If you want to travel but seem to either have time or money – but never at the same time, or if you have worked remotely during lockdown and found you preferred it to office life, then becoming a digital nomad might be an option for you.
With the ease and availability of internet services, electricity, and digital devices, working remotely has become an amazing option for a lot of people. There are a myriad of benefits to working remotely and more businesses are making remote positions available as they see the benefit of using remote workers for them as well. There are some job sites that now exist exclusively for those seeking remote work.
It is predicted that over the next 10 years almost 40% of workers will be working remotely. If you want to be part of that number, there are steps you can take to become a fully independent digital nomad.
What is a digital nomad
A digital nomad is a person who has no set physical work location and instead works from wherever they are using a laptop and decent internet connection. They may move weekly, monthly, or even stay in one geographical location for years – but their job doesn’t tie them to that place. Most digital nomads do the same job from wherever they are and often have the same clients. Some are fully self-employed while others are employed but are not tied to a location.
Digital nomads require self-discipline and often need a lot of drive to find and maintain income sources. But digital nomads also benefit from a lot of things that normal office workers don’t have access to. Some of the biggest advantages include:
– Working from any location – including a beach, cruise ship, mountain lodge, or bed
– Less stressful environment without the same time pressures and commute concerns as there are in normal office jobs
– No commute
– No dress code
– Flexible work hours
– Travel opportunities, with options for cheaper travel outside of normal holiday dates
– Financial freedom and the ability to earn in strong currencies but live in cheaper cities
– An adaptable pace of life
This lifestyle may sound idyllic to you, but remember that there are some caveats. Digital nomads don’t always have as much job security as those in standard office jobs. They are also competing on a global market where there will be much greater competition from people with very similar skills. Working remotely also requires a lot of motivation and self-drive because there is no office atmosphere to push you into working. If you love the buzz of the office and the camaraderie, then you may also struggle being away from colleagues and the general noise and movement of an office space.
How do I start a digital nomad career?
Starting up as a digital nomad can be straightforward once you have made the decision. Depending on your job you may be able to speak to your boss and find out about remote working possibilities. Some businesses will want you to come in once a week, which will still tie you down and make full independence difficult. If your boss is happy for you to meet online, however, then you might be able to come to an agreement where you can still touch base from wherever you are.
If your job won’t allow you to work remotely, you will need to start looking at other job options. Think about what you enjoy doing, what you’re good at, what experience you have, and what abilities you might be able to provide. You should also decide if you want to work as a freelancer or if you would prefer to find a job with a steady income. This decision will heavily influence your next steps.
You will also need to decide how nomadic you want your lifestyle to be. A true digital nomad will have nothing to tie them to a place – including a mortgage – so you need to know if you want a home base, if you will be living and working out of your car, or if you want to stay in hotels around the world. These decisions will have important bearings on your budget and can help you decide if the nomadic lifestyle is for you. You should also know that most digital nomads will settle down within 10 years. Most of them will even return to their home towns. If you are wanting a year out to travel and explore it might work out cheaper to simply take a year off and go backpacking rather than committing to a completely new work and life habit.
Once you’ve settled on your aims and goals, they will help you decide on what comes next. This will look different for everyone so you will need to assess your own situation and life goals to figure out exactly how to go about these next steps:
Cut down on expenses and location links
Unless you are able to stay in your job, you will probably need to start building up a portfolio and reputation. That can mean a big pay-cut. You will need to make sure your expenses are low and your new income will be sufficient to cover everything.
You will also need to do your best to cut off anything tying you to one place. Mortgages, debts, and local memberships can all be a draw on your finances and force you to stay in one place. Make a list of all the expenses you can get rid of or cut down on. If you are planning on becoming a full-time nomad then you won’t need your house or car, so make plans to sell them and have an interim place to stay that suits your new budget and plan.
Start developing your skills
Online courses can be advantageous in giving you new skills, but they are also hugely beneficial for people wanting to work remotely. They give you a taste of what it’s like to work without peers, colleagues, supervisors, or anyone else encouraging you or motivating you to get the job done. Potential clients or employees will also be able to see your dedication to improvement and see that you work well without supervision and be more inclined to give you their business.
