The work world changed forever in 2007 when Tim Ferris’s four-hour workweek book taught readers how to leave the traditional workforce behind and become a digital nomad. The book was a little before its time. The idea of creating an online business you could operate from anywhere in the world was almost unheard of outside of silicon valley. Virtual Assistants, freelance writers, and drop shippers did exist, but they were the exception and not the rule.
Fast forward to today, and thousands of people are running successful online businesses worldwide. This growing community of entrepreneurs, freelancers, bloggers, remote workers, and marketers travels the world with laptops in hand, working remotely online.
Covid has put working from home front and center in our consciousness. Many people are now considering becoming digital nomads to escape the rising costs of living and have more freedom to work from anywhere in the world.
If you’re considering joining the digital nomad community, here are the steps you need to take to make it happen.
Deciding to Become a Digital Nomad
Being a digital nomad is not for everyone. It’s a challenging journey, and no matter how Rosey the image is, it’s a lot of work to get there. I used to work as an engineer with a 9-5 job making $200K+ a year. I made good money; we had a lovely house. But I couldn’t do it anymore. I read Rich Dad Poor Dad when I was younger and had dreamed of becoming a business owner for most of my life. That, combined with my love of the mountains and skiing, drove me to take a serious look at my life. I looked at the people I was working with and decided I didn’t want to become my boss or my boss’s boss. I wanted a different lifestyle. I quit my job and moved to Japan. It was risky and scary.
I went through some challenging emotional points where I had to re-assess how I saw myself. I was no longer the breadwinner for the family. I felt like a failure; I wasn’t good enough. I suffered from imposter syndrome (I still do sometimes). I felt lost without a boss telling me my priorities and that I was doing a good job. There were lots of lows but lots of highs as well.
Despite all the challenges, I would never go back. Every once in a while, I look at job ads and consider how much easier it would be to get a job and let someone else take care of everything. I would work fewer hours. But, the truth is I like it better this way. I love where we live, and the liberty I have over my life has a cost. That cost is taking responsibility for all the challenges and overcoming them one by one.
What is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad uses technology to separate how they make money from where they live. They are location independent and have financial freedom. Whether they work from a beach in Thailand or remotely from home to spend more time with their kids, they can choose where they want to work. Many digital nomads are entrepreneurs, freelancers, or remote workers.
What do digital nomads do?
Digital nomads use technology to become location-independent. They take advantage of the information age and use online tools to become proficient at marketing, writing, graphic design, consulting, or other online work. They may also become experts in a particular field, such as coding or web development. Being a digital nomad is often more like running a location-independent business than being an employee. To be successful, you must learn to sell your services and manage finances.
The benefit of being a digital nomad
The digital nomad life has some very enticing benefits. You no longer need to go to the office every day and are responsible for your success.
- Location Independence
- Job Freedom
- Tax Advantages
- Can Reduce Living Expenses
The downsides of being a digital nomad
Many people define themselves by their job. When you become a digital nomad, you no longer fit the social norm. Your friends who have office jobs won’t understand what your going through. Institutions were built for people who work jobs. Taxes, insurance, and retirement funds are all built around working a 9-5 job. Navigating the differences between social expectations and your digital nomad lifestyle can be challenging.
- It can be lonely
- No guaranteed income
- Tax Implications IRS tax laws
- You are responsible for your success
- Visa can be challenging
Become A Digital Nomad 11 Steps
- Is Become A Digital Nomad Right For You?
- Trial Being a Digital Nomad
- Identify Your Skills
- Build A Portfolio
- Learn To Sell
- Start Simplifying Your Life
- Build Your Savings
- Build Your Dream Plan
- Insurance For Digital Nomads
- Digitize Your Life
- Collect Your Documentation
1) Is Becoming A Digital Nomad Right For You?
Ask yourself whether the digital nomad lifestyle is for you. People have a habit of jumping on the newest trend before understanding if it’s something they genuinely want. The grass is always greener on the other side, and social media likes to throw the other side in our faces all day long. However much you think you will enjoy becoming a digital nomad, you will only know once you’ve taken the leap.
Many dream of leaving their jobs and traveling the world, but taking that leap takes a lot of effort and is emotionally challenging. Some people are happier having the stability a job provides. There is nothing wrong with that. I respect people who prioritize stability. My wife would much prefer to work as an employee than to run a business or be self-employed. Before becoming a digital nomad, ask yourself:
- What is more important, freedom or stability?
