Following the footsteps of our ancestors, who based their society on gathering plants and tracking stars, it seems we never outgrown our inner need for discovery, adventure, and escapism. Can we blame it on the nomadic genes that are buried deep in our subconscious mind? Or maybe it’s the 60% of water our bodies consist of that makes our feet itch every time we see the endless horizons?
Now imagine yourself on a beach, enjoying a cold drink, and getting paid for this privilege. Impossible? Not really, if you are one of the people who call themselves digital nomads. What is a digital nomad, you ask? Keep on reading to find out more about this alternative, picturesque lifestyle that is currently one of the most popular remote dream jobs, and find out how (or if) you should become one.
The Life of Digital Nomads
It’s the 21st century, and we no longer need to migrate to find a suitable place to live. With the help of a Wi-Fi and a laptop, all the locations we’d like to explore are one click away. Even though technology became part of our everyday life, and as helpful as it is, people are not made to endure the regular 9-5 office routine.
We often dream of traveling and leaving our six-by-six cubicle behind, changing it with fresh air and vast space. But what if we can combine traveling and working?
Before you learn how to become a digital nomad, let us explain this modern trend’s terminology. Although this concept has been around since the 1970s, Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners were the first ones to use the term “digital nomad” in their book aptly named “Digital Nomad “(released in 1997).
They wrote about our nomadic, and natural urge to travel, combined with the technological possibilities, and how it changes our lifestyle. It’s not hard to guess how 23 years after the release of their book remote working became the “new normal” we all accepted.
A most common digital nomad synonym is remote worker. You have probably heard some other synonyms used to describe this exciting lifestyle.
Digital nomads have been called online professionals, perpetual travelers, online freelancers, remote workers, wandering professionals, etc. While close, most of these terms fall short of the mark, because they neglect to incorporate some aspect of the digital nomad lifestyle.
Digital Nomad Definition
The shortest and most succinct digital nomad definition needs to incorporate two terms: remote work + travel. The phrase has two parts, the word “nomad,” that was derived from the Greek word “nomas” (roaming in search of pastures), and the word “digital” (anything related to technology).
On top of that, did you know that, according to the report by MBO Partners, 4,8 million independent workers in the US describe themselves as digital nomads? Another survey, conducted by Upwork in 2019, shows that 57 million Americans work as freelancers (Gen Z makes 53%).
Digital or tech nomads don’t have a regular office. They can work from an exotic tropical beach in Bora Bora, drinking Pina Colada or a wooden cottage in the mountains, with a clear view of the sun-drenched lowlands. There are no limitations. You make your office wherever you go. The only thing that is mandatory to become a digital nomad is a wireless internet connection (or a mobile hotspot), a laptop, and a creative mind.
Fun fact. Do you know who was the first known digital nomad pioneer? It was 1983 when Steve Roberts decided to leave his office life, and create a computerized recumbent bicycle to travel around the US while working as a full-time freelance writer. This was a revolutionary idea in the ’80s.
How to Become a Digital Nomad?
You don’t have to travel far like Steve Roberts to describe yourself as a digital nomad, but be ready to leave the comfort zone behind, and accept the challenges that may occur in your way.
To become a successful digital nomad, you’ll need a financial cushion (since you’ll probably live off a passive income), and strong self-discipline (since you’ll have to manage your own time). Flexible working hours might sound perfect, but older digital nomads and remote workers know how hard it can get to stay focused on the task when working at home (in your pajamas), or anywhere outside the office.
Every digital nomad is a remote worker, but not every remote worker is a digital nomad. Here are some types of remote workers:
- Freelancers: they can get hired by multiple employers for short-term contracts and projects;
- Entrepreneurs: they can run their business via the internet, and do not need to be present physically to finish the job;
- Employees: some companies let their employees work remotely;
- Remote Teams: companies that do most of their work remotely and meet from time to time.
Becoming a digital nomad requires a few (easy) steps to follow, and here are some you can try:
Look before you leap
Working while traveling might sound like the greatest adventure ever, but do you know what’s it like to become a digital nomad? This line of work is not suitable for everyone. If you are not fully invested in the idea, this dream job might soon transform from a tempting adventure to a full-time nightmare.