If you have no experience and you’re not sure which skills you could use, start freelancing in your spare time. Use websites like upwork, freelancer.com, or fiverr and see what skills sell and what you enjoy doing. Slowly building up your portfolio, experience, and personal insights will help you secure work in the future and better understand yourself.
Join the nomadic community
With digital nomadism becoming more popular, a lot of communities, support hubs, and networks have been developed for digital nomads and by digital nomads. Joining communities will help you gain insight into what you’re doing. You can get advice from like-minded people, find motivation, or ask pressing questions that might have stopped you from making the progress you would have liked.
Being part of the nomadic community also gives you access to a host of great tips. Experienced nomads will know the best places for international work, visa requirements, how to find wi-fi, the safest ways to travel, and, of course, the best coffee shops.
Identify your skills
Before jumping straight in, remember that whatever skill you have to offer, it needs to be digitally compatible. If you are a hairdresser you will need to figure out how many of your skills are transferrable. You could offer training, tips, or online courses or consultations. But you will need all the necessary skills to use your computer and various software to present your work.
Being tech-savvy is possibly the most important skill at this point. You will need to be very comfortable with your laptop, with invoicing and billing software, and, in most cases, with online word processing software.
If you are confident in your digital skills, it’s time to assess the skills you will be able to monetise. The most common skills are typing, writing, organising, IT, digital marketing and design, and teaching, but you could probably find work in almost any field if you use enough ingenuity and creativity.
Make sure that the skills you plan to market and utilise are skills you enjoy using. Remember that you will be self-motivating, so if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing you may struggle a lot more to work steadily than you would in an office job.
Putting it all together
At this stage, you will have started to downsize, have started partially working remotely, and you will have decided on the lifestyle you intend to have.
Now is the time to start marketing yourself, to sort out your taxes (you will need to work out if you are required to be registered as self-employed. More information can be found on the government website.), and to start making plans for the travel you want to do. Think about future prospects of expanding your own business as well.
What jobs can you do as a digital nomad
As a digital nomad, you have a variety of jobs available to you. This list will look at some of the more popular ones, but with enough creativity most jobs can be adjusted to suit the nomadic lifestyle.
If you are skilled with your words and can type quickly then there are a lot of freelance writing jobs to get you started on this track. If you have no creativity but quick fingers then transcription work is a good option. If you prefer to fix others’ mistakes then you might be able to find editing work. Or if you like to start from scratch blogging and copywriting are good options.
Online teaching is huge at the moment – especially if you are able to teach English. These jobs can give you more regular income and job security without tying you down. When you teach English online you can usually pick your own hours, and with classes all over the world, your hours can be selected to suit your location.
Other tutoring options are also available if you have specialised skills or knowledge or were a particularly high achiever.
Personal and executive assistants are indispensable in a lot of organisations, but for smaller businesses or remote businesses a VA makes more sense. You will be doing much of the same job as a PA or EA but all of your work will be done digitally. Some of these positions are permanent and full time while others are a couple of hours every now and then when a business gets busy. You will need to be highly organised, know your way around a computer and have excellent communication skills, but with the right VA job you could be earning a lot of money fairly quickly.
Every business needs a website these days to compete in a virtual market. If you have computer skills then learn to code and see how quickly you find work.
Coding is a specialised skill that companies and individuals can’t just “wing”, so they will always turn to people who are able to do the work for them and do it well. Honing your web development skills is an excellent way of starting out as a digital nomad. As a web developer you can also put your digital signature onto all of your websites, creating your own marketing while you’re earning.
Marketing has a broad scope for digital nomads and includes graphic design, SEO specialists, affiliate marketers, video creators, and social media marketers, to name a few. Marketing can be fairly easy to get into if you have any communications background or a well curated social media presence. A lot of businesses want one-off help with their marketing strategy but will return regularly for large campaigns if they are happy with your work.
It’s not for everyone and takes longer to build up to, but if you already have a decent online following, becoming an influencer can also be lucrative. This is a popular choice for digital nomads because they can travel to exotic and picturesque places easily for that perfect selfie.
Whatever you choose to do, being a digital nomad can help you achieve the independent and freedom-filled lifestyle you are looking for. Just remember that it often comes with a compromise on stability, benefits, and close relationships too.