If you’re wondering how to become a digital nomad, or whether you should give the lifestyle a try, you’ve come to the right place. I’m a full-time digital nomad and have put together this honest, comprehensive guide to help you decide what’s best for you and learn more about your options.
Table of Contents
- What is a Digital Nomad?
- Pros and Cons of Becoming a Digital Nomad
- How to Become a Digital Nomad
- How to Stay Safe as a Digital Nomad
- 5 Best Jobs for Digital Nomads
- How to Find Work as a Digital Nomad
- Countries with Digital Nomad Visas
- Digital Nomad Lifestyle: How to be Responsible
- How to Become a Digital Nomad: FAQs
- In Conclusion
It’s hard to ignore the buzz around digital nomadism these days. In the last few years, and especially post-pandemic, it’s become an increasingly popular lifestyle choice. But how do you become a digital nomad and what does it entail?
I chose to take the leap at the beginning of 2022, and it was honestly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Since then I’ve lived and worked in several different places around the world including Mexico, Costa Rica, Albania, Montenegro, Sri Lanka, and the UK.
There are definitely a few downsides to being a digital nomad (which I’ll be discussing below) but, for me, the pros – especially the freedom it provides – vastly outweigh the cons.
Within this post, I’ll also be giving you lots of practical tips to help you on your journey to location independence.
What is a Digital Nomad?
Essentially, a digital nomad is anybody who is able to earn money remotely on their laptop (hence, “digital”) and isn’t tied to any particular place by their work. This usually means that they have the freedom to travel whenever and wherever they want (hence, “nomad”).
Many digital nomads tend to work in tech, web design, computer programming, graphic design, blogging, or copywriting because these jobs are ideally suited to remote working. For many of these jobs, all that’s needed is a laptop and a stable internet connection, and you’re good to go.
Being able to travel at will and work from anywhere is sometimes also called “location independence” – which I particularly like, and use a lot. Because of this location independence, many digital nomads choose to spend a significant amount of time traveling abroad.
However, just because you are location independent doesn’t mean that you need to be traveling all of the time.
Personally, traveling is one of my favorite things to do. But that doesn’t mean that I want to (or could) be doing it all year round. The key point is that the digital nomad lifestyle allows you the freedom to travel whenever you want to.
It’s up to you to decide how much time you actually want to be moving around. Plenty of digital nomads only travel for part of the year, and choose to spend the rest of their time in a home base somewhere that may, or may not, be where they’re originally from.
Pros and Cons of Becoming a Digital Nomad
Living in paradise, surfing or hiking in the morning, working for a few hours, taking a break for a refreshing dip in the sea, doing a little more work, and ending the afternoon enjoying a tropical sunset with an ice-cold beer, feeling good about your life choices… Sounds pretty incredible, right?
It’s true, being a digital nomad is awesome – that’s why I’m doing it right now! But it’s not all roses. As well as the (numerous) pros to the lifestyle, there are definite cons to this way of living too. See also: 17 Pros and Cons of Being a Digital Nomad
Benefits of Being a Digital Nomad
Here are some of the amazing benefits of becoming a digital nomad:
- The ability to travel as much as you want: No more calculating your days of annual paid holiday to be able to go away to a new place!
- You can escape the winter: I’m originally from the UK and being able to spend winters somewhere warm and sunny is a huge pro for me.
- Increased flexibility: You can work from anywhere in the world, whenever you want. No more soul-destroying office jobs or counting down to weekends.
- No more miserable commutes: I used to absolutely hate having to commute across London every day on a packed Tube train, just to get to an office I didn’t want to be in… never again.
- Lower costs of living: Many places that are popular with digital nomads have significantly lower living costs compared with more expensive places such as the U.S., Canada, or the UK.
- Better work-life balance: Of course, this depends on the job you do. But many digital nomads are able to spend more time doing things that they like, whether it be yoga, surfing, hiking, reading, or just simply sleeping.
- It’s exciting: Exploring different parts of the world, learning about new cultures, trying new food, discovering new places, meeting new people – it’s all super exciting.
- It broadens your horizons: You’ll meet people from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures, and ages, rather than just being stuck in the same bubble back home.
- You can learn a language: If you’ve ever wanted to learn a language, the best way to do this is to fully immerse yourself in a non-English-speaking country. I’m not the best at languages but even I was able to learn a fair amount of Spanish during my time living in Mexico.
- Be your own boss: Whilst it’s possible to be a digital nomad employed by a company that doesn’t mind where you’re working from, the majority of digital nomads are freelancers or business owners.
Disadvantages of Being a Digital Nomad
Of course, there are a few downsides though. To make this post as honest, balanced, and useful as possible, I’ve also included a list of the disadvantages of becoming a digital nomad.
These are based on my personal experience, so keep in mind that not all of these may apply to you:
- Traveling gets tiring: Travel burnout is a real thing – trust me on that. After more than a year of traveling around fairly non-stop, I needed to spend a few months in one place to recover and get back into healthy routines.
