Updated: Sep 16, 2019
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 “expectations vs reality” is a key phrase I want to stress 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 or 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 your work:
$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.
$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.
$50,000+ - Anything higher you will have a desired digital skill set such as web developing. 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. Work is also not guaranteed as 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 that someone taught me is to claim all your 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.
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
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 to have the freedom in the afternoon to travel or work on other things I need to. Job 1 is a primary source of income whereas anything else is secondary.
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, at the beginning anyway. 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.
Travelling and working can work out if you stay organized and plan properly. 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.
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.
Work in separate rooms.
Go to a coffee shop for the day.
Make sure you spend some time apart.
If you decide to travel as a couple and work as digital nomads, make sure you have a strong relationship and can handle spending lots 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. The main thing is to make sure you have money kept behind in case you have to go 2 weeks not earning any more.
Remote work is unstable and it’s very risky to rely on just 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. Spend an hour every day taking a course in something that you know is in demand, like SEO writing, Google Analytics or anything that can help you. The more you know the better chance you will have.
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 s*** done.
There are places I have been where I’ve stayed for 3 months, obviously, I didn't have plans every single day. So there have been days where I took on extra work and spent 3 days indoors earning more money, not going to lie, it's not that fun, but it’s also a necessary part of being a digital nomad. Just make sure you remember it not always going to be fun and games.
Is Working as a Digital Nomad for Me?
This is the question you need to ask yourself before making that 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 skill set.
If you can deal with everything in this blog then you should be fine working as a digital nomad. Keep an eye out for future blogs where I will go through the best sites for remote work, landing your first remote job, how to stay organized as a freelancer and other useful guides.
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.
Remote work translates to flexibility, autonomy, and often less time on the clock. However, not all work from home jobs are created equal. If you're just getting started, it can be challenging to find a high paying one. Here is a comprehensive overview of high paying remote jobs that offer the standard benefits of working remotely as well as high pay.