- Do you deal with the unknown well?
- Are you comfortable making decisions? Are you decisive?
- Can you take responsibility for your success?
- If you have a problem, can you solve it on your own, or do you need a superior to solve it for you?
- Are you self-motivated? Can you set your own goals and motivate yourself to achieve them (even when it gets hard)?
To be a digital nomad, you need to be comfortable taking risks. You will be responsible for your own success and failure in a way that people who work in an office are not.
2) Trial Being a Digital Nomad
If you are still determined to become a digital nomad, the next step is to trial being a digital nomad. Consider packing your bags and taking a gap year or half a year between jobs to try life as a digital nomad. In the Four-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferris talks about taking mini-retirements.
3) Identify and Upgrade Your Skills
Once you’ve decided that the digital nomad lifestyle is for you, it’s time to sit down and figure out how to make it happen permanently. The first step s to determine what skills you have that you can market and sell remotely, either as a business owner or in a remote job. Sit down and take some time to think about things you enjoy doing. What skills do you use at work? What subjects did you enjoy at school? Below is a list of some skills that are easily sellable online.
- Digital Marketing
- Graphic Design
- Web Development
- Project Management
- Video Editing
- Virtual Assitant
- Coaching Consulting
Whatever skill you choose, you must solve a problem for a business. A business will not pay you to solve a non-problem. You must show how your skill set adds value and will increase their bottom line.
Upgrade Your Skills
The market is a competitive place. Not only must you solve a problem, but you also need to be competitive. Your ability to meet a business’s needs better than your competition will determine how much you can charge for your skills and how likely they are to choose you. There are lots of options to upgrade your skills.
Starting a Business Vs. Selling a Skill
When you first decide to take the leap and become a digital nomad, start by trying to sell your skills. Developing a skill and selling it on a marketplace platform like Fiverr is the easiest, fastest way of making money online. As you develop your skillset and begin to build a client list, you can decide whether you want to continue trading time for money or if you want to turn your new-found skills into a business. You can also build a business concurrently as you build your skill set. A blog or a youtube channel are great ways to make online assets that will generate passive income as you grow, and you can teach others what you are learning as you do.
4) Build A Portfolio
Now that you have chosen a skill and are perfecting it, it’s time to build a portfolio that you can market to potential clients. If you’re a writer, consider making a blog or posting on sites like Medium where you can showcase your work.
Find friends or people you know you have a rapport with and offer your services for free in exchange for feedback. If you do a good job, you can ask for reviews that you can use later.
5) Learn To Sell
For many (myself included), selling is the hardest part. As they say, the first sale is the hardest. The truth about selling is you just have to buckle down and do it. The more you do it, the easier it gets. You will make mistakes; you might look like an idiot at the beginning. The beauty of people and the internet is:
- People only think about themselves
- People won’t know who you are at the start
- There are as many opportunities out there as you can find (Making a mistake isn’t permanent)
Quick Guide on How to Sell
Identify Your Customer – what is the problem you will solve for them
Create Your Pitch – Tell them why they need you to solve their problem
Handle Objections – There are always objections; the better you can handle these, the more sales you will get.
Close The Sale – Follow up and make sure you get the sale.
Repeat and Improve – It is a numbers game; whether you are cold calling, cold emailing or messaging on Twitter, or LinkedIn, the more people you contact, the more sales you will get. Send your outreach, track the numbers, adjust your pitch/method and increase the success rate.
6) Build Your Dream Life
The key to success is a strong vision that will keep you motivated when you hit setbacks (because you will hit setbacks). When something goes wrong (a client fires you or your first 100 outreach emails get zero responses), you will give up if you don’t want it bad enough. Your vision has to be stronger than your fear of failure. Spend the time to build an idea of your dream life, write it down, and build a vision board. Find what will drive you to push through on those hard days.
7) Start Simplifying Your Life
We often live in a complex, busy, and stressful way. When you become a digital nomad, your life will become more straightforward. Many challenges will present themselves, but if you want that dream life you are working towards, you must start simplifying your life now. It’s hard to live a nomadic lifestyle with a truckload of furniture in tow. Streamlining is much more than getting rid of material things.
8) Build Your Savings
Before becoming a digital nomad, you should build up some savings. Having some cash in the bank means that if you need to step back and figure things out, you will have the safety net of knowing you can fall back if things become too hard. It also makes it easier to bootstrap your business if you can do so.
