I’m going to be completely honest: my parents think I’m unemployed. They also assume I travel via “millennial magic” since they seem to have no idea how I make money while abroad. My parents don’t understand the terms “digital nomad,” “freelance developer,” “internet nomad” or “nomadic entrepreneur.”
That’s okay with me; I’m tired of trying to explain what exactly I do and how this works. I’ll live in this pseudo-Harry-Potter fantasy for a bit. (Ravenclaw all the way, btw!)
While my ‘rents don’t understand what I do, they are not entirely wrong with the idea that my lifestyle is “magic,” either. Everything sort of….fell into place as I moved from location to location. If you are interested in this type of lifestyle, this is the article for you.
Let me help you do the same.
How I Became a Digital Nomad
My most prized character trait is my resourcefulness. To call yourself a “digital nomad,” you will need to obtain freelance clientele or at least a job that allows you to be location independent. If your current situation isn’t remote-friendly, freelancing is going to be the easiest route to nomadic entrepreneurship.
You are going to need the ability to pivot and change courses easily. Going with the flow is essential to a nomadic lifestyle, and being resourceful goes hand-in-hand with freelance work.
My daily “work schedule” involves perusing job boards, networking and looking for work via social media and blog posts. It’s imperative to set up streams of income for your future to ensure your ability to move through geographic locations with ease.
I don’t know where I’ll be, or when, so I try my best to make sure I have work lined up online and off, where ever I may be. I do anything, and everything my skill set allows me to, and am continually learning and reevaluating what I have to offer. SEO? Yes, sir, I learned a bunch of that. Web Development? I joined a boot camp to teach me to build applications. Blogging/Content Creation/Freelance Writing? I created a vast portfolio there too!
The best piece of advice I can give you is to elevate yourself. Learn something new on Udemy and then use your social circles to find work, or apply via online job board space. Keep networking. There’s power in your ‘weak connections’ (i.e., people you don’t know very well). Most of my travels have been partially funded or subsidized with the skills I’ve picked up over the years.
Below you will find a few resources to help get yourself started:
- Flex Jobs
- ProBlogger Jobs
- Forbes Digital Jobs list
- Don’t just be a “Travel Blogger”
The first question you want to ask yourself is: what skill set do I have? Or “What jobs would I not mind doing?”. Not only do you not have to start a blog to make money, but I discourage you from thinking that blogging is the primary way that nomads like myself make money. The truth? It’s not:
I meet via Skype bi-weekly with multiple bloggers who make money in various ways, but blogging itself is usually not our primary source of income. Heres the truth: 85% of bloggers make NO money from their websites !! Blogging is HARD, and it’s not going to earn you any money in the first 3, 6, 9, or even 12 months of work for most people.
It might be harsh, but if you think that blogging is your gateway to digital-nomadism, you are dead wrong. Blogging is arduous work and most people that I know that have tried “travel blogging,” quit within a year. If you want to blog, remember that you are in it for the long haul before you begin to see returns.
The Secret to Becoming a Digital Nomad
There. Are. Tons. Of. Freelance. Jobs. At. Coworking. Spots.
Seriously. I started working at a coworking spot called Outpost (in Bali) last month and had to start giving away content writing, graphic design and photography jobs to people I have met here.
This is the secret. If you are interested in becoming a “digital nomad” and are looking to start a career with location independence in mind, start applying to jobs at coworking spots. Tell people that you plan to stay in an area for a few months, and begin researching where the expat community works. You will find jobs via word-of-mouth. Make sure people know about your skill set, whatever it might be.
How to Find Work as A Digital Nomad
In Canggu alone, I have worked as a photographer, a graphic designer, a copywriter, a travel blogger, a backend developer, and a programming teaching assistant. The opportunities here are endless if you are a bit flexible.
So if you are looking to get a prized “Digital Nomad” job, I highly recommend finding a coworking spot, paying the $10/day fee to use the wifi (while applying to gigs on Upwork, freelancer, and the like), and attending the networking and play events the location puts on.
It’s that easy.
The hardest part is finding the way you would like to live as a Digital Nomad.
I’ve written extensively about the ups and downs of my lifestyle. (Check out my post about Soul Searching while Traveling) Life without a location-driven routine can be very lonely. I meet a lot of people that touch my life, but only in the shallowest of ways. Expats don’t stick around that long. Maintaining relationships is hard. I miss my family often. Constantly searching for work is stressful. Freelance clients come and go.
There are lots of trade-offs to having this type of freedom. However, I wouldn’t trade it in for the world!
I can choose my clientele, select the projects that I work on, and make a difference in communities worldwide. I’m currently building a web app to help farmers in China scale up their production and simultaneously reduce food waste. How cool is that? I doubt I would be able to have that kind of global impact if I wasn’t in the position I am in today.
Especially in a place as cheap as Bali, Colombia, or even Mexico, you will meet other developers and writers that might be “too busy” (aka fun-loving nomads that don’t want to work so hard) to finish off a lot of their lower-paying gigs. You don’t need much to survive. And by stretching your budget, working hard to find opportunities online and networking, you will find a way to make it work.
One job turns into two. Word of mouth helps you find other opportunities you might not have considered. I once met a girl that traveled exclusively by selling her jewelry and offering hair-cut and dread services. I know of another woman that teaches yoga while moving from place to place. The options are endless.
The key here is resourcefulness and trust. In the beginning, you need to believe that you will find a way to makes ends meet. Always add to your rainy day fund, and allow yourself peace-of-mind to know that you won’t be stranded if you are out of work for a month or 2.
There are many ways to make money- so don’t just consider the traditional routes. I hope I’ve motivated you to move towards your dream lifestyle! ….and if you find yourself in Bali, feel free to give me a ‘holler.