For some time, I travel around the world as a digital nomad, with my partner, working online. I visit a different country every 3 or 6 months. My office is different every day. I manage my own business and I own my time and my schedules.
Sounds good, right? In this post, I want to explain what a digital nomad is, the advantages and disadvantages that we have, and how to get your independence from countries, schedules and offices.
What is a Digital Nomad?
If you are looking for “digital nomad” in Google, surely many photos of teenagers will appear on the beach, with a MacBook Air, pretending they are working. This vision is quite far from the reality of a digital nomad. I can assure you that sweating on a beach directly under the sun will not get much work ahead.
What is certain is that becoming a digital nomad opens up a world of possibilities. Suddenly, you are no longer tied to a place, an office, a boss or a schedule. You are the owner of your time, your life, your work. You can live on an island in Thailand, as long as there is at least a good internet connection.
The digital nomad profile is usually a person linked to the digital world. Programmers, entrepreneurs, designers, marketing specialists, writers, bloggers … Anyone who can do an online activity for which someone is willing to pay something.
When you discover that all you need to work is your laptop (or even an iPad), you wonder why you are paying more than a thousand euros in Madrid for a seedy apartment when for half the money you can be enjoying a coffee in Riga, a Pad Thai in Thailand, or a mate in Buenos Aires.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Digital Nomad
The geographical independence changes your life completely. If I had to describe it using a single word it would be “freedom”. Freedom to visit other countries and discover other cultures, to work at your own pace, to escape from traffic jams and mortgages, to escape on a Tuesday when the sun rises on a winter’s day …
Not having a car or a house, and having all my possessions fit in my suitcase, is also liberating. When you cleanse your life of everything you’ve been accumulating for years, you discover that less is more. That you can live with very little, and that of everything you have, most of it is superfluous or does not add anything to your life more than another junk.
However, not everything is a path of roses. Being a digital nomad requires, in the first place, an important chip change. You have to be willing to make sacrifices, and understand that you have become ultimately responsible for your future.
You will have to work hard in your own business, perhaps on weekends or evenings, and you will have to take into account many aspects that were previously occupied by others, such as getting clients and keeping them while travelling around the world, or locating the neighbourhood more Safe, cheap and well connected from Budapest.
Therefore, being a digital nomad is not for everyone. If what makes you happy is simply to have a big house, a good sofa and a huge television, maybe this lifestyle is not the most appropriate for you. However, if the prospect of travelling the world, and freedom have more weight for you than the apparent security of a stable life, read on.
Steps to Become a Digital Nomad
Ok, you’ve decided to take the leap and become a digital nomad, how do you start?
Geographic independence is not something that is achieved overnight. In my case, it has been a process of several years. Like any lifestyle, it consists of a series of brave decisions that gradually take you in the right direction.
Do not take this as a sequence that you must perform to the letter, but as a guide on what you have to take into account to start your nomadic adventure.
1. Find an activity that you can sell
The first step is to find something for which others are willing to pay money. Not everything is worth it. It has to be an activity that you can do with your laptop or tablet comfortably.
Basically, any digital service or information falls into this category: programming, technical consulting, business or any other, design, marketing, sales, writing, translation, virtual secretariat … the possibilities are unlimited.
As formulated, this step may seem frivolous. In reality, it’s about doing something that really excites you, that you like so much that you do not consider it work, and find a way to do it from anywhere in the world.
2. Get a customer base
Becoming a freelancer, especially if you come from being an employee, is hard at first. Suddenly, everything depends on you: create an online curriculum, promote your services, create a credible image as a professional and, above all, get clients.
In addition, you have to take care of a lot of things that before did not occur to you: marketing, administration, maintaining contact with customers, and so on.
However, little by little he is taking the quiet. One day, you will get your first client, then the next, then another … Eventually, you will have a portfolio of clients that will allow you to take the leap and quit your job if you have not already done so.
3. Leave your job
To be honest, I did not wait for step two before I got to three. I had a lot of confidence in my skills as a programmer, and my ability to get clients if I worked hard. I also had a good online resume and a blog that brought me many visits, and occasional job offers.
So in my case, I launched into the adventure without a network. It took me a few months to get my first client, but when I did, the feeling was indescribable. It is something that increases your confidence in yourself and makes you grow as a person and as a professional.
In your case, it may be different. You can have more or less economic mattress, but do not expect too much. It will never be the right time, nor will you feel safe enough.
4. Create a company that allows you to work wherever you are
Being autonomous in Spain was a trap with no way out. Having a Spanish company, thinking that it would have better conditions at the tax level, actually worsened my situation. For more INRI, the administration is a chaos of obsolete and isolated systems among them.
You need to live in Spain, because let’s be honest with ourselves-the Spanish digital certificate does not work for half the things. In the end, sooner or later you need to physically go to a thousand offices.
Possibly your Spanish bank will panic if you tell it that you are going to become a tax resident in another country. Not to mention accounting and subject taxes and VAT, subject to a series of outdated and impossible to understand for ordinary mortals.
Creating a business in Estonia changed my life, and allowed me to have a legal framework from which to travel around the world. A European company, which could manage remotely anywhere. No worries, notaries, visits to finance offices, paperwork, or bureaucracy.
5. Get rid of everything superfluous in your life
Being a digital nomad means travelling and living only with what fits in your suitcase. We are not aware of everything we accumulate over the years until we have to get rid of it.
This is perhaps the most difficult step. After a life of storing junk, you will have to make an analysis of what really matters, what is essential for you … and what you can take with you wherever you travel.
In this process, many things are learned … from yourself, and from people close to you. Reducing your life to the essentials is one of the most revealing experiences that I have gone through.
6. Start your adventure!
When you have everything ready, simply choose where you are going to start your adventure. There are a lot of options, some better than others, to start your nomadic life.
Follow us and in future articles, we will tell you about the ones we have visited, the ones we recommend, and the ones that are most appropriate, economical and interesting at the business level for entrepreneurs and freelancers.
In this post, I explain in a simple but practical way what a digital nomad is and how to become one. This process is not something that can be done overnight.
However, if you are curious about this way of life, its advantages and disadvantages, in this article you will find answers to the basic questions.
Also published on Medium.