When most people think of a digital nomad they think of the well-traveled web worker, blogging tirelessly at his laptop while sipping an ice-cold drink on a pristine beach. Sounds like a dream come true, right?
In all actuality, digital nomads are living the kind of life many of us dream about: working remotely from anywhere in the world. Traveling and taking in the sights, sounds and tastes of a new culture is exciting, and it’s easy to see why this fast-growing opportunity is so attractive. Digital nomads aren’t rooted to a specific country, language, or lifestyle. At their core, they’re free – and freedom is what it’s all about.
But being a digital nomad also comes with its challenges. How do you keep in touch with clients remotely? How can you manage to stay productive? And perhaps more critically, where will you stay and how will you continue to grow your business?
We’ve compiled the ultimate guide to embracing the digital nomad lifestyle, complete with actionable steps you can take to get started down this unusual but highly gratifying path. Let’s take a closer look:
Digital Nomad Challenges and Growth Hacking Secrets
One of the biggest perceived obstacles to embracing the digital nomad lifestyle is the skill ceiling. Just because you can type and operate a few basic office applications won’t guarantee you’ll be able to thrive as a digital nomad.
The truth is, there are people right now living in exotic countries, but barely scraping by. Conversely, there are people making quite a bit of money, but they’re chained to their cubicle desks, dreaming their life away. Digital nomads have the potential to be the perfect balance to these two extremes—but there are some basic requirements.
Finding a Place to Live, Work and Play
In this day and age, there are far better methods to decide where you’ll go than spinning a globe and packing your bags for wherever your finger happens to land. Smart digital nomads know that research, resourcefulness, and preparedness are key—and that includes planning ahead. Check out websites such as nomadlist or teleport for a list of the best cities to live in and work remotely from according to specific personal preferences.
Once you’ve narrowed down the list, it’s time to book your flight. Get the lowest price on a flight as well as travel deals direct to your mobile device using the Hitlist app and you’ll be well on your way to starting your digital nomad journey.
Accommodation – Where Will You Stay?
While many people envision the digital nomad lifestyle as sitting on a beach chair as the waves roll in, the truth is not quite so glamorous. For one thing, you’ll start to feel it in your wrists and neck if you start using your laptop for more than a couple hours in such an odd position. Secondly, the sand and salty sea air can really do a number on your laptop.
That’s why you’ll want to look into reliable accommodations before you even book your plane tickets. Depending on your knowledge of the local language, you may be able to check bulletin boards, and of course, Airbnb.
Even if you can afford nice accommodations, it may be worth staying a night or two in a hostel simply to meet people (and practice those language skills if you’re feeling a bit rusty!) Working as a digital nomad can cut back considerably on how often you connect with people, so don’t hesitate to browse sites like MeetUp for some local activities that pique your interest.
Once you have your accommodations squared away, there comes the big issue — where will you work? What if you need to meet with clients or need to copy, print, scan or fax something? While the image many people have in their mind of “digital nomads” is one person with a lone laptop to travel the world unencumbered, the truth is that sometimes you need technology or just a quiet, secure space to work.
The good news is that thanks to the rising growth of digital nomad-style working, sites like WeWork.com have cropped up to meet demand. WeWork essentially lets you rent a desk and storage locker on demand in many different countries. Want something more sophisticated? You can book an entire conference room to meet with and impress potential clients, or book your own private office.
Concerned about internet connectivity where you’re going? WeWork has hard-wired Ethernet and Wi-Fi. Need a pick-me-up? Every office location has free coffee, tea, beer and fruit water to keep you hydrated and energized. With offices across the U.S. as well as big cities like Sydney, Paris, London and Berlin, you can give your customers the impression of an international brand even if you have a shoestring budget.
Don’t want to rent an office space but still want all the benefits of online connectivity? A simple USB Ethernet adapter can offer you improved speeds over sluggish (or non-existent) Wi-Fi connections.
Money – How Will You Manage It?
When traveling and working in another country, you’ll inevitably have to learn how to work with the local currency. That means getting paid, exchanging currency and learning about local tax laws. While it may not be the most glamorous part of being a digital nomad, there are some points you’ll want to keep in mind to make the process as smooth and seamless as possible.
Check the local laws of the country you’ll be residing in to see if there are trade or taxation agreements that would apply in your case. In some cases, there are double taxation treaty agreements in place which may apply to you if you’re earning income in one country but end up paying taxes on it twice — once in the country where you made the profit, and again locally.
If a client needs to pay you in a different currency from their local one, then you’ll need an online currency converter tool like oanda as well as an online money transfer system such as TransferWise which is a great option for cross-currency payments.
