December 20, 2021
One of the most common questions we get from new members of our community is how to become a digital nomad. People see pictures on social media of foreign workers sitting on a white sand beach, laptop in hand, earning an income, and immediately wonder how they can do the same. That's why we've created a rough guide to help you be location independent.
Remote work isn't as simple as sitting by the pool with a computer on your lap while you work on your tan. It takes hard work to get the right income stream going, and even more dedication to keep it going. It's easy to skip work to go exploring instead, so you need to be focused and disciplined to meet your deadlines and stay on track.
Since you may be living in remote areas or countries without good infrastructure, you also need to get creative when it comes to the things you need to work. While the reality of working in remote areas may be less glamorous than the pictures, the lifestyle is extremely rewarding, even if you have to track down a dark, dingy coffee shop that is the only place on the island with internet.
The problem with the digital nomad lifestyle is that there isn't exactly one plan that everyone can follow. Everyone has slightly different skills and varying levels of professional or career experience, so some of you may be able to skip a few steps, while others may have to do a little extra legwork in the beginning.
So there's no one path to take, but we've written this guide with a focus on beginners or people who are just starting to get interested in the location-independent movement.
First, let's define what a digital nomad really means. The term "digital nomad" is used to describe many different types of location-independent workers, from people who have passive income streams to those who work in the gig economy while moving around. Here, you can learn more about the location-independent movement and take an in-depth look at how modern nomads came to be.
What all digital nomads have in common is that they typically spend several months a year abroad, are constantly on the move, and earn their income through online work. A digital nomad can easily earn an income of $12,000 per year and live a comfortable, cushy lifestyle in countries like Thailand or Bali in Southeast Asia. If you send that same digital nomad to London, Paris or Sydney, it won't work out so well. Location independence means that nomads enjoy true freedom thanks to a healthy income that allows them to run their business from any city in the world, even the most expensive ones.
Regardless of the amount of income you can earn through remote work, the goal is to become a digital nomad so you have the freedom to work and travel worldwide. The Location Indie community offers a wealth of resources and tips from other nomads to help you build your location-independent life and give you tips on how to achieve a higher level of location independence.
First, let's break down the steps on the path to becoming a digital nomad.
Again, there is no one way to become a digital nomad, so the following steps are meant as loose guidelines to help you along the way. You may have to skip a few steps or start over a few times, but with a little patience and dedication, you can do it!
The first step on the road to digital nomadism is to identify what things in your life tie you to a specific location. Long-term leases on homes or vehicles are often the first things to address. You should also start cutting expenses like gym memberships and subscription services to free up your income for the things you really need when you're on the road. As a digital nomad, you usually travel light, so you should get rid of junk and material things that don't serve an important purpose in your life.
Now is also a good time to pay off your debt or set up a payment plan. Credit card debt should be paid off as soon as possible because of the high interest rates. If you have student loans, you can set up a payment plan or open a special account for your payments so you don't get stressed when you start tapping into your savings while traveling. If you have a car, think about selling it. Remember that you won't need it in the long run, and you'll save more money in the short term because you won't have to pay for gas, maintenance, registration or insurance.
At Location Indie, our digital nomad community is a great resource for getting started as a digital nomad or taking your online business to new heights. Forums and Facebook groups make it easy to contact groups of nomads or specific nomads you may admire for advice or feedback. You'll gain access to like-minded individuals who are ready to take the world by storm. Our community is here to congratulate you when you make progress, and to catch you when you encounter setbacks along the way.
When you join Location Indie, you have a built-in support group and a wealth of knowledge as you navigate the waters of digital nomadism. You can learn new skills from community members or pick up tips for working online or choosing a new residence.
The first thing you need to do is figure out what skills you have that you can turn into money online. Obviously, you need to be able to type and operate a computer as well as the Internet. The good news is that most people already have these skills these days. You can increase your chances of getting a better-paying remote job by building on knowledge and skills you've learned or practiced in the past.
Common remote work skills include things like writing, marketing, computer design, or engineering. If you're a developer, look for jobs developing the front or back end of websites. Teaching English online is another good option for native English speakers, and companies like VIP KID make it easier than ever to find clients and become a digital nomad. With enough hours and regular clients, you can even make teaching English a full-time job.
Most digital nomads start by finding remote jobs or freelance work that allows them to earn a small income. Once you've secured your first source of income, you'll need to decide whether to expand that income stream into a larger business or simply find several similar jobs to cobble together to make more money. Since there is no set path to digital nomadism, your situation will depend on your skills and knowledge, as well as how willing you are to take risks and perhaps even fail.
Once you've figured out what skills you have to work from home, you need to find a job. Probably the easiest way to do this is to scour specific job boards for remote work. Fortunately, there are now numerous sites like We Work Remotely and RemoteOk that exclusively post jobs that are remote or location independent. At UpWork, formerly known as ODesk, you can find freelance jobs for everything from virtual assistants and photographers to accountants and consultants.
