Young Businessman Pondering, Business podcast, Entrepreneurship, thinking about life.
Young man lost in thoughts a he tries to organize his life.

Shameful Hiatus Over and How 2023 Kicked Our Arses

Using this personal recap of 2023 as an excuse to dig up this blog from the old archives, it’s a great segway to the upcoming projects of 2024 and how to deal with the terrible life of being an entrepreneur.

2023 has been a tough year for vendors, businesses and people in China. Youth employment is at an all-time low, and I still see people losing jobs or even closing down businesses.

Wow, you’re back! What gives man? Yes, yes, I heard you.

After a long hiatus from writing here, I finally overcame the shame of a long, awkward silence to start this blog again. Almost three years later, which is also funny enough, is how long I have held my latest position as a marketing director for The World of Chinese (TWOC) magazine. Who knew working full-time for a magazine could kill your desire to write for yourself? You did?! Damn…

Well, it has nothing to do with the job, actually, but more with the fact that the Roamographer is meant to be a travel-oriented blog or for digital nomads and entrepreneurs, to say the least. I have not felt very “digital nomad” over the last few years with COVID-19, lockdowns, work, and figuring out life, especially over the last year.

Looking back at 2023

After officially registering my company, Crelong Media, in China, which allowed me to have my visa under control and offer fapiao to clients, I’ve kept my position at TWOC as a marketing director for a transitional period. 2023 came with new revenue objectives for the company, a new business model that I implemented myself, a personal revenue cut of 40% and high hopes that it could be compensated by doing business development for the magazine and getting that in commission by searching for ads revenue, sponsorship and partners (among other things).

Remember when I said 2023 has been tough five paragraphs up from here? Well, it didn’t work out. Businesses and companies I connected with were all handling their challenges by cutting down expenses in marketing and advertising. Being the only one in charge of doing so in the company and with the little Chinese I know, it was doomed to fail, but I was hopeful and wanted to believe like everyone else. That’s the challenge of very small teams, and also, that’s what taught me a very important lesson.

“I hate business development!”

But Dragos, you are so charming and social!

Yes, I am social and most probably charming. But I don’t like business development, cold calling, cold emailing and sales pitches. I am good at connecting randomly with strangers, and occasionally, it becomes an opportunity. That’s it. It is never forced, always a natural connection. So, I promised myself that I would never do business development again. Just do what I do best: go out, socialize, network, and make friends, and if there’s a bit of luck, the opportunity will knock on the door.

Therefore, 2023 ended up being a year of anxiety, stress, let-downs, pay cuts and personal disappointment. I felt like a failure. Ultimately, despite having registered my own company in China, I didn’t spend the time to build it up properly and was obsessed with “protecting my revenue” and “trying to make sales…”

It was a terrible use of my time, and I hate disappointing myself and others. I love working at The World of Chinese and what the magazine stands for, which is sharing human-centred stories from people living in China. It’s an amazing mission with people who work hard to make it happen and are proud of their work. You cannot imagine how much of a rare breed the people are in that office, and I was heartbroken when I had to announce my departure to the rest of the team at the end of December. The budget has become too tight, and like most small media & magazine companies, choices had to be made.

It’s not an easy business, and we hear about people losing their jobs in the industry. RADII cut their Shanghai office completely. The China Project (previously known as SupChina) declared a complete close-down after they lost a major sponsor (and they were big). So, the fact that TWOC is still standing is an achievement in itself. I do hope the magazine keeps going and growing, eventually.

So, what will you do now that you are out of a job?! It’s Christmas?!

Are we really starting from zero?

Well, I still have my digital marketing agency to run, and this is probably the kick in the nards I needed to put my focus on it. TWOC will be one of my clients, and I will keep supporting the magazine through consulting, workshops, and advertising management. And I took it upon myself to help other small brands that have been going through their challenge, effectively reducing my income to help them grow based on whatever budget they have.

We are in a period where it’s best to help locally before reaching out for bigger opportunities. They are friends, contacts, and people I know and care for who deserve as much help as I need. They are, most of all, entrepreneurs. And THAT, I understand. The stress, anxiety, and time you spend on your craft only to remain in the dark because 24 hours in your day is not enough to do your own marketing, social media, advertising, and branding.

So, while I am starting fairly small, again, I am happy to help people grow their businesses and hopefully, as they grow, I will grow with them.

It’s inspiring… but we doubt this will take ALL your time. So, will you be just lazing around?!

Meanwhile in China, Video Podcast, Podcast Production, The World of Chinese Magazine

Of course not! I want to use that extra free time to start a podcast, so be on the lookout for that. I’ll work on some extra projects with TWOC, like the video podcast I started called “Meanwhile in China,” which I am producing with the team. I will also focus on personal branding, like building my LinkedIn followers base and writing for you all here, maybe. And, of course, taking more time to get in shape, play hockey, care for myself, etc.

