So, What Does it Take to Become a Digital Nomad?
Like any big step in life, you have to prepare for it. There are three primary areas of preparation for NuNo living:
- Prepare your vocation.
- Prepare your travel gear.
- Prepare your mobile office.
Let’s start with the job thing. If you have a profession, job or skill that is currently being performed on a computer, then you are close.
You should have already established a service or work record. If you are fresh out of school or have a dead-end job that cannot be performed by computer, by phone/telephony, or taken with you, then you have to (as my mentors have impressed upon me some time ago) “pay your dues first.” (Read on. The medicine is not that bad.)
This Nu Nomad’s Example
For seven years now I have been servicing my clients—building it up nicely as well—while traveling the world. I’m a website designer (and a Laptop Hobo).
An Average day
In the morning I check my emails to see if I have any updates to do.
If my in-box is empty and if my new project work is done for the time being, I then go do what travellers do: experience new and interesting places and people. Otherwise, I do what any other work-at-home person does: work.
Aw, but my office view is always far better than that of Los Angeles! I regress. Sorry.
Getting to this Point
A dozen or so years ago, when I first started traveling the world, I was just your average near-burnt-out worker who had decided to take some substantial time off to travel abroad. (Does this sound familiar? Thought so.) After returning to my home country
I realized that I wanted more of the life I had just left behind overseas. I also knew that I did not wish to work the low-paying jobs that traveling foreigners usually are stuck with (teaching English, scuba instructor, working for tips, to name just three).
So, when I returned home after a year of traveling, I thought about what was possible for me to do anywhere in the world. More importantly, how could I make the higher earnings of a western country (in my case, the USA) while spending it in another (preferably cheaper to live in) country.
It became clear to me that my new vocation would have to be something I could do with a laptop and over the Internet. And since I had 10 years experience producing newsletters and other collateral items for my clients, it became obvious that I could steer my talents and clients away from print and on over to the Web. I took an HTML class and found that I really enjoyed this sort of creation process.
The rest simply fell into place. However, it took 3 years to go from that first HTML class to arriving in a foreign country as the new me: a Digital Nomad!
Preparing for Your Working Traveler Life
So, the point I’m making here is that you have to have some sort of ability or product to sell to someone. You can set-up shop through a website you create, manage a small company remotely (having others do the work while you email them instructions) or you can use the Internet to facilitate your professional skills.
If you need to go back to school to learn a skill you could do on the Internet or by Internet telephony, then do it. Another possibility for obtaining experience is for you to intern at an organization or company that will let you do research, design, translation, communication or whatever—as long as you can do it remotely.
Then once you get good (or good enough) at what it is you are doing, and your client/customer really appreciates your service/product that they are now willing to pay you for, and you’ve found that you don’t need face-to-face meetings with people to get the job done, then you are almost there.
Your next step is to plan your departure carefully.
You don’t need to hide from your clients/customers that you will be doing your work remotely. In fact, I have found that it has worked in my favor. (My clients travel vicariously through me.) Additionally, make a deal with your clients/customers that they can’t refuse (and I don’t mean for you to do anything cruel to their horse). Where you were charging $40-$100 per hour before, offer them less—such as a 50% reduction.
Really. If you are making only $20 per hour while based in a developing country (let’s say, anywhere in Southeast Asia) and you work on average 1-2 hours a day, you are fine. (You are living large!)
Since your overhead could be nearly nothing, all you have to do is to reassert your reliability—and that does not take long. Within a year you can bring your rate up.
And for the new clients, you can pretty much charge what you want.
And if you are wondering “Why would anyone hire me when they could outsource to India?”
Because you connect with YOUR clients, they trust YOU—you speak their language (sort-of-speak).
Just think of it as outsourcing yourself! Anyway, just like at home, you have to have a skill to sell.