About the author

Darren Cronian, the author of this guide, has spent eight years securing remote jobs and building a successful freelancing business. His goal is to help people escape the office. Read more >

If you’ve decided that it’s time you ditch your 9-5 job to work and travel, it might feel like you don’t know where to start to become a digital nomad.

There’s much to do to become a digital nomad, ranging from funding to expenses and housing options. Before you embark on the journey of a lifetime, carefully ensure you can check off everything on this list.

How to Become a Digital Nomad - The Complete Guide
What is a Digital Nomad?

If the lifestyle of traveling to different locations and setting up your workspace sounds ideal, then you might consider becoming a digital nomad and working in places like libraries, coffee shops, co-working spaces, or anywhere they can set up a hotspot with their mobile device.

In this way, the world becomes their office, and they can travel as they please.  As more and more people begin working remotely, digital nomadic lifestyles continue to become increasingly popular.

This is the ideal lifestyle if you’re interested in traveling the world and don’t want to be confined to an office space.

Here are the benefits and realities of being a digital nomad.

Benefits of Nomad Life

There are a variety of benefits to becoming a digital nomad.  Contrary to the idea that you simply lounge around destinations all day, being a remote digital worker means you will often be on the move from place to place.

To succeed and find the real beauty in this lifestyle, you need to be clear on your goals and organized.  There are plenty of benefits to entice you to keep on your journey along the way.

Embrace New Experiences

As a digital nomad, you’re rarely in one place for long.  This means that constant traveling will keep you out of your comfort zone so you can adapt to new environments.  Increasing your brain’s capacity and attention to new environments gives you skills for the future.

In other words, the more you travel and the longer you’re a digital nomad, the more adaptive you become.

The fancy name for this is synaptic play, a scientific way of saying that creativity happens when you push together seemingly unrelated concepts to create new ideas.  Working as a digital nomad gives you so many diverse experiences, increasing your chance that a breakthrough idea will come about.

It’s no secret that today’s on-demand work schedules leave little room for a life/work balance.  As a digital nomad, you’ll have more time to do what you love.  You’re more likely to find relevancy if you have time to experience it.  After all, we should be working to live, not living to work.

Types of Jobs for a Digital Nomad

Digital nomads earn money doing remote work as employees, contractors, or freelancers.  To help you find the right employment, you should know what you’re good at and whether or not your skills are in demand.

Once you know the answers to these two questions, you’ll have a more straightforward path to making money.  Being a part of the gig economy gives you the freedom to pick and choose which projects are a good fit, giving you yet another reason to strike an amenable work-life balance.

There are countless roles and industries with which to align yourself as you begin to embrace the digital nomadic lifestyle.

Contrary to traditional employment, the beauty of digital nomadic remote work is that your skills can easily translate into various industries.

This makes you more marketable and, ultimately, more profitable.

Skills Needed to be a Digital Nomad

It might feel disingenuous to market yourself for digital roles since it’s a different arena than traditional employment, but having the freedom to travel and work remotely depends entirely on your ability to set yourself apart from the rest of the applicant pool.

Understanding how internet searches work and how people use them can leverage you to make yourself appear more frequently in search results.

Critical keyword placement on your CV will help you get noticed and hopefully help you land a remote job.  Clients are more likely to select your profile when you show up more frequently on freelance remote sites.

Common Digital Nomad Categories

Consider how you fit into the larger digital nomad lifestyle.  Developers are going to approach the lifestyle differently than creators.  Common digital nomads can generally be broken down into seven categories:

  • Internet marketers – SEO, pay-per-click adverts, social media management
  • Media producers – vlogs, videos, musicians, podcasters
  • Programmers/developers – develop, customize, tweaking code for applications
  • Teachers/translators – tutoring, ESL, professors
  • Virtual assistants – web updates, emails, calendars, light design work
  • Wordsmiths – content writers, copy editors, ghost-writing
  • Online Education – courses, membership communities
Resolve Issues for Others

It’s a general rule that people like working with people they know.  If you can alleviate a revolving issue for people you know, you’ve taken the first step to becoming a digital nomad.  That wastes no time because there’s no learning curve involved.

