“What’s it really like to be a Digital Nomad?” I have lost count of the number of times I have seen this question asked on Facebook in some of the travel groups I’m part of. Or another favourite is “I’m thinking about becoming a Digital Nomad but I’m not sure what I could do?” or “How easy is it to become location independent”. I’m also asked these questions a lot by people on the road. So to save me having to keep answering them over and over again, I thought I’d just write this and then I can send them the link!
What is it really like to be a Digital Nomad?
Exhausting, exhilarating, boring, fun, terrifying, freeing and so much more! One thing it is not is easy! Most DN’s I know travel slowly, have to be careful about where they travel to and need to have incredible self-discipline.
I have learnt the hard way twice already in the past to months about poor internet connection! Travelling Guatemala, for example, there is really only one place I’ve found suitable to work and that Antigua. As much as I loved my time at Lake Atitlan the internet is pretty no existent after 11 am! This resulted in 3 weeks of very early mornings for me to get all of my work done before 11 am. This is also where the self-discipline comes in…
So what exactly do I do?
This is the hard bit, trying to explain what I do has never been easy as it’s not something fixed. What I do really depends on who I’m working with and what they need. But if I had to pin myself down to just one title I would say I’m a Freelance Writer and Creative Producer. Yes, I know that’s two, but its an improvement of the 10 titles I could give myself!
Currently, my work fits into three strands:
- Working with UK arts organisations and independent artists as a creative producer.
- Volunteering my skills through Workaway to local businesses where I’m travelling for accommodation and food.
- Travel Blogging and Social Media Influencer
I make most of my money from being a Creative Producer, I keep my spending right down by doing Workaways and I supplement my income through blogging and influencing.
How many hours do I work?
I work on average of 30 hours per week, sometimes more, sometimes less. But as a general rule, I work whatever hours suit me best and I take time off when I want to. Somedays like today, I will have worked 10 hours, but then I’m taking 2 days off (apart from checking emails and social media a bit). At the end of this month, I’ll be taking 5 days offline as a vacation so I can focus on the travelling part of my job.
What is is like to work location independent?
My jobs are pretty varied, one day I can be booking a tour for a dance company for theatres in the UK, the next I’m writing a funding application, then I’m doing marketing strategies and managing multiple social media accounts. With the Workaway I’m currently doing I also keep getting sent out to do crazy things like sleep on active volcanos and take pictures of lava flowing.
What does an average week look like?
I don’t ever have an “average working week” sometimes I’ll take time off in the week, sometimes I’ll take the weekend off. If I want to go to the market in the day I might choose to work in the evening instead of a normal 9-5.
Today, for example, looked like this:
Woke up at 8 am
sent a few emails
8:45 took a slow walk into town to buy a coffee and some fruit
10 am spent an hour on Instagram (working)
11 am Finished an article for Skyscanner about Lost Property on a plane
Procrastinated on facebook
12 pm Finished a guest post article for another blogger
A bit more procrastination on facebook
1 pm researched and wrote 2 more articles, taking regular breaks to procrastinate on facebook a bit more.
2:30 Skyped with my friend (also one of the heads of the companies I work for)
3 pm wrote another article
5 pm finally left the house in search of food
6 pm -9 pm wrote another 3 articles
Today was a “writing day” which is a day I set aside to lock myself away and write ALL day. I do this once every other week. I always say I will do an hour a day, but I never do.
Monday, however, looked like this:
Work up at 8 am
Sent a few emails
Spent 30 mins on Instagram (working)
Hung around the house far too long talking to a friend.
10:30 finally left the house and walked 30 minutes to work from the main base of a company I’m temping for in Guatemala.
11 am Sat down for an hour going through photos with one of the workers and jotting down notes on each one.
12:30 sat in on a team meeting
1:30 posted some stuff on facebook and scheduled some for the rest of the week.
2:30 my friend came by and I went to the guy for an hour
4 pm got back to “work” had to wait for an hour for a sign off
5 pm more Instagram
6 pm finished work
How easy is it to become a digital nomad?
In all honestly for me is wasn’t that difficult. Most of my work as a producer I did from home. There were always meetings I needed to attend and events to go to. But the actual work I did from home, our office or a cafe somewhere. So before I made the decision to become location independent I had some concept of how it could work. The biggest issue I could see was the time difference, and persuading the companies I was already working for that I could continue doing the job but from another country, in a different time zone!
Lucky for me I have worked very hard over the last decade to prove my worth to the organisations and they agreed to trial me continuing to work for them location independently. Since making the leap I have also picked up 2 new companies and I’m in talks with a third.
What’s the most challenging part of being a Digital Nomad?
The most difficult part is staying on top of the work. Being as available as possible and making sure you have excellent wifi! Especially if you have to be in a skype meeting. Another thing I have had to be very diligent about is letting my clients have plenty of warning about when I’m not going to be available. I.e. if I decide to head off into the jungle for a few days!
I’m thinking about becoming a Digital Nomad but I’m not sure what I could do?
If you are having to ask that question you are a long way off being ready. I would strongly advise anyone to answer the following questions:
- Do I have strong IT skills? Including web design, graphics, coding etc
- To I have excellent writing skills and experience as a copywriter or journalist?
- Do I have a qualification to teach English as a foreign language?
- Do I have experience in marketing?
- Do I have strong administration and IT skills?
- Is there any way I can do the job that I’m doing now location independently?
If you have answered yes to any of these then there is a good chance you could work location independently. Some of the main jobs are:
- Graphic design
- App developer
- Copywriter/ technical writer
- Teaching English online
- Marketing and PR consultancy
- Social Media Management
- Virtual Assistant
Travel writing and blogging are not on this list because the reality of you being to make enough money from this alone is pretty slim, take it from someone who knows!
If you think you could work as a VA, SMM or an English Teacher there are some great courses you could sign up for.
If you have your heart set on blogging then I highly recommend taking the Travel Blog Sucess online course.
Of if you think you have what it takes to make it as a travel writer then Travel Writing for Bloggers is excellent!
Both courses really helped me and if you are serious about writing and/or blogging they are a must.
But before you go spending your hard earned cash on an online course think about this:
- Do I have enough self-discipline to set my working week and keep myself to target
- Do I have enough savings, or enough guaranteed work to sustain me
- Do I really want to live in a new place every few months and having to deal with the realities of contending with slow wifi connections, looking for new places to work and finding new friends every few months?
If you answered yes to all of the above, then welcome to the DN club my friend!