Make sure you have enough income
Consider all the budget problems that you may run up against before you decide to leave your life behind and set your sails to Machu Picchu. Putting together a budget is essential, and it’s always smart to have a safety net.
Wondering how to become a digital nomad? Ask yourself how much money do you need to start this career? Where do you plan to live, and how much will you spend on rent, food, transportation, or the internet? If you don’t have enough money, try selling unnecessary belongings, renting your house, and save as much money as possible.
Scout potential destinations
As a digital nomad, you could have breakfast in Italy, lunch in Spain, and dinner in France. But if you don’t set your priorities, you might get overwhelmed by the choices presented to you, and end up not seeing or doing the things you planned. Make a schedule, determine the “must-see” locations, learn new languages, and choose the perfect location that fits all your needs and wishes.
Monetize your skills
Digital nomad definition implies relatively advanced computer skills. Presuming you’re already skilled with technology, creative skills like photography, design, writing, and basic knowledge of business can be a great asset. To increase the chances of finding a more profitable job, improve the skills you already possess.
For example, if you studied video editing, use these skills to become a vlogger. If you studied languages, earn money by creating language tutorials, location guides, etc.
There is no specific path to follow. Your success will depend on your skills, knowledge, and luck. Remember that sometimes you’ll have to take risks and jump into the unknown.
Joining a Digital Nomad Community
These communities will help you learn the nuances of the digital nomad lifestyle. You can learn the tricks of the trade from other nomads, and their personal experiences. Moreover, they’ll teach you how to work effectively, and how to connect with other digital nomads. There are a lot of communities to choose from, including the popular Couchsurfing and Nomadlist.
You can gain many benefits if you decide to join digital nomad communities. Let’s check out some of them.
Getting settled in the new location
Every digital nomad started their journey the same way, by finding a location(s) for their new office(s). If you just arrived in a new place, you’ll probably feel a bit off-track, not knowing where to find the best food, free Wi-Fi, or cheap accommodation.
Experienced older digital nomads can help you get settled in the new place. What’s more, they will give you the best advice about food, coffee shops, hotspots, etc. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Use their knowledge.
Fighting the loneliness
A nomadic lifestyle will take you to new places frequently, but what about loneliness? When you’re traveling alone, without a trusty companion, it can get a bit lonely. Even when you travel with a friend or partner, you might find it difficult at times.
So what to do? There is no special digital nomad guide that will help you feel less lonely, but joining a group of like-minded perpetual travelers might do the trick. You could always use their company, and maybe even find lifetime friends.
Taking care of business
Other digital nomads can give you advice on business issues. How to find new clients? What software to use? How to report your income for tax purposes? Experienced nomads will help you get the answers you need because they’ve been there before.
How to Find Digital Nomad Communities?
To find the best nomad communities to join, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and get busy. There are many communities out there, and the more you join, the better. The main sources of information are Websites, Facebook groups, and apps.
Best digital nomad website to check out:
- Nomad List – one of the biggest online communities for remote workers
- Digital Nomad Subreddit – a great resource for answers, advice, and “life hacks”
- Couchsurfing – find a place to stay or share your home and hometown with travelers
Facebook Groups can also be helpful, here are some:
- Digital Nomads Around the World – (digital nomads from various countries share their top tips and experiences)
- Global Digital Nomad Network – (the latest info and insights on the best travel destinations)
- Digital Nomads Hub – (a platform for digital nomads to share tips and advice).
And don’t forget to try these apps:
- Nomad Projects – (find side projects and team up)
- PartyWith – (explore the local nightlife)
- EatWith – (this app facilitates meetups for dinner parties, cooking classes and food tours).
If you want to read about digital nomads’ personal experiences, check their blogs or YouTube videos.
Best Digital Nomad Blogs
- The Lifestyle Hunter – (Pilar Noriega covers many different topics on her website, like volunteering, studying abroad, traveling with the aid of scholarships, etc.)
- Adventure In You – (learn how to profit from doing what you love)
- Justyn Jen – (Justyn has tons of free resources to teach you how to revamp your business)
- Nomad Capitalist – (one of the most “professional” digital nomad blogs where you can read about offshore living, global citizenship, and wealth creation).
