It’s the dream lifestyle isn’t it? Being a digital nomad, being your own boss, working online and being free to travel. It’s also 2016, technology is changing the way we live and work. In this day and age a lifestyle like this is totally doable. How? Let me explain..
For the past 15 months I have been a digital nomad, travelling full time whilst working online. During these 15 months I have been to 17 countries and counting. This was something I had day dreamed about for a long time but only started doing when I finally discovered how simple it actually is to live this way. I unintentionally became a digital nomad and this “how to” post is about how I managed it and how I can hopefully point you in the right direction too.
Now the reason I dreamed about this so much is because it was perfectly possible for me to work from anywhere. I am an established freelance web developer who was already working from home, but don’t let that deter you from reading on. I will cover this part shortly and explain how anybody (including you) can find online work if they try.
As I just said, I knew I could take my work on the road but there was always something holding me back in one way or another so it remained a day dream. At this stage I did not even know about the term “digital nomad”, I did not realise how many people are already living this way. I knew nothing about it at all, I just knew it was a possibility.
After a bad break up with my partner at the time I found myself at a loose end. No home, no girl, no ties, I was in the perfect position to go. I had not even thought any further ahead than just going for a break and testing the water. I packed my bags and headed to Malta fairly randomly. It was in Malta that I discovered how to sustain this lifestyle for cheaper than going home and where I hatched my plans to travel indefinitely instead of going home. This was the starting point that would change my life completely. It was the start of an epic adventure that I’m still on 15 months later.
So how did I become a digital nomad? And more importantly how can you?
Generating an income
Well we will start with the obvious, to become a digital nomad you need an income stream.
Before you read any further there is one thing to realise that is going to be the key to your success as a digital nomad. Just like the offline world there is no such thing as easy money, in fact that’s even more so online. Whatever route you decide to go down it is going to require hard work, long hours and determination. Often for little or no reward in the early days! You have to stick with it, keep learning and don’t give up then eventually your hard work will pay off. You also have to build up your reputation. Weather that’s feedback on your freelance profile, visitors to your website or readers on your blog. None of this is going to happen overnight so always hang on in there!
When I started working freelance I did everything I could possibly do to try and get business. I set up a website, a Facebook page, Linkedin etc. And I called on just about every contact I had but gigs were very slow coming and I regularly had to work other jobs to supplement my income.
Then I branched out and started using freelance sites (I will explain how in a minute). This ultimately became the best thing I could have done and my main source of income. In the beginning I was becoming really disheartened by it all and not getting any work. I kept looking at other people profiles and thinking “they have got loads of work on here, if they can do it then so can I”. I stuck with it till eventually my determination paid off and I started earning a living. Not a fortune but enough to live on without having to work for the man anymore.
Ok so let’s get down to business. When it comes to making money online you have 2 options which put basically are.
Method 1: Working online for other people.
Method 2: Building a website or blog to generate income.
In an ideal world you will have your fingers in both of these pies.
We will start off with method 1. Although I am slowly expanding in to method 2 by experimenting with new projects, the first method is, and has been for a long time my chosen method of making money online and how I fund my digital nomad lifestyle.
Finding freelance work – The work most Digital nomads do
If you have (or you are willing to put in the time to learn) one of the most sought after skills then finding freelance work and establishing yourself as a digital nomad will be a lot easier. These skills include but are not limited to developers, graphic designers, marketing professionals and writers. There is also plenty of openings for virtual admins and office related tasks.
But don’t fret if you don’t poses any of the above skills, you can still find work in many fields and with persistence you will find it. For example I was once going out with a girl who I set up on a freelance site. She had none of the above skills. She was working full time but was still able to make a part time living easily enough by using her intuitive. She did everything from small Excel and Word processing tasks to adding products to an online shop, she even got paid for talking with one job as someone was looking for an Irish accent for a commercial.
And whilst we are on the subject of talking, if you speak other languages that you can translate then there is plenty of openings for that too. In fact a lot of fellow digital nomads I have had the pleasure of meeting have worked as translators or teachers online.
Starting out on these sites can be daunting and puts you in a bit of a tricky situation, you need to get some feedback on your profile for people to employ you but you need to do some jobs to get the feedback. The point to remember here is the same point I repeat over and over and that is stick at it and it will pay off. For your first few jobs take anything you can get so you can build up your reputation. Even if that means working for peanuts! Once you have established yourself you will start earning more and them few jobs you hardly got paid for will suddenly seem worth the effort.
