By Adam Rang, Founder of Rang Media House.
As a child, I remember being stuck in a long queue on the Estonian-Latvian border. I was tired, grumpy and couldn’t understand what was taking so long.
My parents had a different perspective. They’d lived all their lives in the UK as the children of Baltic refugees and this was their first visit to their own countries.
When we got to the front, my dad stepped out the car, pointed down at his feet and asked the guards, “Are we now in Estonia?’
He wanted to know if we had crossed the exact border line, but it hadn’t translated well judging by their confused looks. Undeterred, my dad then launched into a long speech about how he’d spent his life dreaming of visiting Estonia, but never thought it would be possible.
I’m pretty sure they didn’t even speak English.
“Dad, please get back in the car,” I pleaded, before our passports were stamped and we drove on.
A lot has changed since then. Two decades later, I now live in Estonia and run a business here with my dad as co-founder.
Today I understand why crossing that border was so important to him, although my own contempt for borders hasn’t changed much.
Our content marketing agency, Rang Media House, works with clients across the UK and the Baltic states. We also hire talent around the world to deliver the work. That’s not because we’re a big company. It’s because the opportunities for international business are now open to everyone, including SMEs and freelancers.
Crossing the Estonian-Latvian border is now something I do often, but the queues and stamps are gone. We barely even slow down.
Within minutes however, my movies stop streaming and my phone beeps to tell me about roaming charges. It’s a reminder that borders still exist digitally, even where physical ones have been removed.
One of the most harmful digital borders that still exists for too many entrepreneurs is encountered when money is sent abroad. For too long, it’s been a total pain. We can easily communicate with clients, suppliers and talent around the world so we need the ability to pay and get paid by them too.
Not only do banks impose an unfair fee, but they also add a hidden markup by presenting misleading exchange rates. On top of that, the payment process can be clunky and you are sometimes unsure if the exact amount will end up in the other bank account.
For entrepreneurs, every cent, penny and minute lost in this process makes us less competitive and less likely to do business abroad. That is holding back the growth of small businesses.
I’ve explored different solutions, but TransferWise provides the best solution. I can’t calculate how much money (and hassle) my business has now saved by using TransferWise because sending money across borders with ease is the new normal for us.
Last year for example, we filmed a hidden camera prank video on the streets of London. The actor, camera operators, sound engineer and editor were all British and had never worked with an Estonian company before.
Even though I was paying in Euros, I showed them how to use TransferWise Request Money to get paid by my company in the exact amount of pounds agreed.
I keep meeting more entrepreneurs who benefit from TransferWise in the same way. Not only is their business global, but often they are too. An increasing number of businesses can now be run from anywhere in the world and that’s enabling the rise of ‘Digital Nomads’.
I can work on my business anywhere in the world, but Tallinn is now my basecamp. Last year I sold my home in the UK and started searching for a new one here.
I found a quirky little flat inside a traditional wooden building. It needed some investment, but already had a wood-burning sauna ready for those cold winter months.
Then the unthinkable happened… Brexit. The pound dropped to a 31 year low and several thousand Euros in my budget disappeared. I had to recalculate and squeeze every penny.
I compared the quotes and found that my British bank wanted to charge £1,181 more than TransferWise to send €75,000 to my Estonian bank. That’s more than 1.5% of the price. Even estate agents don’t take that much of a cut!
The offer was accepted, the money was quickly moved and we had a new home in Tallinn - 72 years after the last one owned by my family was destroyed by bombing.
TransferWise has moved billions pounds around the world and it's quite fitting that they’ve now helped me move pounds to Tallinn to pay for my home in the same way that the original problem solved when the company was founded.
With the help of TransferWise, I now have a global business that gives me the freedom to work almost anywhere, and with almost anyone, in the world.
And over the months ahead, I plan to meet more location-independent entrepreneurs for a book I’m writing about the movement that’s sure to shape the way we do business around the world.
Still, there’s no place like home.
Old-world bank accounts only work properly in one country. They hold money only in one currency. And it gets expensive when you try to use them across borders. TransferWise's new Borderless accounts solve all of this.
Now you can send, receive and organise your money internationally, without crazy fees or even-crazier exchange rates – just a small, fair charge when your money moves between currencies.