Until recently, digital nomadism was an excellent alternative to the traditional model of working for those bored with their daily routines. Nowadays, as we observe the COVID-19 pandemic evolve dramatically at a global scale, work online has turned from a trend into a public health need and an effective security measure.
In this situation, if you have never worked online before (and if you consider becoming a digital nomad in a long-term perspective), you might be wondering how to arrange the process in a way that is both productive and convenient. Luckily, this endeavor is not so challenging as it seems.
Shifting to remote work is just like another big project: you need to thoroughly plan it, do all the necessary preparations, and follow your plan step by step. In this way, it won’t take long before you commence doing your job in the digital space just as well as in the familiar office environment… or maybe even better.
Step 1: Loosen up location ties
It’s never easy to leave a familiar location: too many things tie you to it. Your job, property, loans, debts – identify what are your location ties and find out how to eliminate them.
The main step here is to eliminate any debts you may have. Another one is selling things you don’t need, canceling subscriptions you won’t use, and freeing up some money. This will help you make savings that will be definitely useful at the start of your digital nomad’s career while reducing the number of things that keep you from moving sooner.
Step 2: Find a reliable income
“It’s a beautiful dream but in reality, it’s not for me,” many think. A typical digital nomad is a person who had already been freelancing before switching to nomadism, but it doesn’t mean that those who have been working in the office environment their entire life have zero chances to go remote.
If you’re an office employee, consider mastering a skill that doesn’t require immediate presence at the workplace. For example, a hobby that you can monetize online can be the right option for you. Or, if you already have a side hustle, work on increasing its share in your income until you can rely on it.
No hobbies and no side hustles? It’s time to revise your skills and see how you can use them for working remotely. Foreign languages, programming skills, coordination work experience – many skills can count. Teacher, translator, developer, personal assistant are common options of location-independent work. Find a remote gig where you can make use of your skills, and start gaining experience and building your clientele.
Another opportunity is open to business owners. If the nature of your business allows you to move it online, consider using it as the starting point of your digital nomad’s career. This way, you can enjoy a smooth transition to the new lifestyle.
There’s one more option to consider and explore: try negotiating remote work with your boss. Start by working from home one or two days a week, and if the experiment is a success, increase the number of remote work days and finally ask for a full-time remote position. This option looks less viable than others, but it still works at a number of workplaces.
Step 3: Make savings
Things don’t usually go as expected, and this applies to location independent work, too. Such a common thing as having a reliable WiFi, which is necessary for delivering work on time, is a challenge for over half of digital nomads. Having an emergency fund is an indispensable thing at the beginning of a freelance career, especially for a nomad lifestyle. So start making savings in advance.
Cutting on your regular expenses helps here – for example, canceling a gym membership subscription. Being mindful about your pocket expenses is also a good way to increase your emergency fund. Also, try to save up what you get by selling stuff you don’t need.
Step 4: Prepare your documents
This step is much less romantic and much more tedious than the others, but it is the foundation of your wellbeing in the journey. Make sure your documents and bank accounts are in order: research what rules apply for freelancers in the countries you’re going to visit and prepare all necessary paperwork.
Having proper medical insurance is another key point here. Costs of medical services can deplete your account in most countries, so research what health risks are likely on your route, and buy insurance that would cover your treatment costs.
Step 5: Stay connected
Reliable communication is what your income – and well-being! – depend on. Do your best to find stable Internet connections, and get a number/ VoIP for voice communications. Inform your customers immediately if your phone number or other contact details change. Use time-tracking tools where you can log your time and inform your clients on your progress.
Speaking of being reachable for employers and clients, resist the temptation to optimize your costs by switching communication service providers too often. Frequently changing your number creates room for confusion: it’s likely that you miss a new order just because the client hasn’t figured out what your current contact number is.
Step 6: Organize your life wisely
The life of a digital nomad can feel like an endless vacation, but it is not. Remember of your work commitments and keep track of deadlines: this means being reliable and getting regular payments. Stay committed to your work assignments, even when it’s tempting to put them aside and join your new friends who are going to a historical place nearby.
That said, avoid getting swamped with work. You’ve started the entire adventure to see places, not the screen of your laptop, right? Experienced digital nomads advise that it makes sense if you can afford to work only 30 hours a week, so be mindful about your work-life balance.
Money is where you’ll need mindfulness too, in particular at the beginning. New places are tempting visitors with endless cute, cozy and exotic things you can buy, but financial stability is worth denying yourself some of them. But austerity is not always the best option either. Maintain the balance between economy and comfort – the final goal of shifting to digital nomadism is achieving a better quality of life, after all.
Changing lifestyle can be hard, but the efforts are worth it. Once you’re determined to make it happen, plan your actions and stick to your plans. Be ready that it may take significant time and effort, and don’t be crushed by any difficulties. Being a digital nomad is a great way to get the most value out of your time, so follow your dream and explore the world.