- It can be lonely: Many digital nomads end up missing their friends from home. True, you meet loads of amazing people on the road, but you usually end up spending much less quality time with old friends and family.
- WiFi issues: This depends on where you choose to travel, but the availability of fast (and reliable) WiFi is undoubtedly a key issue when working as a digital nomad. Power cuts and random internet outages can be incredibly frustrating and stressful, and always seem to happen at the worst of times!
- It can take a toll on your relationship: Even if you’re lucky enough to have a loving partner to share the adventure with, spending too much time with one person, with next to no personal space, can be very taxing on even the strongest of relationships.
- Difficulties balancing work with travel: This is another thing that I find particularly difficult at times. If you’re working really hard, you can miss out on amazing travel experiences. But if you spend too much time having amazing travel experiences, you might not get enough work done to sustain yourself.
- Missing important events: Weddings, birthdays, parties, weekends away with friends, gigs… I try to return for as many important events as I can but inevitably end up missing out on quite a few special moments back home.
- It can be destabilizing: Not having a home base and a support network can lead to feelings of instability and dissatisfaction at times.
- Not having a routine: This is one of the things I struggle with most when I’m constantly on the move. It’s all too easy to get into bad habits – my fitness routine goes out of the window and I stop eating healthily. Of course, this is all fixable with discipline, but it’s challenging.
How to Become a Digital Nomad
Okay, so now you’ve decided that you want to take the plunge and try out a location-independent lifestyle. Awesome. The next question you’ll probably have is: How do I become a digital nomad?
There are so many different ways to become a digital nomad, and everybody’s circumstances are different.
I used to be a corporate lawyer in London; I hated the lifestyle and wanted nothing more than to be able to travel and work from anywhere. I knew that I needed to find a way to earn money remotely, but it took me a couple of years to figure out exactly what it was that I wanted to do.
However, there are a few certain steps that I’d recommend taking to help support you with the greatest chance of finding success as a digital nomad. Use these steps to becoming a digital nomad as a starting point, and tailor them to your individual situation:
Step 1: Figure Out Whether You Actually Want To Be a Digital Nomad
This first step is extremely important, and one that not enough people spend enough time on. Before leaping into how to get started as a digital nomad, I highly recommend taking a bit of time to think about whether the decision is truly likely to be a good one for you, personally.
Honestly, it’s one of the biggest lifestyle shifts you could make. It will entirely change your life. So, you should go into the decision with open eyes to help ensure that it changes your life for the better.
Read as much as you can about what it’s like to be a digital nomad
Congratulations – you’re taking the first step right now! I recommend reading as much as possible about what it’s actually like to be a digital nomad. And it’s essential that these guides are written by people who are actually doing it themselves.
There are many guides on how to become a successful digital nomad online. Some of these are better than others, but the more you read the more you’ll understand what it’s really like to be a digital nomad. You need this information to help you decide whether it’s right for you or not.
Ask yourself some hard questions
As I mentioned above, while there’s no doubt that being a digital nomad is incredible, the lifestyle definitely does come with some fairly significant downsides. You need to be very honest with yourself and ask yourself whether these downsides would be worth accepting for you.
For me, the upsides are definitely worth the downsides, 100 times over. But everybody’s different. I’ve met a few digital nomads who clearly weren’t happy with their lifestyle and who were actually planning to go back home and “get a normal job” again.
Here are a few questions that I’d recommend asking yourself. Be as honest with yourself as you can when thinking about them:
- How disciplined are you? Do you have the self-motivation to work for yourself successfully?
- How would you feel about not seeing your friends or family for often very long periods of time?
- How would missing your best friend’s birthday or engagement make you feel?
- How comfortable are you in your own company?
- How do you deal with uncertainty?
- How comfortable would you be without a stable income or location?
I’m not trying to discourage you from pursuing the digital nomad dream. It’s the best decision I ever made and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but you should think carefully about what you actually want before making the jump.
Step 2: Figure Out How You Can Earn Money Remotely
The next step is to identify the skills you already have that lend themselves well to working remotely. Do some research about job requirements for different positions and see if any of them align with what you can already do.
For example, if you’re a web designer, there are plenty of jobs available that can be done remotely. Or, if you have experience in customer service or writing, those skills could easily be put to use somewhere too.
Depending on the skills you have, there are plenty of options for both freelancers and people who want to start their own businesses.
Freelancing vs. starting an online business
Consider whether you want to work freelance or whether you’d prefer to start your own business as a way to make money while working remotely. There’s nothing stopping you from contemplating a bit of both either.
I’m currently working on building up my blog (Just Go Exploring) to the point where it can sustain me full-time. At the same time, I’m also working a few different freelance jobs.
It can be a little tricky to balance all of these commitments at times, but it’s good to have diversified sources of income, especially when you’re starting out.
