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Do you long for the opportunity to work wherever you please? To be able to enjoy crystal clear beaches, exotic new countries, and still make enough money to pay the bills? Welcome to the digital nomad lifestyle, my friend – no longer an elusive, unachievable lifestyle but a way of working that has now become so mainstream, the only thing stopping you is you.
More than anything else, I see people saying they’d love to have the freedom to work from anywhere, but they feel utterly overwhelmed at where to begin. Personally, I blame companies trying to sell courses that ‘teach you to be a digital nomad’ for this, because that makes it sound like a complicated, technical process when the truth is, it’s not.
Yes, you need to have drive, determination, motivation, not to mention a skill-set suited to remote work – but you can make it happen. I did, and I was an amateur copywriter with no online presence and no existing contacts. If I can be a digital nomad and make it from scratch, you can too – promise.
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With that said, I’ve compiled this post full of tips I would have loved to know when setting up my business for the digital nomad lifestyle. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, these tips will help anyone who wants to be a digital nomad get that much closer to your goal.
1. Have a Remote Job or Business
This is the most essential element to become a digital nomad. Without a job, you’re a backpacker. And backpackers go home and get jobs because even on the most budget-friendly of trips, your money will always run out. A digital nomad works on the road, meaning you can essentially travel forever if you so please.
You have a few options here. You could negotiate a remote working agreement with your current employer (this was my first tactic), you could find a remote job with an existing company, or you can start your own business.
My Work Anywhere series is geared towards finding jobs and businesses that you can run from anywhere in the world – check out the following posts for some serious inspiration.
- How to Become a Freelance Writer
- How to Become a Virtual Assistant
- How I Make Over $50,000 a Year from Airbnb
- Make Money as a Full-Time Blogger
- Amazon FBA: How to Make a Full-Time Income with Amazon
Many of my readers have also expressed interest in how I started my own freelance copywriting and virtual assistant business. I would love to provide a huge, comprehensive guide to setting your own business up and streamlining it for success on the road, but alas that guide will be in the works for a while yet! Sign up to my waitlist to be amongst the first when those plans are announced..!
2. Do Your Research
As someone who has travelled as both a backpacker (way back when I was 18!), and as a digital nomad, one of the biggest differences I found was that you simply can’t be as spontaneous as a digital nomad.
Backpackers will often rock up to a new location, find a cheap hostel, and then let their plans formulate as they meet new people. When you’re working, though, you need to know where you’re staying and have a vague idea of where you’re heading and when in order to ensure you have access to the internet when you need it, and can meet your deadlines well on-time.
The lack of spontaneity can definitely feel like a downside if you’re mixing with backpackers all the time, but the positive is that you can spend much longer in one location and really get to know it. Besides, when your trip is unlimited in time, you can travel as slowly as you like with no FOMO!
3. Set Up Before You Go
Before Pete and I hit the road, he already had his freelance contract with his current employer sorted, and I already had 2 new freelance clients with long-term contracts.
This gave us the security, and the motivation we really needed to buckle down once we were travelling and focus on the work side of our trip as much as we focused on the fun of new adventures.
Making the digital nomad lifestyle sustainable would be much more difficult if you were starting from scratch when you were already on the road. Your senses are constantly overwhelmed with new experiences, you’re distracted by hundreds of new adventures on offer, not to mention that you’re probably now in a different time-zone to your potential clients and can’t guarantee great WiFi when they need to speak to you.
Do yourself a favour and set up your website, social media, and try to get at least 1 – 2 long-term clients on board before you go abroad. Yes, it might mean you’re working your full-time job and managing your remote job at the same time, but a few months of extra stress are worth how much easier it is to be a digital nomad long-term when you’re already set up.
How I Landed My Very First Freelance Client
4. Start Slow & Snowball
All of point three being said, I would still advise you to start slow. If you’ve been running your own remote business for years, this doesn’t really apply to you – but if you’re literally just building up your own business don’t make the mistake of overwhelming yourself with work.
The first three months of our trip, I had two clients. Then I took another one on. Then another. And then another – all over the course of 8 – 9 months. This let me establish my working routine, see how much I was earning and how much time I had to take on more work (without totally losing the ability to enjoy travel!), and act accordingly.
This made everything so much easier for me, and let me really enjoy the experience of travelling long-term without feeling like I was missing out from working too much.
So, start slow and let it snowball.
5. Live within Your Means
This whole site is about managing your money correctly – so of course, my next point is that you need to learn how to manage your money.
When you’re travelling, it can be easy to spend way more than you can afford. Nice hotels, fancy meals, and countless excursions can quickly rack up your expenses, and if you’re not careful, you can end up spending far more than you’re earning – especially at the beginning.
To counter this, I did two things:
Have a Safety Cushion
Don’t set off with nothing but $100 in your bank account and the wild dream that you’re going to stumble upon a money-making business within a week. The smarter move is to save up for your trip and create a safety cushion of savings that you can fall back on while your business gets off the ground.
Live Well Within Your Means
Pete and I definitely lived in a little more luxury than the backpacker lifestyle (private rooms over dorms, some restaurant dinners over exclusively street food), but we still travelled very frugally – and this made travelling long-term possible even as we were still building our separate businesses.
Read my tips on successfully travelling on a budget (without sacrificing your happiness!) here:
Fail-Safe Ways to Save Money When Travelling
5 Ways to Find the Best Deals on Accommodation when Travelling
How We Successfully Travel on the Cheap
6. Stay Adaptable
One of the biggest things I’ve learned about this lifestyle in the past year is that you have to be able to adapt to change.
Sometimes, going to a certain place will be out of the question because of a lack of internet and a nearing deadline – accept it, and place that location in your ‘proper holiday’ list (when you don’t have to work everyday!).
Last year, I had to end my trip 3 months earlier than intended because of an injury that just wasn’t going better. Although a hard decision, I knew that I was making the right choice then in order to be able to continue travelling and living the lifestyle I want in the future.
Know that the beauty of this lifestyle is that nothing is set in stone – and there will be ups and downs that come with that fact. If you are able to adapt to change and new circumstances, then you’ll get the most out of everything.