How to Become a Digital Nomad
What is a Digital Nomad?
A Digital Nomad is a person who works remotely in order to support a specific lifestyle, often involving frequent travel (hence the term “nomad.”) Digital Nomads typically place a higher value on new experiences, cultural exchange and flexibility than financial security or material goods. The Digital Nomad life has pluses and minuses, but it can be a very rewarding one as well. It’s simpler than you might think to go from average office worker to globetrotting modern professional. Here’s how:
How to Become a Digital Nomad
Changing from your current work situation to a digital nomad life can take some creativity, patience and persistence. There are a wide range of types of work for Digital Nomads, many of which aren’t listed here. Here are only a few examples of ways to take your job on the road.
Convince your current gig
Getting your boss to agree to let you work remotely might be a tricky conversation but if done well, it can be an amazing win. Continuing with the company you already work with provides you with security that a lot of digital nomads don’t have. You won’t miss out on things like regular paychecks, health insurance, sick leave, 401Ks or any of the other benefits while you’re on the road, making the transition to a new life a lot smoother.
Convincing traditional employers of the positives of remote work isn’t always easy. Remember to emphasize the increased productivity you’ll have, as well as the decreased overhead costs for having one less person in the office. You’ll also be saving time on transport which means you can work longer hours. Once you get them to agree, it’s time to focus on the transition. If your company doesn’t already have remote workers, they won’t have a system of how to deal with you. You’ll have to provide them with a road map of what working remotely could look like — how many Google Hangout meetings you’ll have, what form of communication will be prevalent, how your deliverables will be measured. It’s a good idea to set working hours that give you at least four hours of overlap with the main office, and try to stick to them regardless of your timezone.
Start your own Business
Many have tried and failed, but many have tried and succeeded as well! You don’t need to start the next Disney Studios, but a small, well run, profitable business could be your ticket to freedom from the traditional office. Think of something that you can do from the road. Technological industries like software and web, online marketing, promotional companies and online service websites are classics. However, you can run a non-tech centered business from the road as well — like this cool, ethical T-Shirt company run out of the back of a camper van.
Alternatively, you might try working seasonally or on fixed contracts. Good industries here could be construction, film production or project-based consultancy. These types of companies exist on contract work, so when you’re not on contract you’re free to travel. Remember: you’ll likely need to spend some of your travel time looking for new clients so you’ll have work ready for you when you get back home.
Become a full-time freelancer
If you have a marketable skill, such as writing, programing, designing, video editing, party production, consulting, etc., you can take your gig on the road. Freelancing means that you leave a 9–5 environment and instead take contracts or part time gigs that you can do on your own time. While freelance jobs were once exclusively based on the quality of your network, there are now several websites that allow you to create a profile and match with employers who are looking for your skill set, such as Upworthy or Freelancer. Still, a quality interpersonal network can go a long way.
Freelancing is great because you make your own schedule, so if you want to take a month off and hang out on a deserted beach somewhere, there’s no worrying about calling in sick. With this freedom can come some excess stress however. Freelancers have the extra challenge of marketing themselves every time they need a job. Gigs can sometimes be few and far between, making things a bit tense when there are bills to pay. For many the rewards still outweigh the difficulties, and more and more people are trading in their 9–5’s for the freelancers life.
It takes a bit of mental work to figure out what sort of job will provide you with the right balance between freedom and security — it’s different for everyone. Read more about How to Get your Dream Job in this post.
Tips for Digital Nomad Living
Find your Rhythm
Living and working as a digital nomad can be liberating, but that freedom can be overwhelming for many. Planning out your time and sticking to a schedule, even in the strangest of locations, can be key to making your lifestyle truly successful.
For example, most days I wake up, read the news and have breakfast and head out for some sort of physical activity. It could be running, surfing, biking, hiking or simply hitting the gym if the weather and the location aren’t in my favor. Then I head back home, load myself up on healthy snacks and sit down for a few hours of work. In the evening I like to relax, go out with friend or work on personal projects.
This isn’t a schedule set in stone. It’s flexible based on my mood, the weather and my current location. If I’ve got a full day of fun-filled activities to be had, I’d rather wake up early and work in the morning, enjoy the day and hit the gym in the evening. If It’s too hot to work in the afternoon then I’ll work in the evening, although I’m more prone to sleeping early and waking up early than staying up late to work. It’s rare however that I don’t have a day divided into physical activity time, work time and free time. The benefits of physical activity on overall productivity are proven, so it’s a part I try never to skip.
