Digital Nomad Guide What You Need to Get Started

How to Start as a Digital Nomad: A Digital Nomad Guide

Discover how to start as a digital nomad. Know what skills to master and how to earn money while traveling. 

Digital technology effectively eliminated business and communication barriers. It allows us to work online rather than from a traditional office.

As a result, digital technologies have given rise to a new breed of people: digital nomads.

I’ve been a freelance digital nomad for over a decade. I’ve worked from the beaches of the Philippines and the concrete jungles of Malaysia. And I look forward to seeing more of the world now that travel restrictions are easing.

What is a Digital Nomad?

There’s no one set profile for a digital nomad. They come in all sizes and shapes.

Simply put, digital nomads are location-independent professionals who work from anywhere in the world. They rely on mobile hotspots and mobile devices like smartphones and laptops. 

Digital nomads can work from home sometimes, but you can also see them in coffee shops, coworking spaces, hotels, resorts, and public libraries.

Most digital nomads work in a variety of fields. They are free to work independently or for a company. They have the option of working part-time, full-time, or on contract. And some don’t need to work because they figured out how to make a living off investments or passive income. 

Read on because this digital nomad guide will show you how to start as a digital nomad.

The first step to becoming a digital nomad is getting a steady income without being tied to a company. Discover the steps to becoming a freelancer and earning $120,000 a year.

Why Do People Want to Be Digital Nomads?

There are many reasons people want to be digital nomads, including the following:

1. Wanting to Work from Anywhere in the World

Digital nomads can conduct their business wherever they like—a local cafe, a coworking space, or even a thatched hut on the beach. According to numerous polls, employees are more content when their workdays don’t consist entirely of sitting at the same desk while doing the same thing, day in and day out.

2. Wanting the Freedom of Setting Your Schedule

Since you decided to read this blog, I can only assume you share my belief that there’s more to this world than a 9-to-5 job. You strongly desire to broaden your horizons and explore this vast world.

Digital nomads have complete control over how they spend their time.

You can go scuba diving in the morning and then report to work at lunchtime. Nothing is stopping you from sleeping during the day and working at night.

However, it does take discipline to set your hours and stick to a routine.

3. Hating the Commute

Numerous surveys have confirmed that most workers dislike their commute more than anything else. More than half of working adults dislike their commute, and those who do so in major metropolitan areas are even more likely to feel this way.

Many of us stopped commuting in 2021 to stare at the four walls of our homes. Digital nomads, meanwhile, have the pleasure of strolling with their laptops in tow anywhere in the world. Or stay home in their PJs all day.

4. Wanting More Leisure Time

One of the most appealing aspects of the digital nomad lifestyle is the increased free time. And if you’re in a new and exciting location, you’ll have more chances to try out activities you’ve never tried before.

If you strike a good balance between leisure and work, you might have found a way of life you never want to leave.

5. Recovering from Burnout

Twenty percent of workers say their stress is directly related to their work schedules, and another ten percent say office politics cause it. Digital nomads don’t have to deal with these issues. They can work from anywhere, with whomever they choose, and on whatever schedule.

6. Wanting to Explore the World

You can start traveling when you retire, but you may want to start immediately. Or you probably need a change of scenery, and you suspect you might get crazy if you don’t.

In today’s digital age, it’s possible to relocate whenever and wherever you like.

Would you rather have a steady job that keeps you in one place all year? Or is it better to have a job that allows you to enjoy the beach during the week and the mountains on the weekends? It’s entirely up to you.

What are the Steps to Becoming a Digital Nomad?

If you want to become a digital nomad and pursue your dream of working remotely, here are five steps to get you started.

1. Identify the skills you possess and improve them. 

The first and most critical step towards being able to work remotely is deciding what kind of work you want to do. You must, after all, find a way to fund your travels.

Consider your current set of abilities as a starting point. Let’s enumerate the steps.

  • Find out what employers are looking for and what you enjoy doing.
  •  Focus on developing those skills. Read books on the topic, take short courses, watch videos, and read blogs.
  •  Use Upwork to investigate available jobs and other freelancers’ profiles. Consider the needs of your target market and think about how you can help them with your skills.
  •  Focus on one or two relevant areas. Independent contractors with the most success tend to have deep expertise in a specific domain. For instance, I have always been passionate about writing and have had a formal business education. So, I made a freelance career writing for clients about business compliance, marketing, and related topics.

