Escape the rat race, multiply your income and live a life of travel and adventure. Learn the simple secrets of digital nomad success.
Are you stuck in a rut? Maybe you hate your job, you’re itching to see the world, or you just think it’s time for a change. If that’s the case, then maybe you are a digital nomad in the making.
Tens of thousands of people around the world have discovered that you don’t have to do things the old-fashioned way. They have learned a whole new way of making money, enjoying life and broadening their horizons. From Thailand to Tasmania - and from Budapest to Buenos Aires - you will find digital nomads disrupting traditional career paths and having a ball while they do it.
"Start some sort of an online business on the side. Work out how much it will cost to live in a nomad hotspot (such as Thailand) and set that amount as a monthly income goal."
"Once you get to that number, put in your notice and get over there!"
Best of all, this is an option for you, too. It’s entirely possible for you to have a great career without being rooted in one spot. You can throw off the shackles of full-time employment, embrace a life of travel and achieve of all of your life goals.
As a digital nomad, you really can make your dreams come true. Just a short time from now, this could be your new life:
Cool, huh? All of that and more is well within your grasp. You don’t need previous skills, experience or qualifications. You just need the will and determination to make it happen. If you can do that, then a world of endless possibilities awaits...
What is a Digital Nomad?
Let’s start with a definition. A digital nomad is a person who makes a full-time living online whilst enjoying the freedom to live anywhere in the world. Some digital nomads choose to move to a relocate permanently to a digital nomad ‘hub’ - such as Chiang Mai in Thailand - and stay there indefinitely.
Others move on from place to place every few weeks or months. They use their new-found freedom to travel extensively, living in many different countries and enjoying seeing life from many different perspectives.
Many successfully combine both strategies. They may relocate permanently to a place where life is cheaper and better. Yet they may still take extended trips to other locations, working as they go.
There are no rules, except the ones you make up yourself. As a digital nomad, you are free to go wherever inspiration takes you.
A Wonderful Life
As one of the world’s first digital nomads, I can personally attest to how great this lifestyle can be. Launching an online business many years ago gave me new-found freedom that proved to be totally life changing.
I was able to relocate my family from cold and rainy London to the warm and sunny beaches of Australia. My children grew up surfing after school, traveling the world extensively and enjoying a superb quality of life.
Nowadays, I am based in wonderful and exotic Thailand, yet still spend months of the year traveling to distant lands and enjoying new adventures. I love my lifestyle, and cannot imagine going back to work in a full-time job in a fixed location.
When you adopt the digital nomad lifestyle, you will enjoy:
Forget being stuck in one town and doing the same job for life - that is so 20th century! Today’s technology has set you free to shape your life any way you want. It has created the digital nomad generation, and made the possibilities in life truly awesome.
One of the great advantages of being a digital nomad is that you don’t need to invest much money to get started. The only tool you really need to start an online business is a laptop computer.
You don’t even need an expensive model. Even a cheap netbook will do the job, and you can pick one of those up second hand for less than $100. As long as your computer can connect to wifi, you are good to go.
Of course, you will need to connect to the Internet as you travel, in order to run your new online business. But now that wifi is ubiquitous, that’s not a problem. You can get online almost anywhere in the world very easily.
You may connect to the WiFi network at your hotel, hostel, condo or rental home. Alternatively, you can stop at almost any cafe and use their WiFi, or work from a co-working space.
Better still, buy a temporary SIM card when you arrive in a new country, and use this to stay connected wherever you are. As data gets cheaper and cheaper, this gives you total freedom and flexibility to work wherever you want.
There will probably be some additional costs, depending on which kind of online business you decide to run. But you don’t need a whole lot of money to get started. For example, you can start a blog for just a few bucks and make very good money with that.
Becoming a digital nomad can actually save you a lot of money, too. If you are used to living in a Western economy, such as the US, you will be amazed at how much cheaper life can be overseas.
There are many places in Asia, Eastern Europe and South America where you can live comfortably on less than $1000 a month.
Because your money goes so much further, even a modest online income will fund a comfortable lifestyle. And if you earn a typical Western income online (not too difficult at all), then you can live like a king (or queen).
"I was an active member at a co-working space in Ubud [Indonesia] where I participated in skill-sharing events, and so I took the opportunity to talk about my services."
"I eventually got invited as a speaker, where I would offer free talks about how work organization and how to find the right routine. Other people started noticing my work, while some asked for a collaborative project, which helped my visibility."
So getting started as a digital nomad is easy. You don’t need much equipment, and the reduced overheads more than compensate for any money you need to invest.
Creating an Online Income
So now you are ready for your digital nomad adventure. All you need is a source of location-independent income. You need a way to make money every month, wherever you are in the world.
There are two main ways to do this:
Both are perfectly viable, and many people do both. For example, you might get started by becoming, say, a freelance writer. That’s an easy way to start making some location-independent cash.
But once you start making decent money, you may decide to reinvest some of this into starting a related online business. You then have multiple streams of income, giving you greater freedom and security.
