Written by Jen Morris from Wikijob
Traditional pathways post university aren’t for everyone, and the modern world has opened up plenty of opportunities for those looking to balance a career with a passion for adventure.
If this sounds like you, you might want to consider the life of a digital nomad.
What Is a Digital Nomad?
Anyone that combines remote work with continuous travel can be termed a digital nomad.
They are the people that move around regularly, working online from anywhere that enables them to do so.
They may run their own business, work on a freelance basis or maintain permanent work with an employer that’s happy for them to live this alternative lifestyle.
Provided the work gets done (and the money comes in), they’re free to explore the world to their heart’s content.
What’s It Really Like to Be a Digital Nomad?
It sounds idyllic, but the life of a digital nomad is far from easy. It’s a balancing act between benefits and challenges.
On the one hand, it’s a lifestyle that offers freedom and flexibility – the chance to explore new cultures, meet new people and experience the world at large.
On the other, it throws up the complexities of working abroad – managing your finances, being away from loved ones, navigating time zones and cultural differences.
It’s not all plain sailing, but if you’re ready to face the challenges, it’s a financially viable way to fulfil your sense of wanderlust.
How to Get Started
There’s no definitive path for becoming a digital nomad, but if you’re coming at it straight out of university you’re unlikely to have an existing job you’re able to take abroad.
So step one is to decide how you intend to make a living.
Here are some tips:
Identify Your Marketable Skills
What are you good at, and what do you enjoy doing? If you’re struggling for inspiration, start by looking at the most popular remote jobs.
There are plenty of these to explore, including but by no means limited to:
- Web design
- Freelance writing
- Social media management
- Graphic design
- Virtual teaching
All of these can be done from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection, so are ideally suited for digital nomads.
Build Your Network
There are two sides to this. First, consider your home-based network – friends and family, past employers, fellow students and co-workers.
You never know who might be able to send work your way, so move these relationships online and start sharing your plans.
Next, connect with like-minded people.
There’s a growing community of digital nomads to be found in Facebook groups and forums. These are places you can go for support and advice – even potential job opportunities – so become an active member.
Look for Professional Development Opportunities
The more notches you have on your belt the better, so look for ways to boost your skills and experience.
You might consider taking a short online course relevant to your chosen field of work or undertaking a placement whilst you pull together your initial travel plans.
The more you commit to building your professional persona before you hit the road, the easier you’ll find it to pick up work along the way.
Start Earning an Income
It’s ill-advised to jump straight into the digital nomad lifestyle, particularly without a steady source of income. So, start working while you’re still on home turf.
Arguably the easiest way as a graduate is to set up as a freelancer. This will get you used to the idea of setting your own schedule, juggling multiple clients and deadlines, and practising self-discipline.
Alternatively, you may want to seek employment abroad. This will give you the chance to trial working overseas before committing to the nomadic lifestyle.
A third option, if you have the inclination and capital to do so, is to set up your own business – one you can run from anywhere in the world.
However, this will take time to establish, so be prepared to put your dreams of location independence on hold for a while.
Develop Multiple Income Streams
Whatever you’ve chosen as your main field of work, it’s useful to add other strings to your bow.
For example, if you’ve chosen to work predominantly as a freelance writer, you might also explore virtual teaching opportunities.
The more services you offer, the less chance there is of work drying up.
The best way to keep the funds healthy is to find a source of passive income – something that requires no additional time commitment on your behalf.
A lot of successful bloggers, for example, make money from affiliate marketing or advertising. Selling photos through sites like Shutterstock is also another popular option.
Work Visas and Paying Taxes as a Digital Nomad
As well as ensuring you can fund your lifestyle, as a graduate digital nomad, you need to account for some legalities.
Visas for digital nomads are a bit of a grey area. Strictly speaking, most tourist visas don’t prohibit you from working, provided that work is done remotely, but each country has its own regulations.
Thankfully, a lot of countries now welcome this new wave of workers with extended visas designed specifically for them.
These include Bali, the Cayman Islands, Dubai, Costa Rica and Georgia. You’ll also find digital nomad visas in EU countries.
Always check with the relevant authorities to find out what you need.
Again, another grey area, but one you need to explore to make sure your tax obligations are met.
Seek professional legal advice to find out what rules pertain to each country you intend to work in.
These are just the bare bones of becoming a digital nomad. Once you make the move, the onus is on you to find adequate work, and that takes a lot of commitment.
However, if you’re successful, the reward can be well worth the effort.