How to Become a Digital Nomad
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It's easy to see why so many people are attracted to the life of digital nomads.
Not only have attitudes towards remote workers changed, but new technologies have emerged, making it easier than ever before to work from almost anywhere in the world.
A digital nomad is a new name for remote workers.
They may be entrepreneurs who have set up their own businesses. They may be remote workers employed by an organization or part of the freelance community.
Many bystanders are envious of the so-called freedom that digital nomads have.
Technically they can work from anywhere they want, whether it's from their bed or their couch, or taking their laptop with them as they sit by the ocean.
You may even come across a digital nomad working from a coffee shop or a local library to have a change of scenery.
Increasingly, digital nomads are beginning to take advantage of remote technology to allow them to work around the world.
As a result, they may be combining their work with their love of travel and have the opportunity to explore new cultures and destinations.
Digital nomads can do this because they are entirely in control over their working hours and conditions.
They can set their fees and income levels, manage their training and development, and control their career progression.
They can choose who they want to work with, where they want to work and take complete control over how much they want to work.
Popular industries that heavily feature digital nomads include bloggers, copywriters, virtual assistants, SEO specialists, website designers or developers, bookkeepers and accountants.
Because a digital nomad only needs access to a laptop and a VoIP phone connection, the world of remote working is highly accessible.
There are many reasons why a person may be interested in becoming a digital nomad.
So what are the other benefits that you may be unaware of?
You may find that some days you are more motivated than others. This is entirely normal.
But what if you could pick up your laptop and work somewhere else to spark off new creativity and inspiration?
One of the joys of working as a digital nomad is that you can happily sit in your garden and enjoy the summer sun while still getting on with your work. Equally, you could sit in a local coffee shop or library.
Digital nomads are not tied to a single desk, so why not explore different locations to inspire you and break up the monotony of your working day?
We've all seen images of people on Instagram where people have taken their laptops to the beach.
This is becoming increasingly common as digital nomads realize that they are no longer tied to one specific destination.
As long as they have access to a working WiFi connection, they can work from anywhere they choose.
Some intrepid nomads may take the bold step of sub-letting their home, putting their belongings in storage and taking the opportunity to explore the world, armed with their laptop and their mobile phone!
Hugely popular digital nomad destinations include Mexico, Thailand, Portugal and Spain.
Digital nomads can often be found working in their loungewear, free from the restrictions of office dress codes.
Here's a fun fact:
We've mentioned that they can set their own fees, but they can also focus on the work that interests and excites them.
This gives them a massive advantage in the workplace because they are always professionally challenged.
If a digital nomad is happy with what they do, work becomes far less of a chore. As a result, digital nomads may report that they are professionally satisfied.
As with any job, there are also numerous disadvantages to working as a digital nomad.
Let's start with the obvious. Yes, you control your workload and fees, but what do you plan as a backup if work dries up?
When you work independently as a nomad freelancer, you have to take care of things that your employer may have previously managed on your behalf, such as taxes or health insurance.
In addition, when you work independently, you won't have access to any paid-time-off policies, and you won't have anyone to cover your work if you take a vacation.
This is because you have to manage everything yourself, from the specific job tasks to account management, financing, and even legal contracts.
This means that much of your day can be spent undertaking administrative tasks.
Again, with no access to an IT helpdesk, you will need to take responsibility for your own computer connections, which is fine when all is working well but can be disastrous when your laptop starts to approach its end-of-life, or a cybersecurity attack hits you.
What may be deemed acceptable in your home country may be classed as hugely offensive elsewhere.
Therefore, if you intend to travel, ensure you know how to behave and what etiquette is required upon your arrival.
Working for yourself takes more skills than you may anticipate.
It's not just about being good at the technicalities of your job role. It's about knowing how to run a business independently.
First, let's look at the transferrable skills that are essential to any digital nomad.
You will need to have great people skills and networking capabilities to help you drum up new work.
You will undoubtedly need excellent administrative skills to ensure that you keep on top of your workload and provide each client with the best level of service possible.
You will likely find that you rely on work plans and to-do lists to keep you on track with your workload.
In addition, your communication skills will be vital to working alongside various clients and keeping them updated on the status of different ongoing projects.
This can be especially tricky if you are working with teams across different time zones or different languages.
You will also need to be open-minded and know how to collaborate with others.
Although you are working independently, you will often be brought into internal teams to provide additional resourcing.
Therefore, hitting the ground running and working well with other teams can be crucial to your ongoing success.
Now it's time to consider the technical skills that digital nomads could benefit from.
Digital nomads may benefit from training and development in areas such as basic programming (which will enable you to create or update your own website), graphic design or photography.
However, unlike big businesses, you will not have other departments to rely upon.
Although you can outsource requirements to capable nomad peers, this may quickly eat into your finances.
Therefore, the more proficient you can be in many areas, the more financially advantageous.
If you are looking to upskill yourself, many online learning platforms offer free or low-cost training opportunities.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Digital Nomad in 2023
You have the skills, and you've done your research.
As a result, you believe you know what to expect from the world of remote workers, and you're ready to join the freelance community as a digital nomad.
Here is a handy step-by-step guide to help you become a digital nomad in 2021.
Before you hand in your notice, it's wise to consider the financial implications of working as a remote nomad.
Yes, it can be lucrative, but you need to have clients in place as you start out.
If you intend to have a nomadic lifestyle traveling worldwide, consider how you plan to afford your travel costs and accommodation.
If you are not living at home, hotels can become expensive, and you may also need to rely on public transport.
In addition, your travel costs will quickly eat into your income stream, so you need to focus on traveling to places with affordable living costs.
Setting up as a digital nomad may require an initial investment.
You may need a decent laptop and a VoIP phone contract. Think carefully about what equipment you need and try to buy the best that you can afford.
