How can you become a successful digital nomad in 2020 and enjoy traveling while working? That’s the question we posted on the journalism sites we belong to, putting out this query:
Looking to hear from at least moderately successful digital nomads who can share tips/advice for 9-to-5ers who are tired of their job and yearn for a digital nomad lifestyle, but have yet to earn anything online. How should you make the move, and what should you have prepared/achieved before moving to a digital nomad lifestyle? Your submission will be published in a piece intended to help and inspire people who want to be digital nomads.
We’re still collecting valuable input on this topic, so if you’ve lived a digital nomad lifestyle (successfully), please make a submission here and we’ll add it. So far, we’ve heard some sage advice from different digital nomads, and I recommend having a read through these if you’re considering trying a digital nomad lifestyle.
Before you switch to the digital nomad lifestyle, you need to make sure that this is sustainable for you and your future. Yes, it is great, but when times get tough, such as right now when there is a pandemic which is affecting everyone around the world, you can be in a downward spiral. Ensure your finances are calculated, the the penny when you look at switching up your lifestyle, if you have savings, great! Use that money to build up your digital footprint and get your name out there. For some, this may not be an option, but it doesn't mean that there aren't companies out there that are in need of help digitally, the biggest benefit of being a digital nomad is that you only need a device with an internet connection to get to work. Don't let a time like this limit what you can do, if anything, this is a perfect time to get some experience, even if voluntary. Good luck!
--Will Hatton, The Broke Backpacker
The digital nomad life will mean different things to different people, and it's important to work out what it is you want. Some will want to simply move around locally and use commercial / public facilities like libraries and coffee shops.
In that case, I found it useful to create a timetable of where I was going to base for the week ahead, as this schedule kept me focused and productive. It's also very valuable to get out of your home and draw a clear line between your work responsibilities and social life.
There are a lot of people in my network who also make use of the geoarbitrage approach to sustaining themselves, particularly during the early stages of a new business when profits are low and costs can be higher.
In essence, this involves generating a relatively high income in one market, while living in a country with lower overheads. It's a very good option for those who have yet to put roots down and start families, and have a great deal of flexibility. Your start-up budget will go a lot further this way, although it requires a very different mindset.
Whether you're working in a home office or staying on the move, the same advice applies. Plan, build, and prepare as much as you can before making the leap. It's harder to do the fiddlier parts of business set up while you're mobile, and it's worth laying as much of the groundwork as you can before making the leap.
--John Bedford, VivaFlavor
Make sure you've enough to live on for at least 12 months before starting, and that your online earnings are near, if not more than what your current employment is.
The reason for this Is because online business can change very quickly.
For example, I've had google make an algorithm change, and my earnings went from over £1000 a month on a website that got affected down to basically zero overnight. No warning. No nothing.
A very recent example of how quickly things can change is Amazon associates has just decided, with only a weeks notice, that they're going to cut the commissions in basically all of their popular categories by half or more in most instances.
This is why I always would recommend the advice above. This way if you're online earnings take a drastic, unaccepted tumble downhill; you've got a minimin of 12 months savings to live of which should give you enough breathing room to asses what has happened and enough time to recover.
--Rob J Thom, Bestist.co.uk
I've been working remotely for about 5 years now. I started while I was in the corporate world, then moved to being a consultant and then switched to a completely different career. My advice would be to start small and don't do any dramatic moves unless you feel a very deep urge to do so. I quit my corpo job one day totally out of the blue and never regretted it, but that's a sport for the brave 😉
Everything depends on whether you love what you do or not. If you do - then start simply searching for similar jobs available remotely. I'm thinking because of COVID the world will shift that way and it will be much easier to find a remote job. I actually got a better position as a consultant than the one I was handling as an employee - it was finally exactly what I wanted to do.
So take time to verify what is it that you want to DO. Not just the kind of lifestyle you want to have, but what will keep you motivated every single day. This is a shift, so use this change to make improvements in your career, not to give up on things.
If, on the other hand, you find out your career is no longer a match for you, then I would devote a substantial amount of time figuring out what you truly want. Or for starters, you can choose something completely different to what you have been doing, like a job at a local restaurant. This will open your mind, get you out of that office mindset, and allow you to find out what it is that you want. It worked miracles for me - I am an IT engineer, I was a manager, I quit my high paying job and got hired as a cook's help in a small dumplings place. After a few months, I got a consulting job which I enjoyed, back in IT. Out of the blue, I got fired from that job and that's when it hit me, I didn't want to work in IT anymore. I took up another career - as an online confidence coach, which brings me lots of joy and energy.
