A digital nomad is a pioneer who uses technology to live a life of true freedom and adventure. But what does it really mean to be a digital nomad? Is it for you? And how can you get started by finding digital nomad jobs of your own?
If you have any interest in working online and seeing the world, then keep reading. This is your complete introductory guide to the digital nomad lifestyle; including everything from the pros and cons, to a list of websites where you can start finding work!
Grab a cup of coffee and get ready to discover a world full of adventure.
What is a digital nomad?
The web has changed the way we do business. Not only has it transformed the way that companies market themselves, deliver goods, and communicate; it has also changed the very nature of what is possible. Thanks to the web, an individual can now compete with a huge corporation and can work from anywhere in the world.
And by changing work in this manner, technology has the power to transform our lives.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the digital nomad movement — digital nomad meaning someone who works while traveling, often requiring nothing more than a laptop to do so.
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This concept is an expression of “lifestyle design.” This term – popularized by author Tim Ferriss – describes an approach that places lifestyle ahead of career, and that likewise benefits from the flexibility technology affords us when it comes to workflow. Rather than choosing a career and then building a lifestyle around that: scheduling extra-curricular activities, perhaps moving home, finding a reasonable commute, and creating a budget, the aim is to create a lifestyle you want and then to build the career to fit.
So if you want to spend more time with your family, you might find methods of earning passive income online, or you might work from home so that you have no commute. If you want to live out of two homes, then you might work a 9-5 job for three days of the week, and then work online for the second half of the week.
Digital tools make work more flexible, which gives us more options regarding where we live, what we do in our spare time, and how we spend our money.
Being a digital nomad simply takes this idea to its logical conclusion. When you are no longer tied to a desk, why limit yourself to living in one place at all?
Why not see the world? Why not live a new adventure every single day?
As a digital nomad, you will work jobs that only require a laptop and an internet connection. Digital nomad jobs include copywriting, web design, programming, video editing, and more. You’ll then jet off to an interesting part of the world and spend a few hours working each day, so that you can spend the rest of the time exploring, partying, meeting the locals, and so on. Once you’ve completed your assignment for that day, you can fire off an email and enjoy your freedom.
How it works
Being a digital nomad is very different from taking lots of long holidays. Because you’re working as you travel, there is no requirement for you to come back. As long as the money keeps coming in, you can keep moving from country to country.
This is also different from the typical “gap year” approach of working odd jobs in each country you visit. Working online gives you much more freedom to explore whatever country you’re in because your hours will be flexible. It also means you’ll be much less reliant on finding part-time work (part-time work with no requirement that you be fluent in the local language no less!), and you won’t need to find a new job every time you want to move somewhere different.
You might be wondering whether it’s really that practical to become a digital nomad. After all, traveling costs money! Can you really be sure that you’ll earn enough to sustain yourself indefinitely?
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And doesn’t working on a laptop all day defeat the object of traveling in the first place?
The thing to remember here, is that travel doesn’t have to be expensive, and many digital nomads will be strategic with their travel to that end. You might sleep on someone’s couch using Couchsurfing.com for example (the sharing economy also plays a big role in lifestyle design), or you might stay in cheap hostels. Visiting countries where the cost of living is lower is also a good move, as is choosing less expensive activities.
Again, the aim is to work out how much money you need to sustain yourself, and then to work backward from there. By living cheaply you will have less overhead, meaning you can spend more time traveling and less time working!
The appeal of nomading
Some people reading this will instantly see the appeal of becoming a digital nomad. Many of us would argue that working most of the day in a drab office is not making the most of life. There is so much out there to explore and do, and yet most of us simply repeat the same cycle every day! In many cases, we don’t even love the jobs we work! Every day we get older, without truly living life.
This is the meaning of being a digital nomad for many: being completely free to explore the world, and having a new adventure and experience every single day.
I have never been a full-time digital nomad, but I have sampled the lifestyle in many ways and I am certainly no stranger to the challenges of working abroad. I have been on long working trips with another online entrepreneur, and I have spent many a day working in cafes and sunny beaches.
