It sounds like the perfect lifestyle to many: You can travel the world for as long as you want and make money online as you go. All you need is a laptop and internet and you are free as a bird. Well, yes. The digital nomad lifestyle has many advantages. But it also has some downsides. And it is surely not as easy and carefree as many people might assume. Of course, there are many different ways how you can become location independent and work from anywhere in the world. However, there are also a few ways how NOT to become a digital nomad. Find out what I’m talking about and be sure to not make these mistakes at the beginning of your new lifestyle.
14 Ways How Not To Become A Digital Nomad
Besides of all the advice about what you need to do to become a nomad, have a look at what you should NOT do.
1. Aim to be a digital nomad
To get it out of the way – and I know, it sounds confusing but I won’t get tired emphasizing it. Many people assume that being a digital nomad is a profession. But it’s not. It’s a lifestyle. Being a digital nomad doesn’t bring you any money. You still need to have a job.
Don’t make the mistake of booking a flight and leaving without any plan. That’s very risky. Instead, aim for becoming location-independent first. Find a job that you can do online. Once you have sorted out your income, you can start the “nomad” part and add traveling to your lifestyle.
2. Think you have to move to Chiang Mai
Don’t get me wrong, Chiang Mai is a great place for a digital nomad. The costs of living is low, the internet quality is decent and there are heaps of other nomads and nomad events around. I thoroughly enjoyed living there for a while.
However, you don’t have to move there just because everyone is saying that it’s a good starting point. It surely is. But you can become a successful digital nomad just about anywhere in the world. If you are more interested in the Latin American culture, go ahead. If you want to travel around Europe, move there. As long as you have internet and are happy, your location doesn’t have too much impact on your career. That’s the great part of being location-independent.
3. Spend your money on expensive electronics
I know, you see it all the time: Digital nomads behind their fancy MacBooks, the newest iPhone to their left, an expensive DSLR camera to their right. It seems like this is the basic equipment you need to have when you want to start this lifestyle.
Of course, there are countless of nomads who actually need these devices for their job. But I have seen many rookies on a super tight budget who bought expensive electronics like that without needing it at all: A content writer who bought a laptop that is perfect for graphic designers and didn’t need half of the features and performance qualities. Or a web developer who bought a great camera without actually using it.
Go ahead and buy decent quality products. But make sure you don’t spend all of your savings on unnecessary products.
4. Force yourself into a technical job
Many people assume that all digital nomads are web developer or do anything super technical online. Then they find courses that teach them how to code in no time and they give it a try thinking they have to know stuff like that to be able to make money online.
Don’t get me wrong. If there is a little techie inside of you and you enjoy this kind of work, that’s great! Go ahead and learn whatever you need to learn to start your new career.
But rest assured, you don’t have to! I’m a mess when it comes to anything technical related. It’s just not for me. And that’s completely ok. There are so many remote jobs for people who have no interest (and talent) for these kinds of jobs. All you need to do is find work that can be done online, which can literally be anything.
Looking for non-technical remote jobs? Check out the linked list to get inspirations!
5. Depend your income on one stream
Maybe you are starting out as a freelancer and you are happy you have found your first client. That’s awesome! But don’t make the mistake and rely on it. Clients change their minds faster than you’d expect it and cancel your contracts even when you wouldn’t expect it.
Many digital nomads have several income streams. That could be from different freelance services, affiliate marketing, social media accounts or literally anything you can think of. In such a fast moving environment it is a great idea to have a backup income. Just in case.
6. Assume you are going to work less
I know, digital nomads work only 4 hours a week and hang around at the beach all day – NOT. Unfortunately, this myth is true for only very few nomads.
Especially in the be beginning many have to work long hours all week long. It can be hard to settle in your new life. While your working environment might be way more relaxed than what you are used to, you shouldn’t expect to work less straight from the beginning (and maybe you never will).
7. Leave without savings or a plan
You are tired of your job, your city, your daily routines and want to leave as fast as possible. So you quite everything and make your way to the airport. Been there, done that. Trust me, not a good idea.
