Beginners Guide to Being a Digital Nomad

Chad Wyatt
Jun 26, 2019 · 14 min read

After securing my first remote job in 2018 I never could have pictured the lifestyle I would end up living. Of course, it has come with its ups and downs like everything in life but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I didn’t believe that becoming a digital nomad was as easy as it was until I landed my first job and now I want to share everything I know to show you how to make this lifestyle of work and travel, work for you.

I will tell you how to get the best digital nomad jobs, tips on how to start out, mistakes that people make, and more. Be sure to check out my other blog on “How To Become a Successful Freelancer on Upwork | 11 Simple Steps” which focuses on the platform Upwork which is the largest freelance websites in the world.

What is a Digital Nomad?

There are many different definitions on a digital nomad, my definition is:

“A digital nomad is a person without a need for a permanent fixed location who relies on digital technology to generate an income.”

Also, there may be a preconceived idea that digital nomads sit on the beach with a cocktail/beer and work for a couple of hours whilst living the dream. This is definitely not the case I can assure you. First of all, have you ever tried to look at your laptop screen in the sun? It’s near impossible. Second of all, people that do try and live that way, fail.

Why is Being a Digital Nomad so Popular?

Not only is being a digital nomad becoming more of a trend but so are remote jobs for companies. From a companies perspective, it is cheaper to employ a freelancer and saves on office space, you may notice that there are now companies out there that are fully remote with employees across the world.

As we have accelerated through the digital age it has helped the dream of working from home or remotely become a reality. I mean, who wouldn’t want to avoid that long morning commute, being stuck in an office all day, or working with annoying co-workers?

In terms of the popularity of being a digital nomad, you get to travel the world and stay in any country you want whilst supporting yourself with income along the way. It’s really self-explanatory why it’s so popular.

How to Prepare

The first step in your journey on finding remote jobs and becoming a digital nomad is to prepare. I would not advise selling all your possessions, booking a one-way flight, and thinking you will work on your laptop. There may be a rare chance that is successful but it generally fails.

  • Decide why you want to be a digital nomad

There are many pros and cons of being a digital nomad, which I will highlight in this blog and have also included in my other blog “Work & Travel | The Truth About Being a Digital Nomad” You need to understand these points and decide if that lifestyle is for you before making your decision. For example, if you want to spend 6 months to a year travelling and seeing everything you can, a digital nomad lifestyle wouldn’t suit you. You would benefit more from saving up and travelling without and income.

  • Test it out

One of the best ways to see if you would enjoy the lifestyle is to try it out first. Check with your current company and see if you can work from home for a period of time. If you can’t do that, try and secure some freelance gigs to get a taster of the lifestyle. You will discover the different personal requirements needed to sustain a lifestyle with a remote job, it can be very challenging but it’s better to find out now than 3 months after you’ve sold up and left.

  • Get a job first

This is probably the most important point for me. Whilst it can be easy to find remote jobs when you travel, it is best to have started a remote job before you leave. I have seen people book their travel and decided to find work on the go, the only problem is when you start travelling you want to see and do everything.

Your motivation for finding a job will drop, you will spend more time partying/exploring/travelling and less time job hunting and earning money. It doesn’t matter how self-disciplined you are, don’t take that risk. At the very least, start looking before you leave for your travels. I landed my first job 3 months before I left to travel the second time around, it involved me putting in over 100 hours a week, but it paid off in the end and I still have that job now.

  • Save money

This is not just for digital nomads but for all travellers. It’s common sense to have some money saved up before you take a trip. I would say that for digital nomads, it is important to have money saved that you do not touch. Digital nomads generally rely on remote jobs to support them throughout their travels, if you have no money saved and suddenly lose your job or work slows down, you will up the creek without a paddle. Have an extra months salary kept behind to keep you going, you’ll thank me for it later.

  • Take other blogs with a pinch of salt

By this point, you’ve probably read all the blogs and articles you possibly can on being a digital nomad. Don’t believe every single one of them. Most of the real blogs/articles are based on people’s experiences and that type of person. Your experience can be completely different. For example, someone that wants to be a digital nomad who writes an article telling you how terrible it is and there is no work, they might not have put any effort into their work, be a bad worker, not have known where to find work etc. Everything I write is the truth and I will tell you how to find jobs and sustain the lifestyle but it all depends on you and the efforts you are willing to put in, no blog is going to determine that. It can sound contradictory as this is a blog on the same topic but I advise you use it as a guide and not as a determining factor.

