Here are the 5 steps to become a digital nomad:
- Step 1: Choose Your Income Stream
- Step 2: Build Your Skills
- Step 3: Start Making Money
- Step 4: Get Ready to Leave
- Step 5: Choose Your Destinations & Go
I hope that this guide will give you all of the tools and knowledge you need to become location independent, so you can work, travel and live, anywhere you choose. Enjoy!
You Can Totally Become A Digital Nomad
In October 2017, we decided that we wanted to become digital nomads. The concept of traveling, working, and living from anywhere in the world seemed almost too good to be true.
Just 9 months after making that decision, we packed our bags and headed for the airport, destined for the popular island of Bali, Indonesia.
But you’re probably thinking ‘how did you do it?’ or better still, ‘how can I do it?’.
In this guide, I have outlined in detail, the 5 steps that we took to become digital nomads today.
These steps are still as relevant today as they were then and you can most definitely use them yourself to become a digital nomad.
I am currently sitting in our Villa right on a beach in La Union, the Philippines writing this guide. I tell you that because I want you to know that becoming a digital nomad is very possible.
If you want it bad enough, I guarantee you can do it! Let’s get started.
What Is A Digital Nomad?
Quite simply, digital nomads are people that leverage technology to be able to live, work and travel anywhere in the world, independent of any specific location.
Simple right! As long as you have the desire, digital nomad skills, and technology you can become a digital nomad.
My advice is to find a few digital nomads that you like and follow them on social media.
See what they do day to day, the jobs they have, and the places they travel to. By following them, you will be inspired to keep going and get a real insight into the lifestyle of a digital nomad.
How Do You Become A Digital Nomad?
Becoming a digital nomad is different for everyone.
I’ve met people who already had their own business and one day just decided to pack up and travel the world (literally).
Others, like us, had the dream and worked hard to specifically create that lifestyle.
Whatever position you are in, just focus on the outcome you want, and you can get there. What I am saying is, there isn’t just one way to do it.
The 5 steps that I’ve outlined, will act as a framework and guide to help you become a location-independent, digital nomad.
One thing I might just add, often the digital nomad life is exaggerated through highly edited images and overstated captions. I hope that this guide will bring it back to reality and map out a clear path for you to follow.
Is The Digital Nomad Life Right For You?
Before I jump into the 5 steps, I do feel that it is important to point out that the digital nomad life isn’t for everyone.
I don’t want to spend heaps of time on this, but below, I have written 4 ‘are you willing’ questions, to think about:
- Are you willing to give up a steady stream of income to become a freelancer or online business owner?
- Are you willing to work hard to become a digital nomad?
- Are you willing to let go of most of your possessions to travel full time?
- Are you willing to learn new skills so you can compete in the online marketplace?
I hope those 4 questions didn’t scare you, but answering ‘yes’ to all of them makes the transition to this digital nomad lifestyle so much easier.
For most digital nomads we’ve met, becoming a digital nomad has been a challenging route. Remote work, in general, has only just started to become popular, so it can at times be challenging to work and travel full-time.
How To Become A Digital Nomad: My 5 Steps Explained
Now let’s get into the more exciting stuff. Here is a recap of our 5 simple steps to become a digital nomad in 2023:
- Step 1: Choose Your Income Stream
- Step 2: Build Your Skills
- Step 3: Start Making Money
- Step 4: Get Ready to Leave
- Step 5: Choose Your Destinations & Go
Now that we have recapped those, let’s get into the specifics.
STEP 1: Choose Your Income Stream
What do I mean by your income stream? This is the way that you will earn money remotely while traveling. There are 2 ways to earn income as a digital nomad:
- Service-based jobs – includes location-independent employee and freelancer
- Online business – Ecommerce, blogger, etc
Both can produce a great digital nomad lifestyle.
It is important that you choose one based on what your goals are and whatever inspires you the most. Just make sure your choice is attainable.
The majority of people that we have met are either in this category or started here and eventually built their own business on the side.
If this is the path you want to take, spend some time writing down some of the core skills you have or that want to develop.
Make sure that the skills can be utilized with a laptop and internet, and are in a high enough demand that companies will employ you.
