What Is a Digital Nomad?
Remote workers are nothing new. Plenty of businesses around the world allow their staff to work from home from time to time, if not every day. In fact,
Global Workplace Analytics says that 56% of all workers have a job where at least some of the work can be done remotely.
But digital nomads are slightly different.
They’re still remote workers, but they’re not tied down to the same four walls of the home office. Digital nomads are usually traveling at the same time: One day, they might work in a coffee shop in Paris, followed by a week of working at the beach in Spain. Other times they might sit back and relax in their hometown.
The world is their oyster.
Digital nomads can work from anywhere in the world and use Wi-Fi or mobile data to work while they travel.
So if you’re blissfully wasting your days away at the office, wondering how you can see more of the world – or how you can afford to see more of the world – then this guide to becoming a digital nomad is for you.
Geo Arbitrage – The Best Part of Digital Nomadcy
If you’ve already started your research into becoming a digital nomad, you might’ve come across the term ‘geo arbitrage’. This is when a person takes advantage of a lower cost of living in another country while maintaining a job on their own.
If you can work remotely from your job that’s based in the UK, and move to a country with a lower cost of living, you’ll quickly save plenty of money.
This money can go towards your next adventure, or for living a little more luxuriously in the country of your choice.
How to Become a Digital Nomad?
In this guide, we’re discussing how you can join thousands of working nomads around the world, just like you.
Where to start?
So, you’ve decided you want to leave your job and start a nomad life.
The first step is to understand why you want to become a digital nomad. Chances are, if you don’t think about this first, you’ll quickly get lost in a world of possibilities with not very much structure in place.
As with any life change, you need a plan. And the best way to create a plan is to understand your initial motives. Why do you think a nomad lifestyle would suit you? Is it because you want to travel the world? Or because you want to make more money?
What is it that you really care about and are passionate about?
Identify what you are good at
Once you know why you’re making the switch to a nomadic lifestyle, it’s time to think about how you’ll make money on the go.
Note: You should do all your planning first. It will become incredibly overwhelming if you don’t have a plan in place before you quit your current job. By laying the foundations of your new life before you commit, you’ll be in a much more comfortable position when the time comes to take the plunge.
Think about the skills your current job requires, and how these could be transferred to new roles.
Choose your job niche
What you’re good at, and what you’re passionate about are two very different things. You might be passionate about animal welfare, but not have the skills to provide the care yourself. Maybe instead you could use your managerial and motivational skills to be an advocate instead?
By understanding what skills you currently have you can easily find ways to combine them with things you care about. This will help you find the perfect job niche to suit your lifestyle, your interests and your career prospects.
Finding a niche will take time. Not everything will be a perfect fit to start with. But if you do this research while in your current steady job, you have no pressure, and plenty of time to explore any direction you are interested in.
Build your skills, take courses
Once you’ve settled on a niche that feels right, it’s time to get educated.
You might have been in the same job for a decade, or you might be fresh out of college. Whatever your circumstances, there is always room to learn more.
You need to build up your skills to increase your chances of succeeding as a digital nomad. You might be able to practice developing these skills at home. Other skills will require you to take courses – either online or in person.
How to make money online as a digital nomad
Now for the fun bit.
Living a nomadic lifestyle has its advantages, as you can earn money through several income streams all at the same time. Without the restrictions of a standard 9-5, you can work the hours you want, and do the work you’re interested in.
Below are a few digital nomad income ideas to get you started.
As the workforce becomes more tech-savvy, there are more and more opportunities to work with the biggest brands in the world on a totally remote basis. This benefits not only the employee, but also the business, as they have a much wider recruitment pool to work with.
If you’ve got all the right skills and qualifications for your dream job, there’s nothing to say you can’t request a remote working contract. You don’t know what’s available if you don’t ask.
So if you current love your job, but wish there was more freedom, consider this:
Do you want to work to live or live to work?
The worst that can happen is you ask your manager for a remote contract and they say no. From there, you can decide what’s more important to you: The chance to travel or the chance to keep your job.
It’s quite easy to find remote work, too. Most job sites will allow you to select ‘remote’ as the location when performing a standard job search. Other roles will have fine print saying ‘flexible, remote working considered’. Alternatively, check out sites like weworkremotely.com or remote.co.
Digital Nomad Freelancing
Another option for digital nomads is freelancing. There are plenty of freelancing websites that allow users to promote their skills and sell their services on a freelance basis. You can check out this list of freelancing websites to help you get started.
You can also find freelancing work on standard job sites like Indeed.com.
The difference between remote working and freelancing is that freelancers are self-employed. Remote workers are usually contracted in the same way as in-office staff. Therefore freelancers will have to manage their own accounts and taxes. The benefit, however, is that you can set your own rates and deadlines.
