A Beginner’s Guide to Becoming A Digital Nomad: How to Travel the World AND Make Money
Travelling the world is the ultimate dream for many people, but what if I told you that it is possible to travel the world AND make money as you do so? To me, that was the ultimate dream. Now it is my reality. Following the events of 2020, it is apparent now more than ever that our jobs don’t need to be location dependent. With a Wifi connection and some determination, anything is possible.
Success is no longer defined by fancy suits, overtime and skyrise offices. As a digital nomad you can work from the beaches of Bali to cafes in Canada. Heck, you can even work from your bed if you want. For those ready to swap their boss for a backpack, here’s how to be a successful digital nomad.
What is a digital nomad?
Before you start searching “digital nomad” on LinkedIn I should add that a digital nomad is a lifestyle, not a profession. They are someone who travels the world, whilst making money online. Sounds simple, huh? They are entrepreneurs who escaped the usual 9 to 5 to become location independent. This means they can work wherever there is an internet connection - as long as they have their laptop, they can make money.
Why be a digital nomad?
If you think about it, our ancestors were nomads. As humans we were never destined to be rooted to one place. As hunters and gatherers, historically we moved with the seasons in search of food, water and new land. Over time we’ve lost the urge to be nomadic, instead fuelled by consumerism to own more stuff which inevitably makes it harder to move. Worse yet, we need to work longer hours to pay for the stuff and bigger houses to store it all. It’s a vicious cycle.
A cycle which has prompted many to live off grid or at least dabble with this lifestyle. By becoming a digital nomad, you are escaping the shackles of the rat race. You are confronting complacency and stepping out of your comfort zone to be your own boss. To be your own person.
However, let’s not sugarcoat the truth. It’s a tough gig to get into as you kiss goodbye to a stable income, pension and paid holidays and say hello to fierce competition, self-motivation and hard work.
Which is where we come in. This guide will cover tried & tested tips to be a successful digital nomad, so you don’t just have to imagine this way of life – you can live it too!
You’ve decided to become a digital nomad…what’s next?
While selling all your possessions and running off into the sunset hand in hand with your laptop may sound like the perfect fairytale, you do not want it to be a holiday romance that’s over in a heartbeat, so please stay tuned. If you want to make the digital nomad dream your reality, here’s the next steps to get started:
1. Time to train:
Don’t have the skills yet to be a digital nomad? It’s time to train. Browse the online courses on platforms such as Udemy, Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning or Google Skillshop to find a skill that you’re interested in. Better yet, find a Workaway host who can help! Ever heard the saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none?” Don’t be this person and sign up for all the courses and try and be good at everything. Instead, find a specific skill you are passionate about and niche down. If you don’t love what you do, it’s going to be very difficult to motivate yourself everyday.
2. Do it as a side hustle:
Try freelancing on the side of a full-time role before you decide if being your own boss is for you. For many, working in their PJs or from a beach with a beer in hand is their dream gig. For others, however, they need routine and someone to offer direction. Before you jump to handing in your resignation letter, set up a side hustle first to sample the lifestyle and test if you can actually make money from it. Start by helping friends and family to build up testimonials then, update your social media and professional profiles so the world knows you are about to embark on this venture full time.
3. Learn to budget:
If you’re not determined to make this your full-time income, then you’ll be home before you know it. It may sound like a lifestyle of sunshine and coconuts, but it can be high paying projects one week and not a cent for 3 weeks, so you need to learn to budget any incomings as well as balance your work with travel. You can’t give this lifestyle 60% - you need to be all in to make it work.
How to make money as a digital nomad
If you’ve been nodding along so far, now is the point to get your pen and paper ready. It’s time to talk money. Below are just a sample of ways to make money as a digital nomad however, they will only work if you work. There is no magic wand and suddenly your bank account is topped up, there will be mistakes and late nights but trust me, it’ll all be worth it.
Do you get a kick from correcting grammar? Are words your jam? Have you been praised for your storytelling skills? Freelance writing or editing could be for you! Every brand and business needs people to write blog posts, web copy, newsletters and email campaigns. Best of all, you can write anywhere - whether you’re waiting for the bus, in a hostel bunk or from the beach!
As the name describes, you assist a company or business owner but virtually. There are so many ways you can do this, from data entry to diary management, accounting to customer service. Now more than ever, virtual assistants are in demand as companies adapt to work remotely.
Are you bilingual? Then translating could be your ticket to digital nomad life! While computer software is usually used to translate web pages, native speakers are required to correct syntax, grammar and overall word flow.
Many travellers get their TEFL certification, which allows them to teach English overseas. However, this often results in committing to a city or town for an entire term, which isn’t ideal for digital nomads. Instead, you can teach English online; all you need is good Wifi and the ability to speak Queen’s English. You can then schedule lessons to work around your travels – whether it’s one hour a day or 7 days a week. It’s best to work for an agency as they find the pupils for you so a steady income is more likely.
