Ashley Kruszyna

February 9, 2017

Travel is rewarding in countless ways; it’s no wonder people say it can be addictive. The perspective gained from truly realizing how massive the world is can be an incredible and eye-opening experience. It has been said that traveling is a lifestyle, not a hobby. So how do you create a viable platform of income to sustain such a lifestyle?

The term “digital nomad” is used to describe a person who has chosen an alternative to the standard, stationary way of life to which most people are accustomed. Nomads are freelancers, consultants, entrepreneurs, and even employees who can do their work without being tied down to any one geographical location. Some nomads prefer the term “location independent.”

The reference to digital indicates that these types of travelers are highly connected to the internet. The internet has created so many communication opportunities that the idea of going into an office every day is becoming more and more obsolete.

When most productive work is done on a computer, why do you need an office anymore? Especially for newly established companies, an office represents unnecessary overhead expenses. The idea of breaking away from the fixed office model and not being tied to a single location has fueled the growth of the digital nomad movement, and is great news for those who don’t want to establish roots in one place.

With the ability to work from anywhere, whether freelancing your own talents or investing in the enterprises of others, the world is your oyster and the vacation never has to end. If you’re willing to make the sacrifices and put in the work, living the dream could be right around the corner.

Represent Yourself

When considering becoming a digital nomad, it is important to lay out all your skills and talents and focus on a niche in order to optimize your success. You are your own ambassador and only you have the power to represent yourself. The virtual resume is your best aid in painting a full picture of what you are capable of.

A virtual resume is not the typical resume, but a demonstration of who you are as a person. Although you may think you don’t have any formal training or skills, the ability to demonstrate that you are professional, responsive, and easy to work with can go a long way.

When putting yourself out there, remember to showcase your existing talents, then focus on a niche, whether it’s a passion for writing, editing, web design, or another skill area. If you don’t have formal training, don’t worry. Showing a true passion for the work and the willingness to learn could seal the deal with potential clients.

Put Yourself Out There

It takes work to create a living wage freelancing or consulting, but it’s not impossible. The most essential piece of work is establishing an online presence.

With the help of a user-friendly website generator, create your own customized site that shows who you are and demonstrates the skills you are most proud of. Be confident in your abilities, because if you aren’t, no one else will be. Keep up with social media such as Instagram and Facebook as a way of marketing yourself as well; they are great platforms to create a more personalized connection with future clients.

From online training courses to extensive research on other successful nomads, the internet is the only resource you’ll need.

Taking some online courses (such as CreativeLive) will help sharpen your skills and instill confidence. They usually cost a few dollars, but the good ones are totally worth it. Also, a simple Google search of “digital nomads” will produce endless resources from other nomads who have proven it can work and have many tips and techniques to share.

It is essential to be organized and reliable. Showing you can be counted on and have things under control lets people know they can trust you. This allows for the skills and expertise to come later through real-world experience. A great free resource for staying organized is Asana. It is a website devoted entirely to helping you stay on top of projects through checklists and organizing topics into easy-to-read categories.

Freelancing, Consulting, and Telecommunicating

Freelancing is a great way to gain experience from many different sources and generate an income without the commitment of being tied down to any one employer. Freelance work is a one-time contract selling your work or skills, which can be as long or short term as is decided in the terms of the agreement.

Just as the word suggests, the great benefit is freedom. Freedom to work when and where you want. Most clients don’t care where the work is being performed, just that it is quality.

Freelance work is endless and the resources for finding jobs are equally abundant: you just have to work at it. To get started, create a profile on freelance websites such as LinkedIn, UpWork, and Freelancer. These sites are great resources for finding potential clients as well as allowing them to find you. Don’t sit around and wait— be proactive and start submitting proposals as soon as possible.

Perhaps the most popular form of digital freelancing is content development. The internet is a vast expanse of words and images, and someone has to create it all. If you have internet access and the ability to type, you are already in great shape. The wonderful thing about freelance writing is that once you put yourself out there and get a few assignments, your expertise comes through experience. Essentially, you are getting paid to refine your craft—the more experience you gain, the better your product will become.

Using Craigslist to find odd jobs can help to fill the gaps between other paid freelance gigs.

Post a personal ad on a classified-style website such as Craigslist explaining you and your capabilities. There are so many classifieds searching for workers to do odd jobs that you’ll lose yourself trying to find specific things that interest you.

Let them come to you. It’s much more effective that way, and a lot more entertaining doing odd jobs you never thought possible! While living the digital nomad lifestyle, it’s important to remember that every dollar of income counts, and it doesn’t matter where it comes from.

For example, when I was a kid, I hated babysitting. Instead, I found an ad on Craigslist for a woman in need of an assistant to do odd jobs around her house. This woman was very rich and lived on a massive estate all alone. She paid me $15 an hour to polish silver, clean windows, and fill in missing chips of paint. It was a great cash freelance gig with no strings attached.

Craigslist is a solid option for picking up some paid freelance gigs practically anywhere in the world.

Consulting is another great way to utilize previously existing skills and experience.

