What if someone told you, you could travel anywhere you want in the world and work anywhere and anytime you like? Sounds great, doesn’t it? I have been doing that for a year now, and I like to use the phrase “expectations vs reality” when it comes to being a digital nomad. This blog will give you an insight into what it’s like to be a digital nomad and help you decide if this lifestyle is really for you.
For those of you that don’t know a digital nomad isn’t to be confused with a regular nomad! Only some elements apply, but if you aren’t sure what it means, here’s my definition.
“A digital nomad is a person without a need for a permanent fixed location who relies on digital technology to generate an income.”
Digital Nomad Salary and Taxes
Unless you’re an expert in web design, possess technical skills, or you are a YouTube celeb, you’re not going to be staying at 5-star hotels every night lets put it that way.
Earnings can range depending on the type of work you do:
$10,000 — $30,000
If you work on projects and get paid by the project, depending on the types of project and rates you charge/receive. I have worked for companies where I get paid by the hour, by the project, by the article, and by the word. If it doesn’t guarantee you 40 hours a week, it will likely fall between this pay scale.
$20,000 — $50,000
If you work for a company on an hourly or yearly salary then this is usually the amount you will earn. Again, this does depend on the type of work you do, most companies will offer this amount unless you are working on a freelance basis.
Anything higher you will probably need to have a desired skill set which is usually composed of digital skills and includes web development, graphic design and coding. You can also get lucky and work for a large company that pays a good salary with benefits. Or run a successful blog, Instagram, YouTube account etc.
Remote work is not a high paying career move, but it can be sustainable enough to travel and live if you do it right. Work is also not guaranteed if you are a freelancer, you need to be prepared to have quiet weeks where you have minimal income. It’s sensible to have a large rainy day fund to cover this.
Then there are taxes, it is recommended to hire an accountant and dependent on your situation either need to register as an LLC (Limited Liability Company) or an independent contractor. You will also need to set aside a percentage of your earnings for the end of the tax year or whatever the requirements of your country are. A tip with taxes is to claim ALL expenses that can relate to your work e.g if you work on your phone, include your phone contract. It can save you when it comes to tax due date.
“It’s sensible to have a large rainy day fund.”
A Typical Day for a Digital Nomad
This could depend on your job and your lifestyle, you pick your day and how you want to work. Here is my day:
4:30 am — Alarm goes off.
5:00 am — Alarm has gone off 32 times, get up.
5:10 am to 14:00 pm — Get a coffee, log on and start work.
14:30 pm — Either call it a day and explore/socialize or start other jobs/projects.
14:30 pm — 18:30 pm — Work on other projects/or explore.
18:30 pm — Dinner.
19:00 pm — 10:00 pm — Take courses to develop skills further.
10:30 pm — Bed.
Now I realize that may look crazy, but it is also my choice, there are no set hours or times for my jobs but I wake up early enough to have the freedom in the afternoon to travel or work on other things I need to. I have a primary job which I do for 8 hours a day and is my primary source of income whereas anything else is secondary. I also work 2 other freelance based jobs and have clients of my own to complete projects for.
The reason for showing this is to demonstrate that you won’t be living the dream of working 3 hours a day, then sitting on the beach all day with a cold beer, at the beginning anyway. If you have the luxury of making your own schedule and working the hours you want to, don’t make the mistake of putting work off to travel or party. Many “digital nomads” make that mistake of putting work last, fitting in 10 hours or so in the week, then realising they are broke. Work must come first if you want to sustain your travels. You have to earn enough to be able to enjoy travelling and still sustain a living, work hard — play harder.
Can You Still Enjoy Travel When You Have to Work?
If you are just starting out with remote work and want to travel it’s important to remember you are not going to be working minimal hours with maximum fun. You should still expect to work a full 40 hour work week, maybe a little less depending on how much money you actually want and need.
If you handle multiple projects, travelling and working can be difficult as you have to be extremely organised and coordinate all your projects so you can fit it around your lifestyle. A tip here is to get a project management tool like Asana or Trello where you can manage projects efficiently. Also, put everything into your calendar and refer to it every time you take a new job or make new travel plans. Google Calendar is a lifesaver.
