It’s a brand new year and writing on this newly-minted blog is getting me all nostalgic. It takes me back to around six years ago when I first embarked on my journey of becoming a digital nomad. It was an accidental decision. I didn’t really sign up to be a freelancer; much less a traveling one. However, here I am – and I have to admit I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Back then, if you had asked me how to become a digital nomad, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you anything helpful. I mostly played it by ear and had lots of hits and misses along the way. But now I’m a proud advocate of the freelancer nomad lifestyle, as any of my friends and relatives would tell you.
So today, I want to share with you some tips on becoming one – I hope you enjoy my first blog post!
Assess if the nomad worker lifestyle is really for you
The first and perhaps most important step to this kind of lifestyle is determining whether or not it’s really for you. Some people, like me, get into it without really planning to (long story short: the company I was working for downsized). This spontaneous method may seem exciting, but it could also be frustrating and energy-draining.
I would instead suggest that you sit down and mull it over for as long as it takes. It’s understandable to feel some apprehension, especially if you are so used to having a structured work environment for some time. Being nomadic by choice also requires serious commitment. Along with it are major lifestyle changes, including not having a permanent living or workspace, scaling back on consumption, prioritizing certain expenses, giving up some conveniences, and even re-assessing personal relationships. The bottom line is, it’s not a hasty decision you should make.
Start building your skills and portfolio
Once you’ve made your decision, it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty of being a digital nomad. As with most freelance jobs, you have to market your skills and talent by way of an impressive but honest portfolio. In my case, I had an extensive experience in a corporate set-up, but I managed to build some personal projects and commissioned work on the side. My clients appreciated that I was able to juggle both and ended up with a well-rounded work folio.
You may need to start with small projects at first. Don’t bite off more than you could chew and take on big-name clients with equally big expectations right off the bat. A series of small deliverables was what buoyed my career at the start. After that, I was able to partner up with other digital nomads whose skills and expertise enhanced mine. With them as partners, I was able to get better-paying and even more fulfilling projects.
It’s also a good idea to invest in lessons and classes that can enrich your chosen career. You could enroll in local workshops, but since being nomadic often demands a lot of traveling, signing up for online classes might be the better option. Fortunately, there is a wealth of websites that offer courses for a fee.
Build up your client base and network
When I was starting out as a digital nomad, I didn’t have as much of a client base as I wanted. Over the course of my career, though, I realized I not only had new clients, but returning ones, as well. This means that I was able to market my skills well while delivering the kind of work that my clients found to be satisfactory.
It isn’t such a difficult task to do, to be perfectly honest. I initially thought that location would play a major role in getting the kind of clientele that pays well. However, I discovered that advertising my skills via blog and social media (more on this in later posts) and having satisfied clients spread the word about me are already big boosts to building up my nomadic career. I simply had to do my job well, deliver it on time, and charge a reasonable fee for it. It didn’t seem to matter where I was working from at all.
…or get remote employment
If things get too scary for you at this point, maybe consider getting a remote job, instead. Not everyone can instantly press pause on their current lives and relocate somewhere, or do traveling on a regular basis. This is perfectly understandable. Having a stable income is definitely preferable to the feast-or-famine lifestyle that is typical of a freelance career.
I actually started out this way. Initially, I got cabin fever from working at home all the time, so I thought of working in a coffee shop with free WiFi, and then in a coworking space with a good and stable Internet connection (and free-flowing coffee!). My stable income allowed me to pay for the kind of overhead expenses involved in working outside of my home. Eventually, I learned to bring work even when I traveled, and then it became a sort of habit and snowballed from there.
Which brings me to the next point…
Have a reliable Internet connection
Being an online nomad doesn’t mean your Internet connection has to be sporadic. There are now so many ways to keep connected and reassure your clients that you’re still onboard with their projects. I invested in a prepaid pocket WiFi device that allows me to go online anywhere I may be in the country. For overseas traveling, I make sure to go ahead and check for Internet availability where I’m staying (whether it’s in a hotel room or more rustic inns).
There you have it – my five tried-and-tested ways on becoming a digital nomad! It’s not a complete list by any stretch. All of them are based on my personal experiences of going freelance by way of lots of traveling and moving around. If you have other methods and tips on the freelance digital nomad experience, by all means give me a shout out in the comments section.
With that, I wish you a fulfilling nomadic new year!