It seems like every digital nomad with a blog has written a post about working online while travelling (I’ve done it). And there must be thousands of articles on how to become a digital nomad. I’m expecting new posts to appear at a ferocious rate in 2021 and beyond as people get used to remote work. When travel finally becomes a thing again, digital nomad numbers around the world will explode. And with that, comes an explosion in guides, courses, and listicles about becoming a digital nomad.
Becoming a digital nomad is simple. But not easy.
Here’s the simple bit:
- Have a regular income
- Travel while continuing to generate your income.
I noticed that most articles either make the process of becoming a digital nomad more complicated than it needs to be. I’ll give you a quick answer.
Some blogs will try to sell you a course. There’s nothing really wrong with that if you get value out of it. But it’s certainly not required. There are only two real steps in taking the leap into remote work as I mentioned above.
Anyone can become a digital nomad as long as they can travel and make money while they do it. Of course, there are caveats:
- Not everyone has the freedom to travel. Visa restrictions, physical limitations, and other factors mean that some people will never be able to work online and travel.
- Working for yourself or working on your own business is different from working for an employer when it comes to remote work. This could potentially make a huge difference in how you travel, and in some cases how much money you make.
I can’t give you specific advice on how to make money while travelling. I could give you lots of ideas, but in the end, there are millions of ways to generate an income while travelling the world. The best way is the one that works for you in the long term.
Many digital nomad courses will tell you to start freelance writing, start a marketing agency, do graphic design on Upwork, or even fill out online surveys. These are viable money-making options for lots of people. But if you hate this kind of work, your time as a wandering nomad might be limited. But your options are limited to these common digital nomad jobs. Let everyone else do freelance writing and saturate the job boards. Find your own niche or two.
Business 101 is like this: make stuff people will pay you for. Now, once you’ve figure that bit out the only other step is to make travel arrangements, which goes something like this:
- buy flights
- arrange accommodation.
You can do both of these things from your smartphone in a matter of minutes.
Some things to keep in mind:
1. Working overseas comes with legal implications. I must point out that you should be paying tax wherever you work, even if you’re working online. There are some exceptions to this and in practice, few digital nomads have the resources to start paying taxes to every jurisdiction they pass through. But as a general rule, if you spend longer than six months in any state, you become a tax resident by default. At that stage, it’s not a choice. Get legal advice on paying your taxes overseas before they return to bite you in the a$$.
2. A handful of countries offer “digital nomad visas”, but in general, you’ll be visiting every country as a tourist. Make sure you put that on your immigration forms.
3. Travelling without health insurance is like flying a plane with barely enough fuel. At some stage, it will all come crashing down in an expensive and life-threatening mess.
4. Expect delays and wasted time. You will not be as efficient as you normally are (in your settled life) if you keep moving all the time. Many nomads recommend 1-2 months in each location. This helps you get into a working rhythm and gives you plenty of time to explore.