How to become a freelance digital nomad: Ideas for freelance work
When it comes to freelance work, you have lots of options. These include:
- Online English teaching
- Offering web design services
- Freelance copywriting
- Being a virtual assistant
- One-on-one online coaching sessions
- Social media management
- Proofreading and editing
The list is almost endless!
Likewise, there’s a practically infinite number of different online businesses that you could start and run from wherever you choose to be.
Here are a few ideas:
- Start a website or blog
- Open an online e-store
- Create and sell an online course
- Create an app or game
- Trade and invest
- Start up an online agency for whatever field(s) you have experience in
The possibilities are pretty much endless…
Step 3: Save As Much Money As You Can
It’s no fun having to worry about money while also trying to create a new lifestyle for yourself.
Before you throw yourself into this way of living, I strongly recommend making sure that you’re starting from a solid financial foundation. There will inevitably be bumps in the road along the way, with unexpected costs and delays, and you don’t want to risk running out of cash.
This is especially true if you want to start your own business. Most small businesses take at least 2-3 years to turn a profit. I saved up for about 12 months before taking the plunge as I knew that I would need a good amount of runway before my business started earning me anything at all.
You don’t necessarily need to wait as long as this, especially if you already have some strong ideas of how to work as a digital nomad freelancer. But at a minimum, I’d recommend saving as much as you can, consistently, for at least 6 months on your current salary before taking the leap.
Create a budget
Creating a budget is an essential step when preparing to become a digital nomad. Assess your income and expenses, determine what you can realistically afford to spend (and save), and track your progress along the way.
There are plenty of financial apps and tools that can help you with this process. Try setting up a few different accounts to see which works best for you.
Remember to factor in any taxes that you’ll have to pay on your income. It’s usually a good idea to speak with a tax advisor or accountant to help you figure out what you need to pay, and what records you need to keep. These vary depending on your nationality and where you’ll be living.
Cut unnecessary expenses
Try to cut out any unnecessary expenses that might get in the way of you reaching your savings goals. Anything from expensive phone contracts to fancy gym memberships and pricey meals out – it’s a good idea to make savings wherever you can.
However, of course, you should still leave yourself enough money to enjoy yourself from time to time. Don’t become unnecessarily miserable; just try to avoid wasting money while you put savings aside.
Rather than going on an expensive foreign holiday, why not opt for a cheaper (but equally fun) camping or hiking trip closer to home? Remember, you’ll be able to travel as much as you want once the earnings from your new digital nomad job(s) start to roll in!
Think carefully before making any major purchases. I have a rule whenever buying something new that costs over $50: I wait at least 48 hours from the time I decide I “need” it to the time that I actually buy it. If I’m still convinced that it’s a necessary purchase after that time, I go ahead.
Sell some of your stuff
Chances are that, when you head off on your digital nomad adventure, you’ll need to either leave some of your personal possessions with family members or pay to put your things in storage.
This is a great opportunity to evaluate which of your belongings are actually important to you and which possessions you wouldn’t mind being free of. There’s no point paying to store stuff that you won’t need or even want in the future.
Consider selling anything that doesn’t make the cut. You can use sites like Facebook Marketplace, eBay or Craigslist or even host a garage sale to get rid of things and give your savings pot a beneficial boost. Charity shops are great places to get rid of things too.
Build up an emergency fund
You’ll definitely want to have an emergency fund to ensure you’re prepared for anything unexpected that might come up during your travels. This should be enough to cover emergency flights home (e.g. to see sick relatives), and any unforeseen medical expenses that travel insurance won’t take care of.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how much you should have in this emergency fund. I like to have at least a couple thousand dollars stashed away, (in an account that I promise myself not to touch). This is generally enough money to get a last-minute flight back home from wherever I am in the world, at any given time.
Of course, the bigger your emergency fund, the better. But the right amount for you will depend on your individual circumstances.
Step 4: Invest In Yourself
Depending on the area that you want to work in, and your previous level of experience and knowledge, it can also pay to spend a little bit of money to build up relevant knowledge, skills, and know-how.
This can really help you figure out how to be a digital nomad and increase your chances of finding good-quality, reliable work.
For example, you could buy a couple of books by authority writers on the field you want to work in. Or, invest in a highly-reviewed online course to help you grow your skillset and set yourself up for success in your chosen area.
When I decided that I wanted to be a travel blogger, I had no idea about anything to do with blogging, web design, SEO, or anything like that. But I knew that mastering these areas would be key to success in my new career.
I bought Goats On The Road’s Complete SEO Course which taught me a lot of all I now know about blogging and SEO. Had I not taken this course, I wouldn’t be where I am today with my blog.
Examples of courses that you can take
There are online courses on practically every topic nowadays, including:
- Teaching English (opt for courses where you can earn a TEFL certificate at the end)
- Proofreading and editing
- How to become a virtual assistant
There are even online courses on how to make and sell online courses!
Be sure to thoroughly research the course before parting with any payment. Read customer reviews and do a few Google searches to make sure it’s legit and worth spending money on.
