How to become a digital nomad
What is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad is someone who earns money online or runs his or her business via the internet and can travel around the world, without being tied to one location.
The most common type of digital nomad is someone who earns an online income, often with a blog, trading cryptocurrency, investing on the stock exchange, freelancing, affiliate marketing, and so on.
Another option is having a location-specific business where you do not have to be physically present to take care of the ins and outs.
You can even be a digital nomad in the real estate sector!
Imagine that you have several apartments around the world, and if you have long-term tenants for them and a local contact person who solves any problems for you, you are free to live anywhere.
In short, a digital nomad is someone who has a location independent income and uses that fact to travel across the world.
Digital Nomad Lifestyle
When most people ask themselves “What is a digital nomad?” they imagine someone sitting on the beach with a laptop enjoying a cocktail.
Although that is not always the case and most digital nomads have to work as much as people who have a regular job, it is certainly an option.
And that is the most attractive aspect of living as a digital nomad: freedom.
The freedom to live and work wherever you want.
- Do you want to live in Thailand for a year and lie on the beach all day and work on your blog in the evening? No problem.
- Do you want to backpack through South America and earn money by recording your adventures and putting them on YouTube? Do it!
- Would you rather live in a studio in New York, Dubai or Singapore and work on your freelancing career? Also possible!
The main point here is that you can choose what you do, and where you do it.
And if you are tired of living somewhere, you can leave without any problems and find happiness elsewhere.
You are a citizen of the world.
Being tied to one location because you have a ‘normal’ permanent job seems terrible to me, and given the increasing number of digital nomads, more and more people are starting to lean that way.
How can digital nomads make money?
Make money online
Make money online is quite a broad term, and technically it covers the following sections as well.
But what I mean by earning money online is creating your own income on the internet, either actively or passively.
Examples would be:
- making YouTube videos
- writing and publishing eBooks
- doing e-commerce
- cryptocurrency trading
- stock trading
- playing poker
- affiliate websites
- sex camming
Freelancing also allows you to earn money over the internet, but it differs from the previous section because you are technically working for someone else.
You have clients, and they pay you.
For example, if you’re a freelance writer, you can display your skills on sites like Fiverr and clients can hire you to write this or that.
Same for graphic design, programming, virtual assisting, social media management, and so on.
Freelancing is an excellent way to get started as a digital nomad, and I’ve covered it in more detail in this article.
Managing your own business remotely
By your own business I mean having a company that is physically located somewhere, with or without several employees, and managing it remotely.
That could be in almost any industry, but obviously it’s easier to run a business that just sells digital products than a remote construction company.
The most important factor in doing this successfully is either setting up an automated system through multiple subcontractors who handle every part of your business or having a competent and reliable manager.
Owning an online business (such as e-commerce) falls under the first section.
Working from home
Thanks to COVID, working from home has become an option for many people.
Instead of forcing all their employees to sit in an office, employers are more and more likely to offer the option to work from home.
This is healthier, safer, cheaper, and apparently working from home also increases employee productivity.
Working from home as a digital nomad in a different country is taking this one step further, and most employers will (rightly) be reluctant to allow you to do so.
After all, as a digital nomad you probably reside in a different time zone than your company, with sometimes unreliable internet.
As a result, you may have to stay longer in a certain country/city, often for months on end, so that you can actually perform adequately.
But for me personally, this approach is better and more fun than constantly traveling, traveling, traveling.
If you stay in a certain region for a longer period, you can absorb much more of the culture.
So if you have that option, you can combine a stable job with a digital nomad lifestyle, which is a much lower threshold for most people who want to move abroad but are reluctant to leave their “secure” income.
Personally, I did this for a couple of years, and while there were certainly some issues (mostly due to shitty internet here in Southeast Asia), overall it worked out well and I was able to make a decent living, work on my own businesses, and still enjoy the benefits of living abroad.
How can you become a digital nomad?
Becoming a digital nomad gets easier every day, and if you are interested in this, you can become a digital nomad yourself in 2 easy steps:
- Earn any form of sufficient and reliable (online) income
- Start traveling
The first step is the most complicated, but as you’ve seen there are plenty of options.
It may seem daunting at first, but trust me when I say that nowadays anyone can make money over the internet.
I would suggest you give freelancing a go, because there are plenty of directions you can take, and almost anyone has some sort of skill that others will pay money for.
You could also create a website such as a blog, web shop or affiliate website, and build up your online income that way.
Once you are reliably earning enough money to cover your expenses, you are free to quit your regular job and start traveling.
If you have any real estate, you can start renting it out and use the rental income to finance your lifestyle as a digital nomad.
The rent you receive for renting out a house in a Western city is often more than enough to cover your monthly expenses in countries such as Vietnam or Paraguay.
Other online income options such as cryptocurrency trading and investing may not be a good options unless you have plenty of experience and can already cover your expenses.
Do keep in mind that your expenses in other countries might be vastly lower than what you need in the West!
Once you earn an online income (and have proven that you can keep it for at least 3 months straight), it’s just a matter of getting your affairs in your country in order, saying goodbye to your family and friends, packing your bags, and getting on a plane.
Your life as a digital nomad has begun!
Disadvantages of becoming a digital nomad
I would like to briefly go over the disadvantages and the reality of living the life of a digital nomad.
It’s not all fun and games, sun, sea and sand (although that can certainly be a prominent aspect of your life … if you want to!).
By this I mean both being dependent on a stable and reliable internet connection (depends on how you make your money) and being dependent on big companies like Google.
After all, the success of your blog, website or YouTube channel depends on the benevolence of God Google.
If they suddenly decide to blacklist your website or channel, you immediately lose a large source of your income, sometimes even everything.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: diversifying and having multiple sources of income is very important, so you are not at the mercy of any one person, company or entity.
If you’re constantly traveling and don’t stay in one place for long, it can certainly be difficult to form meaningful relationships, both romantically and amicably.
Human contact often remains superficial and fleeting if you fully embrace your life as a digital nomad, and for many people that can be a real problem.
Of course you can still stay in touch with everyone you meet via online apps and social media, but that’s not the same thing.
For this reason, I’ve decided to not travel constantly, but instead stay in one country for many months, even years, before moving on to the next.
Traveling all the time and staying in exotic locations is certainly fun, but you can run into all kinds of logistical problems.
- If you currently are living in Vietnam and your client is located in Canada, it is not always easy to find a suitable time to conduct your consultation due to the time difference
- The co-working space where you normally work in Colombia could be closed due to a local holiday on a day when you have an important online meeting with your employees in Paris
Honestly, this is just something you’ll have to accept and deal with as best as you can.
Make sure you have a detailed calendar and you plan your meetings or any other time-sensitive matters well in advance.
Becoming a digital nomad: in summary
A digital nomad is someone who can earn an income online regardless of his/her location in the world, and therefore has the freedom to live anywhere.
And part of the digital nomad lifestyle is traveling a lot and experiencing adventures all over the world!
The most common ways digital nomads make money are:
- Make money online
- Manage your own business remotely
- Work from home
As soon as you can earn enough money to cover your costs with one (or more) of these methods, you can become a digital nomad.
There are however a number of drawbacks associated with the digital nomad lifestyle, including:
- Dependent on the internet
- Logistical problems
You should certainly not underestimate these problems because they can lead to a lot of headaches, but for me – and thousands of other digital nomads – the disadvantages do not outweigh the biggest advantage: freedom.
As a digital nomad you have a lot of freedom: where you work, when you work, who you work with, and what you work on.
You’re your own boss and you control your own destiny, and that’s the best feeling in the world.
Set up your own location independent international income, become a digital nomad and escape the West.