The idea of where to start in becoming a digital nomad can be an overwhelming one. Here is a list of how you can make it happen.
1. Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy
Depending on your current situation, the biggest hurdle you will likely face when transitioning to a digital nomad lifestyle is... yourself!
Stop overthinking, just stop.
Sure, anyone can think of excuses to put off this lifestyle — they "can't" or the "timing isn't right".
There is never a good time for anything so stop putting it off and do it.
Have kids? Great! There are liveable places all over the world. If you are paying $1,000 a month to put a roof over your head in Canada or the United States, you can also put a roof over your head elsewhere for the same price. Rent out your house while your away or sell it. I've seen plenty of people travel with kids. Anything you do to take care of your kids at home you can do abroad.
The good news is, there is a solution for every "problem/excuse". I hear so many excuses it's frustrating.
People always say, "I wish I could do what you do." My response, "You can."
It just always comes down to what you're willing to trade, sacrifice or how far you are willing to come out of your comfort zone to make it happen. Stop thinking of problems and start thinking of solutions and the endless possibilities. It's really not that scary at all, once you do it.
2. Create and Follow an Action Plan
The plan that is outlined here will work as an action plan.
- Give yourself timelines for each item and stick to them.
- List the action that needs to be taken and the date it needs to be completed by.
I gave myself a few months to find a job online. It didn't work.
My backup plan was to book a one-way ticket to Prague, Czech Republic and give myself one month to find a job, otherwise, I would be packing home. Pressure usually delivers results and within 2 weeks of networking with other digital nomads at a shared co-working space, I found work. At the end of the day, if you have food, shelter, and water, your situation really can't get "that bad" so stop with the excuses, no one will let you starve yourself to death.
3. Find a Remote Job
There are a few options here you have:
Persuade Your Current Employer to Let You Work Remotely
It's really important to think this through. It is likely easier that an employer commits to letting you work remotely on a sabbatical for 6 months or 1 year before they fully commit, as it's less overwhelming. Once they see how awesome you are at working remotely, it will build more leverage to request an extension of your remote work sabbatical. So, how do you convince them?
Create a Detailed Proposal to Present to Your Employer
The proposal should include reasons why they should let you work remotely, why it will benefit them, how you would propose making the transition etc. Remember, they don't care about it being a cool experience for you, they want to know how it will benefit them. Don't lie in the proposal either. Being honest and upfront will build trust with your employer. If working remotely means you can't attend face-to-face meetings, then state it upfront, along with what you propose as a solution. Here is a remote work proposal I created that you can use as a template. My leverage in the proposal was that Remote Year was a one year program. However, if you aren't doing Remote Year, you can propose a 6 month or 1 year sabbatical where you work remotely.
Find Companies that Operate and/or Hire Remotely
If your company really isn't having it with you working remotely, then you might want to consider kicking the old job to the curb - it's time to find a job that lets you work remotely! There is never a good time to quit a job, you just have to do it (once you have a remote job lined up of course). This again will show how committed you are to working remotely. Check out, 'The 6 Best Sites for Finding Remote Work', to help start your search. Just a heads up, popular remote jobs include developers, designers, writers, marketers etc.
Note: If you have applied for Remote Year, consider if you actually want to tell your future employer that you will be traveling non-stop during the interview process. Some employers will like the idea of the publicity and others will be concerned about commitment and time zone challenges. Certainly don't hide it, but don't let it be a decision making factor for an interview.
Career Change to a Remote Friendly Role
If you don't succeed at the two options listed above, you have a few more options. One is considering a career change or transition. Consider what you currently do to earn money, explore what jobs are listed on sites such as We Work Remotely, FlexJobs and remote OK and determine what would be most aligned with your previous work experience.
For example, if you work at a retail store, maybe you could try and transition to an online customer service role. If you are a teacher, maybe consider looking at teaching online courses. For teaching, depending on which area you teach, you could also transition this role to writing, writing about a niche topic.
Take whatever training or free gigs as you can to create experience on your resume, all while still applying for the jobs you want. If you want to become a writer, I suggest starting a blog to demonstrate your abilities. It also shows your more technically inclined as well, which most remote roles require.
Work Freelance/Start a Business
Another option that provides the ultimate freedom is to just work for yourself.
Freelance: Start taking on small freelance gigs in the field of work you want to get into and over time you will slowly develop a client base. Remember, set the standard, upfront, that you work remotely. Don't get into the habit of in person client meetings or you won't feel as though you are able to pry away when the time comes. Try looking at joining Elance for opportunities.
Start a Business: Another option is to start an online business. Say for example that you are a personal trainer. Start putting out workout videos online, ebooks on how to eat healthy etc. Kayla Itsines is a great example of this. She has built a successful online brand in an area you typically wouldn't think could go online. Start converting whatever you did "location-based" to "online". Get creative.
