Philippine Making Money Ideas — Number 151 — Addendum

Recently I received a very well thought out comment on the preceding article from long-time reader Ken Lovell.  Ken makes some interesting points so I thought I would answer his comment in the main blog rather than perhaps burying it in the comments.  Says Ken in reference to my idea on building an online business around roofs, or other things you “see” on Google Maps:

Not knocking the idea at all Dave but I suspect a lot of people would not do business with someone based in Phils, because

How to Move to the Philippines Manual

(1) it just seems a bit, well, fishy and

(2) how you gonna engage in the national pastime of suing them when something goes wrong? Or in the case of countries like Australia, which government agency can you go and make a complaint to?

There still might be enough demand to make a viable business of course., and the beauty of the internet is that all you have to invest is your labour.

This is how I started writing my answer:

With respect, Ken, how would you know the business is in the Philippines?  Here’s an example, first-hand.

Before I started messing about with my blogs this morning, I filled some orders from a little custom mapping site I operate.

My server is in the US (as the server for this site is), Dallas, Texas, actually.

My business address is in the US, my phone number is in the US, and I only do financial transactions via PayPal in the US. (yeah and I even pay taxes in the US :-(  )

I’m currently operating that tiny business as a sole proprietorship … I use my real name in all transactions.  I could just as easily operate as a LLC, or even a corporation if I chose to do the forms and pay the annual fees.  There are plenty of companies who will register a corporation, online, and also serve as your “registered agent” in the state you chose to incorporate in .. and that is all perfectly legal and above-board .. many corporations in the US (and I suspect other countries as well) operate with the legal address of their attorney or their registered representative.

By the way, note to my Filipino readers and other folks from countries where it is difficult to open a business … there are 50 US states as well as the District of Columbia, all with their own incorporation requirements.  Most states do not require any physical presence to open a business, and you are not required (at least in the states I am familiar with), to be a US citizen to register a business.  There are mailing services in almost every state who can give you a legal address in that state as well, and forward or fax important mail to you anywhere the Internet reaches.

Each state also has their own tax laws, and of course the US IRS governs over all, but that’s a matter for you and your accounting/tax professional to sort through.  If your business operates in the US you likely have some US federal tax responsibilities to deal with, but anyone overseas can get as US TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number) to keep themselves legal.  How countries like Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Germany, etc. treat off-shore businesses is a worthy subject for a whole encyclopedia in itself, but there are plenty of choices and no actual “showstoppers” that I know of.

So the fact I am physically located in the Philippines affects … what?  A few clients of mine know I am located here, but most couldn’t care less, they just want their maps … they order (through PayPal), I make the map and email it to them … they are happy, and I’m happy.

If anyone asked me, I’d be happy to tell them where I live … but who asks?

I always send my product satisfaction guaranteed, not happy I refund the money (instantly).  Only refunds I have issued in the past few months is to a lady who accidentally ordered the same thing twice … and another case where two different people ordered the same thing for their company without realizing it.

I can work here in Marilao, Bulacan, I can work back in the US (I filled map orders at my sister-in-law’s dining room table when The Unofficial Cook and I were in Florida a few months back), I could take a trip over there to Australia, for that matter.  It doesn’t matter, the orders flow in, the product rolls out.

This real-world sample is no different.  Someone wants to know the number of squares for a roof at 62 Beech St, Kearny NJ, 07032, they send in the order, the company makes the estimate and emails it back.  Where the person who does the estimate is located is immaterial .. maybe the company owner is in the US and the estimator is reading the map in India and the guy who wrote the software is living in the Ukraine … makes no never mind.

The operator of the sample company can work in the US, he could just as easily move to another country and not miss out on his business any longer than the time of his plane flight … and with in-air Wi-Fi being rolled out, soon maybe not even be out of action while flying.

Let me close by laying out another example that just came off the top of my shiny head.  There in Australia, aerial application (crop dusting, spraying, seeding and ‘top dressing’ with fertilize) is a big business.

Crop Dusting, starting his pullup
Creative Commons License photo credit: divemasterking2000

If you owned agricultural property and you wanted me to quote you a price on applying some treatment to your property, how would I know how to estimate the costs?  Fly over the land and “guesstimate”?  Send someone by car to measure on the ground.  Send someone to your State or Shire or wherever the records are kept and spend a couple hours finding your official land survey?  Take your word for how many acres needed application (the most common and yet least reliable method in that business).

