The term “digital nomad” has been bandied around by world travelers and Instagram influencers. What does it mean to be a digital nomad? It’s a person who chooses to work from afar while traveling around the world. The digital nomad lifestyle is possible thanks to widespread internet availability and technology.
According to a 2020 study, 10.9 million Americans identify as digital nomads. This is up 49% from the previous year, thanks in part to remote-work policies implemented by many employers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As more remote workers choose to go, nomad, rather than return to the office, the number of nomadic employees and freelancers is expected to rise.
Digital nomad jobs allow you to work from virtually anywhere. Employers may not even be aware of your working location in the majority of cases. The desk could be in a Parisian cafe, a Bali pool, or a San Francisco hotel. Digital nomading is the ultimate freedom for many people, and it could be exactly what you’ve been looking for.
Types of Digital Nomad Jobs
The job you do must be able to be completed online using technology for the digital nomad lifestyle to work. Pivoting from your current job to a digital one may require some ingenuity. If you work in a retail clothing store, for example, you won’t be able to ring up customers from a beach in Vietnam, but you might be able to start your own online clothing boutique or move into an online customer service role at your current employer.
Being a digital nomad can be difficult unless your employer offers generous paid time off and flexible hours. To be able to set their own schedules, many digital nomads end up working as freelancers. Typical jobs for digital nomads include:
- Digital marketing
- Social media influencers
- IT or computer programmers
- Graphic designers
- Virtual assistants
- Language teacher
Digital Nomads Pros and Cons
While most people would agree that working from a sailboat in the Mediterranean is preferable to sitting in an office cubicle on a cold, grey day, the lifestyle is not without its challenges. Take a look at some of the main advantages and challenges that digital nomads face.
- Fund your travels as you go
- Set your own schedule
- Potentially lower cost of living
- Allows you to build skills and recharge
- Discipline required
- Challenges with scheduling
- Red tape
What Are the Pros of Being a Digital Nomad?
Here’s a breakdown of some of the pros.
Fund Your Travels As You Go
Most people work all year to save money for a two-week vacation. Being a digital nomad is the ultimate permanent vacation — you may be able to travel indefinitely while you work. All the extra time provides you with a great opportunity for cultural immersion. You can get a great feel for a place and live as the locals do by settling for a few weeks or longer. The best part is if you don’t like the destination or you’re ready for a change, you can find a new one.
Set Your Own Schedule
In most cases, you have complete control over your work schedule. Routine is beneficial to some digital nomads. To recreate their work-life at home, they may choose to work traditional business hours at a coworking space.
Others condense their schedules into a version of the “four-hour workweek” by working long and hard for a few days to give themselves more time off to travel. As a digital nomad, you set your own hours based on how you prefer to work.
Potentially Lower Cost of Living
When you consider the cost of plane tickets, hotels, and other expenses, traveling can be costly. The majority of digital nomads, on the other hand, are financially savvy. They usually set up shop for a while in a location by renting an apartment or staying in an Airbnb and living like a local.
In the long run, this strategy could save you a lot of money, especially if you travel to low-cost destinations in Asia, parts of Europe, South and Central America, and Africa. Outside of the United States, you’d be surprised at how cheap lodging, food, and internet are. You might be able to invest or make additional contributions to your retirement fund.
Great Way To Build New Skills and Recharge
In the long run, taking a break from the daily grind could be beneficial to your career. As you use Zoom, Asana, and the other tech tools that make remote work possible, you may improve your technical skills.
You may decide that working as a digital nomad is only a short-term solution and that you want to return home to start a family, retire, or establish roots. Traveling can help you network, learn a new language (or two), and rekindle your enthusiasm for your work.
What Are Some of the Downsides To Being a Digital Nomad?
There may be some cons to be aware of. Take a look at some of these below.
Digital nomads are frequently on the move. The average person visits two to twelve countries per year. As a nomad, it’s difficult to form relationships, especially when the people you meet are also on the move. The digital nomad life can be lonely without having an office to go to or having friends and family nearby.
Working from home isn’t always a relaxing experience. Work must continue to be a top priority in order to fund the experience. One of the first challenges a digital nomad faces is ensuring that enough time is spent on work or marketing a freelance business in order for it to succeed. When you don’t have someone to hold you accountable, maintaining discipline to complete assignments can be difficult.
The time difference can be difficult depending on where you choose to set up shop. It’s easier for nomads in Mexico or the Caribbean. However, if you have a Friday video conference scheduled at 10 a.m. EST, that will be 12 a.m. in Australia on Saturday.
Immigration and tax issues are particularly difficult for digital nomads. They’re usually traveling as tourists and don’t have permission to work in their chosen country unless they apply for a work visa, which can be difficult and time-consuming to obtain. They are only allowed to stay in a country as tourists for a limited time. They may be required to file taxes in both the United States and the country they are currently visiting, depending on the length of their stay.
Banks do not make it simple for international travelers. Getting paid in the United States and accessing funds from abroad necessitates additional effort and expense. It is not for the faint of heart to navigate all of the international red tapes.
How To Get Started as a Digital Nomad
To get started as a digital nomad, it’s important to line up work before you travel because most countries don’t allow foreigners to enter and job search.
Tips To Get Started
- Start saving money: It’s good to have a cash cushion to cover expenses and emergencies while you travel.
- Find digital nomad jobs: Search Indeed and other job boards for remote work opportunities or gigs that aren’t location-dependent. Or ask your employer if you can work remotely and what the conditions would be.
- Watch for scams: Do your research about the type of remote job offered. Avoid any that require you to make purchases upfront or work for a free trial before you’re hired.
- Consider extended stays: Moving from a city or country every couple of weeks can really affect your work productivity and get expensive. Consider staying at locations for a couple of months or longer.
- Research the locations you’re interested in: Look at the cost of living to determine if you can afford the area. Join some ex-pat groups for the destinations to find out more about what life is like.
- Invest in a quality laptop: Your laptop will be your traveling office, so make sure you choose a reliable one. Pick up some plug adaptors for the countries you plan on working from.
- Switch to online banking: Online banks make it much easier to manage your money while you’re away.
- Understand bank and credit card fees: Make sure you know what type of fees your bank will charge you for international withdrawals and if your credit cards charge foreign transaction fees.
- Set up a billing system: Make sure you have a system for getting paid before you leave. Having a PayPal account linked to a bank account could make it easy to move money around and access it when you need it.
- Meet other nomads: Having a support system, even if it’s only digital, can be a lifesaver. Join digital nomad groups through social media to connect with other like-minded people.
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