First of all, it’s important to understand that “digital nomad” is a buzz word — a trendy simplification of a lifestyle where your source of income is online and is independent of your location, and you frequently change your location.
If you think this is how digital nomads look, you have been misled, deceived, and hoodwinked! They look more like this:
There are two aspects of a digital nomad lifestyle. Money and travel. The former requires serious effort while the latter is a choice. If you solve the money problem, travelling no longer remains a problem as long as your income is more than your expenditure.
So rather than asking “How does one become a digital nomad”, you should be asking, “How does one earn money online”.
There are three primary ways digital nomads work online:
Freelancing: Freelancers work on a project basis, usually with multiple clients. They can be paid a fixed price or on an hourly basis based on the project and preference of the client/freelancer. Writing, translation, web and software development, digital design, and digital marketing are some of the most popular online freelancing options.
Remote jobs: If your work doesn’t require you to be physically at your office, you can request your employer to allow you to work remotely. The number of companies in favour of hiring remote employees is on a rise.
Self-employed: Most self-employed digital nomads are online entrepreneurs. They can be a solo entrepreneur or have a team. Most of them own a remote marketing/designing/content/development/consulting agency, run an e-commerce store or drop-ship. Some of them are yoga/life/business coaches.
How to start making money online?
If you’re looking for a quick, easy way to get rich online, you will only trap yourself in MLM schemes, get scammed by a Nigerian prince, or end up buying some useless, massively over-priced course and “life-changing” coaching sessions by pretentious “gurus”.
There’s only one way to start: Learn a skill.
I’ll repeat this again. LEARN A SKILL. Be really good at what you do.
Think about this: why would someone pay you good money to work remotely when they have the option to hire in-house.
Exception: Native English speakers have the option to teach English online without having to invest much effort into learning a skill. The downside is — there is not much upside.
How to decide which skills to learn?
Obviously, if you want to be a digital nomad, earning a PhD in Medicine or Theology won’t be of much value. You need to find something that can be done digitally and remotely and is marketable. It works in your favour if you’re already a developer, designer, digital marketer, writer or own a profitable online business.
How to learn a skill?
You can either learn a skill from a teacher or by self-learning. I prefer self-learning as I don’t like to be spoon-fed.
If you’re self-learning, here’s the golden advice: Make Google your friend. It sounds utterly simple but is immensely effective.
Let’s assume you want to be a logo designer. Imagine Google is the God that has all the answers. Start with searching, “How to be a logo designer”. Open the first 20 search results and go through each of them.
Let your curiosity show you the path. Search every question that pops in your mind. “What’s the best tool for logo designing”? “Illustrator vs Photoshop vs Sketch”. “How to learn Illustrator”? Keep reading blogs, watching Youtube videos, reading e-books and don’t stop until you have answers to all your questions. Search on Quora, join Facebook groups, follow top logo designers — if you’re curious enough, you’ll be amazed by the learning sources you can make use of. Bring your learnings to use by practice.
How to get work?
The million-dollar question.
For freelancers: Websites like Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiver are the easiest to start with. These platforms connect employers with freelancers. You have to make an account, fill your profile mentioning your experience and expertise and send proposals to relevant projects writing why you should be picked.
However, I wouldn’t recommend you to be solely dependent on these platforms for three reasons:
- You are too dependent on ratings and reviews. At times, you will come across an asshole client who will leave a bad review that would affect your chances to bag projects in the future.
- High competition: In certain niches, the supply of freelancers is highly outnumbered by the demand of work. Also, thousands of freelancers from developing countries like the Philippines, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are willing to work for quite less, therefore, further pushing down the price.
- No brand identity: In the long run, your clients are quite often not actually your clients but these platforms’ clients. Compare this to building your own (nothing too fancy) website and doing your own marketing. It boosts your brand identity and you are more likely to get referrals and build a long-term relationship.
I would recommend you to build your own website listing your service and portfolio. These days building a simple website is so cheap and easy.
There are tons of ways to target potential clients but none of them is easy. LinkedIn, cold-emailing, recommendations, networking events, word-of-mouth publicity, cold-calling, Facebook groups, Twitter hashtags — I can go on and on. (I will elaborate on each method of lead generation on my different posts.)
For remote workers: You can search remote jobs on several online remote job boards like RemoteOk, WeWorkRemotely, remote[dot]co. Or convince your company to allow you to work remotely.
For self-employed (entrepreneurs): From selling air to space rockets, entrepreneurship has no boundaries. There are already a ton of resources on the internet about starting a business. However, most of the self-employed digital nomads I have met sell on Amazon, have a small e-commerce shop or sell digital products such as online courses, e-books, and training and mentorship programs.