With the rise of the digital age, the ways individuals engage in work have begun to shift dramatically. The once dominant 9-to-5 office job has gone out the window, and with it, a permanent office space where you can store photos of your cats. This is the era of the ‘digital nomad’, an amorphous group of remote workers that encompasses everyone from entrepreneurs and freelancers to employees of some of the world’s largest firms.

And while this isn’t the first generation to define its work around the lifestyles they aspire to, millennials have certainly given this old idea a new coat of innovation-chic paint, promising companies new way to conserve capital, limit expenses, and tap into a new and global talent pool; and individuals an end to long commutes, boardrooms, TPS reports, and the immense cost of living in financial centres like New York, London, or Hong Kong.

Now is a good time to be a digital nomad; and as large companies rush to adapt, a new group of start-ups are tailoring a suite of shared services, digital solutions and co-working spaces to support this growing market, transforming unexpected communities into the next enterprise hubs.

If all of this sounds tempting, keep reading. We’ve pulled together a huge list of tips and resources to help you decide if digital nomadism is right for you and to help get you started.


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How To Be A Digital Nomad – Success Factors:

Get a local SIM. If you’re looking to spend time in one city or region for longer than a few weeks, it makes sense to get a local SIM card so that you can connect when you want, independent of the wifi quality. Ensure your phone is unlocked before you go so that you can set up as soon as you land.

Have the right tech. Aside from voltage converters and plug adapters, there are other technology considerations to take into account. Internet can vary drastically by continent, region, and even day to day in the same city, which can be problematic if your employment hinges on being online. There are some useful options for bolstering your internet including wifi extenders and USB modems. A portable external charger can also be game changer if you’re glued to your electronics throughout the day and they always die prematurely.

Build a local network. While you may not be thinking of staying in a certain spot indefinitely, you shouldn’t close yourself off to making new friends. It may not be deliberate, but even an unintentional isolation will certainly impact your digital nomadism negatively. It’s easy to find with other expats and entrepreneurs in the same city through sites like Nomad List, Reddit, or even Facebook groups. It’s great to connect with others in a similar situation as yours, but make sure you also look at ways to integrate within the local culture too instead of hanging out in the periphery.

Find the right work space. Depending on the location you chose to base yourself, you may have plenty of where-to-work options or relatively few. In larger cities you’ll likely be spoiled for choice with plenty of coffee shops, co-working spaces, and libraries that it may feel overwhelming, especially if you’re only staying for a short time. Think about the type of space that you’re most productive in, whether it be a busy open area, a quiet enclosed space, or in an environment that fosters collaboration. If you’re thinking of going the co-working route, the vibe can differ significantly so make sure to try a few out first before committing to a longer period.

Keep in touch. After you embark as a digital nomad, it’s easy to inadvertently shift your focus away from your friends and family back home toward your new and exciting lifestyle. Finding time to fit in your work obligations, travel plans, and the social commitments borne out of making friends all in a new place is hard enough as it is – and the time difference between you and those back home doesn’t help either. While the notion of digital nomadism appears to be exclusively positive on the surface, there will definitely be times when you’ll feel low and will want to talk to someone who knows you best, so don’t take for granted the people that matter most when things are going well. On the other side, keep in contact with the meaningful people you meet as a digital nomad as you never know when your paths might cross again.

Explore your work options. Many aspiring digital nomaders think they need to quit their corporate jobs and become a blogger, freelancer, or entrepreneur to live the digital nomad lifestyle. Traditional brick and mortar companies are increasingly open to flexible work arrangements such as working remotely. Develop a compelling business case of why the organization will be unaffected, or better yet benefited, if your job is a remote one before taking the life changing plunge into self employment. If your company remains unswayed, there are always remote jobs popping up at companies that embrace this type of work style.

Know where to find work. If you go the self employed route you’ll probably need to seek out new clients at some point as you wrap up and conclude other projects. Sites like Upwork and Freelancer list hundreds of thousands of work opportunities that you could conceivably do anywhere in the world. For those wanting to work with just one company, Remote Jobs is a listing database for the ideal digital nomad jobs. Although many require specific skills like coding and app development, there are some non tech options to be found if you’re not in this field. If you’re interested in pursuing travel writing, take a look at the opportunities on Freelance Writing Gigs. And never underestimate the power of networking as opportunities can arise from other location independent connections.

Enhance your productivity. When you’re off on your own and away from the routines of your life back home, your productivity may take a hit. Luckily these days there are a plethora of apps and tools to keep you on track: For project management there’s Trello, Asana, Basecamp, and Solo; for documents and ideation there’s Google Docs and Evernote; for money and budgeting try Trail Wallet, You Need A Budget, and FreshBooks; and other helpful apps for working and traveling abroad such as Google Translate, Every Time Zone, and Dropbox.

