Being a digital nomad sounds like the dream life to you and can’t wait to start it, too? Well, congrats on your decision! Before you quit your job, sell your house and leave on the next plane you should probably learn a thing or two about this lifestyle. Unfortunately, this is nothing that can be explained too easily. But at least I want to give you an idea what is takes to become a successful digital nomad and what steps you should to take.
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Why The Safe Way?
First, let me explain what I mean by becoming a successful nomad the safe way.
There are many digital nomads out there who simply left their home with absolutely zero plan, found a remote job and were successful straight away. However, there are probably just as many, if not more, wannbe digital nomads, who tried the same and failed terribly.
If you are independent, free to do whatever you like and have enough savings for the worst case, sure, go for it. Give it a try and see if it works out.
If you are not as financially stable or have kids or family or any other type of dependents, you might want to start your new lifestyle with a bit more structure and an actual plan. After all, you want to minimize the risk of failure, right?
What Is A Successful Digital Nomad?
I think it is important to clarify what exactly a successful digital nomad is. We probably all agree that you should be able to sustain a living with the income you generate online while living in different places.
But how about the duration of this lifestyle? A couple of months ago, I’ve met a girl saying that she failed as a digital nomad. She lived this way for two years, had enough income, a great time but now feels like she wants to settle somewhere again.
Why should this be a failure? Who says that you have to live a certain lifestyle for the rest of your life otherwise you’ve failed?
The way I see it, is, she was happy and successful for two years but then moved on and decided that another lifestyle worked better for her in her current situation. No failure at all to me.
Another argument that I’ve heard before is that you need to generate a lot of money to be considered a successful digital nomad. Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I read this. But the guy said that digital nomads, who only make a couple of hundred dollars a month and live in hostels, completely failed with this kind of life.
But who says that you need to make a six figure income a year and live in luxury apartment to be considered as successful? If you are happy with the money you make, can sustain your life and like staying in hostels, then why shouldn’t that be called a success?
Set Your Own Success Goals
You are in charge of defining your own personal success. If you manage to generate your planned amount of income, if you manage to reach all of your own predefined goals as a digital nomad and you are happy with it for the time being, then you are successful. Look at your own standards and expectations to define success and don’t compare yourself with others.
It’s A Lifestyle & It’s Not Perfect
Please keep in mind that being a digital nomad is NOT a profession! It’s a lifestyle.
It is essential that you understand that. One cannot simply become a digital nomad, travel to Chiang Mai (the unofficial digital nomad capital) and miraculously make money. It doesn’t work like that.
You need an online job or any other way to generate income remotely. That should be your starting point. That’s your main goal. The nomad lifestyle is what you can build around that.
You should also learn what this lifestyle really is like. It’s not sitting at the beach with your laptop and a cocktail, working only four hours a week. At least not for the majority of digital nomads.
Check out this list with the biggest myths about digital nomads.
This lifestyle has many disadvantages, too. You won’t get to see your family and friends as often as you want to. You will, more or less, have to live out of a backpack or suitcase, which means you can’t carry tons of personal belongings with you. And you will have to motivate yourself and be productive when you are not working in an office anymore with a fixed schedule and given tasks.
Don’t get me wrong. Of course, there are also many advantages. And to me, these benefits definitely outweigh the downsides. However, if you want to become a successful digital nomad, you should know what to expect and be prepared for the not-so-positive things, too.
Start With Location-Independence
As just mentioned, the safest way to become a successful digital nomad is to start with location-independence. Find a way to generate income entirely online.
You basically have three options here:
- Corporate job
- Entrepreneur / Business owner
(1) If you like the security and the structure of a normal employment, then maybe you should try and find a company which wants to employ you on a remote basis. The work-from-home-concept is getting more and more popular and many employers have noticed the benefits.
That’s why there are plenty of companies out there which are very remote friendly. If you want to find out more about how to get a remote job with a company, check out the linked post.
(2) Many digital nomads work as freelancers. They focus on a certain type of service, become an expert in this area and find clients who are in need of this particularly expertise. Being a freelancer gives you much flexibility and personal freedom.
But you also have to constantly find new clients and thus, don’t have a secured income.
If you need some inspiration what kind of freelance job you could do, check out this list with the most popular 40+ job ideas for digital nomads.
(3) If you don’t want to be dependent on clients or an employer, you could also start your own business. Many successful digital nomads do dropshipping, are into affiliate marketing or sell online courses. Maybe you have a great idea for a start-up? Or you want to go into the bitcoin field or develop an app?
This can literally be anything you can think of. Any business idea that isn’t bound to a certain place and can be developed online.
I recommend to start with this step as early as possible. Start finding ways of making money online while you are still at home. If possible, start while you are still working in your current job.