If you’re stuck for ideas, I’ve outlined some of the most in-demand digital nomad skills below (this is not an exhaustive list):
- Graphic Design
- Web Development & Coding
- Social Media Marketing
- Search Engine Optimisation
- PPC Advertising/Media Buying
- App Development
- Email Marketing
- Virtual Assistant
As I said the skills above are by no means the only ones that companies are looking for, but they are some of the more in-demand ones around.
The internet has given us the ability to build some of the most amazing streams of income. From a personal blog to a large eCommerce store, the possibilities are never-ending.
The key to starting and creating a great business online is to build it around a core community of people.
Choose a topic or product where there is an established or growing online community of people already active. If you do that, your chance of being successful is much higher.
Remember, a product doesn’t necessarily have to be physical, it can be a digital product such as an online course.
Think about the type of online business you would like to run and brainstorm how you can get your business in front of people.
If you don’t know yet, that’s completely fine, I will cover some places to learn these things later in the guide.
For now here are some ideas, (again not an exhaustive list), of online businesses that are great for digital nomads:
- Personal or Topical Blog
- Affiliate Marketing
- Online Courses
- Publish an E-Book
- E-Commerce Store
- eBay, Etsy, Amazon Store
- Marketing Agency (full service, social media, SEO, etc)
- Booking Keeping Business
I have met at least one person who does something related to the above online businesses, so they are all achievable.
ACTION STEP: Choose Your Income Stream
Now its time to take action:
Spend some time writing down what type of income stream you want to build and then list the required skills that you need to learn to get that income stream off the ground.
This is the first big step to becoming a digital nomad. So go ahead, take some time and take action.
STEP 2: Build Your Skills
There are many different places to get started with learning the right skills for your chosen income stream.
The great news is, that even if you don’t have the skills to get started, there is so much information around, you can always learn them.
So now that you have chosen your income stream and listed the skills you need, let’s have a look at some of the places you can learn them.
Where can I learn remote work skills?
Depending on what type of income stream you are looking to build, there are many different places to start learning.
Below I have listed some of the top ones that we used when we were first getting started.
Skillshare is best described as the ‘Netflix’ of learning! You pay a monthly subscription for unlimited access to over 26,000 online classes.
Most classes are between 45-90 minutes, so you can cover niche and specific topics quite quickly.
The real benefit of Skillshare is how cost-effective it is. It only costs $19 USD per month for unlimited access to all of the courses listed on their site.
If you plan to watch even just 2-3 courses each month you will get a lot of value. Skillshare also offers a 30-day free trial so you can jump in and get started with no upfront cost!
Click Here to get access to the Skillshare 30 day free trial.
Udemy is very similar to Skillshare. It’s a large online marketplace with 100,000+ courses. The difference is- you pay for each course individually, rather than a subscription.
Courses are usually between $10 – $50.
I have personally found that Udemy courses are usually more in-depth. Most courses are between 2-4 hours long and do a better job at taking you from beginner to expert, with step-by-step instructions.
I have personally purchased over 15 Udemy courses on a range of different topics and to this day often scan the platform looking for new quality courses to learn from.
Click Here to visit Udemy now.
lynda.com is similar to Skillshare. It is a subscription-based online learning platform aimed at professionals and owned by LinkedIn.
It offers some great online classes in a range of different industries.
The big difference between Lynda.com and the other platforms is that Lynda.com finds the top industry experts and gets them to make the courses.
The other platforms could be anyone. By this, I mean that you yourself could make an online course, upload it and sell it on Udemy and Skillshare. With Lynda, you can’t do that.
The benefit then is that you are getting the best information from top industry experts.
Lynda.com was the first platform that I used to start with, before moving onto the others.
Lynda.com’s basic membership is $29.99 USD per month and they also offer a 30-day free trial. I would encourage you to start with their trial.
Click Here to get access to the Lynda.com 30 day free trial.
I had to put DigitalMarketer in the mix because they are the best place to learn almost anything digital marketing. Even if you are not selling digital marketing services, they are a great place to learn how to grow your new business online.
DigitalMarketer offers memberships starting from $49 USD per month and also offers a 14-day free trial. These guys are seriously the best in the business when it comes to digital marketing, no matter what level you are at.
