A Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Digital Nomad
Digital nomads are individuals who work without being restricted to the confines of a physical workspace, with the help of technology and thereby have an adventurous work life. In other words, any individual who is equipped to with an internet connection and a laptop technically qualifies as a digital nomad.
The concept of the digital nomad as such is not all that new since people have been working while travelling since early 2000. However, in the recent past, the trend has taken an upsurge. In case you are also wondering how you can be a part of this trend, let’s delve deeper into the concept.
What Does a Digital Nomad look like?
It’s difficult to paint an exact picture of digital nomads; however, there are a couple of statistics and surveys available which should give you a reasonable idea.
The popular freelance job site, Upwork carried out a survey amongst its registered freelancers and found that around 39% of freelancers considered themselves to be digital nomads. Out of this 39 %, around 79% of freelancers stated that they wished to continue as digital nomads for the rest of their lives. Also, 50% of these digital nomads displayed that they were working untethered to a location for the last 12 months.
Another study conducted by Upwork revealed that around 32% of Australians had been involved in some or the other kind of freelance work in the year 2015. Additionally, the Australian Federal Government is working towards enabling 12% of their task force to work from home or remotely by the year 2020.
These numbers are indicative that there is certainly an upward trend in digital nomadism and freelancing. With faster internet connections at one’s disposal these days, and the keenness of the present generation to travel suggests that this trend of digital nomadism is going to be here for a long time.
It’s estimated that by 2050 up to around 1 billion individuals may transform into digital nomads.
What Work Can Digital Nomads Do?
If you are planning to be a digital nomad, the first question that you probably have in mind is how much money does a digital nomad make. The positive news here is that there is no dearth of work from anywhere careers and more and more jobs are becoming possible to be performed online. However, before you take up a job, you must decide upon the model that you wish to follow such as remote employee, freelancing, passive income, or entrepreneurship. These options depend on the industry that you wish to be associated with, the amount of experience you have, and the nature of work that you wish to take up.
Theoretically speaking it is possible to carry out almost every job with just a laptop and an internet connection irrespective of the location. The most obvious jobs are technical and the ‘work from home kind’ of jobs. However, these are not just the available options these days. Technical jobs that can be done online include web development, product development, photography, and writing. However, creative, administrative jobs, as well as customer service jobs are also possible.
In the recent years, all types of digital marketing are feasible for digital nomads. Social media management is also emerging as a popular choice owing to the availability of scheduling tools which enable you to plan your work ahead of time.
Listed below are a couple of independent career options that you may consider:
- Web design and development
- Graphic design
- IT – software engineer
- Accounting and bookkeeping
- Writing – copywriting, content writing, editing, and journalism
- Digital marketing – social media, email, SEO, and, content marketing
- Online business owner
- Administration – virtual assistant
Where Can Digital Nomads Work From?
Digital nomads have the leverage to work from wherever good internet connectivity is available. However, they may take into considerations other factors as well. A lot of these digital nomads wish to escape the winter season and want to bask in the sun. To make this feasible, they need to consider a few important aspects such as visa considerations, safety considerations, affordability, as well as available recreational options.
NomadList is one of the most useful tools to look for destinations to travel and work. It is a crowdsourced platform which enables users to search for cities based on a detailed list of filters. This was created by Pieter Levels, a Dutch nomad and entrepreneur. He created this in order to enable people to travel and work from various places.
Listed below are some of the top destinations to travel and work from:
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Ubud, Bali
- Las Palmas, Spain
- Berlin, Germany
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Pai, Thailand
- Medellin, Colombia
- Budapest, Hungary
- Hanoi, Vietnam
The Office Space Options to Consider
If you have a fast and reliable Wi-Fi, it is nothing short of a boon for digital nomads. You may have seen pictures of digital nomads working on their laptops from a beach or a poolside. While this may not be the ideal office setting, however, you can consider work once in a while in a hammock. It gives your creativity a boost when you work from exotic locations once in a while. Here are some of the options for office:
Since their inception in 2005, co-working spaces have been a popular option. It offers open plan offices with space for the desk, and the desk space is available for rent on daily, weekly, or monthly basis. You may wonder that when you are trying to escape the 9-5 routine and the mundane cubicle life, how co-working space can be lucrative. However, the fact is co-working is great for your productivity, and it helps to build connections. This is one of the big reasons why people offer to pay to work in a community space.
