Annalee Hagood-Earl: Running a Company as a Digital Nomad

Annalee is the Founder and CEO of Bash Creative, an event strategy and production agency based in San Francisco, California. In March of 2021, she embarked on a journey of traveling, choosing the digital nomad lifestyle. We will learn what digital nomadism means for founders and how it changed Annalee’s life.

So what does being a digital nomad mean?

Digital nomads are people who travel freely while working remotely through the Internet. Some digital nomads are perpetual travelers, while others only maintain the lifestyle for a short period of time [1]. As of 2024, there are 35 million digital nomads globally [2]. The number is expected to grow to 1 billion by 2035 [3].

Annalee’s decision to become a digital nomad was prompted by her desire to reconnect with the world after being confined in lockdowns as well as to preserve her company and lifestyle during a tricky time. As a Founder and CEO, her greatest motivation was taking care of her team members while she and her business partner navigated the very uncertain waters of running an Event Production company in the middle of a lockdown. 

“During the pandemic, my company was under a lot of stress. Every one of our clients canceled their events. We needed to not only pivot our offerings but also preserve as much cash flow as possible. We were trying to keep people employed, but we had no idea how long the pandemic and its ripple effects could last. I was based in Sausalito, California, which is in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the most expensive locations in the world. By moving out of California and getting rid of all my monthly expenses such as rent, car, insurance, etc, I was able to save the company an entire salary on top of cutting almost 30% of my personal expenditures. My love for travel is one of the reasons I opened this company in the first place. This, paired with my desire for control and flexibility during a time when I had very little control, led me to leave the confines of California on a mission to reconnect with the world. Becoming a digital nomad has been a great way to preserve a lifestyle I had built for myself before we were going through a financial crisis.”

Travelling has always been very close to Annalee’s heart and one of her biggest drivers and sources of inspiration. She has successfully managed to implement this into her business. 

“I am really inspired by my surroundings. Just seeing different cultures’ way of work and attending events across the globe has been great. I oversee the sales effort of our team, and I have someone based in California supporting me. But the majority of our clients are remote now. The disbursement of people after the pandemic allowed me to pursue traveling. My business partner is incredibly supportive of it. But I know that the company’s success is what allows me to continue to travel and keep this lifestyle. So I’m very committed to making it successful, and she knows that too.”

Some of the adjustments Annalee has had to make include working unconventional hours. Since her team and many clients are based in California, meetings are strictly virtual. She has implemented a routine of discipline to limit distractions while in a new place, but also allowing time to explore and connect with the local communities she is visiting. Annalee admits that these are boundaries important to herself and not dictated by her team. It is her belief that to be an effective leader as a Founder and CEO, she has to be available for her team and very present in the work they do. 

While there are certainly some obstacles in the digital nomad lifestyle, it has brought more benefits to Bash Creative than initially anticipated.

“Being a digital nomad brings value to our company by allowing me to make connections in markets we would have no connections otherwise. A lot of our clients ask us to organize their international events too. Having a chance to live in different countries and creating a local network also assists in understanding the way businesses work in various cultures and markets. I can build relationships with individuals and local partners. It is immensely helpful to have people on the ground you can call or refer business to. My growing network has been so useful as a gut or information check, allowing us to avoid acting like “those Americans” or being taken advantage of as outsiders.”

Being a digital nomad has honored Annalee’s values while not only saving but advancing her company. Often the answer to self-preservation is unconventional, and the life of a Founder is anything but conventional. 

Discover more about digital nomadism and many more topics. Take inspiration from our network of Founders and become a part of a supportive and welcoming community by joining Follow the Founder. You can also find us on Instagram @followthefounder. 

References:

[1] Digital Nomads, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_nomad

[2] 49 Digital Nomads Statistics For 2024 (Trends & Insights), Rohit Shewale, https://www.demandsage.com/digital-nomads-statistics/

[3] Digital Nomad Statistics 2024, https://zipdo.co/statistics/digital-nomad/[4] MBO Partners, Digital Nomads, 2023 https://info.mbopartners.com/rs/mbo/images/2023_Digital_Nomads_Report.pdf

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