Start your own business or invest
Another way to make money while traveling is by starting your own business. Whether you create an online dropshipping store or create a consultancy service, there are a huge number of business options that can be managed as a digital nomad.
A lot of digital nomads focus on creating digital products or hosting their own blog or YouTube channel, as content can be created just about anywhere, and requires very little start-up costs.
Now might be the perfect time to start afresh and set up your own passion project. Just make sure to have a plan B in place if things don’t go quite as expected.
Alternatively, you can make money by investing in someone else’s business, and choose how much you want to be involved in the managerial side. Whether it’s a friend or a stranger, business owners are always happy to have extra investors who believe in their company and their aspirations.
Collect customer testimonials and recommendations
Once you’ve got a plan of how to make money online as a digital nomad, you’ll need to boost your reputation if you want to succeed.
In the modern world, where a simple Google search will provide you with thousands of businesses all offering the same services, you need to stand out.
Whether you’re looking to update your resume to score a remote job or want to make a good first impression on freelancing clients, it’s good to have a few testimonials up your sleeve.
Recommendations and reviews are great for adding to your LinkedIn page if you’re looking for freelancing work or want to start your own service-based business. If your previous work has been client-based, send out a few requests via email and explain your plans to go self-employed. Clients you’ve provided a great quality service will be more than happy to help.
They might even employ you independently!
Start saving money
You’re starting a nomadic lifestyle so that you can enjoy life to its fullest; so you can create the perfect work-life balance and see the world. If you wait for your first digital nomad paycheque to come through, you’ll be waiting a while to travel.
Whenever you’re relying on freelance work, or planning to start your own business, it’s always good to have money set aside for security, and in case of emergencies. So saving money will be much easier while you’ve still got a full-time role.
Get saving today, so you can enjoy tomorrow.
How to start saving money
When you simplify things, there are plenty of ways you can save money – even if it feels like your whole salary is spent up in a week.
So how can you start?
- Reduce location ties and expenses
The first thing you can do to save huge sums of money is to reduce your location ties. If you currently rent a property, is there someone else you can move in with? This could save you a huge amount each month, while furniture and other belongings can be put in a storage unit for a small monthly payment.
- Pay off debt
There would be nothing worse than carrying debt around with you when you’re trying to free yourself from the daily grind. Pausing debt payments can lead to huge interest rates, and will ultimately create a lot of stress for you.
You should aim to pay off your debts before you move to less consistent pay so that you remove any financial pressures that could damage your new nomadic lifestyle.
- Cancel subscriptions
Before you start totaling up your outgoings, you don’t realize how much you’re spending on trivial subscriptions. Everything from gym memberships, streaming accounts, magazine subscriptions, and more all add up, and canceling these subscriptions will give you a small pouch of money that can be stored away.
- Round up your payments
If you pay $1.99, move the other 0.01 into a savings account. There are plenty of debit cards with money-saving apps attached to them to help you save the pennies to make the dollars.
- No more coffee stops
While grabbing a coffee with friends, or treating yourself to lunch doesn’t feel like much money on the surface, you can easily save hundreds a month by stopping these unnecessary luxuries.
Make a packed lunch for work, take your own water bottle, tea, and coffee so you’re not tempted to nip out for a flat white.
- Simplify your food shop
Meal prepping and budgeting can easily save hungry eyes from getting distracted while doing the food shop. Aim to shop own-brand products as much as possible and find cheaper cuts of meat.
If you shop later in the evening, you’ll also be surprised by how many different reductions and offers you can get your hands on.
There are so many ways you can save money. Start out by writing down all your monthly outgoings, as well as other purchases you tend to make. Once it’s all out on paper, it’s much easier to see where money can be saved.
Build an emergency fund
When you take the plunge into the digital nomad lifestyle, you want to be reaping the benefits as soon as possible.
But that can’t happen if you’re starting with no money.
Freelancing, or starting your own business might leave you out of pocket for a few months while you get settled, so it’s a good idea to have an emergency fund set up.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s recommended you have enough money saved to survive for 6 months. Of course, the plan isn’t to not work for 6 months, it’s just worth having the money there while you build up your clientele or find yourself a contract.
This is why it’s so important to start your journey to becoming a digital nomad while you still have a full time job: So you still have the ability to save money for your first adventure or for emergencies.
Give Digital Nomad Lifestyle a Test Run
It would be awful to dive into a nomadic lifestyle, only to find out it’s not for you. So we would recommend giving it a try before committing.
Well, there are obviously some elements of the nomadic lifestyle you can practice, and some you can’t.