Also, when you pay from your pocket for a coworking space, it is one of the best means to ensure that you are productive. When working from a coffee shop or a hotel, you tend to skip out an hour later to do something else apart from work. But when you are paying to work from a co-working space, you would certainly wish to get your returns. So you automatically sit and work the whole day and be productive with everyone else. The demand for coworking spaces has grown significantly in the last 10 years.
From your Place of Accommodation
Another preferred option is to work from your place of accommodation. If you have a quiet working space and a good Wi-Fi connectivity, this is one of the cheapest options. Nowadays, even a new type of hostel is becoming popular which caters to travellers who work. These hostels incorporate a coworking space within the place of accommodation.
Coffee shops with free Wi-Fi have been another favourite spot for digital nomads. In a lot of Asian countries, you can even sit there the entire day and work. It is acceptable if you ensure to order a couple of drinks and snacks.
Co-living spaces are the latest fad these days amongst the digital nomads. Co-living spaces are coming up all over the world right from SunDesk in Morocco to Sun and Co in Spain.
The income range varies. For instance, when freelance social media managers start out, they earn around AU$1600 a month; whereas, programmers are seen to earn as high as $25,000 per month depending on client work.
As per the latest trends, some of the highest paying remote jobs include marketing, sales, web development, graphic design, social media, and copy writing. According to a survey conducted by Upwork around 59% of digital nomads saw an increase in their income, while 17% reported no change income, and 24% reported a decline in income.
Advantages of Being a Digital Nomad
Now that you have a fair idea of how much they tentatively earn, the likely places that they work from, and how they earn their living, let’s take a look at some of the advantages of being a digital nomad.
- Opportunity to Travel and See the World
One of the reasons why majority of digital nomads select this lifestyle is their zeal to travel and see the world. If people can splurge on experiences instead of material possessions, it makes them happier. Travel is one such experience which enables you to break from the monotony of routine, step out of your comfort zone, meet new people, and eventually feel happier. The usual 2-4 weeks of annual vacation are not enough to satisfy the urge of travelling. So what better than working while doing what you love, which is travelling!
2. Geographical Arbitrage
This is a concept that has been popularised by Tim Ferriss. The concept entails taking advantage of the difference in prices between various countries by earning a salary in one’s home country while living at a much lower cost somewhere abroad in a relatively cheaper country.
3. Bootstrapping a Business
It may be challenging to set up your own business while working in a regular corporate career. The concept of geo-arbitrage facilitates a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs to have a comfortable living out of their savings or freelance income while bootstrapping their respective businesses by living in a relatively cheaper country.
For instance, a freelancer who may be earning around AU$1000 per month working part time may not be able to support themselves by living in Melbourne or Sydney. If they move to a relatively cheaper country such as Vietnam or Thailand, they will be able to live much more comfortably and also have ample free time to work towards their own start up business, owing to the low cost of living.
4. Learning new skills
When you travel, you automatically pick up skills which can be a nice value add to your resume. You can also pick up new languages and learn about various cultures. If you travel alone, in particular, it’s highly helpful to boost your confidence, and you can also learn the small nuances of problem-solving.
When you are self-employed, it helps you to become organised, disciplined, self-motivated, creative, and learn excellent time management skills.
- Expanding your network
It is quite easy to meet like minded people within the digital nomad community. You will certainly be able to expand your professional as well as social network out there. Many a time you meet another fellow digital nomad with whom you can plan a start up business. Adopting the digital nomad lifestyle adds a lot of room for your personal and professional growth. While the benefits may vary from person to person, yet everyone at least gains the common benefits of independence, happiness, and contentment.
Starting Out as a Digital Nomad
Since digital nomad is comparatively a new lifestyle choice, initially it can be a little challenging. However, everything depends on how you start off, which model, and the amount of travel experience that you hold. Another significant factor to consider is to determine how much money you need to earn to have a comfortable lifestyle.
Every individual’s journey is unique. However, here is an effort to simplify things for you and share a step by step guideline on how you can become a digital nomad.
- Select your business model
As stated above, digital nomads may fall into different categories. It depends on the type of work they do, the type of industry, and the manner of working. Let’s try to figure out which category you may fall under.
In case you have the required skills which enable you to work remotely and you are presently in an employed role, you should negotiate remote working considerations with your boss. Try to convince your boss that you can perform equally well even while you travel. However, this may not be a viable option at all times. So you may need to consider the following options described below.
Running your own business
In case you are someone who already has an online business, then becoming a digital nomad simply means that you will be taking your work on the road and perform business as usual. However, if your business is large and you have employees under your wing, then there may be certain things to consider which is beyond the scope of this article.