Customers will much rather work with specialists than generalists. And because of their expertise, specialists can charge considerably more for their services.

This phase will serve as the cornerstone of your success. Take time to think things out and complete the necessary research.

Maintain a growth mindset and a willingness to acquire new knowledge and improve your existing abilities. The Internet makes it easy to acquire new knowledge and brush up on old ones through sites like Udemy, Coursera, and YouTube. ‍

Jump to the list of digital nomad skills.

2. Apply for freelance jobs.

Start looking for customers once you decide on the services you will be providing. 

Here’s how to go about the process:

  • Create a profile on Upwork. Finding clients on Upwork requires a professional, well-thought-out profile. Be thorough when creating your Upwork profile.
  • Look up interesting jobs. Make a mental note of the client’s desired abilities and keywords. Include search terms and phrases clients frequently use when describing their projects in your profile.
  • Begin submitting bids for work once your profile is complete. Look for a job you know you can do well at and submit a proposal. 
  • Consider the client’s interests as you craft your proposal. Highlight your best selling points. Everyone wants to know what makes you more suitable than the other candidates. Make sure that you satisfactorily address this issue in your proposal.

Your proposal should be brief, cordial, and businesslike. You need to make sure that your offer is in line with the project description, so make sure that you read it carefully. 

The best evidence of your competence for a project is the work you’ve already done. Remember that you may need to make mistakes before figuring out what does and doesn’t work.

As you look for work, a helpful hint is to understand how to spot clients that are a good fit for your digital nomad lifestyle. 

If you’re a digital nomad, you’ll often be jet-setting between time zones. Pick clients you can communicate with asynchronously. I turn down projects that need me to work specific hours.

While the “perfect client” is essential in the long run, they shouldn’t be your primary focus at first. As you gain experience and familiarity with your preference, you’ll start to recognize the types of customers who are a good fit.

3. Think of yourself as an entrepreneur.

While landing a single project is exciting, relying on such one-off gigs to fund your career is not sustainable. As a digital nomad, your success anchors on your capacity to create a business that can continue to function without you physically being there.

Having repeat customers seeking you out is the key to financial security. It is necessary to satisfy customers with excellent service to achieve this goal. 

  • Take every chance to make a good impression. Avoid viewing customers as a means to an end.
  • Establish long-term connections. This results in repeat business and new client recommendations.
  • Create a dedicated website to elevate your internet visibility. A website is a terrific first step in establishing credibility as a freelancer or consultant.
  • Start blogging. Blogging provides the ideal platform for those who want to demonstrate mastery of a particular subject. A blog can help your business even if you’re not a perfect writer. All you need is the capacity to show off your skill and experience in your field on your blog.
  • Use social media to its full potential. It is a crucial element for creating a name for yourself online. Social media accounts are great for establishing connections. 

If you want to expand your business, you should look for new opportunities wherever you are, both offline and online. 

Personal networking gatherings were quite stressful for me as an introvert. Instead, I’ve discovered that Facebook groups are a wonderful place to network. These connections have resulted in several projects and recommendations.

Consistent work and marketing in all possible venues are essential to growing your business. Take advantage of all the networking events and online forums available to you. 

4. Give it a try.

You’re ready for a trip once you’ve created a location-independent income stream. Many digital nomad rookies often get nervous and throw in the towel at this point.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the prospect of leaving behind everything you know and love. It’s natural to feel anxious about making significant life changes.

Only some people are eager to plunge headfirst into the unknown. For this reason, I recommend that aspiring digital nomads try out the lifestyle first.

See what it’s like to work from anywhere by trying it out for yourself. Plan a short trip outside of the city. Depending on your adventurousness, this could be a nearby or overseas trip. The trick is to experience the digital nomad lifestyle for a short time before committing fully.

Remember, this is not a leisure trip. You must focus on your work, so go somewhere with reliable internet access. Assume you will work the same hours but in a new place.

