Everything you ever wanted to know about living and working as a remote worker or digital nomad. This is part 1 of the 2 part series of how to become a digital nomad.
Introduction: What is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad is someone who works remotely from anywhere in the world. Driven by an insatiable wanderlust or family commitments, better work-life balance, or simply disdain for the 9-5 job culture, there are multiple reasons people choose to turn nomadic.
This type of working style may not be new but both remote work and the digital nomadic lifestyle have become unignorable trends because of technological progress. More and more employers are adopting the benefits of nomadic or remote work; but, it’s not easy.
Why should you consider becoming one
Increases efficiency and productivity
Productivity returns once you’re outside the office environment.
In his hugely popular TED talk, “Why work doesn’t happen at work”, Jason Fried says:
“If you ask people the question: Where do you need to go when you need to get something done?… You almost never hear someone say, ‘The office’.”
In fact, numerous studies have pointed that remote work leads to an increase in productivity due to a reduction in break time and sick days combined with a more comfortable work environment.
Flexibility and happiness
When you work remotely, you can decide how you want to spend your day instead of wasting numerous hours in commute, useless office meetings, or simply in a chair where you just don’t feel creative.
If you’re fortunate to have an autonomous, flexible remote job, you can work early in the morning or late in the night and fill the rest of your day with what matters the most. This can make way for a more satisfying career-personal life journey, which, in turn, would result in better work.
The inevitable future
The current Coronavirus outbreak has compelled many offices around the world to allow teams to work from home. There are multiple reasons traditional office spaces might be at threat in the future: from climate change concerns to rising rent. If you plan to go remote now, you might stay ahead of the curve.
What’s in it for companies?
Apart from previously discussed reasons around increased productivity, remote work is also financially a better option for companies. A 2017 study found that an average worker was willing to accept a pay cut for the option to work from home.
Despite the many pros, you might have concerns about becoming a digital nomad. After all, working remotely from anywhere in the world isn’t easy. Not everyone can work without the motivation of having colleagues and bosses buzzing around.
Before jumping on the bandwagon, think ahead if you can work out of a home-office, cafe, or the road for days on end. Consider that:
- No one will drop by for a quick chat and thus, remote work will make you feel lonely and isolated. If you’re on the road, you will make new friends but be far away from existing friends and family members. Are you prepared for that?
- As no one will drop by for a quick chat, you are free to finish as much work as quickly or as slowly as possible. But if you plan to see the world while working, think about whether you are disciplined and goal-oriented enough to make sure you meet all possible deadlines? Are you committed enough to let go of an exciting adventurous trip because a deadline is looming?
- Digital nomads need to up their communication skills. The people you work with are not in front of you, and perhaps don’t know how committed you are. Can you ensure that you’re communicating effectively and not over or under communicating?
- If you’re looking to take on more responsibilities at your existing workplace, can you work remotely and yet build enough trust with your peers and other team members to convince them of the professional value you bring to the company?
A lot hinges on how you react to the aforementioned situations. Remote work, therefore, isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. But if you feel confident about taking this up, here’s how you can get started:
How to become a digital nomad (Part 1)
Start with your boss
Before looking for a new remote role or quitting your current gig, try to persuade your boss to let you work outside of the office. Ensure you’ve built enough trust with your immediate supervisors and can make a solid case for your ability to work remotely. This will be a much smoother conversation if you’re crushing it at your job. Use evidence around productivity (see above points) and happiness to make your argument stronger.
If you’re not feeling confident at the moment, all hope is not lost. Start taking the necessary steps that will upgrade your performance, build that trust, and plan to discuss it in the future.
Remote tools and gear
Remote work doesn’t require a massive investment but you’ll still need a few tools regardless of whether you’re indoors or on the road. Do you have a good computer, unlimited data plan or internet connection, a portable charger? Additionally, if your computer or internet stops working, do you have the skills, dexterity, or simply the patience to navigate tens of online forums to repair your machine?
Along with physical devices, are you adept at remote tools such as apps like Zoom, Slack, Trello? If not, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with some of the most popular and useful ones (see link below).
Think about travel
If you plan to be on the road—because why else must you work remotely—ask yourself the following:
Do you have a destination in mind?
Traveling the world while still holding on to a job is a pipe dream, but if you’re so lucky to achieve it, make sure you do it right. Remember, planning a trip and planning a trip where you also work are two very different things. Pick a destination keeping your budget, visa restrictions, internet access, and internet speed in mind. But improve your search by reading reviews and noting words like electricity/power, network, WiFi, noise to ensure your new office space is workable.
Do you have travel insurance?
If you plan to be in other countries a lot, you will need travel health insurance with international coverage which, bear in mind, can also set you back by a few hundred dollars. It’s necessary though—you definitely do not want to get sick or hurt away from home.
How to start planning
So, you’ve had the conversation with your boss and unfortunately, they were unwilling to let you go remote. But the digital nomad dream is real for you, which means it’s time to find remote work elsewhere. Here’s how to do it:
1. Become Baggage-free
Ensure that you don’t have any long-term leases or memberships that would tie you to a place. If you do, slowly start fading those out. Most people would not travel because of their pre-existing commitments to their current location. Think about what you want to do with your car or your apartment. Will you leave it unattended, will you sublet it? What about your pet? Or, what will you do with larger objects you can’t take on your travels like instruments, furniture, etc.? Once these questions have been answered, start scouring for opportunities.
2. Join Networking Groups
You can reach out to a particular digital nomad you admire, but chances are if they’re leading that lifestyle, they might have documented it somewhere online. Another bit of advice is to join Facebook groups and forums that offer specific advice on digital nomadism and how to crack into remote work, or ones that even post daily remote job listings.
3. Take Up A Course/Fellowship
If you think you want to start slow and don’t feel up for a remote job, yet, start by taking up a fellowship or going to another city/country to study. You would still have your previous place’s contacts and you can try using them to work remotely. Gradually, you will build contacts in your new city and the network will keep expanding.
4. Join the gig economy
To be a seasoned digital nomad, you will need to enter the gig economy and get dirty! Check out sites like We Work Remotely, Remote.co, Upwork, or other home-based work sites for a constant stream of job opportunities and updates and get started.