There are no particular rules on how to be a digital nomad. Every person uses a different approach, the one that fits their personal needs. Following these steps will make your journey more manageable and less painful. Remember, being a digital nomad does give you individual freedom, but with great freedom comes great responsibility.
Fun fact. Did you know that remote workers are more productive than their office colleagues? According to the FlexJobs’ annual survey, 65% of remote workers are more productive working from home than in an office. On top of that, another survey shows that 23% of remote workers are willing to put in extra hours to accomplish their work-related tasks.
How Much Do Digital Nomads Make?
A FlexJobs report shows us that 22% of remote workers earn between $50,000 and $99,999, compared with the average US salary, that’s roughly $46.641. 31% make similar amounts of money, and 18% make more money as a digital nomad than when they worked traditionally.
The top 10 career fields for digital nomads are Writing, Education & Training, Administrative, Customer Service, Art & Creative, Computer & IT, Consulting, Data Entry, Marketing, and Project Management. So what’s the typical digital nomad salary? There’s no easy answer to this question. It depends on the quality of your skills, how much time you spend working, and what type of work you’re engaged in.
E.g., You can earn $10,000–$30,000 if you work on projects, and if you get paid by the project. If you work for a company on an hourly or yearly salary, you can earn $20,000–$50,000. To earn more than $50,000 you’ll have to possess the desired skill sets (usually graphic design and coding).
So, how much do digital nomads make? Here are some typical digital nomads jobs that are well-paid:
- Software-engineer: 54$/ hour
- Web Designer: 41$/ hour
- Graphic Designer: 35$/ hour
- Digital marketing Consultant/coach: 33$/ hour
- Virtual Assistant: 31$/ hour
- Marketing Specialist: 26$/ hour
- Social Media Manager: 25$/ hour
- Freelance Writer: 24$/ hour.
Is Being a Digital Nomad Worth it?
For example, a blog writer can make $6,000 per month if working on a full schedule. Digital marketing coaches can make $1,600 per month when working less than 15 hours a week, and a copywriter can make about $2,500 per month.
Becoming a tech nomad might be something to consider. Why? The best jobs for digital nomads are in the tech niche. Software engineers, programmers, website developers, and app developers get the biggest salaries. As the digital world keeps growing, so does the need for talented programmers.
The best part of this job is that you can work offline, and that can be a great help if you are located on some remote island in the Pacific. Many digital nomads fund their travels with income from coding and programming.
Best Digital Nomads Jobs
As we mentioned before, according to many statistics, remote work is continuously increasing. Between 2005 and 2017, there was a 159% increase in remote work. In 2015, 3.9 million US workers were working remotely. Today that number is at 4.7 million, or 3.4% of the population. It is estimated that 50% of the total US workforce will be freelance by 2027.
So how does one go about becoming a digital nomad, what skills are required, and what are the best remote jobs out there?
Creating content for marketing, advertising, and websites is one of the most common digital nomad jobs. Writers are always needed, and they are well paid. You can become an editor, copywriter, or content writer for blogs, and earn $200 per hour, or even create your own blog to get to that figure. It sounds like a great deal, but to become a successful writer you first need to build a great portfolio and work with big companies.
Older digital nomads would probably suggest you start working as a translator. You can translate audio or written content, transcribe subtitles to YouTube videos, etc. There are hundreds of translator jobs on freelancing platforms.
This is probably one of the less creative digital nomad jobs, and as such, it can be a great stepping stone if you’re a newbie. The only requirement for this job is speed, and understanding of the language that needs to be transcribed. If you’re not the fastest typer, skip jobs like this.
Social Media Manager
Some famous digital nomads started as social media managers, working for a marketing agency, or as individual marketers. To become a social media manager, you need to be a master in understanding Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, and LinkedIn.
Being a graphic designer gives you many work options. Namely, you can create logos, book covers, information materials, advertising materials, etc. Graphic designers are well-paid, and there is never a shortage of demand.
Fun fact. Did you know that Estonia became the first country that created a digital nomad visa? According to Estonia’s Ministry of Interior, this visa allows internationals to work in Estonia as remote workers (mostly in the field of technology, finance, or marketing).
Other countries that offer visas for digital nomads are Germany, Estonia, Costa Rica, Norway, Mexico, Portugal, and the Czech Republic.
Should I Become a Digital Nomad?
Considering everything we talked about before, yes, you should try to work as a digital nomad. However, all that glitters is not gold, and there are a couple of disadvantages to consider.
Getting a visa is not always the easiest thing. Authorities find it hard to track your online jobs, but if you don’t want to get into trouble, be sure to have a work permit.
And what about the taxes? There is no easy answer to this question. Paying different taxes depends on where you come from, where you travel to, and what kind of work you do. Contact your tax office to get information about the rules of taxation before you start working as a digital nomad.
No Guaranteed Income
The lack of a guaranteed revenue stream is one of the biggest downsides of being a digital nomad, meaning you’re not completely free to do as you like. As a freelancer, you might not have a stable job and regular income. When you start working you might have many clients, and by the end of the year, hardly one. Even if you are skillful in your area of work, sometimes luck plays the most crucial role. A client that wants to work with you can change his mind and cancel the contract. It’s smart to start with additional income or to have some savings.
Being a digital nomad is not always as easy as it looks. Just because you get to travel the world and work from any location you like, doesn’t mean that you’ll have a permanent income. Sometimes you’ll have to work seven days a week, for more than eight hours a day, including public holidays or weekends. That said, did you know that 55% of remote workers take fewer than 15 days of vacation per year?
How to Be a Digital Nomad With No Skills?
If you want to become a digital nomad, but you don’t possess strong technical skills, what are your options?
As we know, many jobs require a college degree, even remote ones. Modern jobs require additional technical knowledge of computers and software like Microsoft Word or Excel. Freelancers use Google Docs or Sheets, Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, etc.
Best digital nomad jobs for people with little or no experience are:
Social Media Manager
What is a digital nomad, and can you become one by merely posting compelling blog posts? If you’re a social media wizard who quickly gains new followers, you can actually get paid for it. Many companies are using traditional marketing methods, and they have no time to focus on social media. That’s where social media managers come in.
The job may require you to be in charge of general social media marketing strategy, or you could specialize in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
For those wondering how to become a digital nomad with a teacher’s skillset, it’s fairly simple. If you are a (native) English speaker with a bachelor’s degree, that’s all you need to become a remote tutor, and it’s a great way to earn money. Some of the best-known companies for online teaching are VIPKID, GoGo Kid, Magic Ears, Qkids Teacher, etc.
In addition to your grammar knowledge, you’ll need a headset with a microphone, a webcam, and a fast internet connection. Every additional gear, like a whiteboard, is more than welcome.
Housesitting & Petsitting
Becoming a digital nomad and working as a housesitter or petsitter might not be the best option when it comes to money, but it’s a great starting point to get its notion. You’ll have to look after the owner’s home or pets while they travel, and in exchange, you’ll get a place to stay and work. This is a great job to start with if you have no experience. You get to travel, and you don’t have to spend money on rent or the internet.
How to Define Digital Nomad?
Many people mix freelancers with digital nomads. To avoid any confusion, the main difference between a digital nomad, and a freelancer, is their lifestyle. A freelancer is someone who’s self-employed, while digital nomads can work for a company or own a business.
Digital nomads are not paid to travel. They work remotely using laptop and internet connection. They are not tied to one location and can work from hotels, camps, coffee shops, etc.
So the basic digital nomad meaning excludes telecommuters and freelancers? While they are, more or less, digital nomads, this term describes remote workers who are traveling while working. When digital nomads retire, they can start working from a home office or become full-time freelancers.
Are only the young people digital nomads?
If you think that only Millennials can be digital nomads, think again. According to one study, 33% of remote workers are 31-36 years old, 29% are in their later twenties, and 18% are 37-45 years old. 64% of them are male, and 36% are female. Other studies show that 90% of remote workers plan to keep working remotely until they retire.
Best Countries to Live in as a Digital Nomad
What is a digital nomad lifestyle, and how to maintain one? There are several factors to consider when embracing this alternative lifestyle.
First, you need to choose the country you plan to live (and work) in. Are you a worshipper of sunlight, or you favor a colder climate? Do you like crowded places or you prefer little houses on the prairie?
Second, if you’re not sure where to start, here are some countries worth checking out:
- United States
And lastly, remember that this must be your decision. Your preferences should be your guide.
Let’s summarize our knowledge. According to the digital nomad definition: digital nomads are remote workers of all ages that lead atypical lifestyles. They choose the location they want to live in (and work), and need only a laptop and an internet connection.
To become one, you need to have a good financial plan. Joining forces with other nomads, or becoming a part of many communities, can make your work as a digital nomad much easier and less painful. You can find many communities on Facebook, Websites, Blogs, and apps.
This is not a career to be taken lightly and there’s no foolproof digital nomad guide that is guaranteed to match your preferences. Before you decide to leave your full-time office job, consider all the pros and cons of this career change. There are some disadvantages to consider, like taxes, loneliness, and lack of free time.
Concurrently, there are many advantages, like flexible work hours, and the ability to travel. This lifestyle doesn’t rely on ageism. You can be an adventurous 20-year-old wanderluster, or a middle-aged escapist that wants to change his/her career.
Let’s go back to the main question: What is a digital nomad, and how (or if) you should become one?
It takes courage to leave the comfort zone behind, and change your everyday routines for a spark of fresh air, and some form of freedom. After everything you learned, are you willing to take that risk, and follow the yellow brick road? The choice is yours. Just remember: “Not all those who wander are lost.” (J.R.R. Tolkien)
What does it mean to be a digital nomad?
Digital nomads are individuals that use digital technologies to perform their work while living as nomads. This means they don’t have an office and can work from home, coffee shops, public libraries, etc.
There are different types of digital nomads, from freelancers who write, code, or coach; professionals who provide online/remote services and employees who work remotely within a more traditional company, to people who create and sell digital products.
How much can you make as a digital nomad?
You can make a different amount of money as a digital nomad. It will depend on your skills, the type of the job, and if you’re a full-time or a part-time worker. Like we mentioned before, people that are working in the tech industry will get more money than people working as writers or digital marketers.
Moreover, if you’re a software engineer, programmer or a website developer, expect to get the biggest salary for your work.
What skills do you need to be a digital nomad?
You should already be skilled with technology, and possessing creative skills, like photography, design, writing, and basic business knowledge can be very useful. To increase the chances of finding a higher-paying job, work on the skills you already possess.
For example, if you’re a photographer or a talented painter, you can become a graphic designer. If you have no tech skills, you can work as a teacher, translator, writer, social media manager, etc.
How does a digital nomad work?
Digital nomads don’t have a regular office. They can work in busy, vibrant places, like coffee shops and parks, or quiet places, like remote cottages or libraries. There are no limitations. The only mandatory thing is a wireless internet connection (or a mobile hotspot), a laptop, and a creative mind.
Some nomads use co-living and co-working spaces for work since they offer more comfort, and the opportunity to connect with other entrepreneurs.
Is being a digital nomad legal?
Being a digital nomad is entirely legal. It’s important to understand the laws of the countries you stay in, and you’ll have to require a working visa. There is no universal rule for visas; every country has different rules, so you’ll have to inquire about the country you intend to work in and do some research before leaving.
In many situations, you only have to leave the country every three or six months. But again, this depends on the country you are visiting, and their legal system. Europe and Asia have different rules, so be sure to check all the options available before venturing into your adventure.
What is a digital nomad lifestyle?
Digital nomad lifestyle implies traveling, working from home, cafes, or co-working spaces, and frequent locations change. Your lifestyle, as a digital nomad, will be closely connected to finding areas with a stable internet connection. This means you’ll probably have to work in, more or less, big cities (forget about that remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean).
Just because you get to travel the world, and work from any location you like, doesn’t mean that you’ll have a stable income. Sometimes you’ll have to work on public holidays and weekends. Remember that the nomadic lifestyle can be lonely, even when you’re traveling with a friend.So what is a digital nomad and what does it mean to be one? That’s something you’ll need to discover for yourself.