Ultimate Guide: How to Get Started as a Digital Nomad
Do you want to travel around the world while still earning money? Are you tired of the 9-to-5 grind (and just want to live life on your own terms)? Then you’re probably ready to live the digital nomad lifestyle.
If you’re serious about it, get started in your digital nomad journey with the guide below.
What is a Digital Nomad?
Digital nomads are individuals who earn a living using the internet and have the freedom to travel around the world. Nomads can work all sorts of remote jobs — including writers, web developers, marketers, and language teachers.
As the name implies, nomads are constantly on the move. They work in places with a stable internet connection and get paid via payment processors like Paypal.
It’s difficult to determine how many nomads there are in the world. But by 2035, the digital nomad population could rise to a billion worldwide. The numbers show how many people are leaning towards a more flexible lifestyle as opposed to the traditional 9-to-5 office job.
Warning: The Digital Nomad Lifestyle Isn’t Straightforward
A lot of aspiring nomads have a skewed vision of the work and travel lifestyle. Sure, you have the privilege to work from anywhere you want — as well as the freedom of doing it at your own hours — but the reality can sometimes be less glamorous than that.
Ask yourself: “Why do I want to become a digital nomad?”.
Keep in mind that productivity can become an issue, along with other hurdles like travel disruptions, lack of emotional support, and the inability to create a suitable work-life balance.
So, if you’ve made up your mind to deal with the challenges as they come – read on. This guide will help you build a solid foundation for a location independent lifestyle.
6-Step Plan to Becoming a Digital Nomad
Step # 1: Start “letting go”
What are some obligations that tie you to a specific location? This could be a long-term lease, outstanding credit card bill, or even a gym membership. You wouldn’t want to start travelling the world with an unpaid debt in the back of your mind.
Aside from material belongings and debt, ask yourself the following questions:
Are you single without dependents or familial obligations?
Can you embrace a minimalist lifestyle?
Are you mentally, emotionally, and physically capable of travelling alone?
Are you 100% ready for long-term travel?
Step # 2: Say goodbye to the comfort of home
You need a phone, a laptop, and enough clothes to cover the duration of your travel. What you DON’T need is a bed, a set of home appliances — and your dog for that matter.
Becoming a digital nomad means embracing a minimalistic lifestyle (and being okay with the lack of variety of devices and clothing). The last thing you should worry about is how to pack that coffee maker in your already heavy luggage.
So, consider leaving pets and your other belongings with a family member or trusted friend. Alternatively, rent a storage unit to move all your belongings in; make sure you pay for the first year (or six months) in advance so you won’t have to worry while travelling.
Tip: Opt for multifunctional clothing and devices to maximise your packing space.
Step # 3: Connect with fellow nomads
Before getting to the list of reputable nomad groups, here’s why community-building is important among digital nomads:
You get sound advice. Whether you want business, accommodation or travel related advice — you’re bound to get the answer you’re looking for.
You can make lifelong friends. You meet a lot of like-minded people in digital nomad communities. With some of them, you may develop more than just a short-term friendship. You can meet up with fellow nomads every once in a while, or stay connected online.
You can share knowledge in return. The digital nomad community is a reciprocal one. Besides gaining knowledge from fellow nomads, you can help others by sharing your experience as well.
There are a variety of digital nomad communities that you can sign up for. Below you’ll find the most active and friendly communities both online and offline.
Nomad List - Aside from being one of the largest digital nomad communities online, Nomad List is also a great resource for finding the best cities to live and work.
Meetup - Meetup isn’t dedicated to digital nomads, but you’ll find hundreds of digital nomad groups in various locations — including Tokyo Freelancer Community, Lisbon Digital Nomads, and Bangkok Digital Nomads.
Digital Nomad Community - Get access to hundreds of jobs and internships as well as business plans and blueprints on Digital Nomad Community.
Facebook Groups - Facebook is a secure way to connect with fellow nomads since the platform allows you to check the profiles of the people you’re interacting with. Browse through a list of popular Facebook groups here.
Digital Nomad Programs. Programs like Remote Year or Nomad Cruise lets you work, live, and travel with fellow nomads.
Coworking Spaces. Share your workspace with creative and like-minded individuals. Coworking spaces are a great way to exchange ideas and learn something new.
