Being a digital nomad is not a career path, it is a lifestyle. If you’re looking to become a digital nomad, then surely you already love to travel. What you need to focus on is seeking a job that can be performed from anywhere. You’re most likely to find such a job on the internet. In this post I share my story so you can learn how to become a digital nomad.
Location independent jobs
You want a job that can be done from anywhere, and the digital world, like the real one, has many fields of work.
Let me list some potential moneymakers:
- Digital sex entertainer (I'm joking, but technically you could)
- App maker
- Affiliate marketer
- Twitch video-game streamer
- YouTube content creator
- Drop shipper
- Someone who manufactures and sells their own product
- Amazon author
- and among many others...
What kind of computer skills do you need for location independent jobs?
Since elementary school I was heavy into computers and video games. I was the kind of kid who would come home every day and spend hours at a time on the internet: chatting, surfing and playing games.
But other than a basic programming class in 10th grade and a Microsoft Office class at the University of Florida, I had no more of a formal tech education than the average kid of modern generations.
In 2008 I graduated with a degree in history. I didn’t exactly take a moneymaker for a major, or so you’d think, but it would prove useful for a career in freelancing (back to that later).
Like many recent graduates I faced unemployment and the prospect of working minimum wage. And for the next four years, work a minimum wage job is what I did.
During the last of those four years, though, my friend Miguel got me a job managing a local wholesaler’s e-commerce website. In that year I learned the basics of how to operate a CMS (content management system, like WordPress) and how to make some graphics in Photoshop.
Time to travel
In those years following graduation I wasn’t happy with the direction in which my life was heading.
I needed to break away and go on an adventure.
I decided to backpack across Asia:
- A month in India practicing yoga.
- Two months in Thailand teaching English.
- And two months in China learning Shaolin kung fu.
Like countless other backpackers, the trip was an illuminating experience.
It taught me what I wanted in life, but I found myself no closer to knowing how to achieve it. So I came back home and got a job as a waiter.
Lesson 1 in becoming a digital nomad
SECURE A STEADY SOURCE OF INCOME
Whether it’s as a waiter or a bartender. Whether it’s a high-paying or minimum wage job, secure a steady source of income.
(More money-talk coming soon.)
Lesson 2 in becoming a digital nomad
CHOOSE A PATH TO LOCATION INDEPENDENCE
This means choosing a location independent career that will suit you. Start working on or towards that career in your free time (as soon as possible).
A Recommended path to location independence
Allow me to suggest a route to becoming a location independent digital nomad: FREElancing.
Freelancing has to be one of the most accessible and broadest fields of online work. There are downsides to it like everything, but it’s also one of the quickest ways to make location independent money.
What is freelancing?
Simply a different method of getting hired. Instead of part-time or full-time work, it’s work on a per project basis. Bad in terms of job security. Good for those opposed to commitment and in favor of freedom. Potential jobs can be found in all of these fields according to Upwork:
How I earned my way to becoming a digital nomad
Elance, which has become Upwork, was where I began freelancing. In my first week I won my first job. The job was simple. All I had to do was perform a face swap on some family photos. For less than an hour’s work I made $15 or $25.
The next week I won a $1200 job. An agency in Argentina hired me to build their website.
I did that without even knowing how to code. Nowadays you don’t need to know programming to make a website. I’ll get into that later.
After these two jobs I went on to have a successful freelancing career, going through highs and lows that can be expected with freelancing.
My story: becoming a digital nomad
By late 2014 I was still living in my home of Florida. I not traveled “big” in years. And as usual, I was looking for bigger and better things for my business. I had a big idea to source top quality, affordable talent from India. This would again allow me to take on more work.
It was time to go on an adventure.
Becoming a digital nomad actually wasn't my goal when I began freelancing, I just happened to stumble into it.
In January of 2015 I traveled to India to meet a freelancer friend of mine. During my six weeks there, I had begun speaking quite frequently on Facebook to a young lady from Thailand. We became very interested in each other over this time. So much so that soon enough I suggested the idea of me flying over to go on a date. She was receptive to the idea and told me to come on over.
She and I dated for only a short time, but that is how I became a digital nomad.
What 3 factors contributed to my success and can contribute to yours?
- When I was born.
- Where I was born.
- My education.
I was born in the personal computer and internet generation. This means I’m better with computers than the average member of older generations (a group that does a lot of the hiring of freelancers). And it makes it easier for me to learn new computer skills.
Being born in America made me a native English speaker, which provides a big advantage over cheap foreign competitors. And having grown up in America it allowed me to know the type of customer service those hiring me (other Westerners) would expect.
My education was important because it gave me skills people would pay for. Learning history gave me the ability to write well, and it also gave me research skills and organizational skills. My computer job provided me with an education too. Because of it I’m comfortable with using Photoshop and content management systems (which would be very useful when learning WordPress).
What you should do now.
Go to Upwork.com, register, browse their job categories and job boards and see where you will fit in.
Become a better you.
Lynda.com is home to amazing work and computer skills tutorials. Seriously, the teachers over there are awesome. The site even has career tracks, which are essentially playlists of tutorials. These career tracks will fulfill the skills needed to work in various positions.
You may actually have free access to Lynda through your university. If not, you can grab a free 10 day trial here. See if it will help you.
Monthly plans start at $25 (I pay $37.50 for premium membership that includes exercise files).
I cannot speak highly enough of Lynda.com, but they’re not the only option for learning.
YouTube has so many great, free tutorials. And I’ve heard Code Academy is the place to go to learn how to, you guessed it, code.
Lesson 3 in becoming a digital nomadMONEY
By this time in the guide you should already have a steady source of income and the path to location independence. What you need to do now is get your money right.
What to do:
- Get health insurance if you don’t have it (my fellow Americans) because medical bills are the number one cause of bankruptcy in America.
- Work on eliminating or managing any debt you have.
- Build an emergency fund, which you can define as X months of savings in case the world decides to fuck you in the ass. r/personalfinance is a helpful community.
Lesson 4 in becoming a digital nomad
TRANSITION FROM A CATERPILLAR TO A BEAUTIFUL DIGITAL NOMAD
Before you can become a digital nomad you have to finish getting your money right.
Ask yourself this:
Is your location independent work paying enough to sustain a monthly travel budget?
The decision is up to you, but practice patience. I’d suggest waiting to pull the trigger on traveling if going prematurely would put you in a precarious position. And no one wants to find themselves in a precarious position after coming prematurely (clears throat).
Once you are confident in your finances, start planning your trip or your move. My only tip here would be to make sure you have the ability to work where you go (I’m mainly referring to good Internet).
*Nomadlist is supposedly a useful resource for nomads looking to research destinations.
*VisaHQ is not a company I have ever used or can endorse at this point, but they have a cool widget that tells you if you need a visa when traveling .
By this point you have become a digital nomad.If you'd like to learn more about freelancing, I'd recommend picking up a copy of The Modern Guide to Freelancing. You can check out the cover and table of contents below. Remember to get your FREE copy here this post. Have a good day :)