If you’re planning on starting your own business or investing in someone else, it’s worth getting the wheels rolling before you leave your current job. You can do this by creating a business plan for the first year and buying any of the tech or services you’ll need in place.
For those looking to freelance, sacrifice your free evenings after work to find a few contracts. This will help you understand a bit more about the market, what clients are looking for and the types of prices you can expect to charge.
You could also ask your current employer for the chance to work remotely for a few days a week. This will help you see how capable you are at self-motivating yourself to work even without the standard office environment. Check out local workspaces, or head to your favorite coffee shop for the day to see how well you work on your own.
Once you’ve tested as much as you can, you’ll know whether the nomadic lifestyle is for you or not.
Choose your destinations wisely
The best part of being a digital nomad is the fact you can travel and work just about anywhere. But in terms of geo arbitrage, it’s better to find destinations that are cheaper than your current space.
Eastern Europe, South America and South East Asia are often popular locations for digital nomads as they are filled to the brim with beautiful scenery, new culture, cheap accommodation, and delicious food.
Check out this list of the best destinations for digital nomads around the world.
In terms of more specific locations, use Airbnb or Couchsurfing to find cheap accommodation before you arrive. Once you’ve found somewhere that looks nice, check out the local area on Street Maps or review sites just to see what you’re getting yourself into before you commit.
It’s also worth trying to find accommodation near local transport links, as well as an emergency room or clinic.
Calculate your costs
Once you’ve found your first destination – near or far – you need to calculate how much it’s going to cost you.
You’ll need to take into consideration the obvious cost of flights, accommodation, and food. But additional costs will pop up along the way. For example, if your current phone bill doesn’t offer data roaming, you may need to upgrade as most of your work will require a good internet connection.
There may also be times when you have to pay for the internet in Wi-Fi hotspots or put a deposit down for any experiences and activities you want to do.
Understanding your basic costs to start with will help you to find work that will definitely cover them, as well as provide you a little spending money to have fun with.
Note: If you’re using cash, withdraw money from a local cash machine. Although you’ll be charged a small percentage fee by your bank, it will be much better than the exchange rate you find in the airport when you arrive.
Prepare for the digital nomad life
Prepping for the nomad life isn’t all about looking for cute locations and packing your favorite pair of shorts. You’ll need to get all your money in check before you set off too. There are a lot of things you need to get sorted like visas, how you’ll pay taxes, and insurance.
You’ll also need to figure out what type of gear you’ll need. This could include a decent yet lightweight laptop, an internet dongle, a good camera, etc. It’ll also include a first aid kit etc for while you’re on the move.
If you’re planning on traveling out of your home country, the first type of insurance you’ll need is travel insurance. The other insurance you’ll need is health or medical.
Of course, everybody hopes they’ll never need it, but medical insurance is crucial for travelers. While you might start your nomadic lifestyle completely fit and healthy, you can’t predict what illness or injuries are lurking around the corner.
Accessing healthcare is completely different in other countries. What might be a free service in your country, could be the most expensive option in another. Speaking to a professional about your travel plans will help you understand the types of health insurance available for digital nomads, so you don’t find yourself without on your travels.
International health insurance is ideal for anyone who plans to be out of the country for a year or longer. Usually, fully comprehensive travel insurance will cover you for smaller adventures, but for long-term moves, you’ll need more security.
International health insurance typically includes in-patient and out-patient services, meaning you’ll be covered no matter what happens.
Most countries offer private medical care which can be more expensive, but often worth it. Going private typically means the wait times are shorter and the quality of care is better. It’s also worth going private just so that you can access a doctor who speaks your language, so nothing is lost in translation.
If your bank detects your card is being used in other countries, they have the right to block the card for further investigation. To avoid your cards being blocked, you will need to inform your bank of any countries you’ll be traveling to, and the dates you intend to arrive and leave.
This will be flagged on your account so that they know where to block payments.
You may also want to consider switching banks, to a more nomad-friendly brand. Brands like Revolut or Monzo are great for international banking, as they offer interest-free payments and withdrawals across the world. What’s great about Revolut is that you have the option to hold money in five different currencies all at the same time.
So if you plan on returning to the US, but want to budget for a trip in Europe, you can keep your Euros and dollars separate.
Visa and taxes
Traveling around several countries will likely mean you need specific visas for every country you visit.
Check out this guide on what kinds of visas you might need. It includes a working visa if you plan to find clients in a new location, naturalization for longer stays, and tourist visas for those 1 – 6 months stays.
In terms of taxes, traveling doesn’t get you out of paying them.
