How To Become a Digital Nomad

how to become a digital nomad

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Becoming a Digital Nomad: Everything You Need to Know in 2024

I’m a digital nomad, I’ve been living and travelling in South East Asia for the last year and this is my guide on how to become a digital nomad in 2024.

Thanks to my remote job, I am very privileged to be able to sustain myself as a location independent professional, which means that I’m able to work remotely while soaking in views like the film photo I took above. It feels like a dream and I’m sure for many people, it looks like one!

The concept of digital nomadism was foreign to me up until this point. Like most people I finished school, went to university and then made my way into the professional world, working a typical corporate office job. I quickly realised that I was not built for the 9-5 life and I despised being chained to a desk. 

I decided to pack up my whole life into a backpack and venture into the unknown in exchange for a life of financial freedom and flexibility. I’ll share what a digital nomad is and how you can become one too. If you’re thinking it sounds too good to be true, don’t worry I used to think that too.

It’s been the most incredible decision I’ve ever made and I’m excited to share with you all the information you need to know to do the same.

First Things First, What Is a Digital Nomad?

For an indepth rundown of what exactly a digital nomad is, check out our post here, where we break it all down for you. 

But for a quick explanation: a digital nomad is a person who has the freedom to travel anywhere in the world while working remotely online. Meaning, my work could travel with me to wherever I wanted to go, allowing an escape from the office, while being able to experience new cultures and adventures. 

I was also desperately craving a better work-life balance, feeling that on my days outside of work I was constantly just trying to catch up on rest, chores and to-do lists. I wanted to find something that gave me more freedom over my time and would allow me to travel to beautiful places at the same time.

And I’m not the only one who finds the lifestyle of a digital nomad appealing. As of 2020, there were an estimated 10 million digital nomads worldwide.

Define Your Goals and Motivations

Having a clear idea of what you want ie your goals and motivations, will help you to figure out your priorities and will guide your decisions as you move forward. 

Take some time to really reflect and maybe even talk to a close friend if it helps. Don’t get caught up in the nitty-gritty details of how you’ll achieve your goals. Focus on your “why” and your vision instead of worrying about the “how.”

When I decided to become a digital nomad, I grabbed my notebook and started writing about why I wanted to do this. Think about what your personal goals are for this type of lifestyle. Is it to experience new cultures? Achieve your ideal work-life balance? Live a more simple life?

aspiring digital nomads defining their goals and motivations

A few pros and cons of the digital nomad lifestyle

Pros:

  • Flexibility and freedom: This one is my favourite. Having the flexibility to not be tied to a typical 9-5 weekday schedule while working from anywhere in the world is truly a beautiful thing. It also means I can travel to lots of cool places and focus on doing things I love during my free time. 
  • Increased productivity: I feel more motivated to work because every day I wake up and get to do something a really love; write. I can also work to the schedule that best suits me rather than being trapped in a predefined schedule.
  • Personal growth and cultural immersion: Living in Southeast Asia has been an incredible opportunity for growth. I’ve been able to meet so many other digital nomads, as well as a lot of wonderful locals. Being a digital nomad has gotten me outside of my comfort zone in lots of positive ways.

Cons:

  • Loneliness and social isolation: Leaving home is challenging there’s no way around it. It means leaving behind your closest friends and family, as well as a very familiar daily routine and the culture you’ve grown up in.
    (Pro tip: schedule weekly Facetime calls with your loved ones. This has helped me so much).
  • Lack of stability: Adjusting to a new time zone, environment, and career is no simple task. It can feel overwhelming, especially at first. My advice is to take it day by day and give yourself some grace along the way.
  • Legal and visa challenges: Perhaps my least favourite is the visa process, especially in Thailand. It’s different for each country though, so just make sure to research your specific destination.

Legal Stuff You'll Need to Consider

So, talking about visas – this is probably the most important thing you will need to consider while living and working while travelling. Different countries have different entry requirements and restrictions including the amount of time you can spend in the country, if you can legally work, and if you need to pay taxes. 

You need to make sure you read up on this stuff before you go to a new country to make sure you have met all the requirements and applied for any necessary documentation. So to save yourself some time and stress, make sure to do lots of research on your specific destination. 

For example for Thailand, I entered on a visa exemption which gives you 30-days in the country then you can extend for another 30-days at an immigration centre. Before entering the country you can opt instead to get a tourist visa which lasts 60-days and can then be extended for another 30 days.

I just experienced my first “visa run” which is when you leave the country for at least 24 hours before you can obtain a new tourist visa in the same place (Thailand).

If you’re an aspiring digital nomad and unsure where to start when it comes to visas and work permits, I recommend checking out these 58 countries with digital nomad visas for more information.

Embracing The Digital Nomad Lifestyle

It’s a big life adjustment when you’re first starting your digital nomad journey. It definitely was for me, at least. There are a few things I’ve felt to be extremely helpful and I wanted to share them with you. 

Now that I’ve embraced the lifestyle with a more open mind and heart, I couldn’t be happier. And it’s estimated 71% of other digital nomads say they are happier since embracing the lifestyle, according to a survey by MBO Partners.

