They’re everywhere. In the coffee shop next to us. On the bus, the train, the plane, and most commonly, on the social screens of our smartphones. They’re the new nomad. The digital nomads, who cash in their desk job for one that requires just a laptop and reliable Wi-Fi, freeing them to work anywhere in the world. A sandwich shop in San Diego. A cafe in Lima. A van in the Dominican Republic.
And more and more people are itching to join them. According to research by MBO Partners State of Independence, 4.8 million Americans consider themselves digital nomads. And 17 million aspire to someday become digital nomads.
You might not think that you are capable of living (and earning, and saving) money as a digital nomad. But the truth is, that for many careers, it is totally within your reach and the payoff (think: cheap international flights to tropical Caribbean sunsets, moody Belgian mornings, Thai street food for lunch breaks) is worth the struggle to get there.
Before you quit your nine-to-five and book your cheap international flights, decide what your priorities are and set some reasonable expectations. Not everyone has goals of traveling the world after achieving digital nomad-hood. Some want to ditch their commute or their desk jobs. Others want more flexible hours, or to alleviate childcare costs. But freedom – the ability to travel and live anywhere is essential to the nomad lifestyle. And that may not necessarily mean jet-setting on a whim and living in hostels for the rest of your life.
Obviously, the main requirement before you can consider yourself a digital nomad is getting a travel job that allows you to work anywhere. A large component of this is flexible hours, since your nine-to-five hours may be different say, in Bali, then they are in New York City. It means that you are not tied to one location. But if the expectation is to primarily travel and secondarily work, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment.
Keep in mind that when working, a reliable Wi-Fi connection is vital. So if you’re dreaming of working from a sandy beach or at the base of the Eiffel tower, that may not be totally plausible. Less scenic spots such as hostels, hotels, cafes, or co-working spaces are more realistic. But for many nomads, the freedom to be anywhere – even if you’re there to work is the real draw.
The Best Careers for Digital Nomads
Not all careers enable a nomadic lifestyle. Creative careers tend to dominate, according to MBO Partners. But more traditional work including sales and IT are beginning to join the movement.
Here are some of the most common careers for digital nomads:
- Copywriting and writing
- Affiliate marketing (how many social “influencers” achieve their nomadacy)
- Teaching English
- Social media management
- Graphic design
- Customer support
- Virtual assisting
Don’t see your career on the list? There may still be hope. According to Citrix, 50% of the workforce will be remote by 2020. There is a major shift happening in the workplace, and more and more careers are trending away from traditional brick-and-mortar offices.
If your current or past career doesn’t lend itself to hopping on whenever some cheap international flights catch your eye, there are plenty of resources to help you find one. Obviously, they’re going to be online, but there are different degrees and types of web resources to find a remote job.
Digital marketplaces like Upwork or Fiverr make it easy for freelancers all around the world to connect with clients looking for specific work to be done — design a logo, edit a video, write a section of code, etc. Essentially, employers post a travel job they need to be done on the site (some charge the employers a fee to post, others take a cut from the payment to the freelancer), they can also look up and connect with a possible candidates they might be a good fit and freelancers can submit proposals to them as well. These are great places to get quick-paying work right away, especially when you’re starting out, and it’s possible to turn a client picked up one of these sites into something more regular, but the pay is competitive and it can take a lot of work to get work.
There are also travel job boards, like RemoteOk, which are updated daily and feature listings for full-time or long-term remote positions with serious employers, who are charged a fee to post. Sites like these are great for career positions that would traditionally be tied to an office but are now filled remotely. Although, that doesn’t mean they’re perfect for the digital nomad, for some companies “working remotely” means working for home but still coming into the office from time to time. Then there are job board sites like Jobspresso (which prides itself on being “expertly curated”) that are specifically aimed for traveling digital nomads. They offer mostly skilled job listings, that also dictates country, time zone, etc. so you can decide if the job aligns with your travel plans.
Once you’ve made the decision to dive headfirst into digital-nomad-life, you’ll need some support. After all, bouncing from place to place with your laptop in tow can get lonely, and occasionally, problematic. Luckily, there are companies and organizations created to offer some support to digital nomads. One great example is Nomadlist, a site that connects users with other nomads in various parts of the world. They also have resources to help those in the digital nomad community to get global health insurance, find jobs, and more. Another resource worth checking out? Roam, an international network of co-living and co-working spaces. Designed specifically for those traveling while working remotely in mind, it features rental listing with great Wi-Fi, good working environments, and a fully furnished kitchen. Plus, the lease lengths are only a week long so you can continue to travel without much commitment. And, while you may not be interested in living in a van, #Vanlife blogs, which list many of the leading blogs by people who’ve adopted the nomadic lifestyle of living and working from their vans, is a good way to gain insight into the lifestyle and connect with other nomads.
Wandering the globe as a digital nomad has never been easier, thanks to an array of supportive services ranging from blogs, communities, and job boards. It may not be all rainbows and French croissants but it is work where you want it, on your terms. It’s freedom from the daily grind. And it’s absolutely within your reach.
Are you a digital nomad? Have any advice other than what’s above on how to travel the world working remotely? Leave it in the comments section below!