Listen to your heart and follow it. This is CRUCIAL because when you work remotely, there is no team to motivate you, sometimes there are no deadlines, and time can just melt between your fingers, leaving you broke and unhappy. So make sure that what you pick as a job speaks to your soul, that when you do it - you are in the zone, the world ceases to exist - then you won't have issues with motivation and your customers will love you.
--Alex Tomaszewska, alextomaszewska.com
The first and most important thing when moving from 9-to-5 lifestyle to being a digital nomad is to start dedicating some time to the process. Even if you don't know exactly what you want to do, try to spend at least a few hours per week looking for opportunities that could work for you. When you find something interesting, look deeper into it, and start developing the skills related to that area.
Keep your current job and try to make time for developing sidelines that you will grow over time. At the same time, it's a good idea to cut your daily living costs to minimum and start saving some money. When your sidelines are producing the minimum income that you need for living, you are ready to quit your job.
One great option is to start a blog. Think about something you're passionate about and start learning how to build a website. You can find a lot of free information and there are plenty of tools that are easy to use, so you don't have to be a tech wizard to do this. It might take a while to start earning money, but if you create a successful website, it will continue generating passive income even if you don't constantly develop it.
Another great thing about creating a website is, that you will acquire a set of new skills. You will learn SEO (search engine optimization), website design and implementation, as well as content creation. These are all great skills that you can use when looking for work as a freelancer.
Use the skills that you have and look for gigs on sites like Fiverr and Upwork. Do your job well, and you will find clients who offer work on a regular basis
If you own a house or an apartment, it's a good idea to sell it or rent it out. Consider moving abroad to a country where the cost of living is low, but the infrastructure is on a decent level. For example, in Europe countries such as Portugal, Hungary, and Czech Republik, offer very affordable living. Southeast Asia is full of countries where you can live very comfortably with 500 dollars per month.
Okay, so now you have calculated your minimum monthly cost of living, found someone who wants to rent or buy your apartment, and saved up a nice amount of money. This means you're ready to start your journey as a digital nomad. If you have some unexpected costs or months with low income, it's not a problem since you can use some of the savings. Over time you will grow your skills and start earning more money so you can start saving up again.
--Joonas Jokiniemi, Grill Smoke Love
My 3 pieces of advice:
1. *Read Tim Ferriss 4-hour-work-week*. It was written in 2007, but still offers very relevant advice on how to start becoming location independent. Many DNs refer to it as The digital nomads Bible.
2. *Research the downsides.* Apart from all the upsides, being a digital nomad does have numerous downsides. These include loneliness, distance from friends and family, missing the feeling of belonging somewhere, lack of income and a few more. Be realistic about what to expect from your newly-chosen lifestyle. Research articles why people have quit the digital nomad lifestyle - there are plenty of them. Honestly ask yourself whether you're cut out for a life on the road or whether you need that 9-to-5 routine.
It's nothing wrong with staying home working 9-to-5. It's nothing wrong with becoming a digital nomad, either. It's up to your personal preference.
If unsure, take my credo: In 10 years' time we'll only regret the things you have not done. So if you're 50/50: Go give it a shot. You have absolutely nothing to lose, since you can come back home anytime.
3. *Go do it.* Don't get stuck in the dreaming and planning phase. Build yourself a website (or outsource it for a few hundred dollars) or sign up to freelancer portals like Freelancer, UpWork or Fiverr. Make money online before you quit your job and leave everything behind.
I once read preparing to be a digital nomad kills the story. And yes, it's way more exciting to hear that story of that gal who just didn't go back to work one day and now lives the luxury life in some villa on Bali..
That's why I gave advice #2. This story happens as rarely as a musician becoming a rock star or a boy who plays football becoming a professional.. It does happen, but rarely. And for everyone who makes it, there are literally millions of people who didn't make it.
You're way better off having a basic online income before quitting your job and moving overseas. You may not have that incredible story to tell. But you're much better prepared to not become one of those millions of people who dreamed of becoming a digital nomad and returned home broke after their first month overseas.
--Chris Kaiser, Click A Tree
The first step to achieving a successful digital nomad lifestyle is the mental consolidation that there is yet space for you at the top even in an enormously competitive industry. Come on, the statistics could be alarming at first. There are over 430,000 e-commerce companies in the US alone, where would you fit in?
You have got to shrug this doubt off by fixating on the massive opportunities out there to be fished by even newcomers.
Next is the space for specialization. You can have a marvelous IQ of 300 and a tremendous Jack-of-all-trade, but trust me, the digital business space is the worst place for versatility.