Whether you have worked in corporate finance or home gardening, there is someone out there who can benefit from what you have to share. According to Consultant Journal, “A consultant gives advice, solves problems, makes recommendations, or provides specialized work, such as programming, editing, designing, writing, or business analysis.”

It is important to market yourself based on your experience in a specific field, or on particular knowledge you have to offer. Be on top of your game and do your research on business and market trends. Forbes has a great article about how to become a great consultant.

For example, someone who has worked in the restaurant industry for years can market themselves as a restaurant management consultant, helping clients train their staff and increase business through quality control and marketing techniques.

Your experience in the field is what is most important. A small, family-owned restaurant in Guatemala could certainly benefit from a two-month contract with a consultant who has worked in top-rated fine dining restaurants.

Another valuable skill to advertise is verbal communication.

The English language is in high demand all over the world, and is one of the most common official languages in many countries. The English Language Center estimates that over 2 billion people use English to communicate on a daily basis. Additionally, English is the dominant language in the global marketplace and has become a necessity for business communication.

Through websites such as Samespeak and Preply, you can get paid to teach. Communication tools such as FaceTime and Skype have allowed teaching to be done remotely and on your own time. Teaching can be a great way to utilize existing skills and can help pay some extra bills while traveling.

Don’t Plan Your Trip, Plan Your Life

Being a digital nomad and living on the edge can be exciting.  You don’t know where you are sleeping tomorrow night or what city you’ll end up in next week.

However, your income should not match that uncertainty.  Set a reasonable goal for savings to cover any unforeseeable expenses. Build a strict budget and stick to it. Traveling long term can be a whole different animal, and it is essential to know what you are getting yourself into.

Start seeking out alternative forms of income now, such as freelance gigs on UpWork or LinkedIn, or odd jobs on Craigslist. Although it may be tough balancing an existing job, getting the ball rolling on some extracurriculars is key. The planning process should be more about creating a livable income than deciding what islands in the Philippines you want to visit.

Pick up a few side jobs and get a feel for what it’s like living on a fluctuating and inconsistent income.

In order to generate a livable income via freelance work, the idea is to accumulate multiple assignments or clients so that there is an even stream of work. This style of work can certainly get tricky and allowing a suitable amount of time for preparation is essential.

The Practical Ins and Outs

Sure, selling off all your possessions and hopping on a plane to anywhere sounds glamorous. But without proper planning, you’ll find yourself broke and freaking out, calling Mom and Dad for enough money to buy a ticket home so you can live in their basement.

The first step, then, is organizing your finances. You might have to survive on a much lower income than you are accustomed to, so your overhead costs should also reflect that. Cut out any additional debt by paying off credit cards and any other monthly commitments. Track your expenses for a month to see where it is all going and what can be cut out.

Find a practical place to travel as your first destination. When starting out, it might be helpful to be realistic about your travels. A $1,000 monthly income won’t get you far in Europe, but in South America or Southeast Asia, you’ll live like a king. Be strategic about every dollar you spend. Remember, it’s not always going to be like you’re on vacation.

In reality, being a digital nomad is hard and definitely isn’t for everyone. Allow for proper planning, as this major transition won’t happen overnight. Sometimes it will be tough, so prepare yourself for long days sitting at your computer and sleepless nights worrying about your next paycheck.

Don’t Let Anything Get In Your Way

That said, whether you are a 23-year-old fresh out of college or a 40-year-old mom of three, the digital nomad lifestyle can be right for just about anyone who loves to travel and is willing to put in the work. There isn’t any one right way to do it, and everyone has to find their own path.

Paul and Becky Kortman are a great example of the go-getter type of attitude that is necessary to pursue such a drastic life change. They were living in upstate Michigan and decided to sell off all their belongings, pack up their four young kids and set off to travel the world.

Since then, they have established a successful website, including a podcast, blog, and courses on how to become a digital nomad, as well as multiple travel guides for practically the entire world. You can read their story and check them out at Homealongtheway and Nomadtogether.

The Kortmans are just one example of people who have made it happen. They worked hard to get where they are today and have achieved total location independence. They’re not the only ones: there is an entire global community of people who have realized that the nine to five isn’t for them and who have made their nomadic dreams a reality.

With hard work and a serious passion for getting the job done, one day you could be sharing your success story of how you became a digital nomad.


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Discussion
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  1. Great article and many good points – finding a steady income steam online is challenging so definitely get started before you head out on your journey.

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      Hey Michael

      Yes, absolutely. Having a good base before you head out on your journey is mission critical if you want to succeed as a digital nomad

  2. Chris says:

    Great post. I particularly like; ‘Pick up a few side jobs and get a feel for what it’s like living on a fluctuating and inconsistent income.’

    I’ve been doing that for two years to free up time to build my long term residual income but never thought of it in the perspective you’ve put it.

    Two thumbs up!

    – C

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      Thanks Chris!

      Yes, just because you’re an entrepreneur it doesn’t mean your income is going to be solid. Even as you make bigger income, you will still have to deal with the swings of the seasons. It is important to be able to manage the dips (and vice versa, not go extravagant when you’re flying high).

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