You don’t need to be perfect and you don’t need to be able to make a full-time income. But test a few things and see what works best for you. Where you feel most comfortable and what has the most potential for your skills.
Move On To The Traveling Part
Of course, you could start traveling at the same time you start finding ways to make money. But that wouldn’t necessarily be the safest choice. If you have enough savings to keep you alive without a job for at least a couple of months, that great. Go for it! But you might still spend quite a bit of your precious time worrying about the future and what happens if your money runs out and you haven’t found a way to generate income online.
That’s why I recommend to figure out your location-independent income source first. After that, it’s easier to start with the “nomading” part. You simply don’t have to worry too much about your money anymore because you already know how to make it.
Now it’s time to focus on things like taxation and residency. I can’t give you a general advice here because it all depends on your country of residence, where you source your income, how long you are going to stay in certain countries etc.
A good starting point to find out more about this subject is this blog post about how you can optimize your taxation situation as a digital nomad. Other resources would be Facebook groups like “Tax and Residency Solutions for Digital Nomads” and, of course, your trusted tax consultant.
Digital Nomad Cities
You will also want to know in which country or city you should start your nomad lifestyle. That’s completely up to you. If you want to be surrounded by many like-minded people, you should have a look at this list with the most popular digital nomad cities worldwide. Alternatively, check out the website Nomad List, where you can see cities ranked with factors like costs, internet quality, safety and so on.
Digital Nomad Accommodation
In case you are wondering how to find accommodation as a digital nomad in your new city, check out the linked guide. I always recommend to book a few nights in a hotel in a central location. I use Booking.com for it because it tells you exactly what the WIFI quality is like in that hotel (super important). While being there you can easily look for short-term or long-term accommodation, either with Airbnb or a local letting agency, the landlord directly or stay for free as a house sitter.
Meet Other Nomads
Wondering what’s the best way to meet other nomads? Co-working places or coffee shops, for example, are full of digital nomads. Again, check out Facebook groups like Chiang Mai Digital Nomads or Barcelona Entrepreneurs & Digital Nomads (simply search for your city) to find and meet other nomads. Another great alternative is the website Meetup. Look for interesting (digital nomad) groups in your region and join their events.
Keep Your Productivity Level Up
A very important point is how to manage your productivity. As mentioned before, it can be hard to focus on work when you can work from home or from wherever you want. Distractions are everywhere and you don’t really have the pressure you would have in an office with your boss behind you. Luckily, there are many ways to improve your productivity in a remote job. Have a look at the linked post to get some ideas and inspirations.
The good thing is, there is so much information out there about this lifestyle that it is now easier to become a successful digital nomad than ever before. Learn from other people`s mistakes and do it better.
Of course, you can get much helpful information and advice on my blog ;) But there are also many other blogs out there written by and for digital nomads which I highly recommend you to check out. There are Facebook groups like Digital Nomads Around the World where many aspiring nomads ask and find information. And there are also online courses that teach you how to become a successful digital nomad (I didn’t do any of them, so I can’t really recommend anything at this stage).
Have A Backup Plan
Although, you have prepared your digital nomad life thoroughly, the unexpected can always happen. Maybe you find out after a few months that you don’t like traveling or living in another country and you desperately want to go back home. Or maybe your business idea doesn’t work out as planned after you’ve invested so much money.
If you want to become a digital nomad the safe way, have a backup plan. You could, for example, put some money aside that you don’t touch unless it’s an emergency. That money can be used for a new laptop in case yours breaks, flight tickets or accommodation for a few months in case you have to return home.
If you cannot put enough money aside for accommodation, maybe you could arrange to move in with a friend or your family for a few weeks? See what they think about it.
Another idea would be to quit your old job in a nice manner. Who knows? Maybe your digital nomad attempt shows you how much you’ve actually liked your old job and you want to go back to it. It’s very calming to know that your old boss would take you back.
Check out your potential options to be prepared.
Take Your Time
As you can see, there are plenty of things you have to take into consideration when you want to be a successful digital nomad. That’s why it is important to take your time preparing this life.
If you want to do it the safe way, figure out your income sources first. Manage to generate money online while you are still living your old life.
Once you have created that location-independent lifestyle you can start with the traveling part. Make sure you have your taxation sorted before you leave. Look for places you want to go, find accommodation, and connect with like-minded people to get additional support. Don’t forget that there are plenty of resources on this lifestyle around to get informed.
As I said, this is not a complete guide. This topic is simply too comprehensive to cover it all in one article. But I hope it was a good starting point for you and you now have a better idea of how to become a successful digital nomad without taking too many risks.
If you want to learn how your life and you as a person will change with this new lifestyle, check out the linked post!