Digital Nomads For Dummies
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A digital nomad job is one that you can do from anywhere while traveling. Here are five examples of the main ways that digital nomads make a living:
  • Remote employment: being a salaried part-time or full-time employee
  • Freelancing: doing independent, contract work for other people or companies
  • Online business: any type of business you can do on the Internet, from starting a small business to building a large company or founding a startup
  • Passive income: living on income from investments or automated income streams
  • Multiple income streams: a hybrid model in which you combine two or more jobs to generate multiple revenue streams

The average person spends 90,000 hours of their life working. Make sure it’s doing something that you like!

You can apply your skills in different ways to earn an online income. For example, if you work in the marketing field, you could apply for a remote job as a marketing manager, become a freelance marketing consultant, create a digital marketing or advertising agency, or become an affiliate marketer.

If you work in video production, you could work remotely for a company, offer services as a freelance video editor, start your own film production business, or earn passive income from YouTube videos. You can also work in two areas as a YouTuber who freelances on the side.

Erin Carey, a former government employee in Australia, didn’t have any online business experience when she decided to work for herself. However, she had a background in communication. So, she decided to use her writing skills to start a travel blog, which eventually led her to create a public relations agency for travelers.

Carey is now able to sail the world full time with her husband and two children while working remotely from their sailboat.

Like Erin, you can transition from a traditional job to entrepreneurship. Or you can transfer skills you’ve developed in a past job to a remote job or freelancing option.

Becoming a remote employee

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, remote workers have surpassed online freelancers in becoming the biggest segment of the digital nomad population. The graph below shows how many digital nomads in the United States work independently versus for a company.

Graph showing number of traditional versus independent digital nomad workers ©MBO Partners, The Digital Nomad Search Continues, September 2021

According to a University of Chicago study, 37 percent of U.S. jobs can be performed remotely. In the post-COVID-19 era, that number is expected to continue increasing. Commercial real estate firm, CRBE, estimates that 87 percent of large companies plan to adopt a hybrid work model in the future, up from 40 percent in 2018.

Remote jobs are available in almost every industry, including:

  • Accounting and finance
  • Administrative
  • Business development
  • Consulting
  • Creative: writing and design
  • Customer service
  • Education and training
  • Engineering
  • Human resources
  • Information technology
  • Legal
  • Managerial
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Medicine and health
  • Project management
  • Public relations
  • Sales
  • Software and programming
  • Sports
  • Web and app development

Although there’s a perception that you have to be tech-savvy to get a remote job, that’s not necessarily true. Most companies operate using tools you’re already probably familiar with, such as email, messaging apps, and good ‘ol Zoom.

Many job boards have a “non-technical jobs” category or search filter. NoDesk and RemoteOK are two examples.

A remote job skill or job title can also be done in a freelancing capacity or as the basis for an online business.

The fastest-growing remote careers

According to FlexJobs, these were the top ten fastest-growing remote career fields in 2021:
  1. Virtual Administration
  2. HR & Recruiting
  3. Nonprofits
  4. SEO & SEM
  5. Bookkeeping
  6. Marketing
  7. Call Centers
  8. Bilingual/Translation
  9. Social Media Management
  10. Writing

Freelancing your way to freedom

If you want control over your time and income, consider freelancing. In 2021, one in three U.S. workers (nearly 53 million people), were freelancing, with freelancers making up 47 percent of remote workers.

According to Pieter Levels, the founder of Nomad List, there may be as many as 1 billion digital nomad freelancers and independent workers worldwide by 2035.

Freelancing is arguably one of the fastest ways to start earning an online income because it’s very versatile with low barriers to entry.

You can technically become a freelancer today. All you have to do is choose a service to offer or a problem to solve and announce to the world that you’re available for hire. Setting up a freelancing profile online takes a matter of minutes.

Popular websites where you can offer freelancing services include: Fiverr, LinkedIn, PeoplePerHour, Simply Hired, Toptal, Upwork, and ZipRecruiter.

Declaring yourself a freelancer doesn’t mean you’ll become a millionaire overnight, of course. As with anything, it takes time to grow your database of clients and build your income. However, it’s one of the most common routes to becoming a digital nomad.

Freelancing offers a host of benefits, with flexibility being at the forefront. You have control over your time and schedule, how much you charge, the services you offer, and which types of clients you work with.

You could potentially earn more money freelancing than you do in an office job. According to Upwork, 44 percent of freelancers earn more working independently than they did as salaried employees.

Check with your accountant or tax advisor about which type of business structure you should set up (if any). Ask them if registering a business entity or working as a sole proprietor would be better for you and get help filing your taxes, if needed.

Popular freelancing categories include:

  • Accounting and finance
  • Artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Coaching and consulting
  • Computer and information technology (IT)
  • Customer service and virtual assistance
  • Engineering
  • Graphic design and web development
  • Human resources and recruiting
  • Legal and administrative
  • Music and audio production
  • Photography and videography
  • Sales and marketing
  • Social media management
  • Software development
  • Writing and editing
There are some downsides to freelancing, however. Freelancers’ incomes typically fluctuate from month to month. They don’t receive the same benefits or compensation packages that many full-time employees enjoy.

Also, freelancers typically pay out of pocket for health care, fund their own retirement accounts, and pay self-employment taxes.

Then there’s the hustle factor. Freelancers often need to balance their workloads with managing administrative tasks and finding new clients at the same time. Loneliness can also take a toll when you work for yourself.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Kristin M. Wilson has travelled to over 60 countries during her 20 years as a digital nomad. She reaches 130,000 subscribers on her “Traveling with Kristin” YouTube channel. She’s also host of the “Badass Digital Nomads” podcast, recorded weekly from wherever in the world Kristin currently calls home.

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