If you are a WordPress wizard or coding is your cup of tea, then web development is for you. It’s difficult nowadays to find a business that doesn’t have a website, so there will always be a demand for developers. The best place to start is by building your own site or blog to act as a portfolio then using it to apply for remote web developer roles.
Whether you dabble with photography as a hobby or you speak fluent Photoshop, you can turn those skills into serious dollar. Again, start by editing your current travel photos and videos and repurpose these are your portfolio to showcase your skills for potential clients. A good place to start is also contacting your favourite Bloggers or Youtubers and offering to assist with their editing – this will help build experience and recommendations.
Social Media Manager
Do you find Facebook fun? Do you deserve a degree in hashtag creation? Obsessed with all things Instagram? Social media is a science that not many companies have the time to master. Instead, they employ socially savvy people like you to schedule posts and create content instead. It’s hard to find a business nowadays that doesn’t use social media in some form, making job hunting in this niche a little easier.
Start A Blog
This is probably one of the hardest ways to make money as a digital nomad as it takes substantial time for very little reward in the beginning. As your readership grows, your income and opportunities should too. The blogging world is particularly competitive as you can start a blog about absolutely anything. If you want to make money from your blog, my number one tip is BE YOU.
Don’t try and copy what other people are doing, be unique. What can you bring to the market that others can’t? Then, there are 3 main ways bloggers make money:
1. Brand collaborations: This is when a brand pays you to share their product or service.
2. Affiliate income: Every time someone buys or books something via your blog, you make a small commission.
3. Adverts: Advertising companies pay you per month based on your blog traffic. The more visitors your blog gets = more money you get from advertising.
The possibilities really are endless...
If getting paid for your opinion sounds like your dream gig, online surveys are the money maker for you. There are THOUSANDS of companies who require regular people to provide their reviews and feedback on anything from airports to education, chocolate to children’s books.
You’ve probably heard of jury duty, where members of the public have to attend court to partake in court proceedings but did you know lawyers hire mock jurors remotely? You can sign up to assist lawyers with their cases by providing your input exactly as a jury would. This gives lawyers the practise they need to win their cases in real life all while topping up your bank account - who would object to that!?
Voice Over Artist
Do you have the gift of the gab? Or simply a unique accent? You could earn serious cash as a voice over artist. There are numerous agencies and websites recruiting voices just like yours for adverts, apps, tutorials and more!
How can Workaway help?
You’re probably wondering where Workaway comes into all this. Firstly, Workaway is the perfect transition from the full time 9 to 5 to location independence. Switching from a comfortable, full-time role to full-time travelling can be a drastic change, but consider Workaway the stepping stone in between to learn a new work, life balance.
Gain the skills you need
Secondly, you might not have the skills yet to be a digital nomad. That’s where Workaway can help. Perhaps you would love to get into online translating but you’re not yet fluent? A Workaway experience is the perfect way to improve your language skills with hosts in over 180 countries. Maybe you want to enhance your portfolio but you’re not ready for the pressure of a paying client? There are many hosts who would appreciate website help, graphic design or social media assistance and could even give you a testimonial as you start out.
Learn from the best
Perhaps you want to teach English online, but you have zero experience working with children? You could volunteer with a school through Workaway! Some hosts have even been digital nomads themselves which is the perfect place to learn the tricks of the trade, in exchange for your time on other projects. As an example, one of my Workaway experiences was with a Youtuber in Hawaii – he taught us how to edit video and set up our own Youtube channel while we helped his children practise English and assisted round the home.
Reduce your living costs
Finally, with any trip, the largest chunk of your budget will go on accommodation. With the digital nomad lifestyle, it’s unlikely you’ll find your niche on day one and be ready to go. Instead, it’ll take some trial and error which inevitably takes time. Workaway is the perfect opportunity to reduce your living costs as you figure out this new lifestyle. You can share and improve the skills you currently have without the pressure of making money to pay for hostels or hotels.
Ready to hit the road AND make some money?
Hopefully, this honest insight has made you realise there are many realistic ways to make money on the road and the next steps to get you started. While some people make it look easy, it’s important to understand this lifestyle is not for everyone, but how will you know unless you give it a try? ;)
The joy of Workaway means you can sample this lifestyle without committing fully to such a drastic change as well as get equipped with the skills to be your own boss. Now is the perfect time to switch your commute for a camera and wave goodbye to office politics for good. Instead of looking back at 2020 as the year where it all went wrong, you could be looking back at it (from your beach bar in Bali) relieved you took the steps to make it right. It’s time to swap your boss for a backpack and embrace the digital nomad dream!