If the events of the past two years have taught the world one thing, it’s that you don’t have to be tied to the office to earn money.
Remote work has become the norm for millions, who once faced the outright unpleasantness of the daily commute. Elsewhere, millions more have made the decision to break away from conventional employment entirely.
The long and short of it is fairly simple – staying in one place long-term is now largely optional.
With international travel slowly returning to pre-pandemic norms, more people than ever before are considering the digital nomad lifestyle. A concept which, on the surface at least, sounds like the ultimate dream ticket.
You find a way to make money remotely, you travel to stunning locations with ultra-low living costs and you enjoy a fantastic lifestyle. Between 2019 and 2020 alone, the number of people identifying as digital nomads from the US alone increased by almost 50% to 10.9 million.
However, there are advantages and disadvantages to this kind of lifestyle that must be considered carefully. Becoming a digital nomad really is not for everyone, but can be a dream come true for those who make it work.
What is a Digital Nomad?
Definitions differ, but a digital nomad is basically a person with no fixed address who travels as they work remotely. They may be conventionally employed, they may run their own business or they may offer services as a freelancer.
Digital nomads enjoy the freedom to work from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. Some spend their time exploring the world, while others set their sights on a specific target destination.
Oftentimes, a digital nomad will travel to places where their income may be significantly higher than the local average. Thus, even working part time can enable them to live an extremely comfortable lifestyle.
The appeal of becoming a digital nomad is therefore understandable. If you like to travel and have some kind of money making hustle you can take on the road, you’re golden.
At the same time, it’s also a lifestyle that calls for total independence. Romantic relationships, close ties with family, kids of a dependent age – all potential barriers to the digital nomad lifestyle.
But if what matters most in your life is becoming your own boss and seeing as much of the world as you can, it really is an incredible way to live.
How Do I Become a Digital Nomad?
The process of becoming a digital nomad is not quite as simple as packing your laptop and buying a flight ticket. The fewer responsibilities you currently have, the easier it will be to get the show on the road.
For most, however, it is a transition that involves the following tasks among others:
1. Pay Off Debts and Eliminate Expenses
Every penny counts when travelling the world as a digital nomad, as you may encounter times where your income dries up. Consequently, the first thing you need to do is get rid of as many debt and unnecessary expenses as you can.
This means paying off credit card bills, cancelling subscriptions and basically reducing your outgoings to the bare minimum. Think carefully about what you will need to take with you, and get rid of everything else.
You mobile Netflix subscription may seem like a necessity, but that £15 you pay each month could buy you a dozen dinners in some parts of the world.
2. Find a Way to Make Money
Of course, you also need to have some kind of idea as to how you will generate an income. Realistically, you need to already be in a comfortable position with a steady stream of work you can count on. Even if you have considerable savings, they won’t last long with nothing coming in.
Things may be less than ideal at first – you may need to work a full 40+ hours weeks to make enough to get by. But as you progress in your preferred hustle, you could aim to bring this down to 30, 20 or even 15 hours per week.
Or to put it another way, don’t expect the whole thing to be a dream-come-true cakewalk from day one.
3. Ensure You Have a Fallback Fund
This means having enough money set to one side to keep you afloat in the worst case scenario. Your work dries up overnight, your accommodation bills are due and you’re on the other side of the world, with nothing but the clothes in your bag.
Should this happen, it is essential to have enough money available to keep yourself going. This could be sufficient savings to sustain your lifestyle for three months, giving you enough time to find work. Alternatively, it could be money set aside for a flight home and a deposit payment on a rental flat.
You never know what could be around the next corner, which counts double when travelling the world. Political turbulence and economic crises can materialise overnight, leaving many with nothing but the clothes on their back.
4. Get Travel Insurance
Consulting with a broker before applying for insurance comes highly recommended. This is due to the fact that different types of insurance come with different caveats and exclusions. The longer you intend to be away and the more places you plan on visiting, the more comprehensive the coverage you need.
Skipping the whole travel insurance thing is tempting, as covering these kinds of long trips with no fixed itinerary can be costly. But when you consider the potential consequences of finding yourself in a jam without insurance, it really is a small price to pay.
If nothing else, at least cover yourself against the basics and ensure you have adequate health coverage.
5. Join an Online Community
Also advisable before heading out is joining an online community of digital nomads. These are the kinds of forums where you will find invaluable information and insights on places to head, job opportunities to check out and so on.
Members of these communities also regularly arrange meet-ups in countless locations worldwide. A great way to meet interesting people from all backgrounds, who can also help make your digital nomad lifestyle a success.
What Kind of Work to Digital Nomads Do?
Some digital nomads balance online employment with casual work in their target destinations. They do a few jobs during the day online, before working in bars, restaurants and so on to top up their income.
But for those who love to travel, the dream is to pull in enough to fund their lifestyles while leaving as much free time as possible. Working part-time as a digital nomad might seems too good to be true, but is actually quite commonplace.
Generating income is something that can be approached from a variety of angles. There’s also the option of up-skilling as you travel, building new skills and competencies to boost your remote employment prospects.
Typical examples of the kind of work digital nomads take up include content marketing, search engine optimisation, social media marketing, website development and many more besides. Elsewhere, others use their knowledge and experience to establish businesses as paid consultants.
From graphic design to corporate branding to document translations and more, there’s no shortage of opportunities to explore. In all instances, with the potential to pay more than enough to live an enviable lifestyle in some of the world’s most desirable places.
Additional Tips and Guidelines…
Rounding things off, a few additional tips and insights from those who have found success in the digital nomad lifestyle:
- Achieve the right work-life balance. Particularly when getting started, it can be easy to focus too heavily on one side of the coin. Striking the right balance is essential, so as to avoid burning out or burning through your finances prematurely.
- Budget carefully as you go. Careful and consistent money management holds the key to success as a digital nomad. You need to know exactly how much you have coming in, how much you need to cover your costs and how much you can afford to spend at all times.
- Expect technical and logistical problems. Both of which are inevitable, when heading out to the furthest corners of the world. Broken laptops, incompatible power sources, awful wi-fi connections, missed planes, lost reservations – all part and parcel of the experience.
- Always carry a backup. This refers to things like chargers, USB drives and anything you cannot do your job without. Keeping multiple photocopies of your passport, your travel documents and so on is also essential.
- Present a professional image. Some businesses and employers prefer not to work with digital nomads, having concluded they’re unreliable and unprofessional. Your job is to show every client you work for that this couldn’t be further from the case, gradually building the preferences you need to make things happen.
Working while travelling can be the ultimate joy, but you still need to take the work aspects of the whole thing seriously.
It’s just that rather than sitting behind the same boring desk from 9 till 5, a beautiful beach backdrop could become your new cubicle.