Once you have a few gigs, consider looking at ways to create passive income.  Remember that each work experience will build on your skills.  This will help you hone your ability to see the world as an entrepreneur.

Understanding what others in your niche need will help you see areas where you can help facilitate income without doing the work.

Recommended Personality Traits

People will try and sell you the dream of being a digital nomad – sit on the beach with your laptop while sipping a cocktail.  It isn’t the reality, and making money online is not easy.

You will have to have certain personality traits to become successful:

  • Strong work ethic – your clients and customers have to be your focus
  • Highly organized – a daily routine is a must
  • Trustworthy – be trusted to get work done and on time
  • Good communicator – keep your employer and clients informed of work progress
  • Passionate about your work – be passionate about the work that you do
Build your Personal Brand

Remember that everyone’s version of being a remote digital nomad will look different.  Learning to build your own personal branded empire with less effort will allow you to create meaningful and lasting experiences.

Dial into your processes to help you figure out what works for you to help you maintain a level of success in the long term.

Identify the skills you already possess and look for a way into that industry without having to go out and reinvent yourself.  Chances are, needs are waiting to be met with the skills you already have.

You Will Not be Working on the Beach

Of course, being a digital nomad isn’t about beaches and travel.  There’s a lot of hard work that goes into making sure you remain accountable.

It would help if you were organized and a self-starter to sustain the lifestyle over time so that you can enjoy your travels and work.  When you’re ready to embrace life to its fullest and willing to work hard to make it happen, becoming a digital nomad is an easy choice.

Remove Unnecessary Expenses

It seems obvious, but it is a major pitfall for many beginning digital nomads.

A careful review of your monthly budget will show where you can trim expenses.  After all, there are likely a number of services you’ll no longer need when you travel.

Eliminate those first.  Then, remove subscriptions that aren’t useful while you’re traveling.  Paying off debt as much as possible before you hit the trail will serve you best in the long run.

Have a Backup Money Fund

Before you can hand over your flat keys and start traveling, you need to have plenty of income available.  This means you should have at least three months of safety money wherever you go.

You never know when an emergency will arise, and because you don’t have the luxury of a constant paycheck, you need to plan for the worst and hope for the best.  A great way to create a sizable nest egg is to sell everything you won’t need as a digital nomad.

This way, you’re not paying for a storage unit while traveling, and you can get on with your new life sooner.

Travel or Health Insurance is Essential

Without the benefits of being an employee, you need to source your health insurance.  If you get sick on the road or need emergency dental treatment, the costs can be crippling.  Travel health insurance ensures that you remain shipshape no matter where you are.

Do careful research when purchasing a plan and ensure it can be used everywhere you plan to visit.

Unlock your Mobile Phone

Moving from country to country can be difficult if your phone isn’t unlocked.  The simplest way to overcome this obstacle is to call your mobile carrier and ask that your phone be unlocked.  Then, you’ll be able to use your phone in any country with the addition of a country-specific SIM card.

Tips for Digital Nomads

As a digital nomad, you must stick to a budget.  This is especially important for freelance workers who must constantly mine for their next projects.  Along with your nest egg, your budget should be carefully managed each step of the way.

Adopt a new mantra where you plan for the worst and hope for the best.  Living abroad means there are always going to be unfamiliar scenarios.

Make sure you have backup plans ready to go and avoid being stuck somewhere you don’t want to be.

Deal with Lonliness

Life as a digital nomad can feel a little lonely at times.  It’s good practice to seek out other nomads when you reach a new location.  Or join an online digital nomad community.  This will help you reduce the learning curve that comes with embracing a new lifestyle, and you’ll be contributing to open-share learning.

Research your destinations well so you expect what’s waiting for you when you arrive.  This is another area where being a part of an online digital nomadic community can be of benefit since it’s possible that where you’re heading, others have gone before.

Being a digital nomad is an adventurous lifestyle.  It takes some planning at the start, but it’s well worth it to be able to travel the world and embrace other cultures.  Staying focused on your end goal will help you amass the skills you need to hit the road well-prepared for whatever adventure awaits.

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