You can also buy individual courses and training with prices generally starting at $27 USD and going up to $999 USD for bigger mastery courses.
Click Here to get access to the Digital Marketer 14 Day Free Trial.
STEP 3: Start Making Money
In this section, I want to cover how you can actually start making some money as a business owner or freelancer.
If you are looking for a remote job, I have included a list of places you can start your search.
Online Business – What We Have!
Once you have chosen the online business you want to run and have set up everything you need (website, products/services, payment gateways, tech, etc), it’s time to start marketing your products or services.
The marketing goal of an online business is to focus on building your brand and bring in new customers, simultaneously. With that in mind, spend some time writing down your marketing strategy.
Think about the best way to reach potential customers. Do some googling or ask a friend to help you get your first few sales.
Consider using websites like Amazon,eBay, and Etsy to help you get your first few sales if they apply to your online business.
As a service-based business, take a look at UpWork and Fiverr. I have spoken more about them below.
For product-based online businesses, you could reach out to relevant micro-influencers and enquire about using them to generate some initial sales.
If you are clever with your influencer selection, you’ll find that this can be a great way to not only sell products but grow your brand rapidly.
Once you have outlined the services you are going to offer as a freelancer and ensured that you are an expert (at least in theory) in those services, it’s now time to find some clients.
As a Freelancer, early on, I would be looking to gain as much experience as possible.
Depending on your type of work, you may provide one-off services (e.g. build a website) or you may provide ongoing services (e.g. monthly social media management).
Your marketing strategy should reflect the type of work that you do.
In my experience, I have found as a freelancer, it’s best to have clients that you can provide consistent and ongoing work for.
To get started in finding work, check out these 2 websites:
- Fiverr.com– here you can create listings for your services in the online marketplace and people can hire you for their specific needs.
- UpWork.com– here you can find potential projects that fit your services. You then submit proposals to win the project. In my experience, I have made more money and had better experiences with UpWork.
If you do more research you will find other great websites for freelancers. However, I have had the most success with these 2, so I encourage you to check these out first.
I would also encourage you to reach out to friends and family and see if you can get some work that way. We got our first 2 clients by doing that!
Lastly, join relevant Facebook groups that are based around the services you offer. In the right Facebook groups, you often see business owners looking for help.
You can simply comment and then DM the person to offer your services. We have also gotten good clients like this!
Finding a remote job is similar to being a freelancer, except you are only looking for 1-2 employers.
I have met a few people who work remote jobs and they love it because it’s typically more secure than being a freelancer or starting your own business.
Your marketing strategy for a remote job is really about building an ‘online resume’ to showcase your skills and talents.
For example, you will want to have a well-optimized LinkedIn profile. Your website will probably focus more on you as a person and outline your work ethic, skills, experience, and achievements.
To get started, here are some ideas to get remote work:
- Google [job name] + [remote jobs]
- FlexJobs – flexjobs.com
- HubStaff Talent – talent.hubstaff.com
- Just Remote –justremote.co
- Ask your family and friends
- @itsatravelod on Instagram shares remote jobs every Friday
Again, this is not an exhaustive list but offers some great ideas to get started.
One last tip with marketing
Regardless of what income stream you have chosen, you need to be building your personal brand.
Building a personal brand will not only help your business, freelance profile, and job, but in the future, when you look to grow or take up new types of work, having a personal brand will definitely be a huge asset.
Start now! Don’t wait until you are ‘successful’. Share the journey of you becoming successful and build a strong personal brand as you go.
STEP 4: Get Ready To Leave
Now that you have started to earn some money, we can start planning out your first trip. This is where it gets exciting!
Before you pack everything up and leave it’s time to ensure you are ready to travel full-time, sustainably. Here are some things to consider and plan.
Plan Your Finances
This is probably the most important part of your digital nomad beginning. Make sure that you spend time planning your finances properly and work out how much money you will have each month.
Discover much you can afford for rent, food, living, and of course experiences.
2 things that I have found really helpful are, putting aside money each month to go and experience the different attractions, cultures, and life of the location you are in.