From a tax point of view, you’ll also want to have a “stable” address while on the move. Services like the Traveling Mailbox provide mail scanning services where you can tell the provider to open, scan, forward or shred your mail and parcels. It also works beautifully with online organization systems like Evernote, Dropbox and Bill.com
Business – How Can You Grow It?
When you think of growing an online business, no matter where you are, you think of productivity. But for digital nomads, productivity simply isn’t enough. You have to be efficient and resourceful. You’re not always going to have a Wi-Fi connection or if you do, it could be painfully slow. You may also need other tools like a printer or scanner. Remember that even if you’re traveling to a modern, first-world country, there will be gorgeous, albeit remote, locales where internet connectivity has the speed of molasses moving uphill.
Fortunately, digital nomads have perfected the art of growth hacking, which allows them to scale their business remotely while ensuring that their clients enjoy the best possible experience. For example, team meetings can be handled easily over Skype or Join.me as well as Google Hangouts. You can schedule meetings more efficiently across multiple time zones using the built-in World Clock feature of Google Calendar and send large files through services like Dropbox or WeTransfer
If you’re having trouble getting a SIM card, you can easily buy an unlocked cell phone over Amazon and stay organized by creating and syncing to-do lists from anywhere using services like Todoist.
Depending on where you’re traveling to, you can use a site like SpeedTest or MapLatency to check the internet speed and bandwidth in the area you’re traveling to. Having this kind of knowledge ahead of time will help you plan your schedule accordingly.
Not only does this allow you the freedom to enjoy the digital nomad lifestyle, but do so in a way that perfectly complements your business and keeps you on track to reach your goals. Many digital nomads plan to spend a few days in a major city or tourist hub, buckling down and cutting through their workload, and then unplugging and heading out to the outskirts to do a bit of sightseeing.
The key to becoming a successful digital nomad means knowing how to use the tools at your disposal and knowing when to turn off the laptop and go exploring. Got a slow connection but you absolutely have to post that new Facebook ad? Social media and online marketing experts on Fiverr are standing by, ready to help in just a few simple clicks. Hire virtual assistants, run email campaigns, develop a content marketing strategy and more by leveraging the expertise of Fiverr professionals around the world to handle some of your workload.
Alternatively, you can become a Fiverr professional yourself with only some basic skills at your disposal. Are you fluent in more than one language? Translation of text, audio, and video is always in-demand. Voice overs, logo design, and many more services can be performed from anywhere using the intuitive Fiverr marketplace.
It’s up to you to find that all-important balance in work and life – but that doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone.
You Work to Live, Not Live to Work
Remember that your work will expand to fill whatever free time you give it. Because you’re working remotely with your laptop, it can be difficult to turn it off and relax. Add in the issue with time zones and you’ll find that you’re exhausted simply because you have to be “up” when, for example, everyone in the U.S. or Europe is up. This is particularly true of jobs in the customer service or tech support industries, which are demanding enough in themselves without adding an extra layer of difficulty thanks to time differences.
Here again, it can pay to divide some of your workload with Fiverr freelancers in those particular locales so that work gets done according to the presumed timetable. Everything from marketing to SEO to social media and much more can be handled with the same care and efficiency that you would apply to your own work — except you get to unplug. This simple but profound act alone can do wonders for your health and stress levels.
For digital nomads, finding the right work/life balance can be much more difficult than the typical 9-to-5 worker. When 5:00 rolls around, they pack up their things and leave the office for the day. You may not always get that luxury, which is why it’s so tempting to answer “just one more” email or write “just one more” blog post. Before you know it, it’s dark outside and you realize you haven’t eaten for hours.
Maintaining proper work and life balance is essential, so don’t forget to remind yourself to set and establish a routine — which includes getting enough rest.
Challenges of the Nomad Life
As you can see, becoming a digital nomad isn’t the kind of lifestyle for everyone. But if you love the freedom to be able to work from anywhere while exploring the world, the digital nomad life may be a perfect fit for you. And while you likely won’t lead this kind of lifestyle forever (even the most devoted digital nomads eventually settle down as they age), it can make for some incredible stories and once-in-a-lifetime tales that few people will ever experience.
It takes a lot of courage and conviction to break free from the rat race that is your work life. But finally taking that first step and molding your life on your own terms can be incredibly liberating in so many ways — financial, emotional, physical and more.
By embracing the digital nomad lifestyle, you’re telling the world that you’d rather carve your own path than walk a more well-trodden trail. That’s what can make all the difference as you forge ahead; building a new life in a new country bursting with new experiences.
Now It’s Your Turn…
Have you taken the leap to become a digital nomad? How has it impacted your life? Is it everything you’d hoped it would be? Is there anything you’d tell people who are thinking about making this choice in their own lives?
Did you encounter any challenges that aren’t listed here? How did you overcome them? We’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your trials and experiences in the comments below!