeopardize my job’s status or leave prematurely to ensure my family was financially supported.

This is my suck.

The suck to me, is anything that doesn’t inch you closer to your goals in life. My goals are to get more time with my family, and make money more efficiently to give me that time. When I can’t stay home with my brand new baby boy for two weeks  to help out, that is unacceptable, and is definitely The Suck. Family is important to me. A value that was instilled in me early as a child through being “raised” by a single mother struggling to be a mother to my brother and I, paired with a non-existent father.

From this point forward I knew what I had to do to get what I wanted. This is what spurs me to write about my Suck right here. I am going through it every day. I am trying to come up with strategies to make money to make time for me. We all go through it. I am going through it. Stuart is going through it. We are going to walk you through our strategies and experiments that might provide us the escape we are looking for.

Keep in touch, and stay tuned, we are going to map out what does and doesn’t work. When we do, execute and escape your Suck!

Stay classy, friends.

What is The Suck? – Stu’s Take

What IS The Suck?


It’s like 10am, and my eyes are burning.

I’m staring at my laptop’s screen in a room with no windows. And my eyes are burning. It’s not because of the screen, it’s not because of the subject matter.

I’ve got pink eye again because taking the subway at rush hour is a dirty thing, and this entire building doesn’t have any soap in the bathrooms. None. Or toilet paper for that matter. And I’m spending 9-6 in the office, plus networking afterhours, for a shady interior design company. And only 12k RMB per month. That’s about $20k USD per year.

My apartment… the landlord won’t bother fixing anything so my toilet flushes with a fishing line and a plastic ring. There are mysterious white spots all over the floor, later followed to the source – my roommate’s disgusting mouth. She spits inside the apartment.


And then on top of that, I get fired and dumped in the same summer month.

This is 2011, and this is the bottom of The Suck for me.

Marines like to call the Corps itself “The Suck” in the spirit of comradery. All of life is kind of like that. It’s a struggle. Just like the Marines, we should stick it out, help each other out, and better our lives.

That’s why my brother Patrick and I created Escape the Suck. We haven’t escaped it, not by any measure, but we are still struggling, and know we can do it. We have to escape it ourselves, and as we do, we want to share our trials and tribulations, our wins and triumphs. Most of all, we want to share how we progress upon our quest.

Let’s all reclaim our time, make more money, and find more peace of mind, together.


-Young Stu

Freemium Pivot

Freemium Pivot


Writing from over the Pacific again. Want to write about something a little thought-provoking.

I was meeting with the partners when they brought up a restaurant reservation app they found recently, where you can line up for a restaurant in the app, and show up when it’s time to be seated. Ok great, I had that idea. Didn’t see how to make money back in the day. Didn’t move on it. That’s a story as old as time.

Apparently, the way is to allow people to cheat. Freemium model wins out once again. It’s a genius little thing.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the freemium model, this is when a business provides a free tier of service to everybody, and then has additional benefits beyond that for paying users. For example, free Spotify has commercials, and Spotify Premium doesn’t. Best $10 per month you’ll ever spend.

Usually, these premium features aren’t needed by everybody, but those who do use them, appreciate them greatly, and are long-lasting customers. The idea is, acquiring paid customers is really hard, so first entice them with a freebie, and lock them into the system. From there, you can give them discounts on the premium version or tell them about new updates to the system, with this or that awesome feature on the pro version. Advertising to a captive audience is much easier than trying to buy ads on Google Adsense. This is the version of freemium we are all most likely familiar with.

The other version of freemium is a little more controversial. This app my partners brought up is a prime example, where you can pay to shortcut the system. Whatever the system is, be it grinding honor points in WoW or standing in line, or paying extra to have a driver pick you up before someone else. It’s like a video game, P2W. Pay to win.

Sometimes I think that sort of thing is a little unfair, that it benefits the rich at the expense of the poor in a society where the rich are already advantaged. That’s my socialist side showing, I guess. The economist in me sees market efficiencies, and the entrepreneur in me sees opportunities.

All in all, the freemium model is a GREAT innovation.

This is a winning business model for digital products and services, where labor doesn’t factor into it. In fact for this kind of service, it may just be the primary business model at this point. After all, the cost of acquiring a user for free is already high, but then the cost of turning them into a paying customer is much lower afterwards.

In the struggle to Escape the Suck, how could you possibly apply this to any businesses you have in mind or are already operating?

That’s what I’m thinking right now. Nothing we have in our 1-2 stable can fit the bill of being adapted to a freemium model. But in the future? Maybe.

Let’s look at the list of companies using the freemium model, just as a form of social proof and research. If these big guys are doing it, it works. This is maybe the best way to go viral.

(You probably already have these accounts, but referral links just in case)

It’s everywhere!

What businesses do you run that could adapt this business model to improve? Maybe you could create a free tier if you don’t have one, with reduced services. Just enough to get them used to the quality of service that you provide.

I’ve tried to think about this for our little 1-2 Lab, but have been struggling with it, as it’s mostly labor. How could I automate part of it and give it away to people? I’ll have to think about it, and in the meantime, suggest this as a part of our digital strategy service to clients.