As you’re making an income while you work, you’ll need to pay your taxes within your own country. Certain countries may also have rules and regulations about working, so be sure to check what taxes you’re liable for before you travel to your next destination.
The type of gear you need for your life as a digital nomad is specific to your current ideas. For example, a business owner will need different gear to a YouTuber. That said, there are some items that pretty much all nomads will need.
First, you’ll need a great laptop that’s both fast and lightweight. It’ll need plenty of storage for all the pics and videos you’ll inevitably be taking. If you’re planning on recording your travels on your Instagram or social media, you’ll need your laptop with enough RAM to load a photo and video editing software.
Another tech you’ll need is a power bank, an internet dongle, and a noise-canceling headset.
As for practical gear, a durable backpack with plenty of storage pockets, a travel first aid kit and accessories like nanodry towels, pillow cases and a capsule wardrobe.
Decide how to travel
Travel methods might seem pretty obvious. But as a digital nomad, you’ll be travelling a lot, so finding the best routes and modes of transport could save you a pretty penny.
Each travel method has different pros and cons in terms of cost, comfort and convenience.
To dive into the deep end of your nomadic lifestyle, you might want to use your savings to book a flight to your dream destination. Flight tickets can hugely vary in price. But traveling further away, into the depths of Asia or Europe, can easily save you money, as the cost of living is much lower.
It’s always worth checking on price comparison sites to find the best flight prices you can. There may also be packages available that incorporate both flights and accommodation which can often work out cheaper in the long run.
While flying everywhere is comfortable and convenient, it’s not always the cheapest way to travel. Taking overnight sleeper trains, or using public transport can reduce your travel costs dramatically. If you know about a trip you want to take in advance, you can also take advantage of cheaper tickets.
Those looking to explore Europe may be eligible for the Interrailing scheme which offers different packages for different amounts of travel. You can choose how long you’ll travel for, and how many countries you want to be able to travel to. Smaller packages can cover your travel within a single country, while larger packages give you the freedom to go just about anywhere.
Digital nomads don’t need to be on land to enjoy the work-life balance. Cruises have Wi-Fi too…
Cruises can be pretty expensive, but with everything included for a few weeks or a month, it could give you a little security while you’re also enjoying the perks of your new nomadic lifestyle.
Hire an RV
If you’re serious about traveling, and want to head out on the open road in style, why not invest in an RV? Or hire one at least.
An RV gives you somewhere to rest your head or plan your next dream destination.
If you want to visit a lot of places in a short space of time, an RV is the perfect accommodation on wheels. You can drive through the night and be in a new destination by the next day.
Hiring an RV means you’ll only need to pay for food and petrol – saving you one large expense throughout your travel experience.
Whether you’re planning to be an independent digital nomad, or are taking the whole family with you, you’ll still need other people around you to avoid potential loneliness. Making acquaintances along the way is easy, but making friends; a little harder.
If you’re a social butterfly and want to meet people along the way, consider travel groups. Groups like Bucket List Group Travel will give you the chance to make friends and travel together. Tours and travel groups often work on a package basis with everything included and additional activities planned throughout the day. So be sure to consider this when balancing your working hours and adventure.
Set specific traveling rules
This is probably one of the most crucial parts of planning for your digital nomad life. Setting travel rules will help you elongate your travel and enjoy the experience to the best of your ability.
One rule to include is your travel or daily budget. Without this, you could easily blow all your savings within a matter of weeks. Some countries and cities will be more expensive than others, so your budget will need to be a little flexible but still planned.
Your travel budget shouldn’t engulf all your money, either. The whole point of being a digital nomad is so you can experience the world and explore new destinations, try new foods and see new cultures. None of that can happen if you spend all your money getting there.
Another rule is to set aside a few hours a day to work. You need to be earning a steady income to maintain your nomadic lifestyle. As such, you’ll need to stay motivated and get into a routine of work before play.
Find your accommodation before your arrival
The free-willed traveler in you might be drawn to the idea of rocking up to a new city and finding somewhere to stay on a whim. But this can add huge amounts of pressure and stress onto your traveling experience. If your journey is delayed, you might not get there in time to book in anywhere and as such end up sleeping somewhere you don’t want to.
Your safety is the most important thing, so making sure you’ve already booked into a hotel, hostel or Airbnb before you arrive will give you peace of mind if anything goes wrong. At least at the end of a long day, you’ll know you have somewhere clean and safe to stay, eat and shower.
Join A Digital Nomad Community
As so many people are looking to start a digital nomad life, a huge community of like-minded people has been created. Joining a community group through a forum or social media platform will give you access to a ton of tips and tricks that you can use for your own experience.
You might also find information about destinations you’ve never even thought of, or make a friend you can meet up with on your travels.
