I want to be a digital nomad. What skills do I need?
A question that keeps popping up again and again. This is my answer to it.
A “Digital nomad” is a relatively new term, which leads to many interpretations. In October 2015 I joined a training that aimed to give a definition of it, but during the process the group agreed that there is no single and absolute explanation of this modern phenomenon. It is pretty much about moving to different places while you work online. That’s it.
Yet it is a desired “career path” by many millenials who were raised with the thought of living a dream life — be everything they want, to travel a lot and be free. There are many blogs and groups with digital nomads out there and you can read tons of articles on this awesome way of life. Most of them work at the beach, go to exotic places and are smiling on all of their pictures. How not to desire such a life?
Honestly, this is just one surface of the whole way of life. It is the same one that you see on Instagram — beautiful pictures, beautiful people, super delicious food, awesome photo filters. However, I find it hard to stay with my laptop at the beach, because the sun is killing my eyes and I barely see anything on the screen. But the part that you can work from anywhere is true. As a digital nomad and location independent worker, you can go wherever you want as long as you have proper wifi and you’re able to deliver your work on time, if needed.
As I said, there are tons of articles about people who are digital nomads. But there is not much information for people who do not know how to start.
What skills do I need to be a digital nomad?
It all goes to one simple question you need to ask yourself.
“What work can I do so that I can deliver online — from anywhere?”
The answer to that question will give you a good starting point. Think of all the skills and knowledge you posses and then apply it online. Is it possible to get paid for it? I have divided the possibilities in three main categories. Let’s have a look at them and you may find yourself there!
- Build a product and sell it online
You can create something that people would love using and then sell it. It might be a physical product to be distributed anywhere in the world or a tech thing that people will use on their devices. So, what skills do you need to do it? They are different and not only hard skills. Some examples:
- Coding, design, user experience etc. — in this group are all of the tech and e-skills that give you the opportunity to build some application, software, wireframe etc. Alone or in a team, you build something and then sell it. Or apply with it to join a startup accelerator, get funded and become an entrepreneur.
- Art, crafts, illustration etc. — creative people can use their talent and skills to build digital and physical products and sell them. You can use any product selling platform or apply your art to different physical objects (e.g. on Society6 artists upload drawings and the website sells different accessories illustrated with them).
- Animation, game design etc. — you can build games or design them and sell your work.
- Video producing etc. — or if you are feeling comfortable with creating videos, you can make tons of them and upload on YouTube. As long as you have many views, you can earn some money too. Or you can get hired by someone to create videos.
2. Deliver a service
If you’re not much into building things from scratch till the full package, you may consider to do something you’re good at and provide people in need it with it. For example, one of the most common job that digital nomads do, is consulting. Just like me.
- Coding, testing tech products, designing experiences — you can use your tech skills to help other people build their product. You can find clients on platforms like GitHub, Upwork, Freelancer, Guru.
- Photography — if you decide to develop this skill to a professional level, you can get hired by people to photograph events, places. You can also build a portfolio of useful stock photos and sell them on websites like Shutterstock and GettyImages.
- Translating — knowing languages is a huge opportunity. If you know well more than 2–3 languages, you can make a lot of money! Websites like Proz.com help you get many clients.
- Writing — this is a key skill for your communication as a digital nomad. But it is also a good asset as many projects, businesses need people to write for them, to edit or copy-write content. Blogging could be a good way to get better and turn into another passive income stream. And you can always sell books on Amazon.
- Journalism — in connection to writing, if you want to develop yourself into the field of journalism, it is another wonderful opportunity. You can write from anywhere or specific topics often require you to travel somewhere to cover a story. Except for official degree, you can improve those skills by attending online classes like this one.
- Consulting — if you are good and experienced at something, you can help people understand it better and to apply it to their businesses. It could be anything — marketing, e-commerce, UX, security, digital things, specific industry thing. Anything you know how should be done. In this case you need to show your work and build a portfolio, so people would know a bit more of your experience.
- SEO — many businesses are in need of good search engine optimisation. This is a challenging job too, because everything changes every day.
- Analysing and researching — information is king, therefore if you’re good at finding and comprehending it, this is another thing you can do from anywhere.
- Community management — a community manager is the person who manages the communication with a product/project’s users and stakeholders. If it is an online thing, you can do it from anywhere, so if communication is your thing, you may give it a try.
- Training and coaching — a trainer is a person who can manage facilitating a workshop, training or other type of activity in a group. There are tons of workshops and events like that happening in the world and it might be a good time to become a trainer. If you’re in Europe, you can start with Erasmus+ trainings and attend a Training for Trainers. It is not a bad start and will help you understand how it works. Also, the youth work is awesome and does good to the society. You may love it.
3. Teach online
This is another opportunity to work from anywhere. Platforms like SkillShare or Teachable can help you sell online courses. Whatever skills you have, you can teach people of it. You may think it is not that interesting or important, but in fact, to other people who do not know how to do it, it could be super valuable.
How do I start?
You can start by creating a pool of clients. Working from anywhere and being flexible means that you are a freelancer, so you will need to generate as many income streams as possible. Also, make sure you know how to save money, because it is important to have money in your bank account in case something goes wrong.
There is also a long list of soft skills that are important for a digital nomad. Being flexible and courageous are examples of such, but I will dive into this topic in another article.
Nomadetc. and the learning resources
The training that I joined in October 2015 was part of the Nomadetc. project, created by Nomadways. It aims to collect learning resources for future digital nomads and help them understand how it goes. As we are going to improve the website and will hopefully do workshops later this year, you may follow us around to keep an eye: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube.