If the digital nomad lifestyle appeals to you, here are some tips to turn your dream into reality.
The internet is changing the way work gets done. Gone are the days of driving to work in rush-hour traffic and sitting in a cubicle for eight hours.
Working from home has been a possibility for years now, but the out-of-office economy has recently taken an exciting turn. Many freelancers are doubling down on the freedom afforded by remote work opportunities and are working from exotic and inspiring places.
You can join these travelers. Below are some guidelines for living like a nomad in the digital economy.
Pick a freelance specialty
Before you can earn an income while traveling the world, you need to establish a group of paying clients. But before that happens, you'll need a skill that suits the digital nomad lifestyle.
First, think of work that can be completed with just a laptop and an internet connection: writing, web development, graphic design and online teaching are just some options. All of these fields are in demand and are thriving in the digital freelance economy.
Traveling, however, is only possible once you've proven your knack for a particular field of freelance work. You should build a base of clients from home for the first few months. Give yourself a trial period to determine whether you can handle a full plate of your new line of work.
After determining your freelance specialty, it's time to go all in on self-promotion.
In this phase, you'll need to create accounts on all of the major social media networks. Use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Quora to build your credibility as an expert in your field. Make connections with other freelancers. Use websites like Upwork and Freelancer to find the work and stay busy!
Most importantly, you need a personal website. Your social media presence should tastefully serve as an advertisement for your website. Here you can wow potential clients with your portfolio, sell your products and services, publish a blog that further establishes your role as a leader in your industry. Do this work before you set out on your travels – having a deep online presence makes it easier to collect the next paycheck.
Plan your travels
With your business taken care of, you can move on to the fun part: planning your journey.
As a digital nomad, your only limitation is that you must maintain a constant internet connection. Without it, you'll lose contact with your clients.
Major cities across the globe are the most popular choice for this lifestyle. Major cities afford nomads a high-speed internet connection as well as thousands of other freelancers to meet and hang out with. Keep an eye on each city's cost of living and you should maintain financial stability. Unless you have an important reason, obviously expensive cities like New York City and San Francisco should probably be avoided.
It should be noted, however, that developing countries are making massive strides in connectivity. If you have a desire to explore a lesser-populated area, research that area's internet access. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Acknowledge the challenges
As much fun as traveling the world can be, there will always be unexpected challenges. However, there are some challenges that you can expect.
You will go long stretches without seeing your friends and family. As weeks and months go by, living among exclusively unfamiliar faces takes its toll. Stay connected with family and friends with apps like Skype, WhatsApp and, of course, other major social networks like Facebook.
A successful nomadic lifestyle will keep you on the road for months or years. You will very likely get sick at some point and you may not be covered by your current health insurance plan. According to Yonder Travel Insurance, "Most people aren't aware that their Medicare or health insurance plan in the states might not cover them if they travel out of the country. Medical expense coverage [under some plans] would provide 24/7 assistance if you're involved in an accident, fall ill or even if a pre-existing condition flares up again."
Work-life balance will be harder than ever to maintain. You need to address one issue right away: You are not going on an extended vacation. In fact, to make ends meet, you may need to work more than you would at a 9-to-5 job. But your work will be much more rewarding, and your free time will be better spent.
Also, if you venture outside of the United States, Europe or parts of Asia, expect regular network outages. The infrastructure of first-world countries is easily taken for granted.
Becoming a digital nomad requires persistence and courage. Keeping the four points below in mind will help you before and during your time on the road:
- Specialize in one area of freelance work, but experiment with other options. Opening new possibilities for income will help during quiet months.
- Make a travel plan, but be willing to veer away from it. You chose this lifestyle for freedom of location.
- Stop procrastinating. Getting your work done immediately has never been more important. Only after you've completed your work can you enjoy your surroundings.
- Keep your phone out of your hands while you're working. Stay focused on completing one task at a time.
Living the nomad lifestyle in the digital economy has never been more possible. It's a lifestyle that comes with rewards the likes of which can't be imagined in a cubicle at a 9-to-5 job. Though it will test your strength like nothing else, becoming a digital nomad is the surest way to quell your desire for adventure.