One of my favorite memories is sitting in a bar in Croatia with my friend one night. We were the only people in the bar, and the rain was coming down hard outside. The door was open, which let in a cool breeze and let us watch people heading home from their nights out. The music playing was a band called Schiller (check them out), which I had never heard before, but which created an amazing atmosphere along with the neon lights and the heavy rain on the cobbles outside. We had a couple of beers, and were both writing content for our blogs.
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It doesn’t sound like much, but there was an amazing atmosphere that night that led to me doing some of my best ever work. And I realized that this was what it really meant to visit another country. Far more than simply running from landmark to landmark and taking photos, actually getting on with your own life while soaking in the atmosphere of a new place is an amazing experience. And it’s one that gives being a digital nomad meaning.
We had a lot of adventures there in Croatia and also got a fair amount of work done before moving on to Belgium.
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Today I work from a home office most days, and struggle to balance my work life with raising my young daughter. It’s incredibly rewarding and I couldn’t be happier – but I do think fondly back to the days when I could take my laptop and see somewhere completely new.
The downsides of being a nomad
I’d be lying if I said that being a digital nomad was perfect. To decide if being a digital nomad is right for you, you will need to weigh the benefits against the downsides. Here are just a few of those.
Lack of creature comforts
Digital nomads need to deal with the challenges that come with any form of prolonged travel. That means a lack of creature comforts (hostel showers are not good), it means loneliness and a sense of isolation, and it means not being able to find a great cup of coffee. There will be days when you wish you could just go home to your warm bed, or visit your mum for a cup of tea. Especially if you find yourself feeling under the weather!
Whether or not this is something you can live with, will depend entirely on your personality and your priorities.
While an element of risk is part of the appeal, some people will be put off by the inherent dangers of being a digital nomad. Walking around the less-touristy parts of a country carrying a laptop will make you a target, and you’ll be exposing yourself to all kinds of exotic bugs and diseases.
Worst case scenario? You end up mugged and lost on top of a mountain with pneumonia and no signal. But that is extremely unlikely!
Getting left behind
Being a digital nomad also lacks forward momentum. As the name somewhat suggests, these are “wandering years.” You likely won’t make a lot of progress in your career, and this isn’t a good time to start a serious relationship. You may well find that you eventually return home and find that everything has moved on without you.
Again, this may or may not bother you.
There are also a number of daily challenges involved with being a digital nomad, from finding power sources to charge your laptop, to dealing with glare on the screen when working from the beach (and sand in the keys!) Another common, stressful experience is to find yourself unable to complete digital nomad jobs, because you can’t find a cafe with WiFi!
Planning ahead can help mitigate these problems, as can packing the right gear. But you’ll still be at the mercy of your environment a lot of the time.
How to become a digital nomad
If none of that bothers you, the next question is how you go about becoming a digital nomad. The answer is to start by finding work that will lend itself to constant travel!
The good news is that we have shared a lot of examples of this kind of work and how to find it on this very website and over at Android Authority. Ideal digital nomad jobs include any jobs you can work that don’t require you to be physically present. That often means selling services online. Below are some of the best digital nomad jobs.
Digital Nomad Jobs
- Web design
- Proof reading
- Internet marketing
- Social media management
- Personal training
- Digital art
- Video editing
- Search engine optimization
- Graphic design
Of these jobs, some lend themselves better to the life of a nomad. For example, while you can be a narrator in theory, this will typically require you to carry high-quality sound recording equipment and to be able to find quiet spots to record. That’s not always possible when you’re on the road, making this a less viable option.
Likewise, video editing is a great gig for those looking for part-time work, but it requires particularly powerful hardware, which usually comes with a bigger charging brick and a shorter battery life.
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This is why programming and copywriting are among the most popular digital nomad jobs. Remember though: there’s nothing to prevent you from doing multiple jobs at once and thereby diversifying your portfolio!
Note: It’s also possible to set up a form of passive income – to generate ongoing revenue from a blog, a digital product, affiliate sales, or a side hustle.
How to find digital nomad jobs
Once you know the type of work you want to do, the next challenge is to find people who are willing to pay for that job. Again, this is something that we’ve gone into in-depth on Android Authority, so I won’t devote too much time to it right now.
Suffice to say, that one of the best ways to find work, is to look on freelancing sites, such as:
These are sites where freelancers can post their skills, rates, and availability, and where employers can post job openings and gigs. Be sure to check out Android Authority’s guide to the top freelance sites for finding paid work online.