You can search by industry or skill on these sites, and while the most common jobs are often technology-oriented, such as programming and design, you can also find plenty of customer service and support jobs. Writing, editing, and transcription jobs are also ideal for people who don't have solid technical skills but are great communicators.
If you feel overwhelmed in the remote work industry, you can first find a location-based job or enroll in a university abroad. This route provides more structure and a safety net in case you find that digital nomadism isn't right for you. The risk of failure is much lower with this path than with self-employment, but it also means that your journey to becoming a digital nomad may take longer. If you decide to go this route, you'll need to get a visa or residency permit. Countries like Canada and Australia offer working holiday visas, so you can try out Vancouver or Perth while you get used to living abroad.
You can also try to convince your boss that you can take your current job with you. To be successful with this approach, you will need to do some preparation: Draft a proposal that addresses all the important aspects of your job and outlines how you can transfer them to a job abroad without losing momentum. Make sure you outline any areas of concern, and take a look at remote management tools like Slack that can facilitate communication with your colleagues. With proper planning, communication, and trust between employees and supervisors, many office tasks can be done remotely these days.
Once you've been freelancing for a while, you can start building your business. If you do a good job, it will be easy for you to get referrals for new clients and your income streams will grow. You can also create your own website and business cards to market your business and improve your reach and reputation. Keep in mind that you may be working from different parts of the world, and make sure you schedule work and appearances in the right time zones.
If you're a writer or know your way around social media, you can build a marketing business that helps businesses and blogs gain a larger audience and more customers. Copywriting jobs are widely available online and can be a good start to creating content for blog posts. Once you've developed your skills, you can turn them into a full-service marketing business by creating content, promoting it online through social media channels, and generating advertising revenue.
If you're already freelancing or earning passive income remotely, you can skip these initial steps and simply take your work on the road. If you have some money saved up, you can also buy an established online business and get a jump start. Websites like Flippa make it easy to find online businesses for sale and learn how much money they bring in. Successful digital nomads are a diverse group, consisting of both people who own their own businesses and others who search for potential customers online or do odd jobs along the way.
Now that you've created a source of income, it's time to escape the rat race and head to your first destination. From the Americas and Europe to Asia, Africa and Latin America, the possibilities are endless and deciding on a destination can be overwhelming. You need to be honest with yourself and know what you want from a place to be happy. If you are realistic about your income and needs, you will find a great place to live. Remember that as a digital nomad, you can always change your mind if you don't like the place you've landed or you just need a change of scenery.
To narrow down your list of destinations, first determine the cost of living in each place. You'll need to be able to afford everything from rent to food and entertainment, so be realistic about your income in relation to the cost of living in potential destinations. You can live on a larger scale in places with a low cost of living than in expensive areas, so you should also consider what activities and adventures you want to experience as a digital nomad.
You can also head to digital nomad hubs like Chiang Mai if you want to be surrounded by like-minded people. Nomad List is a great resource for identifying trendy destinations and provides ratings based on internet speed, fun, safety, and cost to help you figure out where you want to go. You can drill down into specific climates, activities or health features to help you decide.
Once you've found a destination, you'll need to figure out lodging, or at least what kind of lodging you want. If you're a social butterfly and you're worried about getting lonely, you can start by staying in a hostel or a co-op where you can easily make new friends. However, you may prefer solitude or a quiet place where you can retreat. In this case, Airbnb is a great option, because you can rent entire apartments for a month or a certain period of time and have the feeling of having your own place.
If you want to take advantage of additional services, hotels and homestays are a great choice. Hotels can provide laundry and meal services so you can focus on a difficult project or simply settle into your new surroundings. It will also be easy for you to find locals who can give you tips and tricks for your new home. Whatever you decide, remember that you are truly free now and can change your accommodation whenever you need a change.
As a digital nomad, it's especially important to set goals and plans and follow through with them. To make the nomadic lifestyle work, you need to be clear about what you want, where you want to go, how long you want to stay, and what you need to do to make it happen.
When asked for one piece of advice she would give to new nomads, Location Indie member Rachel Story of GratefulGypsies.com replied, "Get organized and make a to-do list! Make a plan! As off-putting as a 'routine' may be, it's essential to getting things done. The good thing is that you can choose your own routine. If you want to go for a jog in the morning, no problem! Take a long lunch break to meet up with a friend? Do it! You can still check things off your list!"
Backup plans or alternative passive income sources are also a good idea in case you fail down one path and need a safety net while you realign your plans.
Remember, plans shouldn't just revolve around your income as a vacation worker. You should also address the day-to-day aspects of healthy living, such as health care, insurance, and local laws and regulations. Since you'll be living in foreign countries, you'll need to do some research to make sure you understand all the new rules and have the right support in case you get sick or injured while exploring.
If you really want to be a digital nomad or become location independent, the first thing you need to do is start working towards that goal. You can get started much faster than you think. With hard work and a little luck, you can get started in just a few weeks and have a full-fledged business in one or two years.
With Location Indie's digital nomad community and online remote work job sites, you have all the resources you need to get started and start adventuring. You have so little to lose and so much to gain, so get out there and start chasing your dreams.
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