Digital nomads are popularizing a workforce trend based on online jobs. These groups are redefining how people work while driving the growth of coworking and co-living spaces.
Numerous information sites have sprung up with resources aimed at digital nomads and travelers in general.
The statistics on the number of digital nomads varies since the concept is yet to be fully defined. How often, for example, does someone have to move around to be considered a digital nomad?
MBO partners undertook a study in 2018 and found that 4.8 million Americans identify themselves as digital nomads.
What is a Digital Nomad?
Digital nomads are grouped as remote workers who rely on telecommunication to work while traveling. They are mostly younger people who are engaged in the knowledge economy, which is industries like IT, media, accounting, design, content marketing, writing, software development, and transcription.
The nomads make up quite a diverse group from various countries in the world
Some digital nomads source several jobs from different clients, while others have contracts with clients and work for billable hours. Nomads only need an internet connection and a laptop to work from any part of the continent.
Become a Digital Nomad in 7 Easy Steps
Perhaps the biggest misconception with remote work is that it happens overnight. It is, however, not as easy as buying a ticket and arriving at your destination full of optimism.
The lifestyle will need some adaption on your end, and it will be inconvenient for a while.
Step 1: Save Money and Reduce Cost
You need to free up as much money as you can to kickstart the nomadic lifestyle. Do away with subscriptions that you will not need while you are on the road, including gym memberships and some streaming services.
It is also a good idea to pay off all your local debt before embarking on the journey. You do not want to keep worrying about all the debt you left behind as they can stress you out.
Most digital nomads will advise you to look for areas where you can downsize expenses. Try to cook at home and forego that daily cup of Starbucks of coffee.
Now that you are on a budget, you need to save up money for at least the first six months. Estimate the ticket prices to your preferred destination, and add it to visa, insurance equipment, and visa costs.
You need to calculate the amount of money that will cover transportation, internet, coworking, food, and other expenses in your destination for the six months. In addition to these costs, include emergency costs for unforeseeable events.
Another common way of freeing up some money is selling items you no longer need. There are numerous second-hand apps like Wallapop where you can put items up for sale.
Step 2: Identify Your Skills and Learn New Ones
The first thing to ask yourself when considering a nomadic lifestyle is the work that you are capable of delivering online and from anywhere. Identify the knowledge you have, scope the internet, and determine how you can deliver it as an online package.
If you make creative items like jewelry, clothing, craft supplies, and wedding accessories, you can sell them through platforms like Etsy. Some websites also sell drawings and photos from artists.
Skills like coding, game design, animation, and graphic design can be easily monetized online. Other digital nomads have made money by creating videos for clients and themselves.
The idea is to find something you are good at and sell it as a package. If you know multiple languages, for example, you can look for opportunities as a translator. Businesses increasingly need writers, editors, and content creators.
Another marketable venture is consulting. Think about the skills you have accumulated over the years and whether they can help other businesses grow. Areas like e-commerce, marketing, customer relationships, security are especially popular.
Build a portfolio around your areas of expertise with a specific industry in mind. You can also create and sell online courses on platforms like Teachable. If you have a teaching job, take the instruction to platforms like Udemy and Skillshare.
There are numerous courses online, both free and paid, that will help you gain the skills you need to become a digital nomad.
Platforms like CreativeLive, Skillshare, Codecademy, and Udemy have resources on online advertising, SEO, social media marketing, internet research, app development, and E-commerce. You can also learn valuable insight into creative ventures like blogging from YouTube and other sharing apps.
Step 3: Become a Freelancer
Most digital nomads opt to become freelancers since it has low barriers of entry. After you identify and learn digital skills, the next step is finding clients.
The first step is expanding your network by reaching out to the people around you and describing the kind of projects you are looking for. You want to gain experience, referees, and contacts, and it can even mean doing some tasks without payment. If you know of a startup, for example, you can offer to design their logos.
The growing number of digital nomads has led to the growth of many freelancing websites, including Fiverr, PeoplePerHour, and Upwork. Most of these established platforms are quite competitive, and it can be hard for a beginner to navigate. There are also niche websites for specific digital skills. Job boards like We Work Remotely often list jobs for freelancers.
The primary hurdle with freelancing is that you are your own brand. The task of marketing your brand, therefore, lies with you. When creating your portfolio on freelancing websites, including links to some of your best work. You want to show any potential client that you are the best person for the job.
When it comes to marketing your brand, leverage the exposure that social media platforms offer. Join relevant groups on Facebook, for example, and become an active participant.
Do the same thing on Quora, Twitter, Instagram, and Meetup. Fill out a complete profile on LinkedIn and scope out potential clients.
Another strategy you can use to get a foot firmly in the door with freelancing is to get a mentor. Reach out to someone who is more advanced in your field, as they could direct a client to you.
Digital nomads often struggle with how to price and schedule work. You need an hourly rate, especially if you are going to work on billable hours. You can first determine how much freelancers in your field are charging by asking people you know.
Check the open accepted bids on the freelance websites you have joined. You may need to set lower rates to get the first client, and before you gain a lot of experience.
When setting your rates, determine your break-even point, and ensure you do not work below it for a substantial amount of time. You need to cover all your expenses, and you can negotiate with potential clients to get favorable terms.
There are many apps and resources you can use to schedule work. Apps like Toggl help you track working time and map progress. You will mostly rely on Skype and Email for communication so ensure you have reliable internet connectivity.
Step 4: Join a Digital Nomad Community
You will need to connect and network with like-minded adventurers like yourself. Most digital nomads cite loneliness as one disadvantage of the lifestyle, given that it can get lonely to travel to new destinations by yourself.
Nomad communities offer numerous benefits for their members. The chances are that there are digital nomads in the destination you want to go to who can advise you on the most affordable accommodations and restaurants. Additional advice will include the spots with the best internet and sights to visit around the area.