Beginner Mistakes

As everyone does in life, I have made mistakes on my digital nomad journey and it’s important you learn from them. By sharing my mistakes it will hopefully prevent you from making the same ones.

  • Buying fancy equipment

I have witnessed digital nomads go out and purchase the most expensive MacBooks, laptops, phones, accessories, and all sorts of crazy items when they have started out. It’s stupid. A digital nomad lifestyle will not generate a high income and will not require high-end tech UNLESS you are a graphic designer or web developer that requires high-performance equipment. If you write content for a website, you do not need the latest MacBook, GoPro, iPhone XR, and every other piece of tech available.

I work from a MacBook Pro 2015 model with the lowest spec and I have never encountered an issue (touch wood). Save that extra money for travel and emergencies, just use the laptop you already have.

  • Not thinking or learning about the lifestyle

As mentioned before, understand what the lifestyle is like, why you want that lifestyle, and what it’s going to take from within yourself. Once you make that step and sell your contents, quit your job, and board the plane, it will be too late to take it all back.

  • Having no money saved

Again, as I already mentioned, having money saved is vital as a backup and for support of your digital nomad lifestyle. I have encountered moments where I lost a job and had to find another, without savings behind me, I would never have been able to continue my lifestyle. It’s much harder to return home and start all over again that it is to pick yourself back up whilst you travel.

  • Not being organised

When you work a remote job, it is vital that you have good organisational skills. You will be responsible for your own schedule, working times, breaks, payments, taxes, and everything else associated. If you struggle with being organised use Google Calendar to track everything. Or use a free project management tool such as Asana or Trello.

  • Not putting the work in

Most digital nomad beginners think that because they now have the freedom to do what they want, they can do what they want. You should still treat your job like a physical job. That means setting a routine, no distractions, effort & hard work, and willingness. If not, you will soon find yourself without a job.

  • Overworking or Underworking

This can be hard to gauge at the beginning. You don’t want to work 16 hours a day and end up seeing none of the places you visit but you also don’t want to work for 2 hours a day and end up back home after 1 month. Try and find a balance, whether you work 4 days for 12 hours and have 3 days off or only take the weekends off, make sure you have time free.

  • Having no self-discipline or motivation

When you first start out it is so important that you establish a routine that forces you to work. Don’t go to a location and work where you can be distracted or choose to go out for the day instead of working. If you get a better offer than working, turn it down. If you get into the habit of thinking you can do what you want when you want, you will never get out of that habit and end up losing your job or not earning enough money to continue.

  • Not Taking a Break

Some digital nomads think they have to squeeze in every amount of work they can into the day. This is bad for you mentally and physically. At the start, I used to sit in front of my computer for 12 hours trying to get work done, then I realised that it wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted. I then worked half a day in the morning, went out for 4 hours and relaxed/explored, then working the rest of the day. It’s up to you how you balance it just make sure you take regular breaks away from your computer and don’t lose sight of why you chose this lifestyle in the first place.

Struggles you may encounter

There will always be problems or obstacles that come up. If you know what to expect, you can prepare for them better.

  • Lack of income

This is the reason savings are important. Dependant on the type of work you do, you should expect to have some weeks or months with substantially lower income than others. Prepare for this by having backup funds and extra side hustles.

  • Sudden job loss

The world of remote jobs and freelance work can be unpredictable. I like to think of it as you are not a fixed asset of that company and if there are any issues you would be the first to go. I would say have 1 or 2 side hustles to keep you going just in case something was to happen. If the worst does happen, make sure you have a list of sites to secure yourself another job or gig.

  • Loneliness

Meeting new people can be more difficult than when you travel full time. Being refined to your accommodation to work can make you feel incredibly lonely, especially if you are used to working with others. The best thing to do here is to find a co-working space or a digital nomad hub, at least you can work and meet others at the same time.

The pros and cons of being a digital nomad

I have already touched on a couple of these and will go into them more in a future blog but there are many different pros and cons of being a digital nomad, some of which include:

Pros:

  • You can work anywhere in the world with Wi-Fi
  • You can travel and see the world for as long as you work
  • Work on your own schedule
  • If you work hard enough you can earn a good wage

Cons:

  • It can be unpredictable
  • It can be lonely
  • Lack of social life
  • Work can be demanding
  • No benefits (healthcare, paid holidays, etc)

These are just some of the pros and cons to give you an idea and help you to think about the digital nomad lifestyle a bit more. I will go into these in more detail in a future blog. The best thing you can do is write a list of the pros and cons that you can think of because some people may enjoy the demanding work or the lack of social life. What might be regarded as a con of being a digital nomad to others, might not be to you.