Travelling and working can work out for you if you stay organized and plan accordingly. Just remember when you first start out as a digital nomad, it’s not going to be all sunshine and rainbows, you will need to put the work in to get the rewards. Don’t be fooled by the ads and other people saying they are digital nomads, only work 3 hours a week, and travel/party the rest of the time.
A Couple Travelling Together as Digital Nomads
This might not be as common as you think but there are plenty of couples that travel and work remotely together, that means spending all of your time together, sometimes 24-hours a day! It doesn’t matter how strong your relationship is, it’s important to take my advice below to ensure a healthy and happy relationship.
“It might seem like a good idea in the beginning but it can take its toll 3 months down the line.”
Work in separate rooms. If you stay in a large enough place, make sure you utilize that space. Trust me, it works wonders.
Go to a coffee shop for the day. Being cooped up inside all day is not good in general, nevermind as a couple. Get some fresh air, socialize with people, and enjoy some space. At least you can get home and talk about your workday.
Discover a digital nomad co-working space. The best way to describe it, it’s a physical office for digital nomads to work in. This is another chance to socialize.
Make sure you spend some time apart. This one is obvious.
If you decide to travel as a couple and work as digital nomads, make sure you have a strong relationship and can handle spending masses of time together. It might seem like a good idea in the beginning but it can take its toll 3 months down the line.
Prepare for the Unexpected
You might wake up one day and get an email saying your services are no longer required. If you only have one source of income then this could send you into panic mode. It’s happened to me twice but I have worked extremely hard in picking up new contracts, and can also write a damn good cover letter. The main thing is to make sure you have money kept behind in case you have to go 2 weeks not earning any more. Job security in my eyes doesn’t exist when you are a digital nomad.
Remote work is unstable and it’s very risky to rely on one job to support you. As a digital nomad, this should be the first thing you remember and if anything happens to your job then you start giving everything you have into securing another job. Search remote job sites and freelance sites such as Upwork, We Work Remotely, and Pangian, apply for everything you find and also approach old clients with a friendly email to see if they have any more work for you.
Another sensible fail-safe for remote work is to take courses. Developing your skills is never a bad thing, the more you learn, the more opportunities you open for yourself. In today’s world digital technologies advance and change every month which is why it is vital to continuously develop your skills. Spend an hour every day taking a course in something that you know is in demand, like SEO, Google Analytics, marketing, and anything that can help you. The more you know the better chance you will have over other candidates.
Can You Handle the Loneliness?
Do you enjoy the social aspect of working in an office?
If you do then remote work will not be for you. The only social interaction you get working remotely is a phone call from your Mom or ordering a tall latte from Starbucks. Seriously, that is something to consider, so if you enjoy spending time with your own thoughts then you will be just fine.
You might think that you can go and sit in the bar for the day and work whilst still having a good time, which is true you can, but you won’t be very productive and will soon find yourself with less work or no work at all. You need to work in an environment where you can focus and get stuff done.
You can sometimes spend up to 4 days at a time indoors, without seeing the outside world. That is one regret I have from leaving a physical job to work remotely. Just remember you can work in various co-working spaces around the world which are becoming more popular, and occasionally head out to coffee shops, restaurants, etc. It will never be the same of interacting with people and customers every day though, let me assure you.
“The only social interaction you get working remotely is a phone call from your Mom.”
Is Working as a Digital Nomad for Me?
This is the main question you need to ask yourself before making that decision to leap into remote work.
You are going to have good days where work is good with a steady income and bad days where you have no work at all.
Your work will be a priority over everything else, as that is the source of income funding your travels and lifestyle so you have no option but to make it your priority.
It’s very rare that you can make a career out of being a digital nomad, but that depends on your goals in life and your skillset.
You won’t receive benefits such as healthcare, retirement funds, insurance, and vacation (in some cases).
You will find it lonely, even if you are your own best friend.
If you can deal with everything in this blog then you should be fine working as a digital nomad.
Although this blog may have sounded negative and against working remotely and being a digital nomad, I enjoy my lifestyle and would recommend it to anyone. I just wanted to give you an insight into what this lifestyle looks like.