You are in a new country, so make sure that you have enough money to be able to see all the sites of that country and truly experience the different aspects of each culture.
Secondly, I encourage you to always have savings. I can’t overstate this enough. There were a couple of times early on for us where unexpected costs came out of nowhere and we needed to spend more money than we originally budgeted for.
Thankfully we had savings in place that made it easy for us to pay what we needed to without any worry.
Make sure that you are saving money each month, even as you travel so that you can cover any unexpected costs that may arise.
My advice is to build out a 6-month personal plan and digital nomad budget that ensures you have enough money day-to-day as well as for things like flights and accommodation.
I also encourage you to use a budgeting app. We have used Trail Wallet in the past as a budgeting and expense tracking app. It makes it very easy to stick to your budget and gives you a nice clean breakdown of your expenses at the end of the month.
Trail Wallet is designed for digital nomads and is extremely flexible, allowing you to track different currencies based on your current location.
Relationships are important as a digital nomad. So what exactly do I mean by prioritizing your relationships?
You may have people in your family that you support financially (or in other ways). Or maybe you have a partner that doesn’t share your passion for the digital nomad lifestyle. Either way, you have to make decisions.
I’m not a relationship counselor so I don’t want to give specific advice on this. I just know it’s important to think about and wanted to highlight it now before you get started on your travels.
It comes down to what you think is right and what you want to do right now.
Become A Minimalist
In the western world, we seem to have this fascination with having lots of stuff! That doesn’t line up with the digital nomad lifestyle. As a digital nomad, you only want to carry the essentials while traveling.
I only carry 1 medium-sized 28” suitcase and my laptop bag/backpack. This makes for a pretty small packing list.
I ensure that I only ever have 20 kgs of luggage and about 7kgs of carry-on. This has helped with flying regularly and moving around in general.
There are 2 questions that I ask when packing:
Do I use it at least once every 2 weeks? Does it fit in my suitcase?
If you want a peek at our entire digital nomad packing list, click here.
If I can’t answer yes to both of those questions, it doesn’t come with me. In this case, less is actually more.
To help you become more of a minimalist, I really encourage you to check out this book – Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life.
This book really helped me get a healthy perspective on having “stuff” as well as cutting out the stuff that isn’t’ required.
Get Travel Insurance
I really can’t stress this point enough. Digital nomad travel insurance is very important, especially for digital nomads.
I have never had any major accidents or health issues while traveling, but I know plenty of people that have.
One of my friends was staying in Bali for just 2 weeks and didn’t buy travel insurance.
Out of nowhere, he was out shopping when he started to feel very unwell. He ordered a taxi and went back to the villa he was staying at.
As he stepped out of the car at his villa in Kuta, he fainted and a staff member of his villa had to call an ambulance.
He woke up a day later in hospital feeling much better, but with very large medical expenses and no travel insurance.
He had to stay in the hospital for another 2 days before they discharged him and he was able to travel back to Australia.
In total, the hospital charged him $1500 per day for the 4 days + medical treatment which was just over $2000 + an ambulance fee of $300.
If he had just bought travel insurance for the 2-week long trip it would have cost him less than $100, but in total, he had to pay over $8,300. Always buy travel insurance.
Wondering which travel insurance for you? Check the 4x best travel insurance for digital nomads.
What are the best travel insurers for digital nomads?
There are some great international travel insurance companies that cater specifically to digital nomads. The one that we think is the best for most digital nomads to use is, SafetyWing.
In my opinion, SafetyWing is the best travel insurer for digital nomads, offering a simple monthly plan like a subscription model. The price starts at just $42 per 28 days.
As a disclaimer, I am not an insurance professional and can not recommend travel insurance for your own personal situation. SafetyWing is what we use and it works well for us.
Join A Digital Nomad Community
Becoming involved in an already established digital nomad community is a great way to connect with like-minded people and learn a heap of new things.
Use Google and Facebook to find strong digital nomad communities and connect with them online.
You can often just jump on to Facebook and search “digital nomad” + the location of where you are heading. You will often find there are a few groups already active and waiting for you to join.
When traveling to new locations, scout ahead and see if you can work out where other digital nomads are going to be.
My recommendation is to look for popular cafes, coworking spaces, and even coliving places.
