Being a digital nomad is probably the dream for most entrepreneurs.
As a matter of fact, I’ve always dreamed about being a digital nomad. Maybe not a pure digital nomad ><;; I still want to stay in my home country (I love my family loads!).
Anyway, here are some tips to be a successful digital nomad~
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According to Wikipedia, digital nomads are people who live in a nomadic way while working remotely using technology and the internet. They have minimal material possessions and work remotely in temporary housing, hotels, cafés, public libraries, co-working spaces or recreational vehicles, using Wi-Fi, smartphones or mobile hotspots to access the internet.
Some digital nomads are perpetual travelers while others are only nomadic for a short period of time. While some nomads travel through various countries, others focus on one area.
Digital nomads are often younger remote workers, retired or semi-retired persons, backpackers or entrepreneurs.
1. Secure Steady Streams Of Income
If you have a full-time job that allows you to work remotely, you don’t have to worry about this. But for most digital nomads, you probably need a few revenue streams to stay afloat (especially in light of rising inflation around the world). Ensure that you earn enough to cover expenses (as well as some savings for emergencies). This cost will vary depending on which country you work in.
There are 2 ways to make money: passively and actively. Examples of passive income are dropshipping (where you work only a couple of hours per day) and selling information products (where you only spend time creating and maybe a couple of hours per week promoting). Active income is where you trade time for money (eg. freelance writing). Ultimately, it’s up to you—whether to rely on passive or active income. It really depends on which option you prefer and how much work you want to put in.
After considering your skills and passion, brainstorm a few revenue streams. This way, if one revenue stream is cut off, you still have a backup plan.
2. Ensure That You’re Ready
You shouldn’t recklessly quit your job and dive into life as a digital nomad. No matter how tempting it is to jump into this new, exciting and liberating experience, a wiser move would be to start at home first.
Most businesses will take months or even years (eg. blogs) before they start making money. Rather than starting your digital nomad job abroad, it’s safer to build your client list and grow your business locally first. This way, you’re at least earning a decent amount and won’t be stressed out launching a business overseas. Note: You’re an exception if you have a ton of savings to live off.
Alternatively, you can do a trial run. Take a one or two week vacation to a new place. However, unlike the usual vacation where you relax, you’ll be working during this vacation.
At the end of the vacation, ask yourself these questions:
- Were you productive while working away from home?
- Did you make enough money to pay for your expenses?
- Did you run into any issues?
Depending on your answers, you’ll know whether you’re ready to be a digital nomad. Also, if you encounter problems during this trial run, figure out solutions and make sure that you can solve these issues when you start your digital nomad life in a foreign country. For example, if you realize that your credit card doesn’t work overseas, you might consider researching credit cards in your destination country and applying for this card in advance.
3. Get Your Finances In Order (Eliminate Debt & Have Insurance)
Before taking the leap, ensure that you have limited debt and get yourself insured.
Prioritize and pay off the debts with the highest interest rates first. Even better if you’re debt-free. This way, you won’t feel stressed if something goes wrong (eg. one of your revenue streams gets cut off).
There are many types of insurance: health, life, business, travel and many more. If you’re planning to work abroad, do research about the various overseas insurance and get them if needed.
For instance, you’ll want to know the laws about taxes when running a business abroad. Or if you plan to work remotely across numerous countries, travel insurance that covers lost luggage and delayed flights would be important. Local healthcare may be more expensive than your country. Thus, I strongly recommend that you get health insurance. You never know when you’ll need it. Emergencies don’t wait.
As mentioned earlier, it’s good to ensure that you have a steady income before taking the leap to be a digital nomad.
4. Make Arrangements For Your Belongings & House
If you’re planning to work overseas for a long time, you can sell your house or end your lease then store your belongings with your family or at a storage facility.
Alternatively, you can rent out your house to reduce overhead costs.
Do think about whether you’ll return to your home country from time to time and what you’ll do with your belongings.
5. Create A Work Schedule That Is Uniquely Yours & Stick To It
One of the greatest benefits of being a digital nomad is flexibility. You’re not bogged down by a fixed work schedule or office location. Everywhere can be your workspace. Likewise, you can set your own work schedule.
Are you a morning lark or a night owl? How do you want to balance your work and life?
The keyword here is “balance”. With flexibility comes a challenge—balance. This is one of the greatest challenges of working abroad remotely. As you work abroad, it’s easy to spend too much time traveling and having fun. Just look at the temptations: new food, new attractions, new cultures and new people! On the other hand, if you’re your own boss, you might be constantly working. In fact, you might be working from bed when you should be sleeping!
