A common misconception is that the term digital nomad implies a specific job. In reality, there is no single “digital nomad job.” There isn’t just one way to afford the digital nomad lifestyle.
Being a digital nomad means you make money online and you are not bound to a fixed location. With this definition in mind let’s walk through the three main categories of digital nomads and some of the numerous ways to make money in each category.
Disclaimer: This article is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to constitute career or other professional advice. You should obtain professional advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. Deskless Nomad makes no representations, warranties, or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete, or up to date. Please see the full Deskless Nomad Disclaimer.
1. Remote Worker
While there is less flexibility and freedom when you work remotely as an employee for a company, you gain the benefit of a financial safety net and regular income. Being an employee can come with other perks like health insurance, reimbursed expenses, and a 401k retirement plan. As an employee, you may be bound by certain work hours, especially if you need to attend meetings online or be available for phone calls.
One of the main reasons people choose to become digital nomads is the freedom of the lifestyle and such schedule restrictions associated with being a remote worker can limit that freedom. On the other hand, you still gain the freedom to choose your location.
Negotiate with your boss to go remote
With the pandemic, most companies shifted to remote work at least temporarily and many have continued to offer remote positions as it became apparent how much employees value this flexibility. For someone who wants to become a digital nomad, the first step is to analyze your current job to determine if you could continue to do the same job fully remotely going forward.
Once you have thoroughly analyzed your job’s requirements, approach your boss and negotiate with them to go remote. With so many people resigning and switching jobs these days you may find you have more leverage than you think.
Switch to another position in your current company
If you don’t think your current job could be transitioned to full-time remote, you could look for other opportunities within your same company. It may be easier and faster to move to another position within your company than begin the job search process.
Search for a new remote employed position
The list of companies letting employees work remotely seems to get longer by the day. In addition, changing companies can bring an increase in salary and opportunities. You can find a remote job to suit your digital nomad lifestyle on any of the following websites:
Use your skillset to earn money as a freelancer. Making a living this way will give you more flexibility with regard to your time but may come at the expense of less financial freedom.
When you are first starting out you may have to hustle to make a decent living. It takes a while to build up client reviews and regular projects. If you are risk-averse or nervous about losing the safety net of a regular paycheck, consider trying out freelancing as a side gig while you continue to work at your current job.
You can work as a freelancer in a large number of fields but you are more likely to be successful if you choose something you are passionate about. Create a profile of your skills and apply for jobs and projects through:
There is a lot of competition on these websites so consider finding and marketing a niche or specialty within your skill so you stand out among the crowd. There are also many other ways to market your freelance services.
Common digital nomad freelancer jobs include:
- Video editing
- Social media manager
- Virtual assistant
- Facebook and google ads
- Podcast editing
- Data entry
- Email marketing
- Blog writing
- Technical writing
- Graphic design
- Website design and development
- Programming code
- SEO services
If you worry that your skills are not up to par, consider taking some online courses through Skillshare, Udemy or Lynda.com. You can quickly build your skillset in a month or two at a reasonable price.
3. Small business owner / entrepreneur
Having your own business is by far the best way to enjoy the digital nomad lifestyle. It will give you complete control of your time and travels. Understand that it will take time to grow your business so you may want to supplement your income with freelance work in the beginning. You may fail a few times before you find a successful business. You will need to hustle and persevere but the financial reward and sense of satisfaction will be worth it.
One of the best ways to prepare yourself for running a small business is to learn from others. Youtube has plenty of influencers willing to share their experiences for free. Skillshare also has classes to prepare you for all aspects of the small business journey.
Examples of small businesses you can start:
Creating and selling products. This could be jewelry, posters of your photography, printed workbooks, coloring books, clothing printed with your graphic designs, digital products like Canva templates. Use Etsy, Shopify, and Squarespace to sell your work.
Create and sell digital info products. You may have some sort of valuable knowledge that can help someone else. Share your wisdom through an Ebook you write, a course you design, an app you develop.
Drop-shipping. With this business, you are the customer-facing aspect of product sales but instead of managing the inventory yourself, you get the supplier to ship directly to the customer. This generally requires an initial monetary investment.
Become an online content creator through a YouTube channel, podcast, blog, or Instagram and earn money through ad revenue, Patreon, and affiliate marketing. Profiting in these businesses requires gaining followers which can take several months to years to acquire.
Invest in real estate and become a landlord or rent the properties on Airbnb or Vrbo. This business requires good credit and an initial financial investment in the property, furnishings, and photos for listings. While a lot of the aspects of managing properties can be outsourced to property management companies while you travel abroad, doing so will decrease your revenue. You’ll have to vet properties well to make sure you can turn a profit if someone else is managing the property. Acquiring a portfolio of properties also takes some knowledge of the industry and does carry some financial risk.
Start a personal service-based business like coaching (career, lifestyle, health, interior design). It will take time to build up your clientele and word of mouth is going to be key to growing your business.
Whichever career path you choose, make sure it aligns with your personality and your passions. Consider attending a digital nomad conference to learn about the many ways you can earn money to afford the digital nomad lifestyle.
You may also want to learn about taxes for digital nomads and remote workers so you can plan ahead when working remotely while abroad.
Regularly update your skillset to stay relevant in industries that are constantly changing. Pick a niche or specialty that will help you and/or your business stand out amongst the competition. The startup may be difficult but keep working at it until you get to where you want to be. The journey and the rewards are worth it. Read more about why you should become a digital nomad.