So you want to become a digital nomad eh? This post will show you how to get started. Answering exactly how to become a digital nomad is tricky, but with desire, patience, and hustle you can be one too.
Follow the tips here, and you’ll leave the 9-5 behind and begin a life filled with adventure.
A digital nomad is an individual not tied to a 9-5 job. You’ll Live, work, and travel anywhere in the world that has reliable WiFi, good food, and affordable housing.
My wife and I have both been hashtag #DigitalNomads since the beginning of 2019, with the beginning of my official status coming a few years earlier. To put it simply? we LOVE the freedom of being location independent.
We traveled to Thailand for two months, popped over to Singapore while we were there (picture below), visited Charleston, SC for the first time, saw my parents in Maine, visited Miranda’s family in Pennsylvania, took a beach trip to Cape Charles, and as of this posting, we are planning a trip to Europe to meet the lovely people Miranda works with at the Calendar app Teamup and then attend a wedding. This is just the first half of 2019, and we are just getting started.
And next year? Well, next year is wide open and we are already brainstorming new ideas.
Okay so you want to travel more, have the ultimate say in your schedule, and live the life of your dreams?
Let’s get digital.
How to Become a Digital Nomad Step #1: Tap Into the Entrepreneurial Mindset
The first step in your journey to becoming a digital nomad is to build an entrepreneurial mindset. Yes, you can in fact become a digital nomad by working for someone else. Location independent jobs are quickly becoming more commonplace.
Working for yourself and channeling your inner entrepreneur will give you a life based on your own terms.
Work when you want, do what you want, and go where you want.
The key to doing this? Getting out of the box with your thinking, especially when it comes to work.
When I was growing up, I was lucky to be in a family where college was seen as the norm. I know some people don’t have college grad parents or siblings. And while college is great, no one knew of the potential to do anything different. We usually do what is expected of us when we are young and don’t know any better.
How many of the decisions you make each day are guided by autopilot?
Most of us go through life exactly this way, thinking there is a set way to do life and a correct way to live, and that you can’t do much to change things in any case.
Becoming a digital nomad forces you start thinking differently than other folks. You need to believe that working a 9-5 doesn’t have to be your norm. You don’t have to work for the man and only take time off when they say so. You don’t have to plan two vacations a year just to get away and recharge. You can mix business with pleasure and live life the way it was meant to be lived.
Your choice of work will come (and I’ll give ideas later on in this post) but the first and most important step is to get outside of the box and challenge yourself to be an entrepreneur.
As we’ll discuss, becoming a digital nomad is not all rainbows and unicorns, but if you choose to embrace the entrepreneurial mindset, you too can have freedom.
You’ll start to take on new and challenging work, become a boss at getting clients and new business, and you’ll have too many side hustles to count. Start, knowing you’ll need to wear different hats and guide your business to success. You won’t have a boss for the first time in your life, and that’s great, but you also now have no company to hide behind if things go poorly. You’ll have no one to blame but yourself when inevitable downswings occur.
Okay that was heavy, but it’s true stuff. Embrace the entrepreneur within and let’s keep going.
Step #2: Maximize Your Desire for the Lifestyle
This step is simple, but 100% necessary. You have to want it, and want it bad. It’s not easy to delve into this lifestyle, and it’s definitely not easy to stay.
Becoming a digital nomad most likely means leaving your current job (or convincing your boss to let you work remotely). It means leaving normal behind and striking out on your own. It means your taxes are more complicated, income unsteady, and routines hard to come by.
If you truly want it, you can achieve it. If I can do it, I almost guarantee you can. My only secret superpower is my unwillingness to give up. I failed so many times before getting my first win when trying to work online. But I am relentless, and no matter how many times I fail I’m all in.
Measure the cost of going into this lifestyle. Start slow if you aren’t sure by travelling and working online during your off time. Don’t dive in headfirst to something you might regret later on.
Do you want it bad enough to give up the chance at a sense of normalcy, the power of a local community, or the chance to grow roots and establish a home?
If so, then onward!
How to Become a Digital Nomad Step #3: Reduce Expenses
One of the biggest hurdles to becoming a digital nomad is having enough money. Lets face it, it’s not easy to give up the comfort of health insurance, 401Ks, and dependable bi-weekly paychecks.
To become a digital nomad learn to save money wherever you can. Here are a handful of suggestions to get you started.
- Beg, Borrow & Thrift: You’d be hard-pressed to find a item in our apartment that was purchased new. We have furnished the majority of our apartment with items we’ve acquired along the way. Our couch may not be pretty, and the coffee table is rickety, but it works for us. Buy second-hand, borrow from a friend, and don’t buy unnecessary items.
- Go Without for a Hot Minute: Our natural impulse is to replace things immediately after they brake. This causes us to purchase impulsively and not save intentionally. Next time your TV breaks, or your blender kicks the bucket, try living without it for a week, or month. How much effect does it have on your daily life? If you already have four TV’s in the house maybe you don’t even notice the one that is gone.
- Make a Game out of Cheap Entertainment: There are about a million blogs that can help you come up with cheap date or family fun ideas. This summer my wife created a Summer Bingo Board with fun (and cheap) activities that we want to do before fall. It’s a great way to make a game out of having fun and provides a pre-made list.
