Over 7.3 million Americans describe themselves as digital nomads, with the trend showing signs of continual growth. Many are drawn to the nomadic lifestyle because of the freedom and flexibility that it offers. Since 2005, according to Global Workplace Analytics, the remote workforce has grown by 140%, with more and more companies offering flexible work accommodations.
As technology improves, employers have become more comfortable with hiring remote workers and will even highlight some of the advantages that the digital nomad lifestyle offers to prospective employees, including opportunities to:
- Explore corners of the world without going on vacation
- Dive into new cultures and make friends
- Fulfill wanderlust
- Improve language skills
- Set your own schedule
- Location independence for work
- Save money on the cost of living
In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the lifestyle and steps you can take to become a successful digital nomad. We’ll discuss some of the basics, common industries for digital nomads, and include some tips to thrive. Whether you’re an expat or simply looking into a remote opportunity with a flexible startup, this guide is for you.
Who Are Digital Nomads?
In general, digital nomads are individuals who simply need modern technology and internet access to work from anywhere in the world. Their lifestyle can vary depending on their personal preferences and where they are in the world. Some rent spaces in popular tourist destinations and generate an income through an online business, while others may choose to sail around the world or take a road trip in an RV across the United States. No matter which lifestyle you choose to explore, there are many ways to make the digital nomad lifestyle work for you.
Part of the allure of the digital nomad lifestyle is that individuals can use technology and their skills for location-independent work. This means that instead of being physically present in an office for a traditional, full-time job, many digital nomads work remotely — either full time for a flexible startup or independently as a freelancer. Whether in Bali, Thailand, Bangkok, or any other corner of the globe,digital nomads can be found everywhere, doing just about anything you can think of.
Work Industries for Digital Nomads
Digital nomads can work in just about any field. As long as you have the right equipment and a reliable internet connection, you can work pretty much anywhere. Finding work relies largely on what’s available, and common remote industries include IT, writing, tutoring, design, marketing, social media, and more.
Although some digital nomads work remotely for a specific company, others choose to be freelancers in a particular industry or find tasks through the gig economy. If you choose to go this route, you’ll have to be a bit more mindful of the benefits that come with a full-time remote job, like health insurance.
Another avenue you can choose as a digital nomad is figuring out how to earn passive income. Passive income is something you can generate without having to actively participate or engage with others daily. A popular industry to earn passive income is real estate. You could own a few rental properties in New York, for instance, but choose to monitor them from other areas of the globe.
How to Be a Successful Digital Nomad
Becoming a successful digital nomad boils down to a few key steps. It also requires that you have your priorities in line. While your peers might be settling down and establishing roots, digital nomadism calls for prioritization of freedom, flexibility, and being able to move quickly.
Although there are many benefits to being a digital nomad, making the leap can be an overwhelming experience. Luckily, others like you have taken the leap and found the answers to your questions. In this section, we’ll explain some of the steps you can take to be a successful digital nomad.
Find a Digital Nomad Job
To be a successful digital nomad, you need flexibility in your personal and professional life. You’ll need to find a job that allows you to travel, which can be something full-time or a freelance role, depending on your personal needs. Even though both of these options can fit into your digital nomad lifestyle, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of each. While freelance typically offers more flexibility, for instance, a full-time job can offer the health care benefits you may need.
When you find remote work, it’s also important to consider your time zone. When you’re traveling to a foreign country, you will likely be in a different time zone than your employer or clients. For this reason, you might have to complete tasks ahead of schedule or be online at odd hours. Although it can be difficult to adapt to working in a different time zone, it gives you the flexibility to travel anywhere in the world.
If you find that it will add unnecessary stress, consider looking for remote work that isn’t as time sensitive. Serving as a non-customer-facing roles, for instance, might not require you to be tied as close to Slack or Zoom as a virtual assistant position would.
Depending on where you stay and how long you travel, you may need a visa. There are over 185 foreign countries that you can visit without a visa. As a digital nomad, you will need to plan ahead to avoid legal issues regarding a visa.
Even if you are visiting foreign countries that you don’t need a visa to enter, it’s important to research that country’s laws. In most cases, you can enter a country on a short-term tourist visa, which usually falls between 30 and 90 days. However, you may be able to extend your stay, depending on the country’s immigration regulations.