If you are coming in, your best chances of penetrating the top percentile and taking a giant slice of the digital cake in your industry for yourself is investing all your strength is a very precise and streamlined niche if possible.
A generic approach or jumping on the bandwagon and doing it just like everyone else is a sure time-killer.
Do you want to build a fashion website? Well, that is cool but that maybe too generic if you want to stop on the surface and talk about a million and one things in an encompassing world of fashion.
How about diving deeper and focusing on something as streamlined as summer sneakers for females?
Don’t concentrate too much on the volume of audience you could have.. A slice as small as 0.01% of your industry for those keywords can fetch you a crazy fortune.
--Michael D.Brown, themichaeldbrown.com
I moved into the digital nomad lifestyle at a gradual pace and I suggest the same path for anyone who asks. I blog full-time at the moment but began my journey as a freelance writer while also working full time.
While stories about quitting your job overnight and buying an oneway ticket to Mexico sound awesome they are also very likely editing out some important details.
- If you want to travel full-time as a nomad, I would suggest getting some experience as a virtual assistant or freelance writer. This will allow you to work with people like bloggers, podcasters, and anyone who has taken their career out of the office which means you learn the ropes before you take the leap.
- Being wary of opportunities that sound too good to be true and not rushing into things is SO important when you are on this journey. Working from home sounds amazing and there are thousands of people trying to sell you that dream with some of those people being extremely unrealistic about the way you can get there.
- I would also suggest treating this like any other job, you may need to get the necessary qualifications to make yourself stand out. For freelance writers, proofreaders, virtual assistants, and website designers there are tons of online courses available that could teach you the ropes and give you a qualification you can flaunt. Another plus is they are super affordable.
--Freya Kuka, Collecting Cents
*How should you make the move, and what should you have prepared/achieved before moving to a digital nomad lifestyle?*
*Try to take your current job remote* - The easiest way to become a digital nomad that doesn't get talked about enough is converting your current position into a remote position. Finding a remote position or building a remote business is certainly doable but can take time. Instead, talk to your boss about working remotely. Start just as a work-from-home arrangement and then gradually work toward becoming a nomad. It's much easier to go little-by-little instead of going from a traditional job to working remotely from somewhere in Asia!
*Diversify your income* - There are a lot of things that are outside of your control when you live a digital nomad lifestyle. When you're dependent on a single income stream or single client for the majority of your income you're most vulnerable to this. You need to be constantly working to diversify your income streams. The more diverse you are the easier you'll be able to weather any unexpected changes (like COVID shutting down the world economy) without having to return to your home country.
*Have an emergency fund* - Have an income stream that covers your month-to-month expenses isn't enough if you want to be a long-term digital nomad. Many nomads are barely scraping by and it take one unexpected event, even something as small as a minor illness, that ruins them financially and sends them back to their home country. An emergency fund of at least 3 months of expenses plus the cost of returning home is the minimum of what you want. The last thing you want is to be broke and stranded in a foreign country.
*Don't burn any bridges* - The world is getting smaller every day and the relationships you form or break will follow you for a long time, especially your professional relationships. Whether you're leaving a job in your home country, ending a remote gig, or letting a client go you need to treat your relationships with care. Having a great reputation is essential for finding remote work and it's much easier to tarnish your reputation than build it up. If you do all you reasonably can to maintain strong working relationships and a solid reputation it is going to be MUCH easier to maintain an enjoyable digital nomad lifestyle.
--Adam Sanders, Successful Release
In my opinion, there are three ways to become a Digital Nomad:
1. Get a remote job - a steady job with a company with regular hours that allows you to work wherever you want
2. Go freelance - become your own boss and work on freelance contract for a number of companies
3. Start your own business - start an online store, or affiliate site
My own path started working in marketing for a local company for a number of years. I then took a 6 month internship in Bali, Indonesia. This was very useful for me as I was surrounded by other travelers who taught me about visas, how to travel, health insurance and how everything works in Bali. I just stumbled across this role on the internet, and it turned out to be perfect for me. This is one of the key parts, when an opportunity arises, you have to take it. If you want to become a Digital Nomad, there is no perfect moment. At some point, you just need to take the leap.
At the end of my internship, I went freelance. I had two steady clients where I was able to work 4 hours per day and earn more than I could in a permanent role. It was a really good position to be in and I was enjoying life. I found the initial client on Upwork. The second client was from networking.
However, an opportunity came up for me to get a job where I could learn a lot. It was a job with a guaranteed salary and guaranteed hours. It was more stable but still allowed me travel and be wherever I wanted. At the same time, I was able to work with and learn from very successful people in their field. I worked for this company for a year, and was able to travel from Bali to the UK, Hungary, the US, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Venezuela in this time.