HA! I Can’t wait for the “getting back in shape” thing… it’s only been ongoing for four years…

Beijing Hockey League, Playing Hockey in China, Sports in China, Expats in China, Living in China

It’s there, I want it, and slowly, I will get there. Baby steps. Especially when I have to reorganize my whole life, and since now, my only priority is building up my company (in China and Canada, because I’m registered in both), maybe it’s a good time to learn to put myself on a schedule.

One step forward, two steps backwards…

There is nothing wrong with taking a couple of steps back. You need to ensure you don’t let the pressure get to you. Because I know that if the pressure gets to me, I shut down and I can’t do anything. I work well under pressure, yes. But even a pressure cooker can burn your food if you leave it on high temperature for too long …I made up this analogy. Do you like it? No…? Keep going.

The pressure that comes with entrepreneurship is not new to me. You know it. And much like some of the big success stories out there, many had their downfall (a couple of times even) or had to start from zero again. And that’s fine. I’m not starting from zero. I’m just… “refocusing,” and coincidently, it will also be one of the many topics I will tackle in my upcoming podcast “Toasting Failure” with some special guests.

What to expect of 2024?

Despite this personal recap of 2023 being a tough year, I am eager for 2024’s new adventure and newfound freedom. A couple of nice things are that I won’t be stuck in an office anymore, I have more time for creative development (like the podcast) and building THE agency that you must follow, and most of all, I might have more time to travel around and make new friends!

Despite that, I also hear all my inner doubts and the questions people ask. But Dragos, there are so many digital agencies out there. How can you even compete?! How will you survive without a full-time job?! Why are you going down this road of constant insecurity?!

Why some people can’t take a stable job?

Those questions are both in my mind and vocalized by family and friends. Fact is… Entrepreneurship is like a drug. No matter how hard you fail, 9 to 5 jobs kill you faster. By insecurity, people only think about money and revenue, buying a house, and having kids. Would I like to buy a house and have kids? Sure. Would I find a nice steady job and revenue to do that and become a family man? Kill me.

I admire the people who can do that, but I just feel it down in my gut that it’s not for me. Sometimes, we need our own thing, path, and constant sense of adventure. I need to settle down on my terms. It doesn’t mean I’ll always be travelling around; it just means I want to create stuff, like this agency, this podcast and even this article you are reading. And evidently, I cannot do that when I work a full-time job.

But when I have uncertainty, chaos and a life of unknowns in front of me… it suddenly tingles deep inside me. It makes me want to scream, cry, laugh, run, and dance simultaneously. It makes me want to create. Maybe that’s why many artists are also tortured souls. I’m by no means an artist or a writer. I mean, look at this text… It’s more like an email from me to all of you. Go read for some proper, serious, long reads. This, here, is my playground.

With a couple of weeks to go before the end of 2023, I still need to figure out some things. Mainly where to put my focus. Despite it being evident, it took me a while, but I needed to focus on some good things to make everything work. This blog and the Roamographer are also part of the bigger question… Should I start it again for real or let it go and put my energy somewhere else?

On the table, I have Crelong Media (my agency and all the contracts that go with it), LinkedIn Personal Branding, Toasting Failure Podcast, the Roamographer brand (this blog, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube…) and taking care of myself in general… I already think the plate is too full. Maybe this blog is too much, and I should make video updates on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. But people also want to read this instead…I don’t know.

But still, if you do feel I should get this blog up and running again, sharing my life story, travel photography, and videography with you all, send me a message on Instagram and tell me what you ACTUALLY want me to talk about more. That’s why I decided first to write this 2023 personal recap. You heard me right. SEND ME A MESSAGE ON INSTAGRAM. I’ll read it carefully. Feel free to share your thoughts with me, whether you are a friend reading this or a stranger. And I’ll see where to focus my energy next. If I start this blog again, I’ll do it the best I can, trying to get at least one piece out weekly. Your sort of “weekly update” from yours truly (And maybe some other Roamographers out there who might want to share their stories of travel and life. I’m open to collaborations.)

I realized that if anything is worth doing, you should do it consistently. Once a week or once a month. But I already know that once a month, with today’s average attention span at an all-time low, is enough to be forgotten.

I used to finish my articles with “One nice thing that happened to me” or a thing I did from my list of “Stuff to do before I die that makes me happy.” I want to create another ending that you might find… Useful? Informative? Or maybe just force myself to read books and tell you which book I am reading now? Or what am I watching now?

Regardless, I’ll still be the same old me. Chaotic, stressful, but still and always, your friend.

Sincerely yours,

Dragos Cacio
An experienced digital marketing director with a passion for marketing in the technology, travel, and gaming industries. Creative and innovative, he's an expert in creating marketing and advertising strategies to spearhead international market growth. Dragos is the embodiment of what a Digital Nomad stands for, which is freedom of mind and body.