A good course will be more than worth the price. I choose to see the courses that I take as investments in myself and in my future lifestyle. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, and some free courses can be incredibly helpful too.
Step 5: Start Working (Before Traveling)
Now that you’ve done some research and invested in yourself, it’s time to actually create your own business and/or start finding work as a freelancer.
If possible, I’d recommend starting your new work before you set out traveling. By following these tips on how to become a digital nomad from home, you’re likely to reduce the amount of risk, stress, and pressure that you have to take on along the way.
It’s not imperative you do this, but I’m very glad that I started building my location-independent career before I also made the huge lifestyle change of packing up my old life, and heading out for a new life on the road.
Trying to adjust to too many changes at once can be quite destabilizing. For me, staggering the big changes really helped me to keep everything together – an act of self-care, if you will. Of course, it’s up to you though.
Step 6: Planning and Preparing
Okay, so now you know how you’re going to earn money on the road. The next step is to actually plan out where it is that you want to go.
This is one of the most fun and exciting parts of the process. The world’s your oyster! (Well, a good chunk of it, anyway).
Where in the world do you want to go? I know that’s a hugely broad question, but a massive advantage of being a digital nomad is that you can pick virtually any corner of the world and make a temporary home for yourself there.
Each and every destination is different, and I recommend you do a good amount of research before deciding where to go first. Don’t worry too much about your second and third destination, you can figure that out along the way.
It is, however, a good idea to have a fairly decent plan for your first destination as a digital nomad. This will help a lot when it comes to adjusting to the new lifestyle, as it’ll be one less thing to have to think about and organize.
When deciding where you want to go first, the key factors I advise you to consider are:
- Living costs
- Visa requirements
- Language and culture
- Whether there are likely to be other digital nomads to hang out with
- Internet access (reliability and speed)
Travel blogs are fantastic resources for researching different destinations around the world to help you decide where you want to go. You could also take advantage of online forums, Facebook groups, and any other resources you find useful.
If you know any digital nomads personally, ask them where they recommend too. I’m sure they’ll have tons of helpful advice and will be happy to share!
Make a packing list
This one might sound kind of obvious, but it’s something I always do to help ensure I don’t forget anything essential.
Remember, packing for the first stage of your digital nomad adventure is likely to be a little different from packing for a regular backpacking trip. As well as the usual stuff, you’ll also probably need to bring work-related items like a laptop, laptop stand, mouse, keyboard, and noise-canceling headphones.
Organize travel documents
Be sure to organize all of the documents you’ll need in advance of your departure date.
Check whether you’ll need a visa for the destination you’ll be visiting (and if so, apply for it with plenty of time to spare). Double-check how much time there is remaining on your passport’s expiry period (many countries require at least six months).
Some destinations require you to have additional paperwork, such as vaccination certificates, etc. Make sure you know exactly what you need to have, and get everything organized in advance. You don’t want to be rushing around stressing out about this two days before you’re due to depart.
Get travel insurance
I always take out travel insurance whenever I travel abroad, and I strongly advise you to do the same.
Travel insurance covers you for the costs of emergency medical care, theft of cash and personal belongings, canceled flights, missed connections, lost luggage, and various other unforeseen circumstances that may occur along the way.
Trying to save money by skimping on travel insurance is almost always a false economy and isn’t smart. By not having it, you risk opening yourself up to significant costs should anything go wrong. And things do (sadly!).
Personally, I use SafetyWing as it’s good value and I really like the fact that you can easily toggle it on and off whenever you travel. But you should still do your own research to find a policy that’s best for you.
Don’t forget to read the policy carefully so you know exactly what’s covered in the event you ever need to rely on it.
Step 7: Logistics
Logistics can be tedious, but they’re necessary to help ensure that the transition to your new lifestyle is as trouble-free as possible.
Shop around for deals on the best flights, trains, and/or bus tickets. I tend to use a combination of Google Flights and Skyscanner to find deals on tickets.
The first time you set out, I recommend having everything booked in advance to take you door-to-door; all the way to your first destination’s accommodation. It’ll probably be a pretty intense time, so you want to make things as easy for yourself as possible by having everything all sorted and pre-arranged.
Depending on the destination, you may be able to use Uber to get from the airport to your accommodation. If not, consider pre-booking a transfer. Again, do your research in advance to help ensure things go as smoothly and painlessly as possible.
The first time I went backpacking, I didn’t own a smartphone and had to visit an internet cafe whenever I needed to contact anybody back home. It was awesome, but as a digital nomad, things are a bit different.
For many destinations, it makes sense to buy a local sim card with a large mobile data allowance when you arrive. You can often do this at the airport. Try to get an e-sim if possible, as this is more convenient than having to switch out a physical sim card and means you can keep your old one somewhere safe.
Another option is to buy an international phone plan that allows you to roam in the destination(s) you want to travel to. However, in my experience, these tend to cost quite a lot more than just getting a local sim card. In many countries, you can get a local 50GB data-only package for less than $10 USD.
