Amongst all the canceled flights and the postponed vacations, COVID 19 has uprooted countless travel dreams. But around the world, it’s given birth to another at the same time: the dream to live abroad as a digital nomad. This heinous disease has taken away so much but given us a tiny glimmer of hope. It has allowed us to work from home, allowing us to gain the skills and practices we need to take our careers on the road. We’ve spent months working from home and ‘traveling’ from couch to dining room with our laptops in hand. Now you’re ready to travel from beach towns to bustling cities across the world.

While you’re here, check out 10 apps that can help you transition to the digital nomad lifestyle

Virtual opportunities have exploded during these unprecedented times. People have transformed their 9 to 5 jobs into remote work. When many were laid off, remote workers were in high demand. According to Flexjobs.com, there’s been an 87% increase in the amount of remote work since the beginning of the pandemic.

With this newfound occupational freedom, you’ve probably already asked Google how to become a digital nomad. You’re most likely aware of careers that allow a digital nomad to teach English online or to blog. And while you may be eager to jump into the next “Become a Virtual Assistant” course, slow down for just a moment.

When making such a career shift, it can be easy to follow what everyone else is doing. However, you can easily find yourself stuck doing a job that isn’t the right fit for you. So here are some things to consider so that you’re not just a digital nomad, but a happy and successful digital nomad.

Decide what kind of digital nomad you want to be

Social media is a haven for digital nomad success stories, from blog after blog that generate 6 figures to Virtual Assistants who are making $10k a month to highly paid English teachers. Still, all the hashtags in the world will never be able to tell you how to choose the right career for you. Finding the ideal digital career starts with knowing what you like and what you’re good at; there are certainly many accessible and entry-level jobs that can help you get your foot in the door, but finding something you enjoy is really crucial to sustaining your life abroad. This is why it’s important to know what kind of digital nomad you want to be.

remote worker at a laptop on a balcony

A majority of digital nomads do one of the following: they work remotely for a company, they freelance, or they’re entrepreneurs. And here’s how to know which type you should be. 

If you like the security of a 9 to 5 but don’t want the daily commute, then working remotely either for a brick and mortar company or a remote company is the best route for you. This type of work is good for anyone who is efficient with managing their time, can collaborate with others, and doesn’t mind popping into zoom meetings throughout the day. 

Now if you’re not wanting to commit to a company and want to create your own schedule, freelance work might be for you. This type of work is great for anyone with special skills like web design, marketing, copywriting, etc. Freelancing allows you to choose who you want to work with. It also requires you to offer your services to certain companies and individuals. This can require a little more tenacity and some knowledge in marketing to be successful.

If you want to be your own boss, set your own work hours, and make your own money, then you’re most likely suited to be an entrepreneur. This requires creating a virtual presence online so you can leverage or build an audience to eventually sell a product or service to. Many digital entrepreneurs work as coaches, teachers, fitness instructors, course creators, and more. This is the route for the creatives.

Understand your income and expenses

One thing that makes the digital nomad life so accessible is the (often) lower cost of living in a foreign country. Many times you can rent an apartment for half the price you’d normally pay in your hometown or city, especially if you’re coming from the States! Whether you work for yourself or for a company, understand when and how you’ll be getting paid. Some companies pay weekly, others bi-monthly. Some even pay once a month. And many times, a third party is required to receive payment. When you’re applying or interviewing for a remote job, make sure you’re clear on the method of payment. 

In addition, setting up online money transfer accounts will make things easier, especially if you freelance or work as an entrepreneur. PayPal and Venmo are widely used and reliable tools but not every country supports these platforms. Make sure that wherever your clientele is, they have an accessible way to pay for your services. You’ll also want to keep in mind the conversion rate between the currency you’re getting paid in and the country where you live. This difference can be a benefit or something to be mindful of.

A building in New Orleans with two bikes
Photo by Hope Allison

Once you understand how, when, and what income you’ll have on a regular basis, use that number to create the lifestyle you want. When deciding on destinations, it’s tempting to just pick the most Instagram-worthy destination. However, that seemingly tropical paradise might not fit into your new cost of living. Remember to look for places that fit your needs both financially and occupationally.

Lastly, keeping a record of your income can also support you when it comes to applying for visas. When you’re traveling around you may be tempted to stay in one place for a while, even settle down. For many long-term visas, proof of income is required for you to apply. Most governments in foreign countries want to know that you can financially support yourself.

Set boundaries to create work life balance. 

You may think that a work-life balance can come easy when you’re typing away with the scent of saltwater in the air. But when you’re constantly getting work emails and some from different time zones it can be easy to lose sight of your newfound freedom. Burn out, although more common in 9 to 5 jobs can affect you no matter where you are working from. Creating boundaries such as time limitations can help you work productively and enjoy your new life.. You don’t have to start your day at 8 am, just make sure that you can focus at whatever time you start. Decide how much time you need to get your work done and after that choose the best time to put your laptop away and head outside. When you’re climbing a mountain or taking salsa lessons on the beach, don’t stop to check your email. Go ahead and turn off those alerts so you can enjoy the benefits of your nomadic journey to the fullest.

The most important thing when starting your digital career is to build a solid foundation. That can involve building a strong audience, learning new skills, or even simple time management. Everyday more and more job opportunities crop up, so you have the luxury to choose the one that works best for you. In the meantime, you can create better work habits that will complement your new life. Remember that becoming a digital nomad isn’t always an overnight success. It takes planning, trial, error, and persistence. But the first step of making any dream possible is believing that it is right for you.

Are you a digital nomad who set up a blog, started their own enterprise, or found work at a 9-5? Tell us about your experience in the comments or on Twitter

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