What’s a digital nomad and how can you become one?

What’s a digital nomad and how can you become one?

The idea of working as a ‘digital nomad’ might feel like a bit of a paradox in 2020. Between global lockdowns, travel restrictions, and quarantine, our day to day feels a bit more ‘digital’ and a lot less ‘nomad!’ But despite life as we know it coming to a grinding halt, it has nevertheless proved to be an action-packed year. 

After all, this was the year of the global pandemic, mass riots, the impeachment of the US president, Australia setting on fire, and Prince Harry and Megan Markle saying a big ‘f*** you’ to the royal family and promptly moving to Canada. 

If all this unrest got you itching for a holiday, the prediction that holiday season is cancelled is probably not the news you’re looking for. But every cloud has a silver lining. 2020 took away your vacation, but it might just be your passport to roam further than ever before.

So where do digital nomads fit in amongst all this chaos?

2020 has been a new era for the workplace. The technology to work from home has been around for quite some time now. You’d be forgiven if you didn’t know about it. Most major companies have been slow on the uptake. Many organisations have cited fears that a distributed team cannot work as effectively as an in-office one. However, at the start of this year, as lockdowns clicked into place and we were told to stay home, virtual work became the norm. For those of us working from an office, we got a taste of what it’s like to work remotely.

But working remotely and being a digital nomad are a little different…

Digital nomad is a term that has been loosely coined to describe remote workers who live a nomadic (and yet digitally stationary) lifestyle. Digital nomads might live permanently abroad working from their laptop. They might travel from country to country. Or they might even split time at home with regular travel to other places, taking their work with them wherever they go. Jobs for digital nomads are just as varied, and some examples include:

  • Social Media Influencer
  • Virtual Assistant
  • Professional freelancer
  • Remote Software engineer
  • Online English teacher
  • Remote transcriber
  • Vlogger
  • Remote customer service representative 
  • Remote UI/UX Designer

And many more! 

With all these different jobs on offer, the digital nomad lifestyle has been growing in popularity over the last few years. And for good reason! The benefits of living out of your backpack whilst you hold down a full-time job are manifold:

Complete flexibility on your office space

Whether you want to work in a coworking space in Cartagena or a coffee shop in Casablanca, the world is literally your oyster! The best cities for digital nomads are hotly debated on the internet, but popular examples include Lisbon, Cape Town, Canggu, Santiago, and Koh Samui.

Hello endless summer!

No more commuting

If you live in one of the world’s major cities, chances are your commute is one of the most challenging parts of your day. Multiple studies have shown that commuting makes us fat, tired and miserable. Long commutes have also proved to have an impact on our mental health and productivity at work. The digital nomad lifestyle may still include a small commute to a coffee shop or coworking space, but many digital nomads choose to live in cities that are less crowded and have less traffic. They therefore waiver the stress of commuting during peak hours in a busy city. If taking a short drive by motorbike through the rice paddies to the nearest coffee shop sounds like a better commute to you, the digital nomad lifestyle is calling!

digital nomad commute

Ditch the shirt and tie

Studies have shown that wearing a tie restricts blood flow and negatively impacts our health. If there’s ever been a better argument for wearing whatever the hell you want, there’s one for you!

But being serious, wearing what you want gives you a surprising amount of freedom. There’s plenty of talk on the internet about the benefits of wearing sweat pants with your work shirt whilst working from home. But as a digital nomad you’re more likely to find yourself in surf shorts or a bikini.

Chase that summer sun!

digital nomad lifestyle

Save money

Currently sharing a dingy flat in New York for $1000 a month? A two bedroom luxury villa with a pool is the same price in Bali. Many digital nomads choose countries where their hard earned dollars stretch a little further. The cost of living can be so cheap abroad that you’ll be able to save considerably more than you would when you were living at home. Travel the world and put aside money for retirement: the future you will be grateful. 

How to tell if you’re cut out for the digital nomad life

1. You have a sense of adventure

Let’s face it. Traveling the world requires a passion for seeking out new experiences. If you just hate change, the digital nomad lifestyle might not be for you. However, if you’re the kind of person that would enjoy visiting different countries, meeting new people, and taking on new experiences – and all of that with the security net of a regular salary – then becoming a digital nomad is your calling! 

That being said, digital nomads come in all forms. There are the type of digital nomads that enjoy the thrill of visiting off-the-beaten-track destinations. They might spend their weekends climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or crossing the Sahara desert by camel. But you don’t have to be an adventure seeker to be a digital nomad! there are also digital nomads who hang out in popular capital cities like Paris or Berlin. Playing it safe in popular and well-developed destinations is a good option for digital nomads. You can guarantee uninterrupted wifi, and enjoy the buzzy environment of coworking spaces and coffee shops.

digital nomad

2. You’re self-motivated

Skeptical in-office managers like to paint the idea that working remotely leads to slacking off, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Multiple studies have shown that remote workers are more productive than their in-office counterparts. However, if you’re traveling the world, it can become easy to get distracted with all the exciting new experiences unfolding around you. A good digital nomad needs to have a good sense of personal motivation. This is particularly true for self-starters and freelancers, who will have no one breathing down their neck to get their work done on time.