5. Preparing for your first long-term trip.

If your test run goes smoothly, you’re ready to arrange your first digital nomad trip. Be aware of the various travel regulations of the places you will visit. Pick a domestic location if you need more time to be ready to leave the country.

The question is, how do digital nomads choose their next destination? Be honest about what you need to live comfortably in a location. Consider monetary concerns and other things like language, cuisine, climate, and social life.

Digital nomad beginners often head to established hotspots like Bali, Chiang Mai, or Medellin. In many digital nomad hubs, there is an established network of fellow nomads who can assist you in settling in and learning the ropes faster.

Before you leave, consider your spending habits, visas, banking, and health insurance.

Other steps to consider:

  • Start a minimalist lifestyle. To thrive as a digital nomad, you must have as few physical possessions as possible. The lifestyle encourages you to do worthwhile activities, limit expenses, and reduce your carbon footprint. Discover how to make a minimalist travel wardrobe and how to live more sustainably as a digital nomad.
  • Keep six months’ worth of living costs in the bank. That safety net will help avoid unnecessary stress wherever your passport takes you.
  • Get a VPN and accounting software. You may encrypt all your data with a virtual private network. Connecting to a cafe’s public Wi-Fi network in Europe, for instance, won’t compromise the privacy of your financial data. And it’s essential to use a program like Quickbooks, Mint, or Excel to keep track of your income and expenses for tax purposes. Also, get the best password protection software for Mac to keep files safe.

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What Skills Does a Digital Nomad Need?

Female Remote Worker working on a computer
by Aleutie via Canva

It is a common misconception that digital nomads must have programming experience or a background in computer science. But FlexJobs surveyed 500 digital nomads and found that the typical digital nomad is a married Gen-X woman with a BA degree or higher who works 40 hours per week in a writing, education, training, or administrative role.

You’ll need specific skills, which you can either start with or learn as you go along if you want to join the digital nomad tribe. You can build a location-independent career and lifestyle with these abilities. You’ll need technical and soft skills to succeed as a digital nomad.

Hard Skills

Most digital nomads work in one of the following fields. In this digital nomad guide, I listed a few of the basic skills needed to get started on each of them.

Web Developer

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • JavaScript
  • Debugging
  • GIT (Code Versioning)
  • Basic graphic design
  • Back end and Databases
  • Hosting
  • Libraries and frameworks

Writer

  • Research
  • Outlining
  • Grammar and Clarity
  • Revising and Editing
  • Persuasion Skills

Virtual Assistant

  • Word processing and data entry
  • Online research
  • Customer service
  • Email or inbox management
  • Social media management
  • Planning and scheduling
  • Computer skills
  • Basic bookkeeping

Discover more in-demand virtual assistant skills.

Graphic Designer

  • Design principles
  • Ideation
  • Branding
  • Typography
  • UX and UI design
  • Mastery of popular graphic design software

Translator

  • Fluency in at least two languages (Most popular: English, German, Mandarin, Spanish, French)
  • Cultural knowledge
  • Writing
  • Research
  • Computer-assisted translation
  • Active listening
  • Reading comprehension

Digital Marketer

  • Data analysis
  • Content creation
  • Search engine optimization and marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Customer relationship management
  • Social media
  • Basic design skills
  • Basic HTML, CSS, Java, or other computer languages

Video Editor

  • Video production
  • Graphic design
  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • Photography
  • Color correction
  • Sound editing

You might want to improve your proficiency in these areas for your career. These are the most common choices, but digital nomads have diverse skill sets. 

Soft Skills

The development of your soft skills is also crucial. Skills like initiative, self-direction, flexibility, organization, persistence, and time management are essential. You’ll need strong communication skills in any line of work. Whether you want to start your own business or get by in life on the road, you’ll need these skills.

What Should I Study for Digital Nomad Jobs?

It can help to plan your education accordingly if you wish to become a digital nomad after graduating. When choosing what to study, you should assess the abilities you already possess. Chances are, those existing skills can lead you to a digital nomad job you’ll enjoy. Or you can start your research by finding out what’s in demand. This part of my digital nomad guide is about propping yourself up for a better chance of landing lucrative remote jobs.