Here are some tips for a successful transition:

Establish a reliable work routine

Set a schedule that allows for productive work hours while leaving time for exploration and relaxation. It’s all about that balance, right?

Make sure you are not crossing your own boundaries and pushing yourself to work too much – down time is important and the flexibility to choose when you work is one of the massive perks of this life.

Create a portable work set-up

Invest in a decent laptop and you’re basically good to go. I also always recommend a good pair of noise cancelling headphones so you can get your head down and focus! 

Of course, having a reliable internet connection is also important. Depending on where you’re located, a cafe or co-working space can be a great option for free wifi and charging spaces (and coffee for a nice caffeine hit).  

You can also opt to invest in a portable WiFi device to ensure you always have a connection. Personally I haven’t found this too be necessary as everywhere I have visited so far has had pretty good signal and infrastructure.

Build a digital nomad network

Meeting other digital nomads is a great way to make new friends wherever you go and it can also lead to work opportunities. I met a few digital nomads in Thailand that are now my co-workers and friends. It’s the best of both worlds. 

You can explore online communities for this, or if you are already travelling then explore co-working and co-living spaces to find others pursuing the digital nomad or similar lifestyles.

Develop time management skills

Prioritise tasks and manage your time effectively to maintain a healthy work-life balance. If you find yourself becoming easily distracted, try turning off your phone notifications and making sure your workspace is clean and de-cluttered. I personally love the “do not disturb” option on my phone. It makes a huge difference when I’m trying to focus!

digital nomads establishing a routine with a morning workout and exercise session

Budgeting and Finding Work

Determine your current financial situation and create a budget. Consider how much you have saved and what you are realistically able to spend on a month-to-month basis. 

When I started my digital nomad journey, I had a decent chunk of money saved. But budgeting has still been an important part of my journey because I didn’t want to blow through all of my savings. 

I try to keep track of my expenses on an Excel spreadsheet to give me a better idea of what I’m spending money on the most. I also really love that my travel bank account with Revolut allows me to categorise my expenditure.

There are lots of budgeting apps you can use to help keep track of your finances such as CLEO or PocketGuard

Platforms to help you get income

When finding work as a digital nomad, I recommend exploring multiple sources of income.  This could include freelancing, remote work, online businesses like ecommerce or passive income streams. Platforms like Upwork, Toptal, and Freelancer can connect you with potential clients – there are pros and cons to all of these types of platforms so experiment to find the one you like the best. 

When I first moved to Thailand, I was teaching English online. This is a great option for digital nomads just starting out because it’s relatively easy to become certified and there’s always a demand for teachers. Now, I’ve transitioned to more copywriting work through a process of meeting other digital nomads who needed help with some of their projects. Hence, why being open to lots of opportunities can be so great. 

You can also engage with online communities and job boards specifically for digital nomads, such as Remote Rebellion, Nomad List, Remote OK, or FlexJobs4. These platforms provide a wide range of job opportunities and resources targeted towards digital nomads. 

Depending on where you’re located, I would also recommend checking out Facebook and LinkedIn to see if there is a digital nomad group in your area!

The Fun Part: Pick Your First Destination

This is the exciting part! Consider factors such as cost of living, quality of life, safety, visa requirements, and internet connectivity when trying to decide. But also, go with what feels right and remember, you can always change locations. That’s the beauty of being a digital nomad, right? 

It was a no-brainer for me when I chose to explore South East Asia. Its a popular route for backpackers, the cost of living is low and there is so much to experience! I had been lucky to meet some amazing humans when I first visited and fell in love with island living. If you always want to explore Thailand, we’ve got a complete guide to Digital Nomad Visas in Thailand as well as a guide to Thailand itself that you need to check out.

If you need some inspiration, check out these suggestions for the 6 Best Places for Digital Nomads to Live in 2024 for more tips and ideas. Many countries (such as Spain and Portugal) are also making it even easier for Digital Nomads to navigate the legalities of remote work and coming out with specific visas!

digital nomads at their first destination - Khao Sok in Thailand.

Step By Step, How To Become a Digital Nomad

Ok, so here’s my step by step guide on how to become a digital nomad. I’ll explain the areas you’ll need to cover and understand if you want to become a digital nomad. We’ll go through skills, steps on how to make yourself open and areas you will be able to find remote work. 

1. Understand what your current skills are

First things first: What are you good at? Understanding your current skills is the foundation of becoming a digital nomad. Whether you’re a writer, designer, programmer, or something else, knowing what you can offer is essential. 

If you are unsure what you’re good at, ask around with your friends, family and co-workers. You can also take a look at your CV and see if there are any soft skills that come up a lot in the jobs you’ve done in the past. Having strong soft skills, like communication, time management and organisation, as the building blocks for a successful remote lifestyle. 

When it comes to hard skills like writing, editing, coding etc, you can actually learn a lot of remote work skills online through courses on websites like Udemy, and Coursera, or even YouTube. Another great tactic is taking the leap and offering your work for free to gain experience and build a customer base. 

