It is not uncommon nowadays to hear people talk about working as a digital nomad or striving to become one. Depending on your background it can be quite easy to transition from a regular nine to fiver into a digital wonderer. You need two things. A business or job you can do independent of any specific location and the desire to be a nomad. Here is a game plan for how you can become a digital nomad!
What is a digital nomad?
First, let’s dive into what a digital nomad actually is. It is a phrase that is used quite a lot these days but it is essentially someone who is able to leverage technology so they are free to move around and work from anywhere in the world.
There are a few differences between a digital nomad and a remote worker. Usually, a remote worker is not as free to move around. They might work for an organisation who needs them to have reliable access to wifi so they can stay in touch with ‘the office’ or they might be on a specific time schedule so they can connect with their coworkers elsewhere in the world at given times each day. A digital nomad has much more freedom and can make their own schedule and work around any constraints they may face with wifi or time.,
It is not nearly as glitzy as it may seem but it can be a fascinating and fulfilling lifestyle if you want to travel but you still need a way to pay the bills! We have some ideas to get you started.
4 Ways to become a digital nomad
1. Take your current job with you
Don’t be afraid to ask your current employer what the options are for you to work remotely. You might be surprised by the answer. More and more organisations are open to the idea of remote workers. Both companies and remote employees alike say that remote work increases productivity which is one of the reasons it is becoming more appealing to organisations.
You have nothing to lose by asking and the process might give you some ideas on how to sell yourself for other remote positions.
2. Get a remote job
This is a really viable option these days and although not all remote jobs lend themselves to being nomadic there are plenty out there that do. We have a whole lot of resources coming to you on this soon if you want to dive deeper into all the resources available for remote workers.
Some organisations are now structured around having a remote workforce. You’ll be amazed at the options out there. Start by following borderless jobs on FB they have an interesting selection from a variety of different sources. Also, check out remote.co It can be a competitive market but you have to be in to win!
Look out for our full-blown resource on how to bag a remote job – we are working on it at the moment!
3. Freelance it
If you have a bit of get up and go you can start freelancing today. There are many professions that naturally lend themselves to freelancing like photography, coding, copywriting and graphic design and others that aren’t so obvious but are becoming increasingly popular such as virtual PAs, PR and language teaching.
There are occupation specific FB groups that can guide you where to find the best gigs along with sites like Upwork and Fiverr. Don’t be shy about it – you could always start off with a side gig before you fully commit to a life of nomadic freelancing.
4. Set up your own gig
This definitely falls into the hard work basket but it is a viable option if you are prepared to throw yourself into it and become your own boss. You would be amazed at how many skills are transferable to the online world.
Online businesses range from service-based ones where you have clients who you work with through to educational platforms and e-commerce. You need to find something you are passionate about and go for it. Listen to podcasts like ‘Give Up Your Day Job’ and ‘How I Built This’ for inspiration and ideas. Being passionate is important because it will be hard, hard work so you need to be doing something you love.
It is not for the faint of heart but it can be incredibly rewarding and it is amazing how a nomadic lifestyle will give you inspiration and ideas to help you grow and develop your business ideas.
4 ways to cultivate success as a digital nomad
1. Find your tribe
With the world of social media, it is a lot easier than it used to be to find your tribe. If you can’t find a physical community where you are there are numerous online communities that can make up part of your tribe. Sabine Werner is an expat who has her own jewellery business and struggled to find like minded people after she relocated to France from Australia. It took her a while but she ultimately found great support online. She became a member of a jewellers platform based in London. Your tribe is out there you just have to find it. The support and guidance they provide will be invaluable.
You can read Sabine’s full story here.
2. Work harder than you ever have and then some
It ain’t no picnic in the park. It really is hard work! Hopefully, the trade-off is worth it and if it’s not then maybe you need to make some adjustments. It’s definitely not as full on if you have a remote job or have managed to continue to work in your previous job. However, for anyone who is working as a freelancer or setting up their own business, it is going to be a slog. If you are doing something you love so, for the most part, you should enjoy the ride. If that’s not the case then you need to reassess what you are doing and why you are doing it.
Don’t be afraid to take a side hustle while you are working on your main hustle. Maybe take a part-time remote job to help supplement your income while you grow your freelance work or business. Just be mindful to not let the side hustle take over your life and not leave room for your true passion.
3. Ignore the naysayers
There will be a lot of people who think you are flat out crazy (and maybe you are) but you have to learn to ignore them. They will look at you like you are speaking a foreign language and probably to them you are. Just sidestep these folks and keep going. It is a viable lifestyle and if it is something you want then you to need to keep chasing it. Don’t let the doubters put you off.
4. Chose your destinations wisely
Chose destinations that you can manage easily to start with. Start by living in places that are cheap, easy to get visa’s for, has good wifi and will allow you to take time out to give yourself breathing space. If you love a big city chose a big city. If you prefer the tranquillity of the beach chooses a beach destination. You need to have some kind of rewards for all your hard work when you are starting out. If going for a beach walk every evening is what brings you joy then live somewhere where you can do that. Noisy bars more your thing then seek out a bustling city.
You are not going to want to be moving around all the time. Chose somewhere you can happily see yourself for at least a six month period to start with. Once you get into the swing of things you will find it is easier to move around more but to start with it is a lot easier to have extended stays in one area.
Keep in mind your suppliers if you are going to run a product based e-commerce business. Perhaps it is wise to live close to where your suppliers will be to start with. Once you have the supply side and logistics sorted you can move anywhere.
Living as a digital nomad can become your full-time life and it’s not hard to match or exceed your previous salary if you stay focused, do some research before jumping in and commit to a shed load of hard work for a couple of years to get things off the ground. Being a nomad also allows you the freedom to live in cheaper places so your salary doesn’t need to be what it once was.
To succeed as a digital nomad you have to have the energy to really commit to a change in lifestyle. You need the discipline to follow through on your ideas and the flexibility to back up and make u-turns when needed. It might not be for all but for those who it is, your life will be upended and changed in more ways than conceivable making it almost impossible to go back to the humdrum of your old life.
Rachel Nelson is a New Zealand expat who has lived and worked in the US, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the UAE, Qatar and Germany.