The digital nomad lifestyle is attractive to a lot of people, and there’s tons of advice online about networking, transportation on a budget, etc. But not very many sources tell you the fundamental details that can make or break your life as a migratory modern worker.
Round out your skill set
If you’re going to be a digital nomad, you need self-discipline, organization, and outstanding digital skills. You also must be excellent at communication, marketing, sales, budgeting, and decision-making. All of this is on top of whatever primary skill you mean to use to actually make a profit.
If you’re not sure what that primary skill would be, start by identifying your strong and weak points. Most digital nomad opportunities are in some way connected to the tech industry, so what can you do in that field? Remember to think beyond hard code: account management, data entry, campaigning, design, media processing, or technology journaling can all be viable options.
Downsize your life
A nomadic lifestyle means leaving behind the vast majority of your belongings. If you plan to commit, you have to minimize the number of items you own. Fortunately, most of our treasures have digital equivalents nowadays.
Collect your library in ebook or audiobook form, scan important photos, and switch to apps for journaling and habit tracking. If you can’t part with some things, consider renting a storage unit. In that case, you’ll need to include the required monthly or annual fee in your budget.
Choose a destination
You should choose the first stop on your nomadic road well before you do other planning. Start with a list of a few places that appeal to you and compare the costs of living.
Keep in mind that the same type of residence will be priced very differently depending on location. For example, apartments near Salt Lake City, in the Sydney area, and in the heart of Berlin will have different rent rates and conditions of payment for the exact same configuration.
Your choice needs to be sustainable in the relatively long term. Try to project your income and job growth potential when selecting a location. Also, consider the quality of life, including internet connectivity, social atmosphere, and safety.
Prepare your documents
Make sure your documents are in order and you have everything you need always on hand. Make copies of the following:
- Necessary visas
- Driver’s license
- Social security card
- Medical records
- Insurance documents
- Current medicine prescriptions
Check the validity of your passport and obtain an international driver’s permit if you plan on driving abroad. Additionally, it’s crucial to inform your insurance providers of your plans and keep them updated as you travel around.
It’s wise to have some backup savings before embarking on a digital nomad adventure. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but having enough to sustain yourself for three to six months without any work is a good starting point. Take your time and do some detailed calculations.
Figure out how much money you’ll need to survive while traveling. Dedicated travel apps and websites can make that task easier. Consider the costs of transportation, maintenance (if you’ll travel in your own vehicle), food, lodging on and off the road, any tolls, etc. You also need a separate fund for medical care and similar emergencies.
Digitize your transactions
Bank transfers, PayPal, Wise, or Payoneer have commonly used payment options, but remember to research their fees and withdrawal processes at your destinations. A business account and credit card might have better perks for your needs than a private one, so check with your bank.
A reliable virtual private network (VPN) is essential for keeping your internet traffic securely encrypted, especially when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. A virtual mailbox service can help manage mail when you don’t have a permanent address.
To keep track of expenses and income for your taxes, consider learning some accounting software if you don’t already use it. Take your time to find the service that works best for your individual needs and budget. Alternatively, you could make do with a tool like Excel or Google Sheets.
Maintain a digital portfolio
A solid portfolio is crucial to a successful nomadic career. Since you’ll rarely be physically available to clients, you have to be able to share your best work at a moment’s notice.
Create a professional-looking website that showcases your skills and experience. Choose your platform based on what you do: some popular options are WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace.
If you don’t have any work to display yet, create your own projects that represent the type of work you’re interested in: logos, animated shorts, niche guides, code banks, etc.
Don’t forget to optimize your portfolio website for search engines. Also, include an “about me” page and testimonials that would convince potential clients to hire you.
In summary, becoming a successful digital nomad requires a polished set of fundamental skills, including communication, marketing, sales, etc. Digitize your transactions, optimize your online portfolio for search engines, and focus on the type of projects that you want to do long-term. A reliable VPN and virtual mailbox can help keep you secure and organized on the go. Lastly, don’t forget to adapt your accounting and insurance plans to your new life format.