That said, these sites have their drawbacks – they involve sharing some of your profit for starters! You might choose to look elsewhere then, to post adverts, or even to message potential clients directly with your offers!
Crucial tools and resources for digital nomads
As a digital nomad, you will be required to carry everything you need with you on a daily basis. That means you need to pick and choose your daily carry very carefully.
Being a digital nomad is also sometimes referred to as living the “laptop lifestyle,” and for good reason! Your laptop will be your best friend, whether you’re working from an airport or a trendy artisan café in Paris.
This makes it extremely important that you choose the right laptop for the job. This should be something that is quick and won’t leave you hanging while it boots up (booting from an SSD is a must), and it should have a great keyboard that is comfortable to write on for long stretches. You’ll need enough power and storage that you aren’t dealing with constant crashes or chugging. And you’ll need to balance this with a light form factor and plenty of juice.
Good examples include:
I highly recommend having a backup option. A great choice is any Android phone with Microsoft’s excellent Universal Foldable Keyboard. This is a genuine pleasure to type on despite folding small enough to fit in a pocket, and it has a bunch of other great features too – such as dual Bluetooth profiles, water-resistance, and an insanely long battery life.
Clothes and supplies
The only item that is potentially more important than your laptop is your backpack. This is going to be what keeps all your belongings safe, and it’s something you’ll spend a whole lot of time wearing. That means it should be comfortable, spacious, light, and ideally equipped with anti-theft mechanisms.
Here’s a free piece of advice: invest in a microfiber towel. These are small towels that dry almost instantly and can be rolled into a small ball. Perfect for travel!
On a similar vein, I’m a big fan of Vivobarefoot shoes, like the Primus Knit. These minimal shoes have barely any sole, which actually forces you to use your foot in a healthier manner. As an added bonus though, it also means the shoes can be rolled!
Mizzen + Main make a great range of shirts that don’t require any ironing and are thus perfect for throwing in a bag.
Essential software and websites
You’ll need to familiarize yourself with some specific software tools and websites if you’re going to make the most of your life as a digital nomad.
Some useful suggestions:
- Nomad List – Nomad List is an essential hub for digital nomads online. This site provides useful references to help you find great spots to work anywhere in the world. It also offers job listings, meetups, and a thriving community.
- Couchsurfing – Couchsurfing is a site where people can loan their sofas to strangers for the night. It’s a great place to find free accommodation when you arrive in a new city – and you might make some friends too!
- World Time Buddy – This website/app will let you quickly look up the time anywhere in the world and even view multiple locations at once. This is extremely useful when trying to set up meetings with clients in other time zones. It also comes in very handy when you’re trying to find out whether you still have a few more hours before it’s technically “tomorrow” where your client is based!
- PayPal – How most digital nomads get paid.
Before you jet off for a life of adventure, there are a few more administrative concerns you need to consider. Remember that if you spend more than three months in any given country, you may need to apply for a work visa. You also need to think about bills and post, and of course you’ll need to guarantee phone coverage while abroad. Print out any and all documents you’re going to need prior to setting sail, and take multiple copies where possible!
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And of course, you need to think about where to store your belongings while you’re gone. If you’re paying for property, then you’ll need to factor that into your budget, and you’ll need to get someone to take care of your home while you’re gone. If you aren’t, then you’ll either need to jettison some personal belongings, or you’ll need to pay for storage.
Final words of advice
If all this has filled you with a sense of excitement and adventure… then great! But if you now find yourself worrying about the sheer scale of this undertaking, keep in mind that there is no “one way” to nomad.
That is to say, that if certain aspects of being a digital nomad appeal to you more than others, you can always pick and choose what you want to experience.
For example, what’s to stop you from exploring your own country more? You could live at home, but take your laptop with you every day to work in different scenic spots in your own area. When I lived in London, I loved working by Big Ben, St. Paul’s, and Borough Market. I was also partial to the occasional roof bar. Even today, I often go to London or Oxford, and I love working in local coffee shops.
Or how about making lots of small trips? How about traveling for half of the year?
This is the whole point of lifestyle design. It’s up to you how you want to live your life. Being a digital nomad is just one (amazing) option.