Next up, evaluate your experience and identify your strengths and passions.. What have you done in the past? What are your current hobbies? Have you developed any experience or skills from these?

Now you can start to make a list and begin to match your skills towards remote jobs that suit your goals and skills, make you money and give you something that you enjoy.

2. Build out your personal portfolio

This is probably the next crucial step towards becoming a digital nomad. It’s your chance to showcase what you can do and impress potential employers or clients. Basically, think of it as your digital calling card. You can share it with lots of people at scale.

There are so many different ways to create a portfolio. You can build yourself a website, you can create a PDF document on something like Canva, you can even create a portfolio on freelancer sites like UpWork or Fiverr.

Here you should include testimonials from any clients or work you’ve done in the past. If you haven’t got any, now would be a good time to start. If you have a friend or family who you can practise on, or even practise on yourself then you can showcase this.

3. Push your portfolio out into the right areas

Now this is sometimes difficult, but this will be an area that if you do right then you will succeed. Make yourself active in areas that digital nomads are, but also where your clients might be active.

So, the first thing. Do some research. Who needs your skills? Is it businesses, individuals, or maybe other digital nomads? Understand who you’re trying to reach and how they find talent.

Platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram can be great places to share your portfolio. Join groups, participate in discussions, and don’t be shy about sharing your work.

There are numerous online forums and communities where digital nomads hang out. Engage with these groups, share insights, and make connections. You never know, this could lead to you landing an opportunity of a lifetime, whilst learning from existing digital nomads.

Don’t Give Up! Building a presence and gaining recognition takes time. Stay consistent, keep pushing your portfolio, and the opportunities will come. It took me a while, and many nomads I’ve spoken to are the same.

Good things take time.

digital nomads at their first destination - Khao Sok in Thailand.

Networking Could Be The Answer You’re Looking For…

Networking is so, so vital in this area. Learning from those who have already been in your shoes could accelerate your nomad journey by years. Especially if you impress them, they could even consider outsourcing their work over to you (If your industries align).

If not, then they can give you important advice and guide you in areas of ways to get more clients or live like a digital nomad. This is actually gold. I really like Reddit for this, r/DigitalNomad has over 2 million active users who give out advice and discuss the realities of the digital nomad lifestyle.

Online networking is a great first step of course. But there is no better way than dropping yourself in the deep end and actually going to the locations where digital nomads hang out.

Hotspots like Koh Phangan, Buenos Aires, Madeira are great areas. But of course, where are you actually going to find them?

Consider jumping on a digital nomad tour

One easy way to break through and build your own community would be by joining a digital nomad tour or community. There is no better way to get close to someone when you are living with them for a few days or weeks.

Feeling isolated can be a challenge for many digital nomads. By joining a tour, you’ll instantly become part of a community, making connections that could last a lifetime. You’ll be living and working with fellow digital nomads, freelancers, and remote workers. This can lead to collaborations, job opportunities, or even business partnerships.

Tours often include social events, workshops, and activities that allow you to have fun and unwind with your new community. This breaks the ice instantly, allows you and others to share your story and build a group of nomads you can learn from.

Of course, don’t forget to check out our digital nomad tours to accelerate your journey quickly 😉

Make The Commitment To Becoming a Digital Nomad

So, how can you become a digital nomad? Well, I hope you now have a better idea. To summarise, you will need to focus on understanding your skills and what you want to do/achieve, then build a personal portfolio and push it out into the right areas, and even taking adventurous leaps like joining a digital nomad tour. The path is filled with opportunities and challenges alike.

But as we’ve explored, success in this lifestyle doesn’t come merely from following a set of steps. It comes from a genuine commitment, a willingness to step out of your comfort zone, and an unwavering belief in yourself and your abilities.

The world of the digital nomad is as diverse as it is exciting. With the guidance and strategies I’ve outlined above, you’re not just on your way to becoming a digital nomad; you’re on your way to becoming a part of a thriving global community. 

That’s the most important thing right? Freedom of time, community and a lifestyle worth living. 

Please don’t hesitate to write any thoughts, share your success stories or motivation for others in the comments below.

Conclusion

So, how can you become a digital nomad? Well, I hope you now have a better idea. To summarise, you will need to focus on understanding your skills to build a personal portfolio, pushing it out into the right areas, and even taking adventurous leaps like joining a digital nomad tour, the path is filled with opportunities and challenges alike.

But as we’ve explored, success in this lifestyle doesn’t come merely from following a set of steps. It comes from a genuine commitment, a willingness to step out of your comfort zone, and an unwavering belief in yourself and your abilities.

The world of the digital nomad is as diverse as it is exciting. With the guidance and strategies I’ve outlined above, you’re not just on your way to becoming a digital nomad; you’re on your way to becoming a part of a thriving global community. 

That’s the most important thing right? Freedom of time, community and a lifestyle worth living. 

Please don’t hesitate to write any thoughts, share your success stories or motivation for others in the comments below.

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