You probably think you can just pack your bags and start your digital nomadic life. For some, that may be possible, but let’s be realistic. It’s hard to change from a regular, traditional work routine to become a digital nomad, and it certainly will not happen overnight.
So how do you become a digital nomad? As with almost everything in life, it is always better to have a manual or a kind of checklist before making all these adult decisions. Do not we all want a life manual for everything?
Fortunately, there are some hints and tips I can give you this digital nomad preparation guide. I split it into five manageable steps. Get a block and a pencil and let us start the preparations.
Step 1: Create your strategy
It may sound quite tempting to just leave everything behind, get on the next plane and step out into the big wide world. But I advise you: Do not do that because you are much better than that! First, you should ask yourself some questions:
- Where do I want to go?
- What do I want to do as soon as I arrive at my destination?
- In which city would I like to live as a digital nomad?
- Do I rent a room or maybe an apartment in a hotel or hostel?
It’s a pretty dumb decision to go somewhere without the slightest hint of a hunch. I admit, I’m more of a “go-with-the-flow” guy, but without a clear plan, it’s not possible to live a comfortable life.
As William Ernest Henley wrote in the poem “Invictus”: “I am the master of my destiny, I am the captain of my soul.” You are the creator of your strategy. You can do whatever you want!
But plan first where you want to stay. Be it anywhere in Asia or on the beach in Panama, wherever you go since your childhood. Plan when you want to leave your present home.
Part of your strategy should also be to improve yourself. If you dive into the field of digital nomads, you should take the opportunity to make yourself the best version of yourself. Even more than that! While you’re at it, you should also take the time to learn new skills. If you work as a writer, why not try design, code or video? It keeps you from doing nothing, and maybe improving your income a bit, as long as you feel safe in your new abilities. This means there will be a variety of potential projects available to you, so you will not be bored – although becoming a digital nomad is far from boredom.
Step 2: Save, budget and find your source of income
A big part of your strategy is to set well-designed goals for you. The planning of income and financial support is the most important thing for a digital nomad. Once you have answered all four questions above, you can think about the answers to the next questions:
- How do I earn my money on the way?
- How much money do I need to stay on the road and live abroad?
- How much money can I save to get through my next travel period?
- Is it possible somehow to get money, if everything should go wrong?
Planning your income is crucial. There are so many opportunities for digital nomads such as writing texts as a freelancer, working as an SEO Ninja, a programmer or a photo editor, just to name a few. You just have to find your area and use it to your advantage (and I can help you with that).
Saving money before stepping out into the world is one of the most important pieces of advice in this preparation guide. Because the ugly truth is that it will be very difficult to go into the lifestyle of a digital nomad without any savings. I saved a part of my income for a whole year before leaving my home country. But I wish I had saved more.
How do you save on becoming a digital nomad? Work! And damn hard! If you work hard before you set off, you will be able to live carefree in the coming months and you will not regret it.
Another thing you can do to save money is to be careful to spend less money. Reduce your living expenses to a minimum. Get rid of clutter and unimportant things. You do not need an expensive apartment, even if you can live with your parents. You do not have to go to a fancy restaurant if you can cook something delicious at home. Most importantly, stop buying any unnecessary things!
And sell everything!
In the last three to five months in Switzerland, I only had a fork, a knife, a pan and a plate on which I could cook. Not even a bed frame for my mattress. The only thing I did not want to sell to save more money was my internet router which I (of course) needed. I sold my PS4, my flat screen TV, and donated 80% of my clothes, knowing that where I go, my thick winter clothes will be more than superfluous.
On the whole, we really only need very little.
Another important point about money. In addition to what you have saved for your first year of travel, you also need more emergency savings for unexpected expenses – also known as the if-shit-happens fund. For example, if you are seriously ill, have an accident or need to fly home for a family emergency. As a rule of thumb, have your income of three to six months in this emergency fund ready.
Step 3: Be proactive
Being proactive is one of the key features of a digital nomad. Because we did not get our life served on a silver platter. Yes, our social media feeds may look like we’re just on vacation all the time. But honestly, how long does it take to upload an image to Instagram? 30 seconds? What do you think digital nomads do with the other 86 370 seconds a day? We are damn hard to work on!
I firmly believe that we should work smarter rather than harder. Clever work creates our own opportunities to network. The nice thing about networking is that you not only make new friends but also create important connections to new projects and/or new skills. Even you can become a mentor to other digital nomads if you pass on useful advice.
Clever work means to concentrate intensively on the work and not to lose any time with the unnecessary. So stop looking at Game of Thrones and focus on what needs to be done!
Well, I probably like GoT as much as you do, but what I’m saying here is that, if you’re serious about being a digital nomad, you should spend your free time better on your freelance portfolio or business, instead of wasting your time and energy on useless things.
Clever work motivates! There are many podcasts, blogs, and Facebook groups, especially for digital nomads, who try to keep you motivated. Because alone, you may feel a bit lonely and isolated from time to time.
You know yourself better than anyone, so you know what motivates you. Maybe it’s the cool beer at the end of the day or listening to music while working that will make you do what you do efficiently and with joy and build your dream life. Whatever motivates you to continue, do not stop it!
Step 4: Consolidate your foundation
Take time to sign up for UpWork and PeoplePerHour to create your profile. Create your portfolio and your customer references as well. Expand your online presence, be it through a website or through your social media accounts, to create independent customers. All this will help you consolidate your foundation before you set off. This is another very important step to become a digital nomad.
It may not always be easy to do all these things besides your full-time job, but it is feasible! Many will say that they do not have time, but having some back cushion projects will save you some initial stress.
By creating this foundation, you place yourself in the best possible position to progress. A secure financial foundation and stable working basis are the perfect starting points for entry into the digital nomadic world.
Create your profile on freelancing websites like UpWork or PeoplePerHour. Build your portfolio and client testimonials. Grow your online presence through a website or your social media accounts. Generate independent clients. All these will help you create your foundation before you hit the road, which is another very important step in becoming a digital nomad.
It may be hard to balance all these things apart from your full-time job, but it’s certainly doable.
In creating this foundation, you are putting yourself in the best possible place to move forward. Having a stable financial foundation and steady work foundation is the perfect position for stepping into the digital nomad world.
Step 5: Collect feedbacks, pack your things and go!
So now you’re almost ready to go. You have created your master strategy, clarified your financial situation, you are motivated and proactive and you have already started building your portfolio.
Now we are at the final stage, consolidating your hard work and saying farewell to your old life.
Before you make your way to the airport, there’s another step to incorporating your ultra-solid digital nomadic foundation. The best way to build your credibility as a self-employed entrepreneur is to collect feedback from your satisfied customers. This information will show potential customers how you work, what your work qualities are, and how satisfied they are with the bottom line you have delivered.
Now you can pack your bags and start into the digital nomadic world! Do not wait for the perfect time, because then you will never do it and will wait forever. There is no perfect time for it. You will never feel that the right moment is right now. Provided all the above-mentioned steps have been taken into account reliably.
So forget the date that you have set yourself and start turning your dream into reality today!
Also published on Medium.