To ensure that work is done, you’ll need to set clear work boundaries and stick to them. Emails, projects and traveling can wait. Follow your work schedule and don’t fall into the trap of overworking or overplaying. In fact, you can consider having a strict calendar or timetable. You could dedicate entire days for work and other days for fun. Or you could divide up each day so you both play and work hard. Some digital nomads continue working the same hours (from 9 to 6) but in a foreign country. And they get to enjoy evenings and weekends abroad! Some digital nomads work daily for a couple of hours while others work for two weeks and then take two weeks off.
The key is finding the schedule that works best for you and sticking to it. You’ll want to play and work hard equally. Avoid burnout by adding rest time in between your work hours. Similarly, you’ll need to work more hours when you’re running low on funds. By working according to your calendar, you’ll be less stressed because you planned it that way (and there’s time for everything!).
The point of working abroad is to experience life in a new country. So don’t waste the opportunity and remember to log off.
6. Take Note Of Time Differences
As a digital nomad, you probably work with clients all around the world. Do keep time differences in mind when setting up meetings with them. You don’t want to arrange a meeting at 3 AM when you’re sleeping.
Time zone differences can be crippling to your lifestyle and create restless nights.
Instead, you should set boundaries and manage expectations. Specifically, you should communicate time differences to your team and clients. This way, they’ll know what hours you are willing to take calls or meetings and when they can expect a reply from you. You also won’t feel pressured to wake up at night for emails or calls.
7. Carefully Choose Your Destination Country
If most of your clients are in the US, it’ll be easiest to work at locations that are in the same time zone. You might avoid destinations like Asia where the time difference could be 10 to 12 hours, making it difficult to have a social life or healthy routine.
But again, this isn’t set in stone. There are no fixed rules like you can only choose a location that aligns with your working hours.
You can of course choose to work in a country that has a huge time difference with your clients. If so, you simply have to communicate that to your clients and come up with alternative solutions to stay in contact. For example, online video calls might be once a week only but you’re still contactable via emails and chats.
The key is your priorities. What are your reasons and goals for being a digital nomad? What do you value more? From here, you’ll get a better idea of what you want and should be able to decide on your destination country accordingly.
8. Research The Internet & Wi-Fi In Your Destination Country
As a digital nomad, you probably work online. Which means that the internet is crucial.
Before you work abroad, ask yourself these questions:
- Is the internet or Wi-Fi easily accessible?
- What’s the speed? Is it fast?
- Can you get a SIM card with reliable data? Is it affordable?
Precisely because every country and city varies, it’s necessary that you do some research before you go. This is especially important if you need to upload large files (eg. videos, photographs).
Slow and unstable internet or Wi-Fi can throttle your productivity. So try to solve this and get it right before you even travel overseas.
9. Invest In A Headset With Microphone
If you make many video calls or conduct video conferences, I strongly recommend that you get a headset with microphone. You don’t have to get those high-end ones. Just get a decent one where people can hear you talk.
It’s important that you make a good impression whether you’re talking to new or existing clients. You probably wouldn’t want to run into technical problems that you can easily solve with better equipment.
Bonus Tip: Be Prepared To Work Hard
Being a digital nomad might sound nice and fancy. But in reality, you need to be prepared to work.
Working as a digital nomad for a year and two is okay. Everyone can pretty much do that. But if you’re going to be a digital nomad for years, you’ll need to treat it like a long-term career. Meaning that you’ll need to put in effort and work hard to maintain this career.
However, some might argue that they are smarter or have connections and thus, they’ll achieve success faster. But is this guaranteed? No. It’s a maybe. Which means there’s uncertainty.
You shouldn’t expect to earn money just by working a few hours. Instead, you need to pay your dues. Always plan ahead. Set realistic business and career goals for the year.
Bonus Tip: Brace Yourself For The Nomadic Lifestyle
You might feel that the nomadic lifestyle is perfect for you where it’s all sunshine and rainbows. But all digital nomads will eventually face burnout and loneliness. Being away from your usual routine and community can be difficult too. Without a home, you might not have a sense of belonging which can be isolating.
The amazing and unpleasant moments are both parts of the digital nomad package. You’ll need to embrace them and discover solutions to tackle these issues. For instance, you can actively make new friends from the local community or make it a habit to keep in touch with your friends back in your home country. Or you can create a morning routine that includes a workout and meditation to stay energized throughout the day.
Bonus Tip: Is Being A Digital Nomad Right For You?
Remember the trial run I mentioned earlier?
A trial run can help you find out whether the nomadic lifestyle is right for you. It’ll also clarify whether you truly want to be a digital nomad or whether it’s just time to find a new job.
After the trial run or working as a digital nomad for a few weeks, ask yourself:
- How do you feel?
- Do you want to do it again?
- Or do you feel like it wasn’t for you?
Now It’s Your Turn
Hopefully, these tips can help you avoid common pitfalls and start your career as a digital nomad on the right foot!
What tips would you like to share with aspiring digital nomads?