How to become a digital nomad

August 13, 2019
Originally digital nomads were self-employed and chose to work remotely abroad. Now the term is used to describe lots of location-independent workers usually based in destinations with a low cost of living. People working on contract in a location-independent way or in the gig economy, may also refer to themselves as digital nomads. One thing everyone has in common is that they work for long periods away from their home country.


We’ve taken some of the work out of your research with the following tips recommended by those working and living abroad recommend to get started:

Identify your skills

First things first, Chris the Freelancer recommends identifying your skills. Finding the intersection between three things:

  1. What you love to do
  2. What you are good at
  3. What you could get paid to do

To work out the first two; ask yourself some questions and note down the answers:

  • What skills come naturally?
  • What do people usually seek your input on?
  • Where do your strengths lie?
  • If you could go back to college and study anything you wanted what would it be?
  • What kind of outcomes make you most happy?

If, through self-discovery, you have found a skill that is a natural fit for working anywhere in the world, perfect. If not, don’t worry.  There are lots of lists of the most common roles remote workers undertake including:

  • Web and app development
  • Online business consultancy
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Social media consultancy
  • Online teaching and education
  • Virtual assistant

Each of these areas can be broken down into many sub-sections or specialities that you could use while you work and travel.


Build your knowledge

Once you have identified an area to work in, Location Indie recommends building your knowledge. If you are already qualified in a related area it will help. If you are starting from scratch, ensure you allow enough time to upskill and get some experience before you move abroad. If you want to learn digital skills, there are lots of online resources to help including:

Become a freelancer

Get some experience. Hobo with a Laptop worked as a freelancer from home before making the decision to move abroad.  If you have chosen a digital skill e.g. web development volunteer to build a website for a not for profit in your home country to build up your skills.

It may take more time than expected to get enough experience and a sufficient portfolio of work to have a consistent stream of work while you are abroad.


Sell your skills

This is a key step that many digital nomads underestimate. If you are not promoting yourself, it is unlikely you will have a pipeline of work to support yourself while you live abroad. Digital Nomad Europe suggests a number of tactics to promote yourself and the work you do:

Have a well-designed website: It doesn’t have to be hugely expensive, but a well-built website will pay dividends. Ensure it is optimised for search engines and has a facility for a blog.

Start a blog: Write a list of the most common questions your target market has and write detailed answers to them. Then think about what would help your target market do their job and write articles to help.

Make the most of social media: Although social media for advertising is ‘pay to play’ it is worth investing a small amount to get your brand known. The advantage of paying for digital advertising is you have control over who sees your ads. You can target people in a specific age group, location, or with a certain job title.

Guest posts: Increase your profile by guest posting on a website relating to the service you provide. For example, if you want to work as a web developer specialising in the hospitality industry try contacting hospitality websites in a range of countries and providing them with a well-researched and written piece of content they can use on their website with links to your business.

Ensure you include a call to action at the end of your piece, for example “do you have questions about redesigned your website? Get in touch today” and include your contact details.


Choose a destination

Once you feel comfortable with your method of earning a living while you are away, the fun stuff can start. Choosing a destination is one of the more exciting parts of becoming a digital nomad however there is still lots to consider. One Bag Nomad says it is important to think about:

Cost of living: research this carefully. Work out a budget and shortlist destinations accordingly. Be aware, the cost of living in once affordable digital nomad destinations like Chiang Mai may be increasing as more and more remote workers live and work there.

Internet access: do not underestimate the importance of knowing you will have access to fast and reliable internet. This is critical to your ability to earn money while abroad so ensure you research this thoroughly. If you are interested in working in a particular location, ask accommodation options to test the Wi-Fi speeds in advance of travel.

Accommodation: as long-term work and travel becomes more popular, the cost and availability of accommodation in some destinations is increasing. Join a digital nomad community online and ask people working remotely in a destination you are interested in about finding accommodation.

Co-working space: although initially location independent workers opted to work in public spaces like hotels and cafés, as the concept matures, more and more co-working spaces are being created in populous cities. These are communities of likeminded people who share a workspace. The cost of working from a space like this will vary depending on:

  • Facilities
  • Location
  • Length of stay


Don’t forget your health

Last but by no means least. Many popular digital nomad destinations do not have the healthcare infrastructure you may be used to at home. Becoming ill while working abroad can be a scary and isolating experience. Ensure you have an nomad health insurance policy so you can access the best healthcare available no matter where you are in the world.