You also need a good profile. Your profile is not your cv, if someone wants to read your cv they would ask for it. Keep it short and sweet, introduce yourself and outline your skills. Look for the top cert freelancers and go through their profiles for inspiration. You can also view mine by looking for the black hire me box on the right hand side of this page.
The way these sites work is straight forward enough to figure out. People post jobs and you bid on them. I always find it a good idea to message the employer before putting in a bid and have a chat about the job, agree a price etc first. I could probably write a separate post on how to use freelance sites but its really not that difficult so jump in.
Below is a few of the most popular freelance sites, in my opinion peopleperhour are killing it and it is by far the best site to use. It’s my site of choice and I can guarantee it works very well so it should be the only site you need to use.
Forget about low paying sites such as fiverr, you are an aspiring digital nomad and these sites will barely buy you a meal let alone give you the freedom to travel as you work!
So that’s pretty much a crash course in one way to make a living online and become a digital nomad. Leave a comment at the end of this post and I will happily discuss in more detail if you have any questions.
Now let’s move on to more ways to make money online.
Building a website or blog
Making your own website is to big a subject to write about on here. I have actually made a full website on the subject that you can check out here how to make your own website. If you are determined and you put your mind to it then you will learn, you will have to! I did, I made my first website in 2002 and have been learning ever since.
If you really don’t have the patience or time to learn how to build your own website then you would have to look in to getting a site made for you. This is also a far more professional approach if you have a budget for it. There are plenty of people who can design / develop a website for you. Maybe you know someone.. Now it’s time to squeeze in the sales pitch 🙂 I am available to both build a website and for consultancy if you require these services.
Years ago, when I first started out in this game it was different and you had to learn html etc to make a website. These days anyone can build a basic site with the technologies that are freely available. WordPress would be a good place to start looking if you are completely new to this subject.
Your first goal should be to make the site and worry about making money later when you have established yourself or your brand. Again like I keep saying, everything in this game takes time and hard work with little reward to start out with so you have to stick with it.
It can be frustrating to put in all the hard work and not even see any visitors when you start out but there is one big thing to note in this situation. Whilst you carry on adding content and building your site there is one visitor watching you, the most important visitor to your sites future. This visitor likes to see progress and lots of fresh content every time they come back. This visitor can see how much of an effort you’re putting in and will reward you eventually. That would be Google.
Learning to build and/or run your own website is not just financially beneficial if your site starts to make you money. You are also bettering yourself by learning lots of useful new skills that you could utilise to make money freelancing as we have already discussed. The more income streams you have the more chance you have of staying on the road and being a full time digital nomad.
So what kind of site do I make?
The most obvious place to start would be to build a website or blog based around something you are interested in. I know before I even write this that the first thing you are going to think about is a travel site or travel blog and yes this is a good idea. You have a serious amount of competition though! And I mean a serious amount. Everyone who travels has a travel blog and wants a slice of the cake. You are even reading this article on my travel blog!
You will see a lot of travel bloggers publishing content about how they earn money from their blog and how they are getting paid to travel the world. Why do you see so many of these posts? Because they are telling you the truth. They are actually earning money from their blogs. They are getting paid to travel the world and on top of that they are getting lots of free trips and gear. They are also the lucky few and most defiantly the ones that worked hard and persisted until it paid off.
Now before you get carried away with yourself think about this. How many people are going to write a blog or post about how they tried and failed? None! And I guarantee a lot have tried and failed.
The moral of this story, don’t get too sucked in by it all and don’t make it your only goal. Yes it’s great for them but one important fact that you rarely hear any of them admit to is that they got lucky, you might not get so lucky! A lot of travel bloggers are also digital nomads with another source of income. Very few make a full time living from a blog alone!
So with that one cleared up what else are you interested in? Find your niche or turn your ideas in to more of a niche. Let’s say for example you’re a surfer. You could write a blog about surfing but would that be a niche site with less competition than a travel blog? I doubt it very much!
You could build a blog or a website about surfing and traveling combined, now this would be more of a niche than surfing alone but you would still have plenty of competition!
So let’s take it one step further. You’re a digital nomad who travels the world in search of waves and you fund your travels by working online from your beach side locations. Now would you have as much competition? No, and if you were a surfer would you be interested in visiting a site like that? Hell yes!
How can you make money from sites like this and fund a digital nomad lifestyle?
For a website like the ones we are talking about to make even a small amount of money they need to be getting quite a few visitors. Again this is a very big subject to be covering so I will leave you to do your research on the statistics etc and provide a little overview on how to bring home the bacon.