Consulting the embassy or consulate can be helpful in understanding the laws for entering and staying in that country. It’s also a good decision to contact these government offices while you travel so that you can get alerts if anything happens while you’re away.
Understand the Culture
Although you might be traveling to a foreign country or city to learn about its culture, it’s important to have a bit of an understanding before you get there. Understanding cultural norms will help you be respectful and stay safer. Reading about local customs can inform you if the region you’re in has siestas or teach you tips to stay safe while navigating the streets.
Use Language Apps
Spending time in another country or region is a great way to improve your language skills. Many choose life as a digital nomad to improve their second (or third) language skills with in-person practice. Although you might be traveling to a location to improve your language skills, going in without knowing a single word can make your experience more difficult.
Language apps can ease this transition and help you learn basic words and phrases. Even though you might not be ready for a full conversation with a native speaker, knowing common phrases and important words can help you communicate while visiting a foreign country.
Find a Balance
As a digital nomad, finding the right balance between work and exploration can be a challenge. When you arrive at a new place, you’ll be tempted to immediately immerse yourself and travel the area; however, if you have a deadline with work or are talking to a client, you might have to make other choices.
Even though work might not be high on your nomad list when you visit your dream location, it’s a necessary task to keep exploring. Setting work-life boundaries can help you set personal deadlines for completing tasks and also give you time to immerse yourself in the culture and explore.
Finding the balance that allows you to be productive might take some time. Learning how to prioritize your travel goals and business goals can be a tricky boundary to build, but it’s possible. Setting boundaries requires that you are disciplined with yourself and your clients or boss. It also means that you avoid distractions and procrastination when you switch gears to work.
Below is a list of helpful tips for setting work-life boundaries while traveling:
- Follow a routine. This can help you be more productive when you are in one location for a few weeks.
- Find a workspace. You want to find a space that allows you to concentrate so that you can be more productive when you work (something that might not be the case if you’re co-living with someone, for instance). This might mean finding coffee shops, a coworking space, or renting an apartment or house through VacationRenter with a workspace and/or desk.
- Prioritize goals. Set small goals that you can scratch off your list daily. Completing even minute tasks can help you get started for the day with the energy you need to focus.
- Schedule time for travel. When you’re traveling via bus, plane, train, or car, working might be difficult. Make sure to set time in your schedule to travel and give yourself some buffer time if a flight gets delayed or something doesn’t go as planned.
Use the Right Tools
As a digital nomad, you really only need a few tools to succeed. Depending on your specific job, you might need additional tools; however, most individuals will need:
- Digital communication tools. Depending on your job, multiple communication platforms allow you to talk to anyone in the world — either by voice, video, or both. Some of these tools include Slack, Zoom, and Google Hangouts.
- The right hardware. Whether it’s a personal laptop or an iPad, you’ll want to make sure you have something reliable to run the programs you need.
- Smartphone. You’ll want one with an international cellphone plan.
- Internet connection. You’ll want to look into both Wi-Fi and a cellular hot spot.
In addition to essential equipment, you might also consider warranties. Even if you have a reliable piece of technology for work, it’s smart to look into protection plans when you travel. This can help relieve some of the stress of traveling with expensive equipment.
Become a Master Budgeter
Ensuring that you’re on top of your budget is an essential aspect of life as a digital nomad. Regardless of whether you will be working for yourself or a company, it’s important to track your finances. It’s especially important when you’re hopping from place to place, and the currency might change. What costs one price in the United Kingdom, for instance, might not be the same if you plan on spending the end of the year in Portugal.
It’s also incredibly important as a freelancer to track your income and stay ahead on your taxes, even when traveling in another country. For many digital nomads, they might have to be prepared for a fluctuating income. For this reason, it’s important that you create a budget that works and prepares you for less-profitable months.
Find the Right Home Base With VacationRenter
We hope this guide helps you if you’re considering a life of wanderlust. With more people working remotely than ever before, your dream of being able to see new places while bringing in income isn’t as far-fetched as it might seem. One of the most important things to think about when it comes to being a digital nomad is finding a reliable place to stay. On VacationRenter, you can find the right place for you, fully equipped with reliable internet access and a desk to work on. Instead of scrolling through website after website to find a space that fits your needs, consider using VacationRenter to discover the perfect rental anywhere in the world.