Remember it’s work too. One of the most alluring aspects of becoming a digital nomad is the opportunity to travel while working in new and exotic locations. The biggest pitfall that I’ve encountered are newbies to the location independent way of life embracing more of the travel aspect than the work grind. Don’t take for granted the hard work you’ll put in as a freelancer, entrepreneur, or an offshore employee and always prioritize your current clients and projects if you want to be successful in the long run. Balancing your obligations can be tricky at first, but work hard and reward yourself with the advantages of this lifestyle.

Only do it until it’s no longer fun. A lot of times we idealize a certain way of life and when we finally make the leap and achieve it for ourselves, we realize at some point that it’s not exactly a good fit for us. You may have spent months regaling friends and family with your digital nomad plans, often sparking excitement and envy, and now that you’ve gone off and done it, you’re embarrassed or ashamed that it’s not for you. That’s okay. There are throngs of people jumping on the digital nomad bandwagon, drawn in by the excitement of living and working abroad, but the vast majority of them don’t stick around long term. Perhaps you prefer to have a home base but take one or two month stints every year to other countries to work. Find the right balance for you.


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How To Be A Digital Nomad – Choosing Your Destination:

Cost of Living: One of the greatest appeals to the digital nomad lifestyle is that you can earn a similar salary abroad than at home, but reduce your expenses considerably by choosing a location with a lower cost of living, making your income stretch a lot further. While making the same amount of money, you can have vastly different lifestyles in Chiang Mai than in San Francisco.

Expat/Co-working Community: A major draw to a certain destination is whether there is a strong entrepreneurial or startup community. This is important for many digital nomads, particularly those that are running their own business, as it provides access to networking for collaborators, mentors, or even funders. It also implies that there is solid framework and infrastructure for the location independent worker such as co-working spaces, social activities like meet ups, and support for newcomers.

Internet and Infrastructure: Internet is obviously vital for anyone who needs to be online to conduct their work but there are varying levels of speed, consistency, and bandwidth. If you’re working remotely for a company where you have to be online and available during specific times or you’re a freelancer that has prescheduled client Skype calls, ensuring that you have a reliable connection is imperative or you may not find yourself a Digital Nomad for long. Best to choose a tried and tested destination rather than choosing an off-the-beaten path spot.

Safety: This can sometimes be an afterthought but should really be your number one priority. Nomad List includes safety metrics in their city overviews, which is a very beneficial feature. It’s going to be difficult to be productive if you’re constantly on edge in your surroundings.

Weather: For some weather doesn’t really matter much but for others, like me, it’s one of the most important factors in choosing a new workplace. Maybe try Thailand if you’re really into beaches, or Indonesia if surfing is more your thing. If you like snow, central or eastern Europe or Japan might be your best bets. This is your chance to chose where you want to live so pick a place that won’t make you depressed if the weather is not something you enjoy.

Access to Travel: One of the top perks of being a digital nomad is that it opens up opportunities for further travel. When you move to a new country, you inevitably give yourself a whole world of places to explore during your free time. Another plus of heading to a destination that has a thriving digital nomad community is that you can find other likeminded travel partners up for a similar adventure.

Visa Requirements: An area that is often an afterthought but is critical to be aware of are the entry requirements, conditions for working, and stay limitations of wherever you intend to go. Many digital nomad hotspots are beginning to crackdown on expats who don’t engage in traditional work in the country and therefore do not pay taxes. Alternatively, to attract entrepreneurs and freelancers, some countries have developed visas and permits aimed specifically at business owners, entrepreneurs, or digital nomads. Your nationality impacts where you can go and for how long, so do your research as part of your planning process.


How To Be A Digital Nomad – Resources:

Resources for digital nomads have sprouted all over the place in response to this movement. Since 2015 Remote Year has been organizing year long programs for 100 location independent individuals, where the group moves to a different city each month. In the first year of offering this packaged program, Remote Year has received over 100,000 applications from people who want a more comprehensive digital nomad experience.

‘Where should I go’ is the critical question for digital nomads, and while there are an endless range of possibilities, there are an almost equal number of elements every digital nomad should consider. Nomad List realized that there was a gap in information that digital nomads needed to make the right destination decision, so they centralized all of the facts and created an online community for those prescribing to this particular lifestyle called Nomad Forum. Nomad List provides detailed overview of costs, co-working options, and practical information by location and features an awesome set of filters allowing you to personalize the results based on your weather preferences, budget, quality of internet, safety of the destination, and so much more.

Jodi at Legal Nomads has compiled a comprehensive article on digital nomadism, built upon her own firsthand experiences through years of working and traveling around the world. In true Jodi fashion, this guide is a monstrosity of tips, resources, anecdotes, reading lists, and easy to understand descriptions making this truly the bible for anyone embarking on a location independent lifestyle.

For a 101 guide to finding work as a digital nomad, Digital Nomad Jobs has a useful article outlining all of the sites that list entrepreneurial, freelance, and remote jobs.

Reddit’s Digital Nomad forum is a great resource for those thinking of pursuing this lifestyle. You can peruse the archives, post your own questions or comments, and get acquainted with others in a similar situation.


Photos for How to be a Digital Nomad courtesy of Stocksnap.io