Banking and taxes
Another necessary, but sometimes painful, thing to sort out is your banking and taxes. This varies hugely depending on where you’re from, but it’s definitely worth spending a bit of time getting things figured out before you depart, as it’s usually much easier to set this stuff up from home.
Research easy-to-use banking options that you can access conveniently when abroad. Online banking is a must. Consider signing up for a company credit card to run all of your business finances through. These often come with travel-related perks as an added bonus.
Wise and PayPal are two convenient methods for making international payments.
If you don’t already have one, I’d also recommend trying to open a bank account that allows you to withdraw cash and make card payments in foreign currencies without charging you any fees. If you’re from the UK, take a look at Revolut, Starling, and Monzo.
Be sure to speak with a tax professional to understand your tax obligations while you’ll be away. Everyone’s financial circumstances are different, and paying for good tax advice almost always saves you more money than it costs.
Step 8: Accommodation and (Co)working
Where to live, sleep, and work are some of the most important things to think about as a digital nomad.
Find somewhere to stay
You don’t need to plan too far ahead – and I actually like to keep things as flexible as possible when I travel to a new destination. However, you’ll need somewhere to stay when you first arrive, and I recommend arranging this before you get there.
I usually try to book at least the first week or two in advance. This way, you can see what the place is like before committing to it longer term but have the security of knowing you have somewhere sorted for when you first arrive.
Depending on how long you plan to be in one place, you can look for short-term rentals or sublets on sites such as Airbnb and Booking.com.
Alternatively, if you plan to stay in one spot for a longer period of time, local expat groups on Facebook can be good places to find furnished apartments available on a medium-to-long-term basis. Try asking around at a few local rental agencies too.
Another excellent option is house sitting, where you receive free accommodation in exchange for taking care of someone’s home and (usually) their beloved pets. Learn more about that here.
One of my favorite ways to find cheap accommodation is simply to ask around once you’re there. The chances are that somebody will know somebody who can rent you a place, be it a room in somebody’s house or a self-contained space or apartment.
Of course, it’s important to do your own research and due diligence to make sure that the place is somewhere you’d actually want to stay, before committing or signing up for anything.
Depending on your preferred working style, you may want to look into coworking spaces in the places you’ll be visiting.
Coworking spaces come in all shapes and forms – some are great and others, not so much. But if you find a good one, it can give you access to fun, like-minded people, events, and activities, as well as fast and reliable WiFi, a comfortable working environment, and even some amenities such as free coffee and snacks.
Coworking is also great for networking and making new connections while on the road. However, some people prefer the solitude of just their laptop and a cafe, or apartment. It’s really up to you and how you like to work.
Personally, I like to mix it up a bit, with a few days at a coworking space, a couple of half days in a cafe, and some time working from my apartment/room.
Step 9: Find a Community
This is a very important step and helps to avoid the feelings of isolation and loneliness that many digital nomads struggle with.
Coworking hubs are great places to meet new, like-minded fellow digital nomads. I’ve met several good friends from working together in a coworking space.
Other good places to make new friends include hostels, bars, gyms, yoga classes, surf spots… basically anywhere that you’re likely to bump into other people doing a similar thing to you.
Finally, don’t forget about online resources such as Facebook groups, which can be great ways to find out about upcoming digital nomad meetups in the area you’re in.
Step 10: Regular Evaluation
Life is a constantly changing journey, and this is particularly true for digital nomads. Once you’ve started to settle into your digital nomad lifestyle, it’s important to regularly evaluate and adjust the way you work and live.
Think about what you like about your new lifestyle and any areas that you’d like to change or adjust. Take time to do this on a semi-regular basis. It’s easy to overlook this step, but I strongly recommend doing it at least once every couple of months.
Don’t be afraid to make changes if you don’t feel like something is working for you. Digital nomadism gives you the flexibility to do this, so take advantage! Make sure that your new lifestyle is allowing you to feel fulfilled, happy, and free – that’s the whole point, right?
How to Stay Safe as a Digital Nomad
Staying safe is important wherever you are. But when you’re traveling to new and unfamiliar destinations, and carrying everything around with you, there are a few extra things to think about.
Choosing Safe Destinations
Some destinations are statistically safer than others. It’s a good idea to understand how safe your intended destination is overall, and whether there are any no-go areas in whichever country/city you plan to visit.
However, try not to get overly hung up on crime statistics. After all, the United States has a significantly higher crime rate than many other countries around the world. And you can be the victim of crime virtually anywhere, especially if you let your guard down too much.
Overall, with enough common sense, the majority of destinations around the world are perfectly safe to visit.
As a digital nomad, the chances are you’ll spend a fair amount of time connected to public WiFi networks and other internet sources that won’t be as secure as the internet you have at home.
One of the best ways to keep yourself, your work, and your finances safe online is to use a VPN. These provide a secure connection and help to prevent cyber fraud and theft of your personal information.