Or, pay some chap $50 or $100 to measure up the fields on Google maps and in the process also print out a handy little map that you and I can annotate … cooperatively online, no need to meet .. and then hand the agreed upon map to the application pilot to help him find the right field (and mark the overhead wires so he won’t fly into them, and show where the neighbors chicken coop is so you don’t getsued for frightening the chickens to death, etc.)

Seems to me that in a lot of ways the online method wins, hands-down.  And, again, what would you, as the farmer or grazer care about where I was physically located as long as I knew the difference between Roundup and Accent ?  (and it would help if I could speak and understand ‘Strine 😉 , no doubt)

As you noted, my actual investment in trying a business like this would be tiny … mostly my labor in getting it stood up, a few hundred dollars for some basic legal and accounting ‘how to’s’, and then promotion (I’m working on a very neat article on that subject, perhaps for tomorrow).

(Caveat, I am not a lawyer, an accountant or any other form of professional advisor.  I don’t know if this business would work, I just genned up the idea in 5 minutes, but I merely wanted another example to prove there is potential all over the world for innovations online)

In short, if I am sitting in my home in the Philippines and decide to try something like this, what have I risked … and how much business do I need to make the venture viable … many people say they only need a few hundred a month to make the idea of living in the Philippines work for them.Your money doesn’t have to come from where you live … a message you might note I tend to harp on.


  1. says

    Hi Dave,

    I enjoyed this article, and I found everything you said to be spot on. I know that in my business life, things are pretty much just as you describe in the article. The days of “where you are” mattering all that much are behind us, except in some circumstances. For example, if you had a facility where you were building airplanes, then where you are would matter to your clients. If you were making maps to tell those airplanes where to go, or how much area to crop-dust… well, it just doesn’t matter much. That’s how I think anyway, and it seems you do too.

    • says

      Hi Bob,

      Exactly. I know Ken’s question was designed to stimulate conversation and thought, and that’s why I did a full post on it.

      Many folks, while thinking about ways they might earn a living .. especially in the Philippines, start out by telling themselves,”oh well, no need to think through “that” idea, you can’t do that in the Philippines.

      Instead, they should be thinking from the other side … “why CAN’T I do that in the Philippines?”

      It sounds like a small, “picky” point, but believe me, the way you approach the decision makes all the difference in the world. It’s true enough there are some services you couldn’t do from here .. say, drive an 18-wheeler for pay in the US … the Internet isn’t “that” good yet ;-). But if you approach from the “can” side rather than the “can’t”, you’ll find that list that actually can’t be done gets smaller and smaller.

      And I find that the fact one may be physically located in the Philippines is often not material to the business at hand at all. Most Americans, for example, will want to maintain a US “presence”, and I really don’t think anything else matters that much.

      As I hope I was clear about, I would never lie about where I am … but I sure don’t need to start every business conversation with a question like, “I live in the Philippines so I’m sure you don’t want to do business with me, right?” Silly as it sounds, a lot of folks in my experience seem to be operating in that defeatist mode .. foreigner and Filipino alike.

      You know, IIRC, I seem to remember a US guy who even retailed product into the US that he bought in the Philippines and shipped to the US every time he got an order. Shanpoo or something like that ;-). You mean a person can just take something to the post office and just mail it off to the USA? Yes, so I’ve been told.

      If you believe you can or if you believe you can’t, you’re right.

  2. Ken Lovell says

    All good points Dave and you are correct that for a lot of businesses it doesn’t matter where you are physically located. I happily work away in Navotas City while people assume I’m in Australia; nobody is the loser.

    My comment before was not concerned with the practicality of doing business anywhere but the issues of customer trust and consumer protection. These have been big factors inhibiting the growth of online transactions.

    If I deal with a business physically located in Australia I know where to send the lawyers if they break our contract. There are laws giving consumers extensive rights including a refund if goods are not fit for the purpose they were sold and repair/replacement of faulty items fir a reasonable period after sale. In many instances I can get help from a government department of consumer affairs, who might even prosecute the business for offences like misleading advertising. Depending on the sum involved, I might be able to take them to a small claims tribunal for quick, lawyer-free, government-enforced mediation/arbitration.

    I lose all those protections when I deal with someone based in another country. For that reason I would never buy a computer for example from China or the US – all the risks are on me with no recourse if things go wrong. Even if I believe the back-to-base warranty offered by a Hong Kong supplier, there’s no way I’m going to risk having to package something up and send it off at my own expense in the hope they admit the product was faulty. And if I don’t know where a business is located I simply don’t deal with them at all.