Finding Remote Jobs

There are hundreds of sites out there, some are reliable and some are full of scams. I will share some of my best sites for remote jobs. Firstly, there can be different types of remote job that come with different characteristics. These include:

  • Freelance

This is the most popular type of remote job which enables you to work pretty much whenever you want, on multiple projects, and with different clients. It can be very unstable and provide low income. You can choose what days off you want and have unlimited holiday (unpaid).

  • Contract

You can get hired by any company on a contract and still work remotely. These jobs are harder to get unless you have years of demonstrated experience or a skill such as web developing. Contract jobs normally come with benefits but restrict you to a normal working week with allocated holiday days (paid).

  • Starting a business

You might want to start your own business, then you really will be in control of what you do, when you do it. Some popular choices are e-commerce stores or dropshipping products. This one will generally require some kind of startup funds and also a lot of hard work if you want to succeed.

Some of the sites that I will give you here include a variety of freelance jobs and contract jobs in all different professions.

  • Upwork

This is the world’s largest freelancing site and you can find a range of different gigs. If you want to find out more read my blog “How To Become a Successful Freelancer on Upwork | 11 Simple Steps.

  • Fiverr

On this site, you don’t apply for “gigs” but you create a profile and add the services you want which people then purchase from you. You can sign up with this link http://www.fiverr.com/s2/26a52a096c and earn up to $100 for signing up.

  • WeWorkRemotely

This is personally one of my favourites and it includes a range of different jobs from designers to content writers. There are generally new jobs posted every day and the layout is very easy to navigate. Check it out here https://weworkremotely.com/

  • Jobspresso

This site has a range of different positions. Some are only for the USA and some are worldwide, they make it easy to see the requirements though. Take a look https://jobspresso.co/

  • ProBlogger

If you enjoy writing blogs or content writing then this is a good site to use. https://problogger.com/jobs/

These are good sites to start with and have worked well for me. You may have your own preferences on which sites to use as there are so many out there. I will make a list of every single site I have found in a future blog. Just make sure you have a killer cover letter and update your CV to tailor it towards the job.

How to Sustain a Digital Nomad Lifestyle

Some days are going to be boring and some you will be thankful for the opportunity you have to travel and work. It’s important you stay focused on that dream and continue to stay organised and work hard at your remote job.

The key point that has worked for me is to make sure you have side hustles. I currently have 4 jobs. One job takes up 40 hours for 5 days a week and the other 3 take up whatever time necessary. The way I work it out is that my main source of income covers everyday life such as accommodation, food, travel etc. The side hustles I have pay for any trip, activity, or social activity I want to do. That’s just the way I budget but I recommend to have a finger in multiple pies for maximum sustainability.

If you take away the key points of this blog then you will have no problem sustaining your lifestyle as a digital nomad. If you need any help then please contact me and I will do my best to help.

Insider tips

There are a few tips that I can give you to make life a bit easier:

  • Get a portable Mi-Fi

This is a little device that lets you have Wi-Fi anywhere in the world with a sim card. You can purchase one here.

  • Get a prepaid sim

This is important if you want to use a portable mi-fi. Sign up for a local sim card on a 30-day plan and the data is yours to use. You will need valid I.D. and an address to give.

  • Time trackers record everything

If you get a remote job that has a time tracker (Upwork, Hubstaff) then be aware that everything you do on that screen is recorded. You will have random screenshots taken, activity percentages worked out, websites recorded, and time recorded. You have no option but to work and nothing else whilst you are on the tracker.

  • Never stop learning

You should know by now that things in the digital world are changing all the time, the moment you stop learning is the moment you lose the upper hand. For example, if you pride yourself on being an SEO writer, keep up to date with the trends and any new changes in that field.

  • Always check for remote jobs

New jobs get posted every day, you might find a post that offers a higher salary, more benefits, or increased flexibility. It never hurts to look but if you find something you really want to do then you have nothing to lose.

  • Schedule longer in destinations

When you have to work a full week, you will find it takes around 3 to 4 times longer to see an area than when you travel without a job. I would recommend booking longer at each destination. Life as a digital nomad is a marathon, not a sprint, there is no way of doing it as a sprint.

I am proud of achieving this lifestyle and would help anyone achieve their goal. This was my dream and I am finally living it, if you want my help to do the same then please contact me.

Originally posted on the travel blog
www.couplescarryon.com

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Chad Wyatt

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“It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.” — Robert Benchley

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