I use NordVPN, on both my phone and my laptop, and I highly recommend it. The protection and peace of mind that it offers are definitely worth the money.
Theft and Petty Crime
Given that you’ll almost certainly be traveling with some valuables such as a laptop, smartphone, and/or camera equipment, it’s important that you take some extra steps to keep these safe. Even more so if these are your main sources of income!
Theft and petty crime can happen anywhere. However, as a digital nomad, with a backpack full of expensive equipment, you can sometimes stick out as a target to would-be thieves and other criminals.
The usual rules apply. Don’t leave valuables unattended, avoid carrying large amounts of cash around with you, conceal obviously expensive-looking items when out and about, lock your room when you go out, be aware of your surroundings, and be careful using ATMs (ideally only use ones located inside banks).
Local knowledge is also invaluable. Ask other people whether they have any tips. Are there any places you shouldn’t go after dark? What’s the best route to walk from A to B? Is it okay to leave your stuff on the beach when you go into the ocean?
5 Best Jobs for Digital Nomads
As I mentioned above, there are so many different jobs that you can do as a digital nomad. Here are five popular choices to get you started:
1. Proofreading & Editing
Proofreading (and/or editing) is one of the best jobs for digital nomads because it’s usually contract/freelance work, and you can do it from anywhere, in your own time, with complete flexibility. The only things you really need to have is a computer, the internet, and strong written language skills.
However, you can also take an online proofreading course to brush up on the necessary language skills and help give your resume an added boost. Salary and hours all depend on the work you take on, but experienced proofreaders can earn up to $45 per hour.
I’ve taken the proofreading and editing courses by Knowadays and recommend them. Click here for details.
2. Language Teaching
Teaching languages online is another great way to earn money remotely. If you’re an English speaker (either native or near-native), you have a fast and reliable internet connection, webcam, microphone, and a quiet place for lessons, you should be able to find work as an online English teacher without any trouble.
The exact requirements vary from company to company. Many (although not all) companies require you to have a Bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate. Some companies also have nationality requirements; check before you apply.
Rates of pay vary considerably, but in general, you can make more money by specializing in teaching niche areas of English, such as business English, as your clients tend to have more money to spend.
Blogging is one of my favorite ways to earn money online. It takes a lot of work, time, and effort to build a blog and make it profitable. But, the best thing about blogging income is that it’s mostly passive. And you can blog about pretty much anything – travel, food, fashion, fitness, whatever you’re interested in.
There’s a fairly steep learning curve, and you have to be prepared (and able) to wait a fair amount of time before any money comes in. However, as long as you work smart and outsource as much of the heavy lifting as possible, you can earn very good money from blogging if you do it right.
4. Freelance Writing
If you enjoy writing, why not look into becoming a freelance writer? This can be a great way to make money while traveling, as you can work totally remotely and all you need is a laptop and an inspiring, quiet place to write from.
There are many different types of paid freelance writing gigs out there, from copywriting for companies and brands to paid articles and blog posts for websites.
If you have strong writing skills and experience in the relevant subject area, you should be able to find someone who’s happy to pay you to write for them. As a freelancer, you’ll have to negotiate your salary, and this varies hugely depending on the sector and your experience. Check out Solid Gigs for new freelance writing jobs.
5. Graphic Design
If you have the skills and experience, graphic design is another profession that lends itself well to a digital nomad life. I’ve met several successful graphic designers during my travels, who can do all of their work from a high-performance laptop.
If you’re a freelancer or have your own graphic design agency, it’s definitely possible to take this job on the road with you. Most graphic design work is project-based, meaning you can take on as much work as you choose and set your own hours.
How to Find Work as a Digital Nomad
There are many different ways to find work as a digital nomad. These tend to vary depending on the type of work you’re looking for, but I’ve listed a few common methods below:
1. Start Your Own Online Business
I love being my own boss and I strongly believe that the best path to financial (and location) freedom is to build your own online business.
You need to invest a lot of time and effort to make your business a success, but I find it extremely motivating to be working towards building something that is entirely mine. The rewards of your labor accrue directly to you, and it’s an unbeatable feeling.
When it comes to marketing your business, there are lots of different avenues to explore. The right one(s) to pick will depend on the industry and field you’ll be working in.
Some popular ways for marketing new businesses include:
- Paid ads
- Social media
- Customer reviews
- Writing blog posts and building your online authority
- Attending events and conferences
- Posting physical flyers (old school I know, but still effective!)
2. Freelance Platforms
If you want to go down the freelancing route, there are a few different ways to go about finding work.
Try using online job boards such as Upwork, FlexJobs, or Fiverr to find work. You’ll need to create a profile and submit applications for the jobs you’re interested in.
You can also look into remote working opportunities with larger companies or startups, many of which are now looking for remote-only workers to join their teams. LinkedIn is a good place to look for these sorts of roles.
Networking is key for both freelancers and those who start their own businesses. Having a good network of contacts can be the difference between success and failure, and it can be an invaluable way to help you promote yourself and grow your career.
