Published May 13, 2011
His family tells him to get a 'real' career with job security. But this business consultant/couch surfer says there is no such thing.
Who: Ori Bengal, Obscure Reality LLC
What: Bengal is a business consultant and graphics expert, but he says he has been called the most highly skilled hobo in history, since he does photography, videography, Web site design, marketing, programming, copywriting, search engine optimization, PR, business consulting, life coaching, and more. He is currently creating his own product – a training program on building Web sites for entrepreneurs.
Where: “They say that home is where the heart is,” Bengal says. “Well, for a digital nomad like me, home is where the laptop is.”
Bengal is a “couch surfer.” For five years he has been traveling completely based on “who's couch am I crashing on next?” Bengal recently spoke at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, TX, prior to that he was in Florida, and before that, Costa Rica for five weeks, where he was literally working in a tree house 90 feet above the ground. But he says more traditional work places like a coffee shop aren’t unheard of, either.
Although Bengal sometimes visit some clients, he mostly works with them through Skype, e-mail, and the phone, sometimes even in the car.
“It's amazing what you can do on the telephone,” he says.
When: Like many people who work from home, Bengal doesn’t have a “typical” work day; there are some days he doesn’t work at all. Then there are bursts of a few days to a few weeks where he does nothing but work.
“I like the challenge of creating something new, and having to figure out how to make it happen,” he says. “Part of couch surfing is that if the people I'm staying with have some cool plans, I get snapped ‘out of the zone’ and I get to go do stuff. I generally don't keep track of what day of the week it is, and my best work is definitely done at night ... less distractions.”
When did you start your company? Bengal’s official LLC was started in early 2011, but he’s been working for himself since 1997, with a hiatus in 2004 to late 2005, when he only did some work on the side.
How: Bengal says he started doing graphics in middle school when he bought some architectural design software that he used to print up the semester's worth of notes on a single page -- using graphics rather than text. He also built computers for people in high school. Bengal originally wanted to do 3D animation, so he studied that, which led to video editing, which led to motion graphics, then he ended up running a print shop, where he says he improved his design skills.
He studied web design so he could make a good site for himself, then he says he noticed many of his friends were having trouble with their designers. So he came to the rescue, and soon realized he was always working on other peoples' designs instead of his own. So, on Jan. 1, 2007, he says, “I took off on a journey, completely based on ‘who's couch am I crashing on next?’ I've not stopped yet, and my journey has introduced me to Internet marketing, which I became very passionate about.”
Bengal has stayed with people such as Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh, New York Times best-selling author Keith Ferrazzi, and many others from whom he says he learned various tools of trades. On his travels he listens to audio books to keep up to speed on other topics related to his work.
“Now I can consult on any topic, and all my old skills come in really useful,” Bengal says.
“Freedom and lifestyle have always been important to me, even before I realized that that's what I was ‘fighting for.'"
Why: Bengal’s dad has always been an entrepreneur. When his family arrived in the United States from Israel in late 1985, their visas also stipulated that they couldn't be employed, but they could run their own business. This work situation allowed Bengal’s parents to often have Sundays off, or the occasional entire weekend, and to go to the beach, or Orlando, FL.
Bengal has worked in some capacity since high school; sometimes holding multiple jobs. Instead of holding down one job, he moved from place to place and studied multiple subjects – whatever piqued his interest: 3D animation, graphic design, technology, hardware, etc… His last job as an employee was working at a computer parts store, yet he says he was dismayed at the quality of those parts when he was building his own, more powerful computers from scratch.
“I guess every job I had would serve a purpose, and would serve not just for money, but also towards a personal goal,” Bengal says. “It's always been about doing things I enjoy -. working with people I enjoy. Staying with opportunities that challenged me and required me to learn and improve new skills.”
Day in the Life: As previously noted, Bengal doesn’t have a typical day, and he says that’s how he likes it.
“Change keeps things exciting,” he says. But every day he spends time on social media, blogging, and talking to his fan-turned-manager through Skype.
“While it may look like I'm just a goofball on social media, being connected, and engaging with so many people also keeps me up to date on the latest technologies and methodologies,” Bengal adds.
Pros and Cons: He says the best thing about working for himself in a number of different areas is that he can get back into work he misses just by, for example, posting that he’s looking for a design project. If he doesn’t want to focus on design that day, he turns down any design projects.
“I do what makes me happy. I do it from wherever I want. I have the life of my dreams,” Bengal says.
And what’s the negative?
“The worst thing is that I can't point fingers. I am responsible for everything, so if I delegate something out, or a computer breaks, I have to come up with the solutions, and make sure that everything comes out all right and on time,” he says. “Some projects are intense, and then I wish I could just ‘clock out’ - but the pros far outweigh the cons!”
Bengal says people – his family, especially – often try to tell him he should get a “real” job with benefits and job security. But these days, he points out, “everyone knows there’s no such thing as job security.
“I’d rather be in charge of my own job security by doing the best work that I can do, and by offering massive value to my clients and the people I interact with.”
FOXBusiness.com regularly features profiles of people doing business from home, and making it work.