Additional resources:

How I thrive flying 30+ hours per week – courier life

How I thrive flying 30+ hours per week – courier life


What’s that they say about telling a good story? Join late and leave early? Then let’s do that.

It’s Tuesday in Shanghai. Normally that means… well it really doesn’t mean anything special to me, compared to any other day. Maybe my roommate will go to the office. It’s not an ayi (maid) day, since I don’t have an ayi anymore. She moved to Pudong.

So, what’s a Stu to do on an average Tuesday?

I’m off to Bucharest. I head out the door and pick up a bike on the street and ride to the subway…

You might be thinking… wait, wait, wait, that’s an average Tuesday?

Yeah, actually it is.

No this isn’t the story of a jet-setting rich kid of Instagram. (Follow my shitty Instagram here)

I haven’t escaped the suck, I just have a different kind of suck.

My kind of suck sits in economy class on United for 30 hours a week, moving stuff from one country to another. Not a job suitable for those afraid of the dark, close spaces, or heights. Suitable for those with an uncanny ability to fall asleep anywhere.

Sign me up.

So how does this work? Is this legal?

Basically, what happens is, I get a text message or call saying go to the airport tonight/tomorrow to pick up a shipment and take it somewhere. The agreed upon day arrives, I go to the airport and meet the goods. I also meet the customs officer, because, come on, of course this isn’t illegal. Totally above board. Next step: check it in as regular luggage and escort it into the hands of a desperate business owner on the other side.

This time it’s car parts to Bucharest. Last time Guadalajara. Courier life, baby, yeah.

This is a good time to go over this, as just today a great friend of mine is flying for his first time, and we have had to go over some much-needed strategies and equipment to thrive in this kind of job, and be better than that constant easy choice to just watch movies and sleep the whole time. (Today’s movie – Silence. Fascinating.)



First the gear- KEEP IT MOBILE:

I use a laptop to work, and get about 5 hours out of my 7-year-old Dell, which is respectable. That’s enough to have a decent day of coding or whatever needs doing on one of those 10-hour LH A380s. How do they not have in-seat power yet? Come on, Lufthansa. The battery charges enough over a 1 or 2-hour layover so that it’s ready for the next hop, anyway.

Guess how heavy that laptop is… ok it’s 10 fucking pounds. I’ll pick up an XPS13 soon enough.

Besides that, everything else has to follow the rule of keep it mobile. That’s why I use an iPhone 6s Plus, plenty of space to read, and no need to carry around a camera or books. Bam, just saved a few pounds.

The reasons for that are super simple.

An average courier trip goes through these stages:

  • Get the goods at the airport / Check in ~3 hours
  • On board ~10-14 hours
  • Transfer ~4 hours
  • On Board ~ 2 hours
  • Customs at destination ~1.5 hours
  • Layover ~3-26 hours
  • Return

At all of those stages, packing mobile is the right strategy.

First off. Backpack. Never travel with a suitcase. Ever. Just get a big backpack that you can adjust the straps to shrink the main compartment if you need to, or expand to fill it with duty free cosmetics for your girlfriend. There is a myriad of reasons. Most importantly is the stayover. Even if you’re only somewhere for 8 hours, with a rolling backpack you won’t be able to run into the city, find a croissant and see the Eiffel Tower and run back to the airport in time for your return flight. What a waste!

This leads to another benefit… if your flight is running late, you can actually run, catch up to it, and make it.

Bonus: I have never hated any backpackers for blocking an escalator, only rolling suitcase owners. Dicks.

Protip: European and Asian airports also often provide places to store your bag for a time. If you don’t plan on doing any work, just leave your bag there and take your passport, phone, and battery pack with you to check the sights out. American airports usually don’t because only BAD GUYS store luggage.

To really take advantage of this job, I always bring what I need to work. A laptop to code and a notebook with client notes is enough, but of course this will be different for everyone. The joys of digital semi-nomadism.

Most flights have wifi, but if you don’t have anything pressing to communicate or playoffs to watch, I highly recommend going dark, and just using it as an uninterrupted block of work time to get some coding, writing, planning, thinking, or meditation done.

Critically, you want to bring a socket adapter like (PRODUCT HERE) but not one that changes the voltage. It’s lighter, and all your electronics have a power brick that handles voltages already. Save the weight, plug your electronics into your laptop is also an option unless you have one of those magical Macbook Airs.

How do I even stay comfortable flying so many hours?

Simple. Restless legs, these compression socks, this eye mask, these ear plugs, and this jacket. Courier uniform. This is what works for me, but everyone has different standards for comfort right?


Winning strategies:

Have a plan for the day trip prepared beforehand – restaurants included. See my article here about maximizing your layover.

If digital nomading, stay on home time zone. If traveling, stay local.

Make friends!

Always be charging your phone and laptop, power is the most useful thing to have at any point. How else will you find the best places to visit and keep in touch with new friends?

Sign up for a frequent flier program for each major alliance and rack them up, then use them for your own trips in the future. (I use United, Air France, and Cathay Pacific).