The idea is to find out what works for you in order to maximize your productivity. I find that I’m most productive in a maximum of four hour time time chunks, and then I have to change tasks. Oftentimes, I’m most productive in a two hour block with the promise of heading off for an amazing adventure. Figure out what your rhythm is and try not to fight too much against your own nature. The point is to live with less stress and be happier. Find what drives you and use it in your favor.
Keeping on Track
The promise of the digital nomad life is getting to enjoy an amazing lifestyle. Traveling the world, visiting amazing beaches, working whenever you feel like it. While this is all true, you need to have disciple and a sense of responsibility in order to balance out the awesome freedom you’re creating for yourself.
Digital Nomads are not on permanent holiday. You’ll probably work just as much as anyone else, if not more. The plus of making your own hours is that you can head off on that last minute boat trip without having to worry about calling in sick. The downside is that you’ll have to make up for that lost work time somewhere else in your schedule, and often when everyone else around you is actually on holiday. That will take more discipline than you might imagine, but just remember that the freedom you’re gaining is worth the trade off.
Take Care of Yourself
Being a digital nomad can often feel like being on an island. There’s no one around to tell you what to do or when to do it. No one makes sure you’re meeting deadlines or reaching your goals. For most people, you aren’t going to be getting paid for sick days, so every day you miss of work simply means less money. Beyond doing all of your work, you’re in charge of being your own cheerleader and motivator when times get rough. Thus, keeping your body and mind in top condition becomes a huge priority. Traveling a lot and constantly changing your scenery can be a strain as well, so exercise and eating well are key.
Healthy food and exercise can increase your energy, improve creativity and keep you happy — and being happy will make you more productive. Curious why that is? You can read more about Why Happiness is Good For the Bottom Line here.
Dial in the Details
Two of the main things Digital Nomads need are a Good Workspace and a Solid Internet Connection. This seems like it should be simple, however in many locations it can be a chore. Cafés are often a great choice, however depending which country you’re in, it might not be culturally acceptable for you to sit around taking up space on your computer. Also, many cafés in more remote areas won’t offer wifi, or if they do it might not be that great of a connection. One of the biggest things you’ll have to learn as a digital nomad is patience … the network could crash at any moment, and frequently, so be religious about saving your work. When the internet’s down, take a deep breath and go do something else until it comes back. Being a digital nomad means being flexible and adapting to your current situations.
For work spaces, I find hotels rooms a bit too stuffy, and hostels frequently too busy. I personally like the option of AirBnBs or home sitting as I feel I work best from the comfort of home. Another great option is to find a local co-working space. Co-working spaces are popping up all over the place, and they also give you great access to a local network, which can ultimately help you find new jobs (or at least new drinking buddies).
As a Digital Nomad, it’s your responsibility to be reachable. Non-Nomads won’t understand time differences and lack of internet, so do your best to remove anything that seems confusing to a non-DN. When you’re scheduling something, make clear what time you will be meeting in all of the time zones of all of the people involved. Be available on Google Chat or WhatsApp while you’re working, and get a local sim card so you’ll have 3G in case any emergency comes up. When you move countries, inform your coworkers of your new time zone, your work hours in their time zones, and the methods of communication that are most effective. Be patient if your lifestyle confuses people. If it’s what you want, it’s up to you to make it work.
When To Unplug
The great thing about the Digital Nomad life is that you can work from anywhere, but the flip side of that means that everywhere you are, you’re at work. I’ve found that one of the key things to keeping your happiness level up is separating your work time from non-work time. Even if I’m freelancing halfway across the world, my phone is not on while I am sleeping and does not get turned on until after breakfast. If you’re out at dinner, turn your phone off. Answer emails when it’s time for work, but don’t become a slave to them. A Digital Nomad lifestyle is about creating a lifestyle … it’s hard to enjoy experiences when you’re glued to your work email on your phone. Work, yes, but take time to unplug and enjoy the amazing places that you’re lucky enough to be visiting.
Originally published at www.thehotelyogini.com on May 28, 2016.