I created this digital nomad FAQ to answer all those questions you may have, but are afraid to ask.
I held off calling myself a nomad for a long time. The term has baggage. The first few times I rolled it out as my ‘official job title’ I was greeted by eye rolls and confusion. Then I became a Freelance Writer.
That fit for a while, but then I started doing other gigs – transcribing, merch, digital marketing, social media management etc. I was becoming a digital nomad!
The problem was I was piecing it all together myself. I had no mentor or brain to pick.
After several years of fumbling in the dark, I’d say I’ve got a good handle on it now. Lots of trial and error, too much money wasted on useless courses and gurus, lots of banging my head against a wall.
But now I’m here. Things are going well and I’d like to clear up any questions you may have.
The information below will give you a good grounding of what’s involved.
Table of Contents
What is a digital nomad?
Someone who uses technology to work (usually a laptop), while moving from place to place.
What jobs do digital nomads usually do?
The list of jobs and professions is huge. Nowadays remote work is the norm, but you may be surprised at some of the opportunities available to nomads:
- Statistical analysis
- Customer Service (both outbound and inbound)
- Library Manager
- Software developer
- Virtual coach
- Remote Oncologist
- Music teacher
- Fitness Instructor
- Theme Park reporter
They’re a tiny fraction of the remote jobs available.
How to become a digital nomad?
As explained above, there are thousands of different jobs available. Each will require different skills and equipment.
For 80% of them, all you essentially need is a decent laptop and internet connection. If you can secure those, the world is your office.
If you’re planning to be a jack of all trades until you figure out your path, Youtube is the place to go. While you may have to wade through some useless self-promotion, you’ll find a tutorial or twelve for every possible profession.
If you’re starting from complete scratch and want to learn how to make your first online payday, I’d point you towards Pat Flynn and his website smartpassiveincome.com. No fluff, just solid, practical, actionable advice. Youtube, podcasts, websites… he does it all.
How do digital nomads make money?
Making a fulltime income from your travel blog, Youtube channel or IG feed is hard. Not impossible, but hard.
Affiliate sales is the easiest way to make money if you’re just starting out. Before you establish yourself and your brand it’s easier to promote (and earn a sales commission) from someone else’s product.
Product reviews and recommending services is the standard way of achieving affiliate sales, and it can be a good earner. It all depends on your niche, but there are an untold number of affiliate programs. To find one for your niche just Google “<insert your niche> + affiliate program”.
You can also register with an Affiliate Network. The networks are home to thousands of individual programs, so much easier to search than hunting for specific and individual programs.
Some of the biggest are:
- CJ Affiliate
- Amazon Associates (although Amazon recently slashed their commission percentages)
There are plenty more, so do a search for your niche and get registering.
Once you’ve established yourself in your niche, then you have the option to monetize with courses, ebooks, services and products. Whatever you create, you can sell.
These take time and effort to create. You can either do it all yourself or pay someone else to create it for you. It’s a trade-off between time and money. If you don’t have the money, you’ll have to spend the time. If you don’t have time, you either spend money or it doesn’t get done.
There are a gazillion other ways to make money too. It’s all about getting creative – find a problem, solve it and then market that solution.
What is a typical salary for a digital nomad?
How long is a piece of string?
It all depends on your skill level, the amount of work you produce, your field of expertise and luck.
If you’re relying purely on your own travel site – product reviews, affiliate sales, ads, sponsored content etc, you can earn a decent side income. If you create a course and a few ebooks, it can increase to a good living wage or beyond.
Selling a detailed travel guide to a big travel company can earn a good few hundred dollars, but they’re usually one-off payments.
Some people swear by Upwork and Freelancer to make a steady income of $1000-2000 per month. I’ve never had any joy due to the level of competition. As with anything, if you dedicate yourself to mastering it, you’ll see results.
With a few regular clients and a few one-off projects it’s not unheard of to make $3000-5000 per month.
For the uber-successful, the sky’s the limit.
How many hours do nomads work?
Again, where’s that piece of string?
Are you a freelancer, remote worker or entrepreneur? These will all impact your weekly hours.
Remote workers are normally working ‘normal jobs’, just away from the office. This means working a standard workweek – 9-5, Monday to Friday.
Freelancers will likely have one or more clients. $25 per hour for 25 hours a week will earn you $2500. After expenses, that’s enough to live a good quality of life, especially if you choose your location wisely.
If you’re just getting started then you may have a few low paying clients which add up to a reasonable wage.
Eventually you’ll want to get to a point where you’re not killing yourself to earn a crust.
Trading time for money vs trading money for time can be a tough lesson to learn. Once you get to a certain level of income you should start spending money to buy yourself more time. That’s the dream.
Do digital nomads have to pay tax?
Sadly, yes. Where they pay tax is a different question.
It all depends on your nationality, employment status, time travelling etc There’s no one answer.
I’m not a financial expert, advisor or even that good with money, so I’ll hand this one over to the fine folk at The Professional Hobo. They give an excellent breakdown of what to keep in mind, how to arrange your finances and some pitfalls to avoid.
What are the best cities for digital nomads?
That depends on your work, your style and your budget.
A high-end graphic designed will have different needs to an adventure videographer, while a novelist will have different requirements to a Theme Park reporter.
I listed the top 15 cities for nomads in this earlier article. It contains more detailed information on how to get started.
Do digital nomads always travel and work alone?
Being a nomad is the same as any other self-employed job. Some people work as a team, others do everything themselves.
I work with my girlfriend. We combine our individual skills to tackle all problems. This means we can also pool all our resources to save money.
We save on accommodation and general living, but that’s balanced by spending extra on insurance, travel expenses and coworking spaces. Swings and roundabouts.
Travelling and working alone usually leads to more networking, but working with a partner means support and someone to brainstorm with. There are lots more reasons for and against both, but they’re mostly all personal choices.
Is being a digital nomad overrated?
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, that’s for sure. If you crave routine, security and a carefree life, this may not be the best path for you.
The nomadic element means travelling around. Landing in a country with terrible wifi can add a ton of stress to your daily life. Coworking spaces, while potentially amazing and inspirational places, aren’t always cheap. This leaves either cafes, libraries or your hostel/apartment.
All come with pros and cons, and you’ll have to try them all to see if they suit your style of working.
Knowing you’re carrying your entire working life in your bag can be stressful too. If my computer breaks, I’m screwed. Insurance takes time to pay out and that’s all missed working time.
So it’s a miserable existence? Not at all.
The freedom to decide when and where you work is liberating. I’m not just clocking in and out of a meaningless job. Everything I choose to study, learn and develop is for my own benefit.
That choice can be scary or overwhelming to begin with. You can feel directionless, bouncing from one failed attempt to another. That’s where planning and determination come in.
I strongly recommend studying up on planning and goal setting. A book called Self Discipline by Handmade Publishing was a complete game-changer for me.