At the end of the year, I decided again that I would like to go freelance, work fewer hours for other people and work more on my own projects. I had just moved to Thailand, and was working with two clients. One client had messaged me through LinkedIn based on other work I had completed and for the other client, a former colleague had passed them my way. These clients allowed me to charge a hire hourly rate as a consultant and focus on my own projects. I was doing this for around 3 months when I found the opportunity to work with RunRepeat, where I work now.
RunRepeat was a company I was aware of and did work I was very interested in. It was also in a field that I really wanted to work in — sports.. So, I gave up my existing projects and came to work for RunRepeat where I’ve been working for the past 18 months or so. I this time I’ve lived and worked in Vietnam, Cambodia and Spain.
For me, the most important thing is to take that leap. There are a million ways to make money online. For me, the most stable way is to find a company that allows remote workers or is 100% remote. It allows you a guaranteed income and provides a source of stability that a lot of Digital Nomads do not have.
--Danny McLoughlin, RunRepeat.com
1. First, life on the road is by no means glamorous like the Instagram kids show you. In fact, the one thing I warn people with when they are seriously considering it as a way of life is they will need to have strong self-management skills. You will need to know yourself really well: what your needs are, what your priorities are, and most importantly, what to do when things go wrong (because they absolutely will). I've had everything go wrong from getting equipment stolen, getting sick or having medical emergencies (you need to know how to go to a hospital in another country!), delayed and canceled flights, getting stuck in hurricanes and earthquakes, and other unplanned events. Always have a backup plan, have emergency contacts, and know how to handle situations when everything and anything goes wrong.
Becoming a digital nomad is not always easy if you come with the mindset that this is going to be an extended vacation full of fun and easy times. There is that aspect, but good times actually require a lot of work. In fact, you actually need to work harder to maintain the lifestyle because there is a lot of planning involved, but once you get the basics down, it'll be smooth sailing.
2. Consider what kind of work schedule you want. This is especially true if you have an employer who expects you to be working a designated schedule. Potential nomads need to consider this before taking a job with an employer or client. If your priority is to have flexible work hours so you can manage your own time, freelancing is the most obvious choice for this, or make sure your potential employer is ok with this. When you're traveling and working at the same time, it's important to continue to maintain your value as an employee. Getting distracted and turning in subpar work will only undermine your lifestyle.
3. Good internet is not freely available everywhere. In more developed countries, internet access will be easy to find. However, if you're traveling to countries that aren't as developed, be prepared for slow or spotty wifi (even in places with available wifi, check the wifi speeds). It's an expected part of traveling that can be a major inconvenience and prevent you from working if you haven't prepared a solution.
--Marissa Owens, Opportunity Business Loans
So just what are some of the reasons that the modern global expat community is now so progressive? Apart the entrepreneurial spirit there are a number of other factors to consider. You could be starting afresh, you’ve got a clean slate to do things differently, try out new ways of doing old things. You need that adventurous spirit to make new contacts, you need to get networking. You also need to keep an open mind about the best way to successfully solve possible problems, and this approach helps you to learn and become more adaptable.
The opportunity of cross-cultural connections often causes you to think in a different way, more creatively. It allows new ideas to flourish and come to life. Expats and digital nomads are constantly exposed to products and services that they have never tried before, causing them to think about how these things would translate to their home countries’ markets. And, clearly, this can work just as well the other way – there may be a particular product or service that does not yet exist in your new country of residence; a great business opportunity and a chance for progress! This brings us the possibility of emerging markets. A digital nomad has the opportunity to help both their country of origin and the one they reside in, by being one of the first to introduce a service or product to a new market, perhaps even helping that country to progress. So yes, modern expats and digital nomads really are the ambassadors of progress if they want to be, and, of course, who wouldn’t want to be?
--Lodewijk Cuypers, Globexs
I think many of us may love our work and are committed to it and/or committed to our clients but given our druthers, there is a worldwide undercurrent of people who wish they could fill that time with other things we love to do even more.
Being in foreign lands. Crossing the next border. The thrill of ordering a meal from a server who doesn’t speak your language from a menu you can’t read and ending up loving (or hating) what you get. Some of us can’t seem to get enough of that whole shebang.
But crossing borders takes money. Eating takes money. Hostels take money. So too do sim cards, accidents, family maintenance trips, and the occasional libation. So we lug around a few pounds of electronics more than we would like in order to turn ones and zeros into fuel for our current and next adventures.
