Search for the term ‘digital nomad’ on Google and it’ll return almost 38 million results. Clearly, this is something that a lot of people are interested in as we enter the realms of Industry 4.0 and the future workplace. But what exactly is a digital nomad, is it for you, and how can you adopt the right characteristics and mentality to make it a success?
Digital nomad: a quick summary
A digital nomad is, quite simply, someone who is able to work and operate successfully while travelling. They tend not to have a set location that they are based in – hence the term ‘nomad’ – and very often commit to working unusual hours to ensure they can do work for clients or customers.
Digital nomads tend to work from areas with good WiFi connections – public libraries, coffee shops, co-working areas, bars, hotels – and very often don’t have set working hours. There is a misconception that being a digital nomad means a constant life of working by swimming pools or on a beach, but this is rarely the case: though this is an image portrayed by many influencers on Instagram, working on a beach is as inconvenient as it is awkward.
Digital nomads will work from locations that have good Wi-Fi, such as public libraries
What is the appeal?
Flexibility and freedom are two main appeals of the digital workplace. Another key benefit of being a digital nomad is that you can have clients based in Europe – meaning you can earn good money – but live in a country where costs are incredibly low. To put that into some context, the average price of a pint of beer in London is £5.19, while in Vietnam a pint can be bought for the equivalent of about 90p. Similarly, food, accommodation, and transport are far cheaper in South East Asia than in the UK.
There are an array of challenges that can face someone who decides to become a digital nomad. For example, maintaining health insurance is essential but can be tricky, especially if travelling between countries, while obtaining work visas is liable to be difficult. There are also emotional and logistical challenges such as trying to have long-distance relationships with friends, family, and clients, but this owes much to the mentality and character of the digital nomad themselves.
How it can be done
So, if you’ve understood the challenges and still want to become a digital nomad, what steps should you take to get your remote working journey started?
1. Minimise your expenses
Most digital nomads like the idea of travelling light. They carry only what they need to complete their roles – a laptop, smartphones, a few sets of clothes – and attempt to eradicate all expenses from home. This can be done by selling vehicles, renting out property, sorting out all direct debits, getting rid of gym memberships or Netflix subscriptions, and only thinking about what will be needed for life on the road.
Travelling light is essential for life on the road
2. Assess and understand your skills
What are your key skills? What do you do well that other people don’t do? Are you a good writer? Are you skilled at marketing? Are you a whizz when it comes to Photoshop? Do you know SEO like the back of your hand? Are you capable of working in numerous languages? By acknowledging your key attributes you will be able to figure out where you are most likely to be able to make money, and you will then be able to approach the most appropriate clients and customers to get your business up and running.
3. Ensure you have the right clients in place
One of the main things you have to do when you are contemplating becoming a digital nomad is figure out whether you actually have the capacity to earn money while you are abroad. Though the idea may seem appealing, you will very quickly find that you have no option but to return to the UK if you don’t have any way of gaining funds, or if your clients aren’t reliable. You must also ensure that you have the correct intranet software tools in place to ensure that work can be uploaded or sent to clients in a manner that is more suitable for them, so check with each client individually to see what is needed, and how you can get everything in place.
4. Join an online community
There are any number of websites, forums, or Facebook groups you can join to support your digital nomad journey. These will allow you to get advice or assistance from people that have already overcome the hurdles that you might encounter, and will also be able to help you liaise with potential clients if needed.
5. Build your business
One of the key things about working as a digital nomad is to ensure that you never run out of money, and that means not only keeping clients happy, but building your business to ensure that it can be a long-term success. It can be very easy to rest on one’s laurels, but that is rarely a good idea; finding new clients and niches, and expanding your operations to include different tasks, roles or challenges, can help you build a financial safety net that will allow you to keep travelling and continue living the life of a digital nomad.
The future of work is becoming more fluid and flexible, and the rising interest in the digital nomad life could signal that we’re moving further and further away from the shackles of the physical office.