Try connecting with people in similar lines of work and see if they need any help. LinkedIn and Facebook groups are my go-to places for online networking. Other places that are good for networking include conferences, trade shows, and coworking spaces.
I’ve found that a lot of people are more than happy to have a chat about the ways that you can mutually benefit each other. You never know, you might just find your next gig!
4. Qualifications That Lead to Work
For some types of work, it can be worth gaining additional qualifications to help you appear more attractive to potential employers or clients.
If you’re interested in teaching English online, I highly recommend getting a TEFL qualification from a reputable organization. This will help you find higher quality (and higher paying) teaching gigs, and a few TEFL providers even have networks for matching their alumni with jobs.
Similarly, if you complete Knowadays’ Becoming a Proofreader course and score more than 80% in the final assessment, they provide you with guaranteed proofreading work with one of their partner agencies, Proofed. This can be a great way to get a foot in the door and build up valuable experience.
BONUS: Remote Work With Your Current Employer
If you’re currently employed, there’s no harm in asking your employer whether they would be prepared to hire you as a remote-working freelancer instead.
Some careers lend themselves more naturally to this than others. Old-school employers like banks and law firms are less likely to be open to this kind of arrangement than tech firms or graphic design agencies for example.
Either way, there’s no guarantee that your employer will say yes. But it can be worth a try, especially if you like your existing job and your employer doesn’t want to lose you!
Countries with Digital Nomad Visas
In the last few years, many countries have tried to capitalize on the rise of remote working by creating so-called digital nomad visas for remote workers looking to spend an extended period of time living and working there.
The rules vary by country, but in general, most digital nomad visas allow you to earn money from sources outside of the destination you’re visiting. Most prevent you from setting up a business that generates revenue in the country itself. Some countries require you to become a tax resident, others don’t.
Each country has its own requirements, which tend to be fairly complicated, but I’ve briefly summarized a few popular choices below.
Note: Immigration rules are complex, and I am not an immigration specialist. These rules are subject to change, so you should always seek up-to-date advice from an immigration specialist. The below is provided for information purposes only and should not be taken as immigration and/or legal advice in any form.
Mexico’s Temporary Resident visa (also called “Visa No Lucrativo”) allows you to legally stay in Mexico for up to four years, and you can come and go as you please during this time.
You are allowed to open a bank account, register a vehicle, and (in most cases) you don’t become subject to Mexican income tax. You’ll need to prove that you’re working for a company outside of Mexico, and either:
- Have an average monthly bank balance of $43,000 USD for the past twelve months; or
- Have earned at least $2,500 USD after tax per month for the last six months.
Note: These figures change from time to time, so be sure to check the exact amounts you need to prove at the time you wish to apply.
See here for more information on how to apply.
Spain has recently launched a digital nomad visa that’s valid for 12 months, with the option to extend it for up to five years.
You must work remotely for a company or clients located outside of Spain, (although you can earn up to 20 percent of your income from Spanish companies), and must have been doing so for more than three months prior to your application.
The company you work for must also have been operational for at least a year. You need to prove that you earn more than 200 percent of the country’s monthly minimum wage (so, approximately €2,350 per month).
See here for more information on how to apply.
Croatia’s digital nomad visa is valid for up to one year and allows you to bring close family members (spouse, common-law partner, children) along with you.
You need to work for, or own, a company that’s registered outside of Croatia and you’ll have to prove that you either earn approximately $2,500 USD per month (and have done for the past six months), or already have $30,000 USD in your bank account.
The rules governing whether you need to pay tax in Croatia are a little complicated, so you definitely need to seek advice on this.
See here for more information on how to apply.
The small but stunningly beautiful country of Georgia, in the Caucasus region, has one of the easiest digital nomad “visas” to apply for anywhere in the world. In fact, it’s not actually a visa at all, but rather an extremely generous visa-free program.
This allows citizens of 95 countries (including the US, Canada, Australia, NZ, UK, and most other European countries) to live and work in Georgia for up to 365 days without needing any visa. Tbilisi is a great city to live and work in.
However, if you stay for 183 days or longer, you may have to start paying Georgian income tax. Depending on where you’re from, you may be covered by a double tax treaty, but I strongly recommend seeking the advice of an accountant or tax consultant to advise you on your potential liability here.
To enter Georgia for up to 365 days visa-free, all you need to do is complete this Simplified Entry form.
Colombia’s digital nomad visa lasts for two years and has one of the lowest monthly earnings requirements that I’m aware of – 3 million Colombian pesos per month (approximately $670 USD).
You also need to show that you work as a freelancer, an employee, or own a business, in each case outside of Colombia.
Similar to Georgia, you may become subject to Colombian income tax if you stay for longer than 183 days. Speak to a professional tax adviser if this is applicable to you.
This is a digital nomad visa that I fully intend to take advantage of in the not-too-distant future!
