Digital Nomad Guide
Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in a rut? Are you craving more freedom than your current job offers? Or maybe you’ve been daydreaming of working from coffeeshops in Italy or beachside in Mexico…
We’re here to tell you that you’re not alone. Your daydreams are not far-fetched or silly. This so-called “laptop lifestyle” you’re dreaming of is within your grasp if you’re willing to put in hard work and take some risks.
But hold up a second… Let’s start with the basics.
What is a Digital Nomad?
A Digital Nomad is someone whose job is location independent, allowing them to live and work wherever they want.
This means you can work from a coffee shop in London or a co-working space in Chiang Mai or at a hostel in a small town in Colombia. You can be pretty much anywhere in the world, so long as there is a decent Internet connection!
Here are the 3 main types of Digital Nomad work:
1. Work for a company
Some Digital Nomads work for a company and get a salary and benefits. Depending on what type of job you currently have, we’ve known people who have negotiated with their company to make their position remote (either for a short time or indefinitely).
Other work on a freelance basis. This means they work for several clients (or companies) at once, usually on a short-term contract. Freelancing is an easy way to get started in this space and gain experience. Plus, it gives workers a lot of freedom: If the job goes well, they may continue to work with a specific client, and if not, they can move on and find other work. The drawback to freelancing is the pay rate is typically lower than working for yourself or with one company.
3. Work for yourself
And other digital nomads still, create their own jobs centered around their passions or areas of expertise. We’ve known people who have literally invented their own job (see some examples in this article!). The options are seriously endless.
Best Digital Nomad jobs for getting started
One thing you’ll start to realize is digital nomads tend to have several jobs, at least when they’re starting. If it’s your dream to be a podcaster, for instance, you won’t be making money right away. That’s why you might have to do freelance writing on the side until you start raking in the dough.
Here are some of the jobs you can start earning money with right away while you work on your true passions:
VIPKID English Teacher: Ben taught English through VIPKID while we worked on our main passion — building this blog! It is such a flexible job with a good pay rate ($22 per hour!) even if you have no experience! It is so easy to get started and you’ll be making money right away.
Freelance Copywriter: If writing comes naturally for you, consider looking for gigs on a platform like Upwork. Like anything, it takes time to get consistent work, but you can often start earning money with little to no experience.
Virtual Assistant: VAs are becoming more highly sought after. If you’re interested in getting started, this course walks you through everything you need to know to go from zero experience to earning a decent salary.
Digital Nomad FAQs
Now that you’ve been inspired, let’s delve into some common questions people have before jumping into life as a Digital Nomad…
Whether you want to take your current job on the road or you’re ready to ditch the 9-to-5 and jump headfirst into a new venture, we’re going to share with you how you can make your dreams of becoming Digital Nomad a reality.
Where are the best places in the world to be a digital nomad?
Great question! Everyone is going to have different opinions for this, and the beauty of this lifestyle is you can pretty much work from anywhere in the world (as long as there is good Internet).
Here are some things you’ll want to consider when choosing a base:
cost of living
availability of short-term rentals
Digital Nomad community
access to affordable & healthy food
things to do
visa situation: how long can you stay?
If you want to save money, Southeast Asia is a great place to start. Chiang Mai, Thailand, Canggu, Bali and Danag, Vietnam are all popular hubs if you’re looking for a strong Digital Nomad community. Or find a more laidback vibe in places like the Thai islands.
Here are some other cities with a strong Digital Nomad community around the world:
Cape Town, South Africa
We could honestly go on and on, and there’s no way we could list them all. And with the rise in popularity of the Digital Nomad lifestyle, this list is growing exponentially. Take note of which places interest you, join Facebook groups, and talk to others who have been there.
Tip: Take a look at the list of women interviewed in this article. Find a few you identify with and see where they have lived as a Digital Nomad. Then, reach out and ask any questions you may have. (Tell them you found them through their feature on Two Wandering Soles!)
Once you’re in the DN community, you’ll see how easy it is to move from place to place and try many different cities out.
How much money should I have saved up?
This is such a personal question, and it is going to vary drastically based on your situation. Here are some things to consider:
Where will you be living? Is it cheap or expensive to live there? (Thailand will require less savings than Italy, for example.)
Do you have any financial obligations at home? Will you need to continue making payments (mortgage, student loans, car, etc.)? Be sure to factor these costs in.
Will you be working for a company or creating your own job? Working for a company means a guaranteed paycheck. Working for yourself means you might not be making much money right away.
Think about your lifestyle habits. Do you live frugally, or do you tend to splurge on a regular basis? Do you plan to do a lot of traveling, or will you focus on work?
While this is going to look different from person to person, we strongly recommend having enough money saved up to cover the following:
First month, last month and security deposit for rent on a typical apartment where you’re living. A quick Google search will give you a good estimate.
Living expenses for 1 month if you already have a job, or at least 3 months if you’re starting a job from scratch.
A last minute flight home in case of emergency.
Any expenses you’ll need to pay in the first 3 months (mortgage, loans, etc.).
Emergency fund: In case of health issues or something going wrong.
Insider tip: Don’t forget to get an insurance policy! We never leave the US without travel insurance. We have a yearly travel insurance policy through Allianz Travel and we currently pay $37.50 per month (for 2 people). We’ve found it is more affordable than other policies for similar coverage.
Can I be a Digital Nomad with a Family?
Absolutely! While you will have some decisions to make about childcare and schooling, we’ve met many families and single parents who are loving the Digital Nomad lifestyle. (One of the women featured in this article is rocking the DN life while homeschooling her son!)
I can work remotely, but my job is dependent on a specific time zone. Can I be a Digital Nomad?
Heck yes! Try sticking within your same time zone (or a similar one). For instance, if you work on Eastern Time (USA), try “nomad-ing” in hotspots like Austin, Texas or Medellin, Colombia. Going to somewhere like Asia will be more difficult, though not impossible. We have a friend who routinely gets on conference calls in the middle of the night. I would never be able to do that, but she doesn’t mind!
What if I have a lot of debt?
This could actually be a great lifestyle change for you. As a Digital Nomad, you can choose to live in countries with a low cost of living if saving money is a priority for you.
What if I have a mortgage?
Some people choose to sell their house and belongings before making this lifestyle change. Others rent it out while they’re away.
But I have a health condition…
I’m not going to gloss over this and make it seem like you can easily leave home behind, because in many cases it is so much more difficult than that. But I will say there are people who have made it work. There are people out there who have been in your shoes.
Do some research on countries with great medical care (for example, Thailand is known for world-class healthcare at a fraction of the cost of many Western countries). Seek out others who have similar situations and ask for advice. Come up with a plan. It will be difficult, there’s no arguing that, but it is possible.
How do I get started?!
Well, you’re off to a good start because you’re here doing your research, after all! Start by coming up with a list of potential jobs that interest you and fit your skillset. Hopefully this article has helped with that!
Know that lots of Digital Nomads have more than one job (especially to start with), so you might want to begin by trying a few things out: Join Digital Nomad Facebook groups. Email people who inspire you and ask advice.
But most importantly, listen to your gut. For some people, a well laid out plan is essential for them to be successful on this journey. For others, taking the leap with just a one-way ticket and no real roadmap is the best angle. You know your heart. Listen to it.