I’ve been on the road for more than a few years. I’ve moved from town to town every three to five days for more than a year at a time and let me tell you, that’s not an easy work lifestyle. Don’t expect to satisfy a bunch of clients while traveling like that. I’ve also rented apartments for a year and longer at a time. That satisfies the desire for travel and the need for working but you’re not going to get to everywhere on the planet your heart desires like that, either.
The longer you stay in one place, the more you can drive down your expenses and the easier it is to take care of business. The more you move, the more expensive things are and the less time you have to care for clients. A month’s stay at any particular place is a fair balance and since you usually have to deal with visas every 30 days anyway, it’s not a bad routine to get into. Its easy enough to live on a budget of $1000 per month (travel, room, and board) so long as your not trying to do it anywhere in the west.
If you can hit the road with some amount of steady money coming in and you know how to live on the cheap, the less money you’ll need to have saved before you hit the road. To give yourself a fair shot at deciding whether or not you like the digital nomad lifestyle, think about what you need to stick it out for at least six months. By that time, you’re going to know whether you like it or not, and if not, you’ll be able to look back and say you were a digital nomad for a while and you learned a lot about life that you wouldn’t have otherwise because of it.
--Chris Menke, metapilot.com
Being a digital nomad has its pros and cons, just like with any other job. Quitting the standard 9-to-5 work day is a big step and it can be really stressful. Before embarking on a whole new lifestyle, first consider whether it’s not all about just being tired from your usual job and simply need a break. Sometimes even a week off can clear the mind. If, however, you are convinced that the life of a digital nomad is what you have dreamt of, then it’s time to take action.
Your main field of activity. Start with deciding on what it is that deeply excites you, the thing that ignites the spark in you and that you would like to specialize in. And be honest with yourself! Are you really that good so as to succeed?
Be reasonable! In case you are going to do it all on your own and aim at becoming an Internet entrepreneur, make sure you have enough funds to live on for a year (at least!), keeping your normal lifestyle and being able to pay your bills and cover your new business start-up expenses. It is very likely that significant income from your new work will not start flowing in from the very first months. Sometimes it can take even a whole year to get profits from the new business. So, make sure to secure enough money for this transition period, either from your personal savings or borrowing from a friend of family. Getting a loan from a bank would be a bit too risky at this stage.
It would perhaps be wise if you could find a job with a company that would allow more remote work hours. This may greatly help your budget, while you can benefit from the main advantage such kind of a job provides - the freedom to organize time better and balance between the paid job and your own new business.
Consider the competition! Unless you have discovered something totally and amazingly new and innovative to offer on the market, be sure that in almost every field competition is going to be fierce. But do not let this demotivate you! On the contrary! Get inspired by the achievements of people who have already made good progress in the particular field. If you are dedicated enough to what you’re doing, you will soon be able to outrun most of your competitors.
Daily life organization. The daily life of a digital nomad may allow irregular work hours and hanging around still in your pj’s, but definitely not idle lollygagging. Professional success is only achieved through persistence, discipline, and dedication.
Concentrating on your work while being at home can be a challenge sometimes, especially for people who are not used to it. Since I have discovered my passion in interior design and home tips and tricks and have my digital business all up and running nicely, I know what can help you to better concentrate when working from home.
Set up a home office. Choose a suitable place somewhere in the house and turn it into a convenient home office. It does not need to be spectacularly large! Even 10sqft/1sqm may be quite sufficient. The important thing is to set it up in a quiet place and as far as possible from the usual family life hustle. You’ll need a small desk, a comfortable chair and, by all means, your best and strongest tool - the computer. A few motivation posters or sticky notes with smart thoughts and quotes will strongly encourage and lift your work spirit.
Organize your work. Organizing your work in the best possible manner is of great importance. When working from your home office, make sure you spend the dedicated hours entirely concentrated on your business. Set daily, weekly and monthly tasks and do your best to get them done. Good self-control is essential!
Social distancing and isolation are often the way to be when working as a digital nomad and for some people this can be a serious issue. If you are used to working within a large team and spend work breaks talking with colleagues, you’ll definitely miss this type of communication now. To avoid low spirit and depression, try to maintain regular contacts with family and friends, either digitally, or when possible, face to face.
The most important thing is to learn how to take advantage of the great benefits being a digital nomad can offer - enjoy in full the freedom to work at any place and in any country. Dare to change your life and you’ll be able to travel to new places, see new things, meet new people, learn new facts. This will make your life diverse and exciting, enrich you as a person, and charge you with strength to meet new challenges and reach new horizons online! Success!
--Lynn Filkova, Adorable Home