What it Takes to be a Digital Nomad

by Emily on September 19, 2016

in Articles

A nomad is defined as a person who is on a constant search for greener pastures. Within their community, they are constantly searching for new and promising locations for life and work.

Similarly, digital nomads of today are people who are constantly on the move. They are members of a large community of international entrepreneurs, freelancers, and travellers. They too are frequently changing locations and searching for more inspiring and promising lands from which they will be able to materialize their ideas.

They utilize technology tools and work in coworking spaces because the office space became too confined. But let us take a closer look at who they really are, what tools do they use specifically, and where do they enjoy doing business.

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Who are Digital Nomads?

Digital nomads are writers, photographers, programmers, and designers who decided to avoid the office and thus become the location- independent freelancers and entrepreneurs. A survey commissioned by the Freelancers Union and Elance- oDesk shows that there are now 53 million American freelancers, which makes up a staggering 34% of the entire U.S. workforce.

When asked about the reasons for becoming freelancers, people say that it is mainly because they are able to enjoy the freedom of not having to report to any superiors, they can work on their own schedule, and they are in control of their own choices.

Digital Nomads’ Success Stories

“I can work from anywhere in the world that I want”, says Matthew Kepnes, the owner of the Nomadic Matt travel blog. In his interview for The Next Web, he reveals that he originally wanted to make an online resume for freelance work. Fortunately, the site transformed into a high-quality travel blog and now it has a life of its own.

Another great success story is that of Pieter Levels, a dutch programmer, designer, entrepreneur, and a full-time digital nomad. 3 years ago, Peter started a project to create 12 startups in 12 months. It was a success. Although many would not call these projects individual startups, Pieter explains that not every startup needs to be a multi- billion dollar business from the start.

This claim is also supported by Natalie Sisson, the digital nomad behind The Suitcase Entrepreneur. “I feel pretty damn lucky to have a business I love and the ability to choose freedom. “, says Susan when asked to explain why she loves her digital nomad lifestyle. Natalie explains that through her blog, she helps entrepreneurs to find freedom and seek adventure as well as to build their brand and ultimately businesses.

Natalie’s blog also lists and reviews some of the basic tools a digital nomad needs in order to be successful. Indeed, we need all kinds of tools if we are to be location- independent entrepreneurs. Let us go through some of the most important pieces of software a digital nomad needs in her/ his toolbox.

Virtual Companions of a Digital Nomad

Every remote worker, freelancer, and digital nomad needs to have their own arsenal of tools that make such work possible. Of course, they all need laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Digital nomads that are into photography need a professional camera, and designers might need a drawing pad. Aside from the basic hardware, let us list some of the tools that will help any digital nomad to get the important work done.

Storage

In his interview for Forbes, digital nomad Geoffrey Morrison says that there are only 2 types of hard drives: those that have failed, and those that will fail. This is why having a secure, reliable cloud storage is a must for any digital nomad. There are many types of cloud storage out there, but a few names tend to stand out.

Dropbox, for example, is one of the most reliable cloud storage solutions out there. While most people use its free version (only 2GB), this cloud storage can be a beast. For $8.50 a month, Dropbox offers 1TB of storage, complete integration with the Office 365 suite, encrypted file sharing, ability to delete files remotely if your device gets stolen, and more.

Google Drive is another excellent option to take into consideration because of the integration with its office suite and Gmail. I love using Google Drive because it enables you to do all the work on-the-fly. It offers as much as 15GB of free storage and excellent mobile support. However, the paid option ($9.99 per month) gives you 1TB of storage. Alternatively, you can pay just $1.99 for a bump to 100GB. Its interface might not be all that attractive, but the integration with all of the Google’s apps makes this storage an essential part of one’s workflow.

Task Management

Leaving the office might not seem hard at first, but it is only then that you will notice the importance of task management. If you are anything like myself, you are not able to organize too many things at the same time without an aid of a task management software. After all, you need to focus on the creative part of what you do, so leave the boring part to software. I will list a couple that I found to be the most useful for day-to-day work.