Let’s look at both options…
1. The Freelance/Consultant Option
This is the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to get started as a digital nomad. It’s also the option that requires the least investment and delivers the fastest cash flow. No wonder so many digital nomads choose this route!
The Internet revolution has made it possible for a whole range of job functions to be done remotely. Employers and business owners are discovering that their team members don’t need to physically located in their offices.
Today’s technology makes it easy to have a remote team that gets things done very efficiently.
Remote Jobs You Can Do
Providing services as a remote team member is an ideal way to ease yourself into the digital nomad lifestyle. There are many different services you can offer from anywhere in the world. As a freelancer, you can offer services such as:
...and so on. As a consultant, you can help individuals or businesses with important functions such as:
...and that’s just for starters. Almost any skill, qualification of life skill you have can be used as the basis of a remote career. And if you don’t have suitable skills, it’s easy to acquire them.
Nowadays, you can get fantastic training for free from YouTube, and can take lots of great courses very inexpensively on platforms like Skillshare and Udemy. You can transition from newbie to expert in less than a week!
For example, here are 50 great ways to make money as a digital nomad, without any special skills:
You don’t have to limited by those ideas. As I travel the world and meetup with fellow digital nomads in co-working spaces and networking groups, I am constantly amazed at their ideas and innovation.
People make an online income doing the most extraordinary and unlikely things. So don’t be limited by conventional ideas. Let your imagination run free and create a business that is a true reflection of you.
How to Find Work
Once you’ve decided on a service that you are going to offer remotely, you need to start finding work. Fortunately there are many platforms that exist to help you get all the projects you need to make a good living.
"I was able to make $500 a month on projects I took up from Lancers, which made it easier for me to go freelance fully."
"After 4 months of working at my part-time job, I negotiated with my boss to work remotely from Germany."
For a comprehensive list of the best jobs sites, check out our blog post on the top 77 freelance marketplaces. But to get you off to a quick start, here are the top sites for finding remote jobs online:
As the biggest of the freelance marketplaces, this is a sensible place to start your search for freelance or consulting work. There are endless new jobs posted every day, so you won’t be short of opportunities.
Most of these jobs are suitable for digital nomads. They can typically done remotely on a project basis. So your location is irrelevant. You just need to show that you have the ability to get the job done.
This is another major freelance marketplace that has a ton of jobs on offer. You can find work here in almost any category, including projects you would never have thought were a ‘thing.’
You need to persevere in order to build up a good reputation. But once you have some jobs under your belt, the work keeps on coming. This is a great place to find ongoing work to fund your digital nomad lifestyle.
Although it doesn’t get as many visitors as the biggest marketplaces, Guru does have a lot of jobs. That makes it a great resource for finding all kinds of project work in various niches.
This platform has been around for a long time and has evolved into a sophisticated marketplace. Keep an eye on this site, as you can pick up some great contacts here.
Fiverr has a different approach, in that people offer to do gigs in areas in which they specialize. Buyers can then select the services they need to get a particular job done.
The site is hugely successful, with a massive number of transactions done every day. That makes it a good place to pick up clients. Use the upsell feature to maximize the value of the jobs you do.
Indeed is a jobs aggregator that pulls in an astounding number of jobs every day. It’s very useful as a jobs resource, simply because of the unlimited choice of jobs, and the volume of new postings.
To find work you can do as a digital nomad, refine your search using terms like ‘remote,’ ‘freelance’ or ‘contract.’ You will find lots of great work that can be done from anywhere in the world.
Getting Started as a Remote Worker
If you have a laptop and an Internet connection, you are ready to go! All you need to do is create an account at one or more of the freelance marketplaces and start looking for jobs.
Be sure to fill out your profile properly, and add any example projects to your portfolio. Make a real effort to stand out from the crowd. These marketplaces can be competitive, but there is always room for exceptional talent.
The hardest step is getting your first project, and this could take a few attempts. But once you have one client - and some positive feedback - everything becomes much easier. So focus on delivering quality work and excellent service.
"You have to be dedicated and self-disciplined. In my travels, I have met many remote workers who aren’t disciplined and they end up killing themselves trying to meet deadlines."
"That's because they were busy exploring when they should have been working! I am really strict on my own freedom and keeping my schedule, but it helps me stay disciplined."
If you are good at what you do, then the work will keep on rolling in. You may even find that you have too much work to handle yourself, and your new business turns into an agency.
Multi-million dollar businesses have been built this way, and there is nothing stopping you from being equally successful.
2. The Online Business Option
Working as a freelancer or consultant is a very viable option, and the fastest way to get started as a digital nomad. But it does mean that you effectively still have a ‘job.’ You are trading your time for money, and that limits your potential earnings.
For this reason, many people prefer to start an online business that doesn’t have these limitations. There are many ways to do this, and the only limit is your imagination.
Types of Online Business
Here are just a few of the online businesses that you can run successfully as a digital nomad:
...and that’s just for starters. Some of these options, such as selling with Amazon FBA will require a modest investment to get started - typically a few thousand dollars. Others such as blogging can be bootstrapped with almost zero budget.
Starting with Your Business
Even if you are a total newbie, you can get a successful online business off the ground relatively quickly. First of all, research all the options and decide which is the right kind of business.
