How to become a digital nomad

By Charlotte Deprez Published 25/03/2017

Digital nomadism has seen a tremendous increase in the past few years. With internet and 4G available almost everywhere on the planet and the always growing need for digital skills, you can now work from wherever you want. But how do you take the leap? How do you go from your 9 to 5 job to being location independent?

There are two main and combinable ways to live as a digital nomad: you can either find a way to earn money without having to actually work on a daily basis, or develop a skill that will allow you to work from your computer for a remote client. Easy, right? Here’s how you can achieve either one of these options.

Option 1: build yourself a passive income

Passive income is the Holy Grail for digital nomads. I see I got your attention here, but beware of one thing: passive income doesn’t mean money growing on trees. In order to achieve a regular passive income, there’s usually a lot of work to be done upfront! Here are a few ways to create a passive income stream for yourself:

  • Sell your photos on the web: If you’re a photography lover, image banks such as Getty Images or Shutterstock are a great option. You put up your picture on the platform and then you let the cash flow into your account. Photography platforms like these manage all the technical aspects linked to the sales and usually offer you either a percentage of the sale or a flat fee for each photo that is sold.
  • Build an online guide: this is a niche method. You can make an online guide about pretty much anything, as long as it’s quite specific in order to be very well ranked on Google. A great idea could be a guide about wedding planning, explaining all the steps you should fulfil and everything you should think about, for example. Once your guide is up and running, you can make money thanks to advertisements through Google AdSense or affiliate links. Side note: Those two options can be used for any website of yours with proper traffic, like a blog for example.
  • Create an online course: this option will require a lot of work upfront but no work at all once it’s online, unless you decide to offer on-demand assistance to people purchasing your course. If you have any passion at all, you are eligible to make a course about it! Platforms such as Udemy or Teachable will host your course and manage the technicalities for you. Your course can take various formats, such as videos or small ebooks.
  • Sell Digital Files on Etsy: people turn to Etsy to find all types of very specific designs and home decor items. If you’re into graphic design or typography, creating digital files of your artwork and putting them up on Etsy can be very interesting. Once they’re online, customers can purchase and download them directly and print them out themselves.
  • More ideas: affiliate marketing, selling an ebook, buying expensive material and renting it out, …

A few websites and articles are entirely dedicated to passive income ideas, such as realpassiveincomeideas.com or greatpassiveincomeideas.com and this article from entrepreneur.com.

Option 2: find a digital skill that will enable you to work online from anywhere

If you already have strong digital skills, then you’re all set to work abroad! That is, of course, provided that you find clients who are okay with that.

However, not everyone who wants to become a digital nomad has the digital qualifications to achieve that lifestyle. Therefore, before leaving, there’s a whole learning process that has to be done. Here are a few skills that you might want to look into.

  • Copywriting and content writing: copywriting is the art of writing convincing content that drives action. Copywriting is usually used for advertising or short formats of communication. Content writing, on the other hand, refers to longer formats with a research regarding the use of keywords, meta, and shareability of the content.
  • Community Management: community management consists of animating and managing a company’s online communication channels. If you’re already active on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and like communication, you might want to give it a try.
  • Translation: if you can speak more than one language, congrats: you got yourself a job! Some websites, like proz.com, specialize in matching translators with clients, and it’s all done online, of course.
  • Coding: we’re talking about building websites, webapps or mobile apps for clients. Don’t run away so fast! Coding has been getting more and more human friendly in the past years and initiatives to learn to code quickly are appearing in every city. Online and in-person coding bootcamps are just a few clicks away. The platform switchup.org ranks the best coding bootcamps out there. In Belgium, Le Wagon is the best ranked and runs two to three times a year.
  • Building WordPress websites: WordPress powers 25% of all sites across the web. 25%. The first time you’ll build a WordPress website, you’ll probably cry blood and swear to never do it again, but you’ll see that the second time will be easier and that, from the third time, you’ll already be super effective. You can find beautifully designed themes on websites like themeforest.net.

And this is how you can learn them:

Once you’re ready to take the leap and start making money with those newly acquired competences, you need to find your first clients! A few websites are really helpful for this step:

Bonus: cut food and accommodation costs while traveling

Working and living with the locals can really help with your immersion in their culture and getting to know the place you’re staying at.

You have quite a few options to work in exchange for accommodation or food, hence living for free. They usually require just a few hours of work per day, which leaves you plenty of time to explore or work on your digital projects. Here are the best ones:

  • Wwoofing: WWOOF stands for “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms”. Wwoofers are volunteers who live alongside their farmer host to help them with daily tasks and experiencing life as a farmer in exchange for hosting and food.
  • Housesitting and Housecarers: as a housesitter/carer, you’re required to watch the house you’re staying in while the owners are away, but also to look after the household’s pets.
  • Workaway: Workawayers help out households or small organizations for a few hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation.
  • Worldpackers: Worldpackers lets offer your skills to hosts around the world in exchange for free accommodation.
  • helpX: this platform aggregates all the organizations who need volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation.
About the author Hello there! I’m Charlotte, a 20-something based in beautiful Brussels and passionate about traveling, food and photography. Follow me on www.thetinynomad.com.

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