Always have a backup plan
We cannot stress this enough:
Sometimes things just don’t work out.
And that’s okay.
But it’s important to have a backup plan, just in case. Whether that’s setting aside enough money for long-term accommodation while you get back on your feet, or having an emergency plane ticket available if you need to head home at any point.
If you find you’re not making enough money with your current job, take a look at what else is available and if there are any small jobs in the local area you can do to tide you over. Websites like gigtogig can help you find small part-time jobs within the area you are staying.
Keep educating yourself
Your education shouldn’t stop when you find yourself a job. Everyone – digital nomads or otherwise – should always try to learn new things and develop fresh skills.
This can benefit you in your job, but also in your travels. Educating yourself can be taking a course, or visiting local museums and monuments to improve your world knowledge. Traveling the world gives you a chance to really understand other cultures, religions and a new way of life.
Why Become a Digital Nomad?
There are so many benefits to becoming a digital nomad.
To start, you have the chance to really create the life you want. You have the freedom to make your own work schedule, and go wherever you fancy.
It can also be mentally freeing. Those that are holding back, or holding onto something can easily fall into an unfulfilling routine. Travelling requires you to downsize and let go of anything unnecessary – both physically and mentally.
Digital nomads don’t have to travel forever, either. You might find somewhere you absolutely love and decide to stay. The benefit of working while you travel means you don’t have to worry about money, and can find your happiness – wherever that is.
Though a nomadic lifestyle can seem daunting and lonely, you’re definitely not alone! Digital nomads can be as lonely or popular as they want. Nomad communities & events are the perfect places to find a travel buddy and mentor. There’s always a friend to be made while you’re traveling.
If you’re feeling inspired to start planning for your own digital nomad lifestyle, these are just a few frequently asked questions that might be whizzing around your head.
We are here to clear things up and get you started on your journey!
Is it legal to be a digital nomad?
While making money from your laptop while traveling the world might seem too good to be true, you’ll be glad to know it’s completely legal!
In terms of visas, work visas are only required when you’re working for a company within the country. If your clients are from back home, or you’re on a remote working contract, it’s completely legal to travel and work.
How much do digital nomads make?
There’s no single number we can give you. Making money for yourself is all about how much you’re willing to work. On average, it’s expected that digital nomads can make around $65,000 a year in the first 2 years. The amount you make as you get more settled into the lifestyle can quickly increase, too.
This post shows how much several different nomads are making on a yearly basis. But the article also highlights that nomads aren’t necessarily making more money than you, they’re just spending their money differently.
What is a luxury travel Nomad?
While your first few years as a digital nomad are all about budgeting and finding the best ways to spend your money, as you start earning more, you can quickly create a luxurious lifestyle for yourself.
A luxury travel nomad is someone who travels more luxuriously; you might upgrade your flight, book into a world-renown hotel and dine at the finest restaurants. This is something that some people will aspire to be, while others prefer the simple lifestyle traveling provides.
How many digital nomads are there?
According to MBO, there are currently around 4.8 million people subscribed to the digital nomad lifestyle. Will you be one of them?
How much money do you need to be a digital nomad?
As we mentioned above, it’s worth having enough saved to live comfortably for six months.
Without this safety net, you might find yourself in financial stress early on. While you plan for your new life, but still have your full-time role at home, you need to try to save as much as you can so you can enjoy your traveling adventure.
What are digital nomads doing now?
Digital nomads are either working in a coffee shop, taking in the views, or planning their next adventure. There’s no way to say what digital nomads are doing right now, but you can guarantee they’re loving it.
Indiehackers.com has a forum where digital nomads can discuss what they’re currently doing, so head over there for a little insight into the lifestyle.
How to become a digital nomad family?
If you want to become a digital nomad family, you need to make sure everyone is on board.
Will you and your partner work together, or will you work separately? Will the kids be homeschooled? How will you budget for the whole family?
There is a lot to consider when bringing the family along on your adventure, but it can be done.
It might be easier to buy an RV, or convert an old school bus so that there is a level of consistency and security for the whole family. You’ll also need to boost the amount of savings you start off with.
When Do Digital Nomads Settle Down?
Depending on your life plans, there’s no rule saying you ever have to settle down. Some people may earn enough to buy their dream home and start a family, while others might want to use that money to become a luxury travel nomad instead.
How do digital nomads manage their mail?
If you can have your post directed to a family member or friend’s property, this will help you get access to your mail as quickly as possible. Alternatively, there are virtual mailbox services available that will send you pdf scans of any mail or packages you receive.
So, will you be joining millions of digital nomads around the world? Where will your adventure take you?