Active Collab is an awesome piece of software that will help you immensely the moment you outgrow your email. By working around the clock and growing your business on a daily basis, that is bound to happen. Active Collab is excellent for staying organised, which is essential in any line of work. It lets you make advanced to- do lists and helps with project management. It lets you track every minute of your work and bill clients accordingly. It also enables you to issue invoices and save the precious time. I strongly recommend this useful piece of software to any digital nomad and freelancer out there.

Slack is another great piece of software when it comes to task management. It is most commonly used for teamwork and has tremendous potential. Slack lets you drag and drop all your files right into it and share them with anyone you want. The archive of your files is easily searchable because the app indexes the content of every file you feed it. What is most important for digital nomads, you can use Slack anywhere and from any device because everything is in sync.

Expense Tracking

It is easy to lose track of your spending, so we now have expense tracking apps that are here to make our lives easier. I will list just a couple of apps that I found to be useful.

Level is an incredibly useful expense tracking app. It acts as an electronic wallet, telling you exactly how much you have left on your account. It will list all of your expenses precisely and you will in every moment know exactly how much you have spent on a certain item or service. This way, Level helps you with having balanced expenses, so that you do not have to worry what will happen at the end of the month, or sooner, for that matter.

Another nifty expense tracking app is called Wally. It is completely free, but more importantly, it is free of ads as well. It lets you input all the purchases and income and presents it on a well- designed graphic interface. You can also save pictures of all of your inputs so that nothing gets lost in the process. Wally is available on iPhone and Android, but unfortunately, you still cannot log onto in from a computer.

As we have seen, digital nomads are heavily dependent on various types of technology. They need all kinds of apps and software to help them organise their work, store important files and monitor their expenses. What I mentioned, however, is just a fraction of the types of software a digital nomad can utilise. I found these to be essential, but everyone is different, so you might need an alternative setup.

Now let us take a short look into where digital nomads like to work. Some rent hotel rooms, others entire houses in the cheap parts of the world, but there is a growing trend of spaces specifically designed for freelancers and they are called coworking spaces.

Coworking Spaces

Life on the road can get lonely and unless you are in a place where you know a bunch of people, you will feel definitely wish to speak to someone in person from time to time. But digital nomads do not travel for fun and they are very serious about what they do. Coworking spaces emerged for the purpose of bringing entrepreneurs together to work on their startups in the same space. Often, they are foreigners who have a hard time adjusting to life in another country, so they use coworking spaces to make it easier for them to work. Usually, the people are friendly and the environment is suitable for work.

It does not mean that you have to work in a team to be able to live in a coworking space. You will usually have your own room, your own desk and a computer, stable internet connection, and an overall pleasant working environment. So, when you get fed up with your work (and sometimes you will), you can always chat to other digital nomads. In this report by Forbes, you can check out what are the most desirable coworking places from all around the world.

Only for the Chosen Ones

Okay, I understand that the title of this conclusion is a bit over the top, but I cannot stress enough that being a digital nomad does not mean lying on the beach, sipping your favorite drink, taking photos of the sea and living off your travel blog. No.

It is much harder than just that. Being a digital nomad requires commitment, hard work, and constant learning. Learning a new language perhaps, or learning how to code to get that new app idea out there.

A digital nomad is heavily reliant on various pieces of technology such as cloud applications and storage, task management software and numerous other apps. They enjoy working in coworking spaces and being able to communicate with other digital nomads. It is tough out there if you are alone but, luckily you really are not.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ranch Office December 18, 2018 at 14:43

I’ve been living as a digital nomad for a year now and I’m fond of this lifestyle! There’re a lot of incredible benefits. As for me, the main is that it allows me to travel full-time and switch locations as I prefer to.

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Skye July 22, 2020 at 18:26

Thanks for the link to 12 start ups in 12 months – never heard about that and LOVED the story. As a digital nomad for 3 years, I can vouch for a lot of what you shared.
Skye recently posted… Minimalist Digital Nomad Gear (Never Travel Without These 7!)

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