According to the freelancing platform Upwork, the top fifteen highest-paying freelance jobs are:

  • Copywriter
  • Web Designer
  • Digital Marketing Consultant
  • Social Media Manager
  • Editor
  • Web Developer
  • Media Buyer
  • Photographer
  • Data Analyst
  • Business Consultant
  • Programmer
  • Videographer
  • Accountant
  • Virtual Assistant
  • Public Relations Manager

Some academic programs equip students with the knowledge and expertise necessary to find and succeed in remote work. A career as a digital nomad can be full of adventure and independence. And you can set yourself up for that kind of life by majoring in one of these fields:

1. Education

Aspiring world explorers would do well to consider teaching as a profession. Online jobs allow you to travel whenever you like, and schools worldwide are always looking for new teachers.

2. Linguistics

Most tourists worry about their language skills whenever they travel abroad. You must be able to communicate with those around you. Linguistics is an excellent resource for learning more than one language.

3. Journalism

Having the ability to put your thoughts on paper is a crucial skill for any digital nomad. Blog posts, news articles, and other forms of online content about travel are in demand. If you have the intensive training that a degree in journalism provides, any of these options will be more effortless.

4. English

As nomadic workers, freelance writers have the luxury of seeing the world while developing their craft. An English major is the best preparation for both of these careers.

5. Graphic Design

Studying graphic design is a good option if you’re artistic and want to work in the digital realm. You will know to use digital tools to create functional and aesthetically pleasing designs. Graphic design, with its emphasis on visual communication and the use of technology, is well-suited to the nomadic lifestyle.

6. Web Development

Web development is an excellent option if you are interested in a profession where you can use your technical knowledge and artistic flair. In addition, finding customers won’t be challenging in today’s digital economy. As a web developer, you can find work that can be done from afar, meaning you can keep your income steady even as you see the world.

7. Computer Science

Almost every digital nomad guide on the Internet mentions computer science. And rightfully so. To be a digital nomad, you must use technology regularly. If you want to make the most of your time on the road, you should probably learn how to use computers.

To master computers, you must enroll and graduate from a computer science degree program. With your expertise in computer science, you can work from anywhere in the world as a programmer, software developer, or network administrator.

8. Business

You should consider becoming an entrepreneur if you want to see the world and control your destiny. While some risk is involved in starting a new business, the potential rewards can be substantial. Understanding the fundamentals of the business world is essential before venturing into the competitive arena. An education in business administration would be helpful in this situation. The business fundamentals will prepare you to start your international adventure.

9. Marketing

Every company must do whatever it can to stand out from the crowd to succeed in today’s market. To capitalize on this ubiquitous demand, all you need to do is master marketing. Today’s business environment relies heavily on digital technology, so marketing is increasingly moving online. An independent marketer can contribute to promotional efforts and produce web content without ever meeting their employer face-to-face.

10. Communications

Pursuing a communications degree is a good bet if you aren’t sure what you wish to do with your life. The field is all-encompassing enough to be relevant to numerous professions. And you can put to good use the knowledge and abilities you acquire in virtually any setting. It is crucial to have strong communication skills to succeed in online teaching, writing, and management. 

Discover more digital nomad jobs for beginners.

How Do Digital Nomads Make a Living?

graphic design illustration

A laptop, Wi-Fi, country-specific SIM cards, and power adapters aren’t enough for you to get started as a digital nomad. Being a digital nomad means having a steady source of income; it does not mean you are on vacation. You still need to be a responsible adult, not someone on spring break. 

If you’re considering working remotely, consider this digital nomad guide for making a living while traveling.

1. Ask Your Boss If You Can Work Remotely for Some Time

If you have a job that you can do remotely, you may be able to convince your employer to let you travel while you work. But before you ask your boss for permission to take a vacation to an exotic location, it’s a good idea to explain why they should say yes.

  • Ensure that working remotely is a viable option for the work you do.
  • Find some examples of similar remote roles that already exist in your organization.
  • Identify the key decision-makers in your organization.
  • Compile a list of potential objections they might have against your working from a remote location.
  • Prove that you possess the qualities required of remote employees, such as independence, initiative, communication skills, and teamwork.

2. Sign Up for Online Freelancing Platforms

Online job boards can be an excellent starting point for finding your first freelance contract. There are thousands of options.