See here for more information on how to apply.
Digital Nomad Lifestyle: How to be Responsible
The growing number of digital nomads has undoubtedly had a positive effect on many places. One of the biggest benefits of having digital nomads around is that they can help inject foreign money and investment into local economies that might need it.
However, an influx of (usually comparatively wealthy) foreign remote workers, can often lead to price inflation. Coffees become more expensive, rent prices rise, and sadly some local people end up being priced out of areas that were previously affordable for them.
Having a lifestyle and job that allows you to be a digital nomad and travel the world is a huge privilege. It’s absolutely vital that every aspiring digital nomad takes steps to ensure that their lifestyle benefits the places that they travel to and that any harm caused by their presence is minimized.
In the last year and a half, I’ve met plenty of responsible, respectful digital nomads who are having a positive effect on the places they choose to live and work. But I’ve also come across a few people whose behavior might give those that choose this lifestyle a bad name in the eyes of some.
Here are a few practical tips for how to be a good, responsible digital nomad:
- Try to stay in locally-owned accommodations, such as apartments and guesthouses, rather than international hotel chains
- If possible, stay at places (or with Airbnb hosts) where there’s an emphasis on sustainability
- Give back to the local community – if you have a car, offer people free lifts, do some volunteering, give free informal English lessons
- Try to learn some of the local language – even a few words go a long way
- Inform yourself about the local culture – show interest, educate yourself, ask people, read books, etc.
- Be respectful of local cultures and dress codes (e.g. don’t walk down the street in swimwear in countries where this isn’t culturally acceptable)
- Buy local foods, goods, and products
- Avoid animal tourism
- Don’t sit working all day every day in the same cafe (most cafes are not supposed to be coworking places)
- If you do want to do some work in a cafe, make sure you buy something regularly (not just one coffee every 3 hours)
- If you intend to stay in a country for a longer period of time, consider getting a digital nomad visa
How to Become a Digital Nomad: FAQs
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions on how to become a professional digital nomad:
What qualifications do I need to be a digital nomad?
You don’t need any qualifications to be a digital nomad as such. However, certain digital nomad jobs do require qualifications. It all depends on the job(s) that you want to do.
If you’re wondering how to become a digital nomad without a degree, freelance writing, proofreading, blogging, and working as a virtual assistant could all be good options to consider.
How do I become a digital nomad without any experience?
To everyone who wants to know how to be a digital nomad without any skills or experience, listen up. Everybody has skills, and everybody has some experience in something! You just need to figure out what your skills are and where you have experience in an area that’s likely to be useful.
To help you start off, identify your passions, think about the types of jobs you might want to do, and reach out to other people who are already doing those jobs (ideally remotely) for advice. It’s also a good idea to invest in yourself by taking a relevant course to grow your skillset for example.
Is being a digital nomad worth it?
Yes, being a digital nomad is definitely worth it. Without a doubt. Despite the various downsides to the lifestyle that I’ve discussed above, the huge number of upsides makes it 100% worth it for me!
How much do beginner digital nomads make?
This totally depends on the job(s) that you do, and on how fast and effectively you work. For example, junior proofreaders can earn anything from $15-$30 USD per hour.
Is digital nomad a stable career?
For most people, no, there’s an inherent amount of instability involved with being a digital nomad. Unless you are employed, the chances are you won’t have a stable income. However, for many people, the added flexibility that the lifestyle allows makes the instability totally worth it!
Do digital nomad jobs pay well?
Some digital jobs can pay extremely well, others less so. Again, it totally depends on the job that you do (and whether you own your own business).
Is it legal to work as a digital nomad?
The legality of working as a digital nomad is something of a grey area in a lot of cases. Many digital nomads travel on tourist visas which, in many countries, don’t permit any form of work. Technically, it’s illegal to do any work on these visas.
However, it’s almost impossible for immigration authorities to identify people who are remote working, so this is rarely policed. Many countries are also happy to let these rules go unenforced because they benefit from digital nomads spending money and boosting the local economy.
Digital nomads also rarely ever take jobs away from local people. If anything, they’re more likely to even create jobs. However, with the exception of digital nomad visas, immigration rules generally haven’t caught up to the (fairly recent) rise of digital nomadism.
How many digital nomads are there?
This is a pretty difficult question to answer and relies on a certain amount of guesswork. But Think Remote estimates that there are currently around 35 million digital nomads worldwide.
The rise of remote working has meant that you no longer need to take a “career break” to set off on an epic traveling adventure. Being a digital nomad allows you to turn traveling into a sustainable lifestyle!
You can earn money and build a career as you go while at the same time, enjoying the opportunities to explore new places, meet new people, and have new experiences, whenever you want.
Of course, there are a few downsides to becoming a digital nomad. But, in my opinion, the upsides make everything worth it a hundred times over.
If you’re on the fence about whether to try and become a digital nomad, I’d say you should give it a go – even if only for a few months. It might just be the best decision you’ve ever made.
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