When turning your freelance hustle into a career, you will have tons of questions that only seasoned individuals can answer. How do you, for example, report your revenue for tax purposes?
They will also tell you the tried-and-tested methods of getting clients. People in these communities often work together and collaborate on various projects. If you run a travel blog, for example, you can feature some travelers that you meet on the road as well.
Digital communities can either be online or offline. Coworking spaces have become one way of sharing workspaces among digital nomads. These spaces will be organized like a real office, and you can hire spaces or meeting rooms, and enjoy services like internet connectivity and office equipment.
Co-living spaces are popular among digital nomads who intend to save on accommodation costs. They can consist of anything from dorm rooms to apartments.
You can also join digital nomad communities online, especially if you want still undecided about the locations you want to visit. Nomad List is a popular tool to discover the best cities to live and work. For a membership fee of 199 USD, you get free access to coworking facilities around the world and can interact with other nomads.
The Digital Nomad Community is a networking platform where you get access to internships and jobs. Popular digital nomad apps include Nomadbase. There are also numerous digital communities on Facebook, some of which cater to a specific area like the “Bali Digital Nomads.”
Remote workers also organize meetups through Meetup, where they engage in similar interests and activities.
Step 5: Pick Your First Destination
Once you setup an income stream, it is time to pick your first destination. Deciding on the first pit-spot can be overwhelming, mainly because the options are limitless. Do not overthink the decision, however, because you can always leave and seek another place now that you are a digital nomad.
Most beginner nomads start by identifying the cost of living in the various places they want to go to. Ensure you can cover accommodation, food, transport, internet, and entertainment for some months in your city of choice.
Some destinations like Chiang Mai have established themselves as nomad hubs if you want to be surrounded by like-minded people. The most common destinations include:
Instagram recognized Bali as the most popular destination for digital nomads in 2018. Its attractive offerings include impressive internet connectivity, numerous workspaces, and limitless opportunities for social interactions.
Bali is also very cost-effective, and you can get accommodation for as little as $20 per night. The monthly living expenses in Canggu, Bali, are $1,011 per month, according to Nomad List.
Lisbon is recognized for being expat-friendly and safe for foreigners. This capital of Portugal is among the most popular destinations among digital nomads headed to Europe. The city enjoys sunshine all year, and it is littered with creative cafes and coworking spaces.
When it comes to living costs, Lisbon is quite affordable when compared to other popular European cities. You can find apartments on Airbnb for $55 a night off-season, and up to $90 during peak season. Internet connectivity is available in apartments and cafes in the city.
– Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is often recommended to beginner digital nomads, thanks to numerous social networking groups popularizing the hub. In addition to getting information on places to eat and live, you will also be notified of seminars, workshops, and other meetups.
The low cost of living and the pleasant temperatures, in addition to the numerous historical temples and sites, also make Chiang Mai a popular destination.
– Mexico City
Mexico City has an attractive cost of living that is lower than that of Europe and the US. Most visitors congregate in Condesa, Roma, and Colonias, where the average rent ranges from $500 to $900 a month.
These areas are also close to the various attractions in the city. The presence of Airbnb means that you can get unique spots in electrifying neighborhoods.
Most nomads use Uber to travel around, and Wi-Fi is available in most businesses and café.
Other popular destinations include Medellin, Colombia; Koh Lanta, Thailand; Taipei, Taiwan; Prague, Czech Republic.
Step 6: Work, Network & Have Fun
Once you are settled in your first destination, it is time to create a suitable work and play balance.
Digital nomad hubs will often be characterized by countless cafes where you can meet people and share experiences. You can start here to get a feel of the local environment and get advice on the sites to visit.
The flexibility that you get with your time will enable you to immerse yourself in the local culture and visit various attractions. You can schedule your work to get long weekends, or you can even break away mid-week for short trips.
Other digital nomads take the time to learn the languages around them, which can be an enriching experience.
Most remote workers struggle with creating a work-life balance when they are on the road. It can be tempting to indulge in adventure activities at your dream destination instead of sitting down and being stuck with work. The longer you procrastinate on work-related activities, however, the more time you will have to cut back on fun activities in the long run.
Set small goals to achieve every day to be able to manage your time effectively. The best strategy is to finish up with work early on in the day and free your evening for interactions and meetups. This is where a time-tracking app comes in handy in avoiding distractions. Automate a large portion of your business and establish contact hours with your clients.
Step 7: Find New Destinations & Ways to Make Money
Resources like NomadList keep updating their databases on the best places to live for digital nomads, mostly based on living standards. You will often have to consider factors like weather, security, internet, and visa requirements.
Aside from these considerations, you also want the opportunity to visit your dream cities and countries. With social media, there will always be photos, videos, and articles popping up on various destinations. Your friends and other nomads can also point out some destinations that will get you excited.
Once you get seasoned in the lifestyle, you will want to explore less-popular cities. Courage is needed in such cases, and you will even go at it solo with the hope of encountering people who speak your language at the destination.
As a digital nomad, you will encounter challenges that contribute to your personal growth, and you should welcome them with open arms.
As you travel more, new opportunities for making money will come up. You may start posting photos and videos online, and discover that you can grow a travel blog. The skills you accumulate along the way will also contribute to money-making ventures.
The digital nomad has been incredibly glamourized on social media, and the well-curated accounts of sandy beaches, turquoise blue water, and exotic foods make the lifestyle look easy. The behind-the-scenes, however, involve budgets, planning, networking, and learning new skills.
Most people think that they do not have digital skills, but all you have to do is package the knowledge you have and sell it online. There are numerous digital nomad communities where you can get resources on how to start the journey.
You will also get to know the best destinations based on affordability, internet connectivity, infrastructure, and safety.