Advertising revenue: Most sites earn money from advertisers paying for space on the site. This can be anything from a deal between you and the advertiser to an advertising network displaying adverts on your page. The most popular of these networks is Google adsense, it works by Google placing adverts on your site and paying you for the clicks or impressions that these adverts receive on your site. Take a look here to find out more about adsense. The downside to Google adsense is that to make even a small amount of money you need to be getting a lot of visitors. Even then most people will not click on an advert, think about it, do you click on adverts?
Affiliate revenue: This is where you promote a product or a brand and for any sales or leads you make you get paid a commission. You can find out more about affiliate marketing and how it works in a detailed guide here.
A good example of this would be if you had a site or a section of a site reviewing things (Note: this could also potentially bring you free products to review from companies in your field).
Lets say you write a review about carry-on backpacks and provide some solid information that people would find useful. You then write about the best 4 bags for carry on usage and link them all back to Amazon where your reader can purchase the bag. If you have an affiliate account with Amazon and your content was good enough to persuade your reader to make the purchase then Amazon will pay you a commission. Now imagine you had a fairly successful and popular travel site. You see? That is how they make money!
The examples above are just 2 of the biggest ways that websites make money. There is plenty of other avenues to explore. Another example would be charging people to become members of your site so they can access something they value. This could be in the form of information they are looking for or access to other members, like a dating site. Oh and one last note on this subject, these kind of sites, especially dating sites also pay affiliates very good commission!
More ideas, e-commerce
If you have access to a product to sell without having to stock it yourself or you know someone who can supply your customers with a product then you should be looking in to this option big time! A good example would be something along the lines of this. My friend makes a product, I could make a site selling his product and for every order I receive on my site, I take a commission and he ships the product to the buyer. See you’re making money without actually stocking the product, hence you can do this from anywhere, location independent. This business model AKA drop shipping is a good avenue for an aspiring digital nomad to investigate.
I could get carried away here but I’m just throwing a few ideas out there to give you some food for thought. The possibilities are endless. I have come across and worked on so many sites over the years that make money, including one about how to keep ducks.. I’m not kidding!
A final tip would be to seriously investigate affiliate marketing as I mentioned already above. Here is one more example of how you can make extra money from yet another angle. I work for clients that occasionally need web hosting, I refer them (with my affiliate link) to a hosting company that I am affiliated with. From then on every month or year when they pay for their hosting I get a cut of the money. Not much money but it covers the cost of my hosting and online needs. It actually pays for this site too.
Living within your means by choosing the right locations to stay as an aspiring digital nomad
Now this is where the magic of being a digital nomad happens. You have established an income stream, it may not be much but you can live on it somewhere in the world.
You choose a country (Or probably more than one) where the cost of living is doable with your income. This gives you the opportunity and time to expand your business further whilst you are seeing the world and saving money on your living expenses.
Another of my life examples. The last place I rented in Ireland was costing me over €500 a month before bills and believe me that was a cheap place for the city I lived in. When I went to Malta at the beginning of my travels I was paying less than €100 a week to stay in hotels with breakfast and room cleaning. You see where im going? I started searching for and finding even cheaper deals in other countries. I had not only began travelling full time, it was also cheaper to live this way!
For 15 months I have been living in hotels, hostels and airbnb places. I also rented a room in France for a couple of months in the summer. All of this has cost me less than the cost of living in Ireland because I have stayed longer in the cheaper countries (apart from France) and been visiting the more expensive countries in between on days off.
Im just scratching the surface here, it is easily possible in a short amount of time to generate enough money online to live in places like SE Asia whilst you expand your earnings further.
Summary of how to become a digital nomad
So let’s sum things up. You don’t necessarily have to focus on just one thing. A combination can also generate a steady income stream. Let’s say for example you do not have a skill that will generate you a freelance income alone such as being a developer or a designer. You can still get the occasional freelance job doing just about anything as we have discovered. Match that with a blog that makes you a little income and gets you some perks. Maybe another website or blog that generates a little income. Combine the above in to an income stream, then find countries where you can afford live on this income while you build it up more and voila, you have become a digital nomad.
The internet is not just a source of income, it is where you find the best deals on accommodation and flights, its where you find the information you need to live this way. I opened this post with the same subject I’m closing it on, technology is completely changing the way we can live our lives. All you need is a backpack and a laptop.
Do feel free to comment or ask questions below, I will answer or give more advice the best I can.