There are a lot of ways you can earn an income remotely. Some require a longer commitment, some can be implemented swiftly:
4. Be Patient and Persistent
This might not make sense now, but it's critical because there will be times you just want to give up. All of this work will take time. Tell people you are going to work remotely (the fake it till you make it mentality works). The more people you tell, the more chance are that someone knows someone who might know of an opportunity. Put it out there to the universe that you want to work remotely. Do whatever it takes. You will get to certain points where it feels impossible and you want to give up, but don't! I was in a situation where I left Canada on a one way ticket, had two weeks left to find a job and then my computer died, with a new computer costing me at least $1,300. I could have easily thrown in the towel at any point in time but I refused to give up. I knew something had to give at some point and that I couldn't be unemployed forever. This is where the true test "how bad do you want it" comes in. Watch the video below for some inspiration.
5. Book a Ticket
Set a date where you need to accomplish the above by and book your one-way ticket for that date. This will put the pressure on you to make it happen. Even if it doesn't happen come the time of your flight, which was my case, get on the plane anyway and prepare to network like crazy with many nomads once you arrive.
The best place to find digital nomads to network with? Co-working spaces, meet ups and online of course (Facebook groups for example). The best place to find nomads in my opinion and a good small investment would be to join #nomads on slack, which Nomad List operates. Nomad List is also a great resource to give you a better idea of places you may want to live while working remotely.
Before booking flights, check out:
- Flystein: They have a "beat my price" deal where you submit you airfare price and you only pay ($49 fee) when the saving is bigger than their fee. There is really no losing with this deal
- Hopper: Hopper gathers data on flight searches and predicts flight prices months in advance. Their "when to fly and buy" report is absolutely amazing! You'll know exactly when to book for the best deal.
6. Where to Stay
The best bang for your buck is in South East Asia, as the cost of living is much more affordable. However, Prague, Czech Republic and Buenos Aires, Argentina are good starting points as well.
What To Look for in a Location
Starting out as a digital nomad on your own can be lonely so I would suggest booking places that are more lively/short walks to restaurants etc. Also consider staying nearby shared co-working spaces where you will find a slew of people you can relate to and connect with.
How Long to Book Accommodations For
Don't book a spot (aka home) for the long-term before you leave and even see it. I found the best hotels, deals and spots by simply coming across places once I was in a country. Book 1 week somewhere just to get yourself settled, but don't go beyond that. You will connect with a lot of people who have great suggestions.
Also, ask the following before booking:
- Is there hot water? Especially in South East Asia, this is sometimes not implied as it is in Western Culture
- Is there air conditioning? I learned that I can't live without air conditioning. Sure, when I am traveling I can live without it but I'm not just traveling, I am working now as well. If you can have a sound sleep at home in a bucket of sweat, in preparation for a day of work, you certainly won't be able to abroad. A good sleep is important for a productive work day!
- Is there a kitchen? Does a kitchen include an oven? etc. You really need to consider if you actually want to eat out every day of your life or if you need to cook your own food.
Also consider the fact that I found beautiful places to stay abroad but with that came unreliable internet, power outages and ants. As beautiful as it was, it simply wouldn't work to live there.
Once you find a place, I suggest staying a minimum of 1 month (that might be even too short). Remember, you are working full-time and you will burn out fast. That essentially leaves only the weekends for exploring. I would suggest 3 months to be an ideal length, of which you can extend if you really like a location.
7. Where to Work & How to Find Good Internet
Internet Quality Varies Abroad
As a digital nomad, think of yourself as an internet chaser. Where good internet flows, you will go. This is usually at cafes, hotels, and co-working spaces. Remember, not all internet is created equal around the world. Some countries are really delayed in the progression of their internet. The best place to find good internet abroad, is in cities. The more remote you are, the more likely you are to have poor internet connection.
Testing for Good Internet Before You Arrive
Keep in mind, just because a place says it has internet, doesn't mean it's good enough to work off of or reliable. Before booking a hotel, usually with Agoda or Booking, I will check reviews on TripAdvisor to see what people's comments are on the internet situation. You can also ask places to e-mail you a speedtest of their internet connection. To give you an idea of what's "good" and to act as a benchmark, run the test on your computer now. A speed test results of:
What's a Good Internet Speed
- 5 up and 5 down is pretty common. This will do.
- 10 up and 10 down is more ideal
- 20-30 up and down is amazing!
Note: Developers, require much better internet than the standard person. Coworking spaces will likely best accomodate you. If you are going to be living somewhere for 6-12 months it is likely worth the investment to find a house to rent out and set-up your own internet.
Always Have a Backup for Internet
What can go wrong, will. Always have a backup:
- Local Sim Cards: I suggest getting a local sim card and tethering from your phone. Data plans are very affordable abroad so this is a good option. Just make sure the country or location you are in doesn't throttle after so many GB of usage.
- A Hot Spot: A hot spot is also a great back up to have. You can insert a local sim card into it and you are good to go!
8. Enjoy Living the Dream
Congrats! If you've made it this far, it means you are a problem solver - you gave up the excuses and did everything possible to follow your dream. No need to reward yourself because every day of your life, moving forward, you likely waking up in paradise, which is a reward all it's own! Enjoy and welcome to the good life, the digital nomad life that is.
Have questions? Let us know in the comments below!
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