We started Travel Gig to make friends and to help people on their path toward location independence.
Being a digital nomad is about designing a lifestyle so you can work from anywhere. It’s the idea that you can live and work in any country in the world and escape the confinements of a 9 – 5 job.
Digital nomads come in all shapes and sizes, they are all unique, but all share a common set of values. This post is meant as a guide to people looking to make the jump and start their new life.
As we’ve said before, the writers here at Travel Gig are always happy to respond to specific questions of aspiring Nomads. Send us an email at hello[at]travelgig.co or post in the comments.
The most common question we’ve heard from our readers goes something like this:
Hey, I’m working a 9-5 job but you’ve inspired me to start out as a digital nomad. I’m just kinda stuck on where to start. Do you have any advice?
It’s really frustrating because with all the advice we could give, it’s unlikely to be of much use – at this point.
To become a digital nomad, you have to take the leap. There is no exact blueprint for starting but once you have something to work with there are so many resources to help you on your journey.
The trouble is that most people see the nomad lifestyle as nothing more than travel, and sure that may seem like the most appealing factor – at least to start with.
The reality is that travel is the easy part, all you really need to do is save up, sell the stuff you don’t need, pack your bags and buy a ticket.
Becoming a true digital nomad is about sustaining yourself financially whilst you’re on the road, you can do this by finding a remote job, but for most people the dream (which you’ll turn into reality) is to start your own business which can be operated from anywhere.
So the question you need to think about is how do I start my own business?
I just heard your heart drop. But don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds. Starting a business sounds so daunting. There is a huge amount of information out there which makes it seem like starting a business would take months to plan. It doesn’t. In fact, most nomads would agree that it actually shouldn’t.
You should be able to test the basic version of your product or service within 30 days.
Cut away all the crap you don’t need. You don’t need 469 features, selling points or packages to get started. You need a simple product or service (which you can develop on later), and a way to get paid.
You should aim to create a lean start-up and test your concept with $500 to see what interest you can generate. You can start a website for under $100 with a theme from theme forest and get instant traffic using Google Adwords. There are also some amazing, actionable resources for startups on startupstash. You must make sure you keep things simple and don’t over-complicate.
However, you must be prepared to do the work.
Starting a business is fun and for most people, it doesn’t feel like work. That said, it is still going to take a lot of perseverance to get yourself to a point where you can sustain your digital nomad lifestyle. If the idea of travel appeals to you, but not the work or starting a business or working for yourself, then this route probably isn’t for you.
That doesn’t mean you can’t travel for an indefinite amount of time, it just means that you would be better looking for things like volunteer work or work for stay type gigs – there are loads of them out there. Check out Workaway to get started.
If you’re set on becoming a digital nomad you need to answer the following points before taking the leap of faith:
1) Are you self-disciplined?
The nomad lifestyle requires discipline. It’s an independent way of working which can sound great in theory, but you are responsible for making things happen, otherwise everything will grind to a halt.
As a digital entrepreneur and blogger, I usually love what I do and it doesn’t seem like work to me, but some days I have to do stuff I hate. You have to be proactive and get things done because if you don’t do them, no one will.
There are two types of people. Do-ers and dreamers. To be a nomad it is imperative that you follow through with your work, this is especially true if you are working as a freelancer and offering a service because other people are depending on you. I cannot stress this point enough, you must be able to (train yourself) to do things independently and practice rigorous self-discipline.
2) What are you offering?
If you’re going to be working as a freelancer, decide specifically on what you’re offering. There is no point trying to be a jack of all trades because you’ll specialise in nothing.
You need to have skills which people will be willing to pay for. Define what you’re offering, what your unique selling proposition is, and stick to it.
Alternatively, you need skills which you can use to build a business where you can sell a product. There are literally thousands of things you can do to earn money, from writing, photography or web design through to being a blogger or Skype English teacher. The list is endless.
If you’ve read this far and you’re thinking that you don’t have any skills to offer. Don’t worry, it honestly doesn’t matter that much. You can learn pretty much anything for free on the internet.
When I started my first business with a friend we’d decided on web design as our service. We had basic knowledge of html, which we’d learnt from myspace, but we taught ourselves by building our own website. Once we started advertising our services, our first lead came through on day one – we had a business! 12 months later we had 4 employees and we were teaching them! The moral of this story is to be bold enough to try and willing enough to learn.
If you’re stuck for ideas, you should check out our earlier post How to Become a Freelancer and Get Paid to Travel.
3) Watch, learn and network.
Once you’ve decided on what you’re offering, the likelihood is that there are already a number of people and companies offering a similar thing. The internet is very competitive, but again this is nothing to be scared of.
Watch what the more established freelancers or companies are doing in your niche. Subscribe to their blogs, learn from them and analyse what is working for them and why. The aim is not to copy what they do, but to figure out what works and how you can learn from their success to develop your own skills and strategy.
4) What is your business model?
The main thing you need to decide on here is whether you are providing a product or service.
Digital services like web design, graphic design or copywriting are some of the most popular places to start. If you already have the skills, it’s pretty quick and easy to setup shop. One off projects like this can be well paid, but you might not like the sound of answering to clients and having to continually find new projects to work on.
The alternative is to sell a product. You can sell digital products like e-books or online courses which are scaleable with much lower overheads, or you can resell other companies products and have them ship it to your customers, (this is called drop shipping). The downside to this model is that it can take much longer to reach a point where you can sustain yourself financially.
Its is very common for nomads to operate by doing a combination of the above. This allows you to improve your skills and spread your risk by having multiple income streams.
5) Refine and reflect
Deciding which route you’re going to take is just the start. You need to refine your proposition by answering the following questions:
Who is your target market? If your target market is everyone, you’ll end up targeting no one. You need to pick a niche. If you’re a website designer and your target market is “real estate agents requiring website design and ongoing online marketing”, the audience is much easier to target than just “website design”.
What makes you different? And why should your customers care? Don’t go for one of those “stand out from the crowd” taglines which ironically don’t stand out at all. You need to find a way that actually sets you apart from your competition like “delivered in 24 hours when everyone else delivers in 2 weeks”. Find something which your customers will actually value.
How do you get noticed? If you are new to the world of online promotion, this will likely be the biggest challenge for you to overcome. You have to find a way to get consistent leads because if you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business! You need to find best ways to do this and it will likely involve testing a combination of methods to see what works best. Just a few ways could be writing for your industry and generate traffic with blog posts, PPC (pay per click) campaigns with Facebook or Google, partnering with other companies, posting to relevant communities in your industry etc. This stage is crucial to your success. You need business and you have to hustle and work smart to make things work.
I would recommend reading up about online marketing on Neil Patel’s blog before you try anything as online marketing can end up being an expensive experiment with little return on investment. The key is trial and error. Test out different ways of generating leads and see what works for you. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!
6) Get it done.
The hardest part is starting. Don’t make excuses for why you can’t start today. You need to find that desire to set out on this mission and stick at it. Remember what you’re working towards and persevere with it and remember, you are not alone in this journey 🙂
“I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the nonsuccessful ones is pure perseverance.” – Steve Jobs.
In conclusion, becoming a digital nomad is a steep learning curve. It’s a roller coaster of learning and emotions but from experience I can tell you its one of the best rides you will ever take in your life.
If you’re committed to creating a digital nomad lifestyle and you’ve decided to start a business, ask yourself if it’s something you still want to be doing in 1, 2 or 10 years from now. Pick something you’re passionate about, stick with it, and don’t give up 🙂
As always, if you have any questions please leave a comment – we’re always happy to help.