As already mentioned my advice would be to figure out your income first, find a location-independent job and then leave. If you don’t want to wait that long but want to start your travels straight away, make sure you have enough savings. You should be able to get along without any income for at least a couple of months.
Want to find out how much money EXACTLY you need before you start a digital nomad life? Check out the linked article with all the facts and numbers.
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8. Throw your money like there’s no tomorrow
Maybe another cliché but I’ve seen it so often. Newbie digital nomads think they are soon going to be millionaires and now spend everything they have on fancy hotels, parties or risky investments.
As said before, your income is never guaranteed, especially in the beginning. Money goes easy anywhere in the world. The fast-moving lifestyle of a digital nomad doesn’t exactly help. Make sure you stay within your limits.
9. Only spend a few days or weeks in one place
I get it. Your new life is super exciting and you want to travel to so many places and don’t waste too much time in one country. There are many new nomads who love to change places every few weeks or even days.
However, when you move that frequently you will soon feel very exhausted. Give your body and mind time to adjust to the new environment and find the time to establish routines. This will also help you being more productive. You can’t focus too much on your work when you are busy traveling all the time.
10. Try to master the lifestyle alone
Being realistic: Living a location-independent lifestyle and travel a lot is not exactly rocket science. You’re smart. Sure you can figure it out alone.
But why should you make your life harder than it has to be? There is so much information out there today. Blogs for (aspiring) digital nomads like Digital Nomad Soul (shameless self-promotion here ;) provide you essential information; Online communities like Nomad List Forum answer all of your questions, and Digital Nomad Conferences like the DNX help you to connect with like-minded people.
The nomad family is full of cool people with amazing stories to tell. Make friends and support each other.
11. Work for free or low rates
If you are a freelancer, you will usually have to deal with much competition. That means many are willing to accept low rates to get jobs. I have also met a few who, out of desperation, did fairly extensive trial jobs for free hoping to get the job eventually.
Being a freelancer myself I know that it’s a hard world out there (big drama). But you need to be able to survive with what you earn. Quality has its price and clients know that. If they want a decent performance they need to pay decent rates. Set your rates and explain to clients why you charge that much. If they see that your rates are justified and you deliver great quality, they are often happy to pay a bit more.
If you want to find out how you can calculate a freelancer rate that pays your bills, check out the linked article.
12. Be busy all day but not productive
Well hello, I’m an expert in this one! I can easily manage to keep myself super busy all day, every day. There is so much to do! After all, you need to get your work-life sorted and you need to constantly organize trips and new places to live.
However, there are a few things you can do to get your level of productivity up and reduce the time you spend doing all of your jobs significantly. Don’t fall into the bad habit of working all day on things that you could easily do quicker or don’t have to do at all.
Learn more about how you can improve your productivity when working in a remote job.
13. Neglect your body
When you travel a lot you will also want to eat out a lot and try all of the local food options which might not always be the healthiest choice. And between all of your travels and your work, there is hardly any time to exercise and take care of your body.
That might be ok for a while but soon your body will let you know that this is not going to work in a long run. Your back will hurt; you might gain weight or constantly get a cold because your immune system got weak.
Make sure you eat healthily and regularly, workout every once in a while, and take a rest when you feel like it gets too much.
14. Wait too long
One of the things I personally regret the most when it comes to my digital nomad life: Waiting too long to start it. I did a 9-5 office job that I didn’t like for far too long. I should’ve quit earlier to finally do what I thoroughly enjoy.
That said, I don’t mean that you should rush into it. You need to be sure that this is the right lifestyle for you and you need to prepare it. But if you are unhappy in your current situation, change it! Don’t sit around forever because you are too scared to start something new.
Ready to Become a Digital Nomad?
As you can see, there are many things you can do wrong when you want to start a location-independent nomadic life. Some of these will have a smaller impact on your new lifestyle, others can end it before it even started.
Make sure you are well prepared before you pack up and leave and know how not to become a nomad.
Thanks a lot, Ash! Have fun reading it! :)
Insanely comprehensive :)
Thank you so much,
Now I have something to read during the holidays. This will take a while but well worth it like always.