    All these considerations get more important the more money that’s involved. I’ll order a $100 wrist watch cell phone from China resigned to the possibility it might never arrive or not work and I’ll have done my dough. But I’ll buy my $500 Nokia locally thank you, even if I could get the same model on eBay for $50 less. And I would never ever rely on an offshore business for any service that was vital to mine. If worst comes to worst, I at least want the satisfaction of going and screaming abuse at someone face to face.

    Now I don’t know how many people think like me. The extent of the measures eBay has taken to give protection against fraud and record customer feedback on sellers suggests I’m far from alone. Anyone thinking of starting an online business in Philippines therefore needs to be aware of these issues and realise that some potential customers will be deterred either by knowing the person is in RP or by not being able to find out where s/he is at all. Will that be enough to affect the viability of the business significantly? I don’t know, and I don’t know of any means of finding out short of research studies that would be far beyond the resources of the kind of people we are talking about.

    In short, if someone is already in Phils and is looking for a business opportunity, online is a great way to go. The worst that can happen is you’ll waste a lot of time and effort for no reward. However I would be loath to suggest to people that they can up sticks and move to Phils with 100% confidence they’ll be able to support themselves with an online business. It remains a pretty high risk proposition IMHO.

    Ingat, Ken

    • says

      Hi Ken,

      Couple quick rebuttals/explanations here:

      If I deal with a business physically located in Australia I know where to send the lawyers if they break our contract. There are laws giving consumers extensive rights including a refund if goods are not fit for the purpose they were sold and repair/replacement of faulty items fir a reasonable period after sale. In many instances I can get help from a government department of consumer affairs, who might even prosecute the business for offences like misleading advertising. Depending on the sum involved, I might be able to take them to a small claims tribunal for quick, lawyer-free, government-enforced mediation/arbitration.

      Would you really call in a lawyer for a $30 roofing estimate? This is the second time you’ve focused on the legal profession and consumer protection laws. The other side of the coin is, those laws are in place to protect consumers from unscrupulous business. Businesses that operate ethically have nothing to fear. And did you read either of my examples? If you buy a map from me, for example, you can’t ‘get taken’ because I don’t sell unless the customer is satisfied.

      I haven’t been ‘taken’ by an unscrupulous customer as of yet … could happen though … but _if_ a customer ordered a map, put it to use and refused to pay or demanded a refund, I’d refund. In the overall scheme of things I have lost what, a few electrons that would have gone out the neutral wire anyway?

      I’m not sure how the $500 Nokias phones got into the picture here, because I wasn’t talking about any such thing. Although, since eBay (your example) is one of the largest retailers of mobile phones, world-wide (estimated to do1.5 Billion US this year on mobiles alone), somebody_ must be buying those $500 Nokia’s through eBay in a big, big way. I basically haven’t even touched on eBay, AyosDito, Alibaba, etc. in any of these articles, because I don’t work with them much. Others have a lot more expertise than I … but, I know for a fact people in the Philippines are making money using them.

      And actually, you raised an important advantage in your discussion. Here’s how out minds differ perhaps .. differences are what makes the world go ’round after all.

      Let’s suppose I moved to Australia … partly because of the superb consumer protection environment/legal system you’ve mentioned. And then let’s suppose I was going to buy one of those massively over-priced Nokia phones. Would a shop at my local mall be a candidate source? indeed it would, but I would also look seriously at the top three sellers on eBay. Because we’re talking physical product here, rather than electronic delivery, I’d of course have to factor shipping and potential customs duties … but … and I feel the “but” is important.

      I might be able to find 5 or 10 folks who bought a Nokia from my local shop. On eBay I can find thousands and thousands who offered up their feedback, monitored by a third party source. I also have access to more models of phones and accessories than any local shop could hope to carry. And, I could almost certainly beat the local shop’s price, to boot. So there’s an excellent chance I’m buying the phone from an eBay seller. Or not. But eBay is, to me, a very viable alternative … I really could care less about the Australian Consumer Protection agency (or whatever it’s properly called), because I have much bigger audoence, as well as the parent corporation, looking out for me … and I don’t have to fill up any government forms.

      Not trying to change your mind here, ken, but your reservations, while valid, are not shared by a huge percentage of the world’s population. My bank account and the bank accounts of others much harder working and more successful than I will prove it.