These reliable job boards conduct background checks on prospective employers to prevent people from falling prey to work-from-home scams. Still, exercise proper caution when sending your proposal and accepting contracts.

Some of the most well-known online job marketplaces are:

Upwork

Freelancers in many different areas can find jobs on Upwork, including writing, design, and development. The platform facilitates the process of finding work, interacting with clients, and being paid for one’s services.

However, the abundance of inexperienced workers on the site who are eager to start at a lower wage might hamper your earning potential. 

FlexJobs

You can find over 30,000 full-time, part-time, and hybrid jobs in over 50 categories on FlexJobxs. Job searches are free, but a membership to FlexJobs, which grants access to the site’s advanced features, starts at $24.95 per month. 

Indeed

One of the largest job boards online, Indeed, adds ten new positions every second. Make a profile, upload your resume, and access helpful employment resources on the site.

Pangian

With over 85,000 users, Pangian claims to be the “fastest-growing remote community worldwide.” You can browse through about sixteen thousand new job opportunities posted daily.

Registration is free, but Pangian Pro plans begin at $8.25 per month. Additionally, they have a Facebook group devoted to this topic, titled Remote & Travel Jobs & Life.

Remote.co

The former CEO of FlexJobs started Remote.com. It features various legitimate job postings in addition to remote work resources and professional development guidance for remote workers.

RemoteOK

RemoteOK, created by the same team that brought you Nomad List, features nearly 50,000 job openings across technical and non-technical fields. You can make an account at no cost.

3. Start Your Own Online Business

Starting an online business is an excellent option for anyone who wants to work from home or grow a distributed team.

As opposed to working for yourself or exchanging your time for money, starting a business online allows you to expand your horizons and accomplish more. You can sell your company, automate your revenue streams, bring in investors, or all of the above. Starting a business is a challenging but ultimately rewarding endeavor.

Consult your regional business bureau or government agency for advice on launching an online enterprise. 

Digital nomads can generate multiple income streams with the right strategy. Learn more by reading How to Create Multiple Streams of Income in Your 20s.

4. Generate a Stream of Passive Income

Many people who work remotely rely on retirement savings, investments, or other forms of regular, automated income to make ends meet. Affiliate marketing, dropshipping, writing, and building a personal brand are a few examples of careers that can lead to passive income.

To earn passive income, you must put in some initial effort and, often, financial investment to reap future rewards.

You can earn passive income from:

  • Blogging
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Dropshipping and e-commerce
  • Financial trading
  • Interest income and lending Real estate and investment properties
  • Retirement accounts and pensions
  • Self-publishing 
  • Selling stock photos and videos
  • Selling online courses

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FAQ

How much money do you need to become a digital nomad?

You can live comfortably as a digital nomad with as little as $1,300 per month. It’s a common misconception that digital nomads have to spend a fortune on their travels. The truth is that the expenses are entirely up to you. Everything you buy is entirely up to you, and spending a lot of money is unnecessary if you keep your wants to a minimum.

Do digital nomads make a lot of money?

One of the many benefits of being a digital nomad is the possibility of earning more. Digital nomads control how they spend their time, so they can take on more jobs. They can also choose high-paying clients if they have the right skills. Reports from FlexJobs indicate that one in five remote workers earns between $50,000 and $99,000 annually. The average hourly wage of a remote worker is between $10 and $30.

How much do digital nomads make?

The median hourly wage for freelance digital nomads is $20, which is more than the national average of $18.80. Freelancers in the professional services sector earn a median hourly rate of $28, more than 70 percent of all workers in the United States.

What are the main downsides of digital nomads?

Loneliness, feeling unsafe, and keeping up with job obligations are the toughest challenges for a digital nomad. The word may conjure up images of working while enjoying a tropical drink, but that’s not necessarily the case. The reality is that life as a digital nomad can be challenging.

Who qualifies as a digital nomad?

You qualify as a digital nomad if you have a job you can do remotely or if you have passive income sources. Don’t have any of those? Discover the most interesting digital nomad jobs for beginners. You can also learn how to create multiple streams of income in your 20s or be a successful seller on Amazon.

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