In case you are planning to launch a start up while travelling, you may consider settling down in a hot spot like Chiang Mai or Ubud for a couple of months. However, it may be challenging to shift locations too frequently. When you plan to have your own business, you need to consider several logistics which you may need to navigate.
In case you are already freelancing from home, becoming a digital nomad is just a few steps away. You can simply go ahead and try out the lifestyle for a couple of weeks and figure out if it suits you. Just inform your clients before you plan to travel abroad. It’s a good idea to address any question or reservations that they may have regarding your ‘nomadic’ lifestyle. Also, you should test all your systems and ensure that they are up and running. In case you are new to freelancing, first of all, gather some work experience and find one or two fixed clients who give you regular work before you plan to travel abroad.
Passive income is income that you receive on a regular basis with minimum effort to maintain it. Passive income is lucrative since you can travel and enjoy and make money without the need to put in regular work. One of the most popular means of generating passive income is e-commerce. Irrespective of what you choose, you must ensure that you have ample savings to sustain you at least for a few months while you set up your means of passive income inflow. You can also start thinking of working on it while you have your day job intact. Once you are earning steadily from passive income, you can travel more.
Usually, a digital nomad’s work is a combination of all the options discussed above. It helps them to learn different skills, stay motivated, and also offers you more stability and security.
2. Finding Clients
Whenever you are an entrepreneur, earning passively, or a freelancer, you will need to find some clients or customers. So where should you start from?
Your existing network
One of the best and easiest means of looking for clients is to use your existing network. For instance, if you are a graphic designer, you must share with your network of friends and family that you are freelancing these days. You can also offer to help them with their projects instead of a testimonial and future referrals. You will be surprised how you can form connections in this manner.
Freelancing job sites
Log on to popular freelancing platforms such as Freelancer, Up work, 99 designs, People Per Hour, and Fiverr which are designed to connect freelancers from various domains with clients. Customers post freelancing jobs on these platforms, and interested freelancers bid on them.
A flourishing freelancing career is your first step towards starting your own business. You will be able to build your database of regular clients. This may lead to more in-flow of work and thereby a need for more man power will be created. Soon you may be outsourcing your work and hiring other freelancers and be on your way to become the CEO of your own agency.
Start your own website
One of the best things to kick off with is to have your own website. In today’s business scenario it is quite important to have an online presence. It helps people to locate you. You can create a simple yet professional website of your own nowadays on WordPress sans any technical skills. Blogging is an excellent way to showcase your skills and it also helps to attract traffic to your website. With the help of your portfolio, you can build trust with your prospective customers or clients by showcasing your work.
Connect with other digital nomads
It is quite significant that you establish connect with other digital nomads. The community is usually quite helpful and you may even find a new client or project within your network. LinkedIn is also a handy and powerful tool to help you expand your network. Ensure your profile is up to date.
3. Pack your bags
If you are planning to be a digital nomad, then you must know your packing list well. Having the right equipment is significant both for your productivity as well as health. Regarding gadgets, it all depends on your personal preferences and how light you wish to travel. Here is a checklist of ‘must haves’ on your travelling list.
It is essential for digital nomads to stay connected while travelling. Most nomads purchase local SIM cards for their smartphones. Every country is unique; however, in general, it is easy and affordable to buy a prepaid SIM with a sizeable GB of data. Just ensure that your cell phone is not locked still to a home network.
How to insure yourself depends on the country you are travelling to, your duration of stay, and what insurance you have in your home country. Digital nomads usually get travel health insurance and a couple of other insurances which covers their electronic devices.
Business creates a lot of confusion amongst digital nomads. Usually, PayPal and Trasferwise are two of the best means to get paid by your clients. Try to get a debit/credit card which does not charge you any kind of fees for withdrawals and transactions done abroad.
The type of visas that you need depends on the countries you plan to travel to, your duration of stay, and the type of work you wish to do. Usually, digital nomads travel on tourist visas as they are not running a business in the countries that they visit. You must always check the visa regulations before you travel to a foreign country.
4. Staying Motivated
While it may be quite exciting initially to travel while working, seeing new places, meeting new people, eating new cuisines, but eventually it may become exhausting. To ensure that you stay motivated, you must figure out a routine that works best for you. It need not be a 9-5 one, but it is important to have a structure so that it helps you to remain productive and be happy.
One of the best means of staying motivated is to keep the company of like minded people around. Stay connected via social networking platforms such as Facebook Groups, Watsapp Groups, Nomads, Meetup etc.
Now that you have a step by step guide at your disposal hope it will inspire you to find your independent career path to become a digital nomad.
Happy travelling and working!