      However I would be loath to suggest to people that they can up sticks and move to Phils with 100% confidence they’ll be able to support themselves with an online business. It remains a pretty high risk proposition IMHO.

      Can you find anywhere that I have made that suggestion, Ken? I always have advocated a cautious approach. Test your ideas first … preferably at home, before you make the move. Have multiple streams of income, never put all your eggs in one basket. Get rid of your debt before you do anyhting else. Simplify your life and live on a lot less in your home country before you even make the move. Don’t burn bridges and make sure you have some savings and away to return home if things don’t work out.

      I think you can find, easily, hundreds if not thousands of places I have advised such cautionary measures.

      All of this advice holds true, IMO, whether you are planning an online business,or you have a job offer from Citi Bank to be a network engineer in their Manila BPO center, where, as an example, a huge percentage of the US banking industry transactions .. such as Farmer Jones in Podunk, Kansas depositing his check from the grain elevator company, get processed. Citi Bank in the Philippines processes day to day transactions and maintains ‘back office’ computer records … i.e., people’s bank balances .. for more than a thousand North American client banks here in the Philippines. If that isn’t an online business,I haven’t seen one.

      100% confidence? Not really sure where you find that, Ken. Certainly not with conventional brick and mortar jobs, or with online entrepreneur efforts. Life itself is a risk, a significant one. Every morning about 155000 people who expected to see that sunrise don’t. We all will fail to see the sun rise sometime .. the real question is, how to we want to love between now and then? Be well my friend, and live long and happy.

  3. Ken Lovell says

    Dave you always seem absurdly defensive whenever you sense some criticism of anything you post. I am really not interested in playing these “where did I say that Ken?” games.

    Maybe you might consider that your aggressive takedowns of anyone who dares to provide a different perspective on your posts is one reason you get so few comments. Anyway you’re obviously confident that you have all the answers and I won’t bother commenting again.

    • says

      Ken, criticism is what makes the world go ’round. But people taking my words and twisting them .. and then chastising me for it … as in telling me not to advise people to make an income online … is not criticism, it’s rude and uncalled for. Of course I challenged you to find any place I said what you claimed … simply because you said, in a public forum, that I said something I did not. It’s not a “game” (again, your words, sir). Far from an “aggressive takedown”, I considered it a legitimate request to put up or shut up.

      You know when I read your last response, I actually laughed, because when I sent that rebuttal out with your own words, carefully quoted to make sure I wasn’t making an inaccurate paraphrase of you words, I realized how much more contentious they were in a standalone format … said to myself, “Geez, wonder if Ken is going to like his own words tossed back that way?”

      Well, obviously, you didn’t. Sorry, but you wrote them, so there they are in black and white.

      So be it. We’ll miss you, but each man (and woemn) deserves a place that makes him/her comfortable.

      As far as the schoolboy “dig” about how many comments I have here, that’s just fine with me. This site operated with the comments turned off for along time … and this is not the first time I’ve thought seriously about turning them off again … they don’t pay the bills and they are extremely easy to offend people with, even unintentionally. I’m not big on argument or formal debate, but when I so argue, I prefer to do it at a pub … that’s a huge online business opportunity that is possibly out of the reach of science just yet … but then so many things we take for eranted today seemed impossible just a few years ago … Real, Online beer, chilled or room temp, to suit all nationalities.

      Best of luck in your journey, Ken.

  4. Ken Lovell says

    ‘Can you find anywhere that I have made that suggestion, Ken?’

    No. Which is why I didn’t claim, or imply, that you made it.

    I was writing general observations; something that you seem incapable of understanding. You interpret everything as if I am having a shot at you personally, when I couldn’t give a continental.

    ‘ But people taking my words and twisting them .. and then chastising me for it … as in telling me not to advise people to make an income online … is not criticism, it’s rude and uncalled for.’

    Well if that’s what you think my comment was about mate you’re one paranoid puppy … not to mention lacking middle school comprehension skills.

    Ingat lagi.

    • says

      Not really sure why you’ve chosen to descend into name calling and personal slanging, Ken … you’ve never acted this way in the past.

      But you are now way out of line. This discussion is over, and I ask you to honor the commitment you made yourself a few comments back, when you said you would stop commenting. This is MY house, not some public name calling forum like so many of those time-wasting Philippine Forums populated mainly by nasty bitter men.

      Don’t like my rules .. cure is simple, don’t visit. We are done with this.