If you will be working from home, do you need a new desk or a suitable office chair?
From now on, you are responsible for any replacements, so you need to think long-term about the most affordable and long-lasting solution.
Another point to consider is that much of your time could be spent chasing clients for payments.
Therefore, to ease the financial burden, you should try to have a safety net to ensure that you can continue to make any repayments and living costs.
Top tip: If you plan on traveling around, make sure that you have a contingency in place that will allow you the funds to return home in the event of an emergency. For example, you may wish to leave $2,000–$3,000 in a separate bank account that you can use for emergency use only.
One of the most challenging elements of remote working is knowing how to generate your income. In an ideal world, you will benefit from a passive income.
This is a steady income stream that requires minimum effort for maximum revenue.
It's why many influencers and brand ambassadors monetize their blogs and their social media channels.
It means that they can enjoy a nomadic lifestyle, traveling worldwide knowing that their income remains protected.
If you're considering a remote working career, you need to know the best places to network – either in-person or online.
How can you make the most of your existing contacts to generate new work?
We have previously written about some great job boards for freelancers and remote workers, which are worth exploring. You should also read our tips on how to get noticed on sites such as LinkedIn.
Top tip: If you want to generate new clients while working abroad, are your language skills up to scratch? You need to be confident that you will be fluent in other languages to create new work.
Before you take the plunge, try to get some advice from fellow nomads.
The freelance community is exceptionally welcoming, and you will find that many people will offer to share advice and information with you.
Setting up as a digital nomad isn't just about finding desk space in your home or heading to the local library.
It's not even about hopping onto a plane with your laptop in your hand luggage.
There will be various insurance policies that you will need and tax and legal implications to consider.
If you are starting a business in the US, then it needs to be formally registered. You may wish to speak to an accountant or a tax expert to ensure that everything is set up correctly.
If you are attracted to a nomadic lifestyle because you want to combine your work with a love of travel, it's essential to consider the tax and legal implications.
If you live and work in another country, you may be required to pay local taxes or require a specific visa.
Some countries such as Estonia, Barbados and Croatia have developed specific digital nomad visas designed with the needs of remote workers in mind.
Please remember that when it comes to tax and legal implications, these are hugely complex areas, so you should always seek qualified advice – it is not worth taking an unnecessary risk.
Top tip: Another consideration when working as a nomad and traveling to different destinations is how you will access your mail. Although most communication takes place digitally, you may still receive postal mail. Services such as Earth Class Mail can be an effective tool to enable you to access your mail wherever you are in the world.
You will also need to consider your banking requirements.
As a digital nomad, you are officially running your own company. Your income must not be mixed up with your personal spending.
You will need to set aside a proportion for tax, insurance, replacement equipment, office space, WiFi costs, student loans, healthcare insurance, etc.
You will also need to set aside some income for a rainy day to cover you if your workstream dries up.
You may find it beneficial to invest in a comprehensive VoIP phone system that allows you to have one singular phone number whether you are working abroad or in your local coffee shop.
Top tip: The 30:30:30 rule could be a helpful guide – set aside a third of your income for tax, a third for savings and a third for your personal spending/living costs.
You may be surprised by how many people kickstart their freelancing careers in areas where they may not be as proficient as they could be.
The advantage of digital nomads is that this is a workforce who can control their workloads, so make sure that you think carefully about your skills.
You need to be honest with yourself about what your strengths are and whether that is an area that can be monetized.
Working as a digital nomad can be lonely. After all, you are working independently with no one to chat around the water cooler with.
If you are traveling simultaneously, it can feel even lonelier if you do not have your family and friends nearby.
To make the most of your traveling experience, don't feel pressured into rushing to new destinations.
Instead, take the time to get to know particular areas before you move on.
You may be surprised by how many lifelong friends you make and how much your work changes as you learn more about new cultures and new experiences.
Top tip: The longer you spend in a single destination, the easier it will be to develop an excellent work-life balance.
When you work with a team of like-minded professionals, you will pick up new skills and ideas from your peers.
However, working as a digital nomad can be lonely and isolating.
The longer you work independently at home, the less you will learn from others. Therefore, you must pay close attention to your continual professional development.
You will no longer have an HR team who can proactively monitor this on your behalf. And you won't have a line manager to provide a performance review.
So, it would help if you took responsibility for upskilling yourself. This could be about further training and development. It could be online training opportunities.
You could read journals and trade publications. You could attend conferences and workshops.
An advantage of traveling worldwide is that it allows you to learn from other cultures and experiences.
In addition, if you are working in a creative role, these experiences can strengthen and enhance your skills because you could be approaching jobs from different perspectives.
Finally, you must pay close attention to your security. Without an internal IT department to protect you from phishing scams and hacking attempts, it can be easy to fall for a malicious email.
In addition, as a freelancer, you must always be careful about how you store your data and documentation.
For example, you should back up your work into the Cloud to avoid losing critical documents, and you should aim to change your passwords regularly.
It may be easy to rely on public WiFi networks.
Still, the reality is that they are not secure, and someone could easily access your corporate and private data – from emails and contact details through to bank account information.
Top tip: You can improve your online security by purchasing a VPN which is a virtual private network. This will strengthen your resilience and protect your information, whether traveling the world or heading out to work from your nearest library. Companies such as Tunnel Bear offer low-cost VPNs, which are ideal for digital nomads
Working as a digital nomad can be an excellent way of taking control over your own life and your career.
There are many options available across many sectors, and the changing technology makes it more accessible than ever before.
However, working as a freelancer is challenging work – possibly even more so if you choose to travel while working.
So, while the benefits are enormous, there are many drawbacks, and it's a lifestyle that's not necessarily suited to everyone.
This article should give an insight into how to become a remote worker, whether you choose to work from your own home or travel the world.