9) Insurance For Digital Nomads
Digital nomads often live in countries where healthcare and insurance aren’t standardized. Before becoming a digital nomad, you should ensure that you have some form of health coverage and travel medical insurance. This is especially important if you are traveling to countries with high rates of disease or terrorism.
10) Digitize Your Life
Digitizing goes hand in hand with simplifying your life. Before leaving your 9-5 life behind, you will want to digitize your life. Consider setting up systems for accounting, finances, and communication. Systems will make managing your life on the road much more manageable.
11) Collect Your Documentation
Before cutting your ties, the last and final step is to ensure you have all your documentation in place. If you are staying in your home country, this isn’t as big an issue, but if you plan to work and travel internationally, you will need the following:
- Driver’s license
- Work permits (if applicable)
- Travel visas (if applicable)
- Educational qualifications and work references.
Other Things to Consider
Dealing With Critics
No matter how motivated you are, there will be people who aren’t supportive of your decision. However, it’s important to remember that no matter what they think, it is ultimately your life, and you have the right to make the choices that work for you. Critics aren’t bad; they make you question your decisions, which is healthy. But don’t let someone else’s opinion affect the person you want to be. If their criticism affects you, it’s because you allow it to affect you. That says more about you than it does them, and maybe you need to be more sure about your decision.
Digital Nomad Job Examples
Below is a list of some typical digital nomad jobs.
- Freelance Writer
- Digital Consultant
- Graphic Designer
- Web Developer/Designer
- Virtual Assistant
Best Countries To Be a Digital Nomad
There is no definitive list of the best countries to become a digital nomad, as it largely depends on your personal preferences. However, some familiar places that digital nomads flock to include:
- Costa Rica
Regardless of where you become a digital nomad, there are vital things to remember. These include:
- Having reliable internet access so that you can work remotely
- Access to high-quality healthcare options and insurance coverage
- Tax implications
- A supportive community of other digital nomads who can offer support, advice, and friendship
Considering these factors, you will have a better chance of successfully making the leap into a nomadic lifestyle. Good luck!
The Future of Digital Nomads
As the world becomes increasingly connected, and technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, it is likely that digital nomads will become more and more common in the years to come. Many experts believe this trend will continue as businesses become increasingly dependent on remote workers and workers become more comfortable with flexible work arrangements.
Some possible trends that may affect the future of digital nomads include the following:
- Increased demand for remote work options
- Greater availability of high-speed internet access worldwide
- Technological advances in communication and collaboration tools
- Improved support systems, such as coworking spaces and online communities, make it easier to connect and collaborate with fellow nomads.
The rise of “digital nomad”-friendly destinations, such as cities or countries that offer reliable internet access, affordable housing, and transportation options, and a supportive community of digital nomads
How much do digital nomads make?
There is no simple answer to this question, as digital nomads’ income can varies greatly depending on several factors. Some digital nomads may be able to earn a stable and consistent income through various online work opportunities, while others may only find temporary or project-based work. Ultimately, a digital nomad’s income will depend on their skills, motivation, and availability. However, most digital nomads report earning a competitive salary or income, allowing them to travel and live comfortably.
How do I become a digital nomad with no experience?
There is no single path to becoming a digital nomad, as many factors will determine your success in this lifestyle. Some key things to consider when trying to become a digital nomad with no experience include the following:
- Building a strong network of contacts.
- Taking online courses or workshops to develop relevant skills and knowledge.
- Researching the best work opportunities and digital nomads communities to join.
Additionally, it is essential to become comfortable working remotely, as being a digital nomad often involves spending a significant amount of time away from home. Finally, developing self-discipline and becoming highly motivated to succeed as a digital nomad is crucial.
Is being a digital nomad legal?
There is no universal answer to this question, as the legality of digital nomadism will depend on various factors. Some countries may impose specific regulations or restrictions on digital nomads, while others may not have any legal framework for these workers.
Ultimately, a digital nomad lifestyle is an exciting and rewarding choice that can open up countless new opportunities. Whether you are a seasoned nomad looking to take your career to the next level or an aspiring remote worker just starting on your digital nomad journey, it is essential to remember that the path ahead will be challenging. But by following these tips and making intelligent choices, you can set yourself up for success and become a digital nomad in no time. With the right skills and resources, anyone can become a successful digital nomad and carve out a unique career path in this exciting and rapidly growing industry.