Lots of coworking spaces offer free events for digital nomads, so sign up for a couple of them when you arrive in a new country. This is will allow you to meet people quickly.
Thankfully, I have always had Ashley to travel with. But we have met a lot of single digital nomads who have said that traveling can be lonely. So get connected into a digital nomad group even before leaving home!
STEP 5: Choose Your Destinations And GO!
You are almost there. Now for the really fun part!
There are so many places to choose as a digital nomad. Depending on where you are in the world and where you want to go, there are a few things to consider.
This is a pretty obvious one. Can you sustain yourself in your chosen destination?
Thankfully you have a lot of choices when it comes to living affordably.
The 3 biggest expenses that you will encounter are rent, transport, and food. A quick google search of the place you want to visit should give you a good insight into the cost of living there as a digital nomad.
A quick tip for choosing a place to stay is always to book a few days in an Airbnb or hotel first.
This allows you to look for a long-term (1-2 month) place to rent when you arrive at your destination. I would never book a place to rent for a long period without first checking it out.
Good internet is going to be important. Most top digital nomad destinations have good internet, but it’s best to do a little bit of research beforehand.
The first place we ever stayed in Bali, the internet would stop working for a couple of days every single week. In the end, we had to cut our losses and just leave because we weren’t able to work consistently. When choosing a place to rent, make sure you enquire about the wifi!
Places You Want To Visit
Lastly, my advice is to make sure your first trip is to a place you are very interested in visiting.
Some people that we met went to a place just because they could afford it. They regretted going.
It’s better to spend a few more months at home, building your income up first so you can visit places that you really want to go.
I guess what I am trying to say is, don’t just go somewhere because it’s cheap, go there because you really want to visit that place.
Flights and Accommodation
Everyone loves a good price and ensuring that you are getting a good price on your flights and accommodation is important.
Ashley and I are sticklers for getting the best deal available, particularly with flights and accommodation. Here’s how we do it:
Getting Good Prices On Flights
We have 1 website that we pretty much use all of the time when it comes to booking flights – Skyscanner.
Skyscanner is basically a search engine specifically for flights, with the sole intention of finding the cheapest way to your destination.
They literally search over 1200 websites at once to find the best deal for you.
Not only this, but if you would prefer a sub-premium or premium airline, you can select whatever you want and they will find you the cheapest flights available for your selections.
We have always found Skyscanner to be reliable and give good flight routes, depending on our needs. It’s like have your own digital travel agent, for free.
Getting good prices on Accommodation
When it comes to getting good accommodation, short or long-term, I have 2 websites that are my go-to.
The first one is of course Airbnb. I love Airbnb.
You will find the most amazing places, in awesome locations at seriously great prices. They have a really strong community, a good reviewing system, and generally great customer support.
This means that you can be confident that the accommodation listings and reviews are pretty accurate.
My second go-to website for accommodation is Trivago.
Like Skyscanner is for flights, Trivago is for Hotels.
Trivago compares thousands of hotel prices in minutes and finds you the best deals according to what you need.
The best thing about Trivago is how customizable you can search. This gives you complete control and means you get the perfect hotel at a great price.
Lastly, Booking.com is also a great option. We have noticed over the years that Booking.com is slowly expanding into something more like Airbnb, so they can be a great resource as well.
BONUS TIP: Accommodation
I have almost always found that going direct to the owner will mean you get the best possible price.
My advice is that whenever you are going to a new destination for longer than 1 month, you book an Airbnb or a hotel for a few nights, then spend some time going around the area you want to stay, investigating your accommodation options.
Personally, every time I have done this, I found “hidden gems” for excellent prices that haven’t bothered to list themselves on accommodation search engines like Airbnb, Trivago, Booking.com, etc. It’s definitely worth a try!
Become A Digital Nomad in 2023
Now you have the information you need to become a digital nomad. What’s the next step? Go out and take action. Start at the first step and slowly work your way down.
Planning is essential, but without execution, you’ll go nowhere!
We hope this article has helped get you started on your digital nomad journey.
We would love to stay in contact with you and answer any follow-up questions that you might have.
The best way to connect with us is on social media!
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