Here are some great places to start searching for online business ideas:
- The Warrior Forum: a very popular discussion forum covering all aspects of running an online business
- Smart Passive Income: a great podcast that discusses how to make money online.
- Entrepreneur on Fire: tons of great information for online entrepreneurs
After considering all the available options, nail things down to one business type where you think you could excel. Focus on that, and don’t allow yourself to be distracted.
If some investment is required for your new business, then do what is necessary to find the necessary funds. Get a second job, work weekends, start a side hustle - just do whatever you have to generate your startup cash.
Then knuckle down and start doing some detailed research. YouTube is a great place to start - you can find great training for free on almost any topic. Google your topic and check out expert blogs that cover your subject - you can learn an awful lot by subscribing to the top bloggers in your niche.
When you have dialled into exactly what you want to do, take some courses on Skillshare or Udemy. These are low cost and offer amazingly good value.
Always remember that marketing is the key to success. Most other aspects of running an online business are straightforward nowadays. So it’s your skill at attracting website visitors and turning them into buyers that will make or break your business.
Living the Digital Nomad Life
So whether you work remotely as a freelancer/consultant or start some other online business, you have the opportunity to create true location freedom.
As soon as your business is making a modest profit, you are good to start traveling. There are many places in the world where you can get by reasonably well on less than $1000 a month.
"[When I started at age 19] I was only working 6-8 hours a week and making from $1,600 to $2,400 a month. That is not a lot of money, but it’s definitely enough to travel to most places around the world."
"That’s exactly what you need to be a digital nomad. You don’t need a million dollars, you just need enough money and time to do anything you want to do."
Social Media Manager
How would you like to spend some time living in Kathmandu, Nepal (just $620 a month) or Alexandria, Egypt ($663 per month)? From Peru to Portugal, and from Australia to the Amazon, you are free to go wherever your travel spirit takes you.
With new low-cost airlines launching almost every week, air travel has become as cheap as chips. You can get around areas such as South-East Asia at bargain basement prices, staying at hotels and guesthouses that may cost as little as $10 a night.
Thanks to the Internet, planning your worldwide adventure is easier than ever. All the information you need is at your fingertips. Here are some of the websites and platforms you will find most useful in planning your trips:
- TripAdvisor: a wealth of reviews on almost anywhere you could ever want to go
- Airbnb: cheap and interesting accommodation options worldwide
- Booking.com: the best deals on hotels everywhere
- SkyScanner: find the cheapest flights for your itinerary
- Adioso: perfect for finding low-cost flights when your dates are flexible
Digital Nomad Resources
As the global digital nomad community continues to grow, the wealth of information available is growing, too. Here are some fantastic resources to help you make the digital nomad lifestyle a reality:
- Nomad List: discover the cheapest and best places to live worldwide
- Digital Nomads’ Forum: discussions about life, business and travel
- Nomadic Matt: great advice on the digital nomad life
- The Four-Hour Work Week: the book that started it all!
- Digital Nomad Community: a fantastic resource for digital nomads
- Payoneer: a great way to get paid whilst traveling anywhere
- Transferwise: the simplest and cheapest international funds transfers
How to See the World for Free
So as we have seen, it is entirely possible to build a fantastic location-independent business that generates all the funds you need to travel the world. And if you are careful with your choice of locations, transport and accommodation, you can see the world without breaking your piggy bank.
But why stop there? Why not travel the world completely for free? Many digital nomads do exactly that. And with some good planning, you can, too.
One way to accomplish this is with credit card reward points. Many digital nomads buy advertising on Facebook, Google and other ad platforms to drive visitors their websites. As their business grows, their ad spend grows, too - often to very large numbers.
So it makes sense to pay for your all your online business expenses with a credit card that gives you travel reward points. As your business expenditure grows, you will rack up more and more points. And that means free flights, free accommodation and more!
And if even that’s not enough for you, how about this option - start a travel blog! A successful travel blog is a very profitable business model in its own right - just check out these 30+ travel bloggers making over $5000 a month. But there is an additional bonus to this model; a boatload of free travel.
Travel-related companies are seeking the endorsement of popular travel bloggers for their services. So if you can build up an audience for your blog, you are all set to cash in on the freebies. That could mean free flights, free hotel stays, free tours and a whole load of swag.
That’s not a bad way to live your life! You, too, can build a successful travel blog and see the world for free.
Making it Happen
If all of this sounds like a dream life, you’re right - it absolutely is! I have been living an amazing life for many years, visiting over 50 countries on my digital nomad travels and loving every single day.
But it doesn’t have to be just a dream. This lifestyle can be a reality for you. Sometimes making a big change in life is just about making a change in your perceptions. If your mindset is that you are trapped in a rotten job in one location, think again.
You can escape and live a much better life. There is nothing to stop you creating the life of your dreams, where you can:
You are amazingly lucky to be living in an era where the digital nomad lifestyle is a real possibility. Now it’s just down to you to make it happen.
Get started today, and maybe I’ll see you on the beach in some beautiful and far-flung corner of the world. If I do, I’ll buy a beer.