Co-living Spaces. “Co-living” is a trendy way to experience a new city. Enjoy the convenience of fast internet, a private or shared space, and exciting daily events.
Step # 4: Determine how you’ll make money
Remember! Being a digital nomad isn’t a career choice — it’s a lifestyle. You’ll need a steady income to travel and cover your living expenses.
Become a freelancer
Digital nomads make good money as content creators, designers, or computer developers. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t have the skills or experience for any of those. The fact that you can type and use a computer is already a skill itself. You can use it to land freelance jobs like data entry, virtual assistants, translation, and more.
Use freelance websites like Upwork and Fiverr to start generating income. You can work offline jobs as well, including English tutors, dive instructors, fitness coaches and photographers.
Build a business
If you’ve been a freelancer for quite some time, consider creating a website to market your business and build your reputation. This is also a great platform to showcase your online portfolio. Once you transform your skills into a full-service business, not only do you get referrals for new clients, but you also earn income through advertising revenue.
Alternatively, you can run a remote business by selling eBooks, creating online tutorials, or starting a dropship business.
Become a remote worker
A full-time remote job means that you’re still hired by a company or an organisation. A virtual presence, company contract, and fixed working hours are imposed. You’re also required to collaborate with fellow teammates and have your work evaluated from time to time.
It may seem like a lot, but remote work offers more stability over running a business or freelance gigs. Working remotely increases productivity as well.
So, build trust with your company by being awesome at your work. Then negotiate with your boss to work remotely.
Step # 5: Build your skills
Digital nomads need a specific tech skill to start generating income. Whether you plan on doing freelance, start your own business, or even work remotely for a company, you need to keep building your skills to remain competitive in your field.
Fortunately, we live in an age where everything is accessible. Check out the different ways you can build your skills below:
Read (or listen) to books, audiobooks, articles, and forums
Take online classes on platforms like Udemy, Skillshare, LinkedIn, and more
Attend local and online events
Step # 6: Map out your travels
Now that you’ve set up a steady income stream, it’s time for the most exciting part: mapping out your destinations!
Deciding on a destination can be overwhelming. But before even booking a ticket, you need to consider a number of factors to suit your travel and working requirements first:
Figure out the cost of living
Narrow down your list of dream destinations and determine the estimated cost of living in each place. You may want to check out online communities like Nomad List or Quora to ensure that everything from accommodation to transport is within your budget.
Digital nomads are more than typical travellers. You need to get as much work done as you travel. Unfortunately, not every location you’ll visit has a reliable connection. Now unless you’re purposely taking time off work, its best to map out places you can actually work using the internet.
Do you prefer mountains or beaches? Or maybe you’re more of an urban adventurer? By understanding the type of travel experience you want, you make your getaway trip extra fulfilling.
Your weather preference can help narrow down when and where you intend to travel. Do expect higher prices and larger crowds during peak seasons, especially in popular destinations like Chiang Mai and Bali.
Online Tools to Help You Find a Travel Destination
Pinterest/Instagram. Millions of users head to Pinterest or Instagram for travel inspirations. With Pinterest, all you need to do is to type a specific keyword to generate a gallery of picture-perfect travel destinations.
Tip: Don’t limit yourself to a country. Type in keywords like Bucket List or Wanderlust to generate a massive list of amazing places.
Alternatively, you can follow travel accounts and hashtags on Instagram. There is no shortage of photos that showcase amazing travel destinations and activities around the globe.
Coffee table travel books. Despite everything being digitized nowadays, there’s just no beating the influence of books. Best Sellers like National Geographic’s Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places will inspire travel adventures and provide useful information for each location you visit.
Read travel blogs. There’s nothing like reading real-life experiences from travellers just like you. If you find a traveller you like on social media, check if they run a blog. Otherwise, you can use discovery platforms like Mix to find travel content.
Follow travel deals. Feeling adventurous? Take a spontaneous trip by following the latest airline or travel deals.
The digital nomad lifestyle opens the world to anyone. But it takes a lot of time and preparation to become a successful nomad. Some even take years to make it a reality! So don’t pressure yourself to start right away.
Instead, the most important thing is to do now is to set goals and start working towards them. If you take it one step at a time, you can finally create a successful location independent lifestyle.