For digital nomads who work corporate jobs, however, your company will likely find ways to give you a boost of morale and motivation every now and then. Scrums, carefully mapped out KPIs, project iterations, and regular Zoom brainstorms with colleagues will all help you to stay on track if you find yourself distracted. We’ve also put together a great list of podcasts to keep you motivated through your work week, so definitely go and check that out too!

packing for digital nomads

3. You’re a good problem solver

Problems come in all shapes and sizes when you are on the road and trying to do your work. As a full-time digital nomad, you’ll need to organise your own personal office space all by yourself. You’ll be responsible for your equipment, your internet, and your ability to find a quiet space to get your work done. You’ll also need to become a master at suitcase tetris, be good at bridging language barriers, and be able to think on your feet when something goes wrong. The payoff, however, is unlimited travel, flexibility, independence and freedom! 

4. You’re organised

OK, technically speaking this is a good skill for ANY worker. But as a digital nomad you’re going to be organising not only your work, but your travel plans. Depending on the line of work you end up in, you’re going to have a varying degree of assistance with your work.

If you’re working for a remote company, it’s possible that you have a fully-fledged HR department who will set you up with all the online tools you need to organise your work digitally. If you’re freelancing, working for a less-established startup, or working as an influencer or entrepreneur, then you’ll likely have to do some of this organising yourself. Project management tools such as Trello or Asana can make a huge difference in structuring your work by yourself. A regular routine can also be a great way to organise yourself. 

If routine is exactly why you’re trying to escape your office job, remember that as a digital nomad your routine will be more flexible. For example, my daily routine when I worked as a digital nomad in Mexico looked something like this:

8am-12pm: Main work for the day/ have breakfast at the Holistika jungle cafe 

12pm- 3pm sunbathing at Playa Paraiso

3pm – 7pm: Cervazas, answering/sending emails, and eating tacos on the main strip

7pm onwards: salsa, drinks, parties

As long as you can organise your way through your work week, there’s plenty of time for having fun as a digital nomad! 

Sign me up! How can I land a remote job?

The remote job market is a little bit different to the regular job market, so a good way to start out is to do your research on what transferable skills you might have. As a rule of thumb, all jobs that can be done from a computer can be translated into digital nomad jobs, so it’s simply a case of…

1. Convincing your boss to let you work remotely

Up until the start of the year, convincing your boss to let you work from home was difficult. Convincing them to let you work from a beach in Central America was virtually impossible, requiring a college degree in negotiation. Covid-19, however, has accelerated the remote work movement. There’s never been a better time to speak with your boss about the option to continue working remotely now that you’ve proved you can effectively do your job without being in the office. That leaves you free to plan your next big trip. Have you always dreamed of backpacking through Belize? Rambling through Russia? Coworking in Chile? 

Get planning that next trip! Covid won’t last forever.

digital nomad life

2. Landing a job with a remote-friendly company

There are plenty of companies who’ve been on the remote work scene for long enough to earn their stripes. The benefit of working for a well-established remote company is that they tend to have refined their remote culture. This means better technology and less room for communication breakdowns. Examples of companies who have a fully distributed team are AirTreks, Auttomatic, Aha! Gitlab, Cloudbeds, Zapier, and many more! Head over to our job board to check out the most recent job postings and join a fully-distributed team!

Going it alone as a freelancer

Do you have a dedicated skill? Maybe you’re an expert in digital marketing? Or a social media whizz? Are you an incredible designer? Or perhaps an established writer? Could you design websites?  Are you incredible at bookkeeping? Whatever your skill, if it’s something that you excel at, then chances are that you could make money out of it as a freelancer. Going it alone means you’ll have to invest in your own tools of the trade, and you’ll be working without a team, so you’ll need to be a self starter. Marketing will also be very important to help you get off your feet. Unless you have the budget to hire a freelance marketing expert, make sure you have a solid understanding of how marketing works before you begin. 

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Many freelancers don’t make enough money to stay afloat. For this reason, if you go down this route, we highly suggest that you start with a stable income, and develop your freelance business on the side. This means you can develop a client base and ensure you’re able to turn a profit before going balls-to-the-wall and quitting your day job.

digital nomad bali

Setting up your own business

Have you got an incredible idea? And some savings to put towards it? Setting up your own business as a digital nomad can be so incredibly rewarding. Traveling ensures that you mix in new networks, which is perfect for sounding out an idea for a fledgling business.

Many coworking spaces are also well set up to encourage and support budding new entrepreneurs. A membership at Hubud in Bali, for example, includes access to regular workshops led by successful international entrepreneurs. Over in Montreal, Crew Collective hold specialist events designed to encourage networking, such as masquerade balls and yoga classes.

If you’ve always dreamed about starting your own business, doing it as a digital nomad offers access to more markets, mentors and motivation than you’re likely to find in your hometown.

coworking spaces for digital nomads

Ready to become a digital nomad?

If the road is calling you and you’re ready for the challenge, it’s time to hop on over to our job section to check out the latest remote positions.

If you’re ready to cut loose completely from corporate life and you have an exciting business idea, we’d love to hear from you. Over at our sister company En4ble, we’ve set up a dedicated team who can assist with tech, design and business development. With our growing network of designers, business developers and coaches, we are able to use our expertise and experience to bring new projects to life! If you have a great idea that you believe has a real potential to succeed, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Send an email to application@en4ble.io

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