- Use Cash: Handing over cash hurts a lot more than handing over a card. Next time you go shopping get the amount of cash you want to spend out first then use that as your limit. Credit cards are the worst enemy of the minimalist lifestyle.
- Be Overly Generous: This may seem counter-intuitive but giving your resources for others changes the landscape of your financial mindset. You never want to become captive to a selfish mindset only fulfilling your own needs. An intentional abundance mindset is what you want to aim for when your financial landscape is constantly in flux.
A great resource for making your money work for you is the Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey.
Step #4: Get Rid of Unneeded Stuff
If your ultimate goal is extended travel and freedom, accumulating more “stuff” doesn’t make sense. Cutting down on excess is foundational to beginning your digital nomad journey.
Take time to evaluate everything you own. Is it something you can’t live without? Keep it. Can you easily see yourself surviving without it? Give it away. There is no reason to hang onto things you don’t love. Clothes that no longer fit, bowls that aren’t your favorite color, and the melted spatula you never use. Let it go and you’ll be surprised at how free you feel when you have less stuff.
Stuff takes energy and requires maintenance and thought. The less stuff you have the more energy you have to focus on your goals, dreams, and traveling. If your ultimate goal it to travel constantly this applies even more and you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to live with just a backpack full of essentials.
How to Become a Digital Nomad Step #5: Pick a Path to Victory
If you are a first timer considering the digital nomad lifestyle, congrats. Now the hard work begins. What are you going to do? I’ve answered before on this blog how to figure out what to do with your life, but this question is smaller fish.
What are you going to do in order to pay the bills? What are you interested in? What will people pay you to do?
There are a myriad of side hustles you can start, but for the foreseeable future you’ll need to be online. Sure, you could pick up a job at every local bar or family diner you find, but working online is the key to freedom with this lifestyle. If you can work with a laptop from anywhere in the world, you’ve achieved the title of digital nomad.
So what are some ideas of work you can do online?
- Self publish with KDP. I’ve been in the business of self publishing for years. It’s just starting to pay off. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to go down this realm, and it’s in no way a get rich quick scheme.
- Freelancing: Freelancing is offering your skills to others in need. You can work long hours for trivial tasks, or become an expert copywriter and make big bucks. Where you start depends on your skills, abilities, and time available. You can paid to do work (granted you have the skills!) on a site like Upwork. The best freelancing advice out there is found here.
- Build passive income streams. You can do this several different ways like investing, building a website, selling digital products, building a following and starting an email list, affiliate marketing, etc. Check out the Smart Passive Income Blog by Pat Flynn for more information on building a passive income empire. Once you get your first couple bucks into your account while you were sleeping, you’ll be hooked on the power of not trading hours for dollars and growing passive income.
- Work for a company based entirely online. Find an app that needs a skill you offer. Find a web based program you are familiar with that you could offer support on. Take a look at some online job posting sites like appjobs or steadyapp. You might not find anything right off but you will at least begin to familiarize yourself with what’s out there.
You get the idea. Working online gives you the flexibility to work wherever. Think outside the box and try new things and begin to discover work you like to do.
Step #6: Ask Your Boss To Allow you to Work Remotely
The best way to become a digital nomad is to start your own online business, become a freelancer, or pave your own entrepreneurial path. Barring that, if you are in a rush to get started, ask your current boss if they’ll let you work remotely. You obviously need to have an online or computer based job for this to work, but don’t count out the possibility.
If it makes sense for your work, go to your boss and make your case. Give her reasons why traveling and having new experiences will boost your productivity. Ask if anyone else in the company has done it, and discuss why it would make sense for you to do so.
Again, getting into business for yourself is ultimately the way to go for the greatest amount of freedom, but if you are itching to get started give it a try. What’s the worst your boss can say?
How to Become a Digital Nomad Step #7: Pick a Place (The Fun Begins!)
This is the fun part! Get to know some of the best places around the world to become a digital nomad. Do your research and pick places you want to travel to, live, work, and adventure in.
I’ve been to two foreign countries so far in my digital nomad journey. Chiang Mai, Thailand and Singapore. I loved them both and would recommend you check them out. Chiang Mai is the number one place in the world for digital nomads due to it’s low cost of living, perfect weather, great WiFi, and delicious food.
Singapore was a short stop in our journey, but was a lovely place to visit. Not a great place for early stage digital nomads due to high cost of living, but if you are close to it, be sure to check it out at least once.
A few other places we hope to go to soon and have already scoped out:
- Lisbon, Portugal
- Barcelona, Spain
- Canggu, Bali
- Budapest, Hungary
- Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam
- Tokyo, Japan
The idea is to travel to new places and figure out what you like, and then go! You might be surprised at what you find when you start your digital nomad journey.
You’re Now a Digital Nomad Step #8: Build Your Empire to Last
I believe in the power of balance and moderation. I have the dual spirits of homebody and adventurer, and I know that if I go to far in either direction I’ll miss out on great opportunities for growth.
Once you go down the path to become a digital nomad remember to check in with yourself. How are you doing? Do you like the lifestyle? What do you need to be doing better or differently?
Constantly reevaluate and reassess to grow. Build your online work to last by finding jobs you love to do and will desire to keep doing. Do things that will earn you money in your sleep, while you are on a plane, or while you are touring the pyramids in Egypt.
Have fun and enjoy! And reach out if you want to grab a beer in Chiang Mai.
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