The term “digital nomad” gets thrown around a lot as the ideal for making money doing what you love, in a way that makes you location independent. Severing your connection to physical locations and time zones enables you to make world travel more than just a once-in-awhile vacation plan. As a digital nomad, you can bring your work just about anywhere you please, jumping from country to country as often as you’d like.
It’s not all fun and excitement—a digital nomad lifestyle certainly takes discipline and processes to be effective. Here’s what you need to know to get started:
Digital Nomad Lifestyle Basic Needs
As part of a transition to a digital nomad lifestyle, you’re going to have to downsize—a lot. But don’t get rid of everything! Here are some essential physical possessions you’ll need:
- A Good Computer: Digital nomads conduct the majority of their work through their laptops. Stray away from Chromebooks: you’ll need something with as much (or more!) computing power than a good desktop computer.
- A Stable Internet Connection: Ok, this isn’t technically a physical possession, but it’s definitely a need on par in importance with your computer. Before settling into a coffee shop for the day in your country of choice, make sure to test the free wifi to see if it will suit your needs. Traveling and working domestically, you might opt to invest in a hotspot so that you never have to rely on anyone else for internet access.
- Chargers: If you’re posting up at a coffee shop or coworking space all day, you’ll want to make sure you have everything you need to get work done, without getting shut down because of low battery issues. Remember to pack your laptop charger, phone charger, and chargers for other gadgets you want to keep at full battery.
- Reusable Water Bottle: No matter where you work, it’s important to stay hydrated. Traveling with a reusable water bottle makes it so that you always have a receptacle to hold water.
- Headphones with a Built-In Microphone: Headphones and music make it easy to block out the noise around you so that you can settle in and get work done. With a built-in microphone, they also enable you to take client calls that you can hear clearly in public places.
- A Good Computer Bag: The standard laptop bag probably isn’t big enough for a digital nomad who may plan to be out and about all day long. Instead, opt for a backpack with a pocket for your laptop, a water bottle holder, and various zippered areas to organize everything else. An affordable option is Mancro’s Laptop Backpack on Amazon (their bestseller in the category).
The Essential Digital Nomad Toolset
Once you’ve got the basics covered, you’ll want to start thinking about what tools you need to make use of to help bridge the gap between your new digital nomad lifestyle and your existing business.
Here are a few essentials to get you started:
Once you start traveling internationally, you won’t be able to rely on cellular data to stay in touch with clients and other collaborators (unless you can stomach the bill for doing so!). One of the most popular tools for communicating with people around the world is Skype. It’s reach and popularity make it ideal for setting and executing meetings—whether using audio or video. Skype is free to use so long as you and your contact are using wifi, but you can also purchase credits for calling phone numbers through Skype.
Zoom is another tool you might consider investing in for making it easy to conduct meetings with clients from anywhere in the world, as you can call in via phone or computer.
Image Source: Paypal
Adopting the digital nomad lifestyle means that you’ll probably pick up clients from different corners of the world. Normally, collecting payments from international organizations can be a challenge. However, Paypal transcends international boundaries and makes it straightforward to accept payments from practically anywhere.
One potential caveat involves a payment processing fee (2.9% + $0.30 per transaction) or international fees (4.4% transaction fee plus a fixed fee based on currency received), but both of these fee types can be considered a cost of doing business. In most cases, you’ll be able to claim these fees as tax deductions—just make sure to confirm with your accountant.
Image Source: Google Drive
If you’re sharing documents with clients, you need a solution for doing so that is both convenient and secure. There are plenty of options for cloud-based document sharing, but Google Drive has it all:
- The ability to collaborate with others in real time
- The ability to set permissions and various levels of access to documents
- Version control and commenting/suggestions
Though you’re limited to 15 gigabytes of data for free, you can upgrade your data access at any time starting at $1.99/month for 100 gigabytes. Dropbox is another excellent option for cloud-based document sharing.
If you make frequent use of Google products, it’s probably safe to assume that Google Calendar is one of your go-tos. When you’re working with clients all over the world (or just in a different timezone than you), you’ll need an easy scheduling solution that doesn’t require you to calculate time differences. Calendly shows clients your availability, and allows them to set meetings in their own timezone. You can get by with the basic free plan, but there’s additional functionality in their Premium plans, which start at $8/month.
Business Administration: AND CO
Image Source: AND CO
Doing client work is just one part of running your business. Whether you like it or not, to keep your business running, you need to play multiple roles besides those that clients hire you for: Accounts Payable & Receivable (invoicing), Legal (contracts), Debt Collector, Accountant (preparing taxes), and so on. You may seek help with any (or all) of these roles, but as the person in charge of your business, you must have some general knowledge of everything going on.
AND CO can help you manage your business from anywhere, with tools to help you carry out all of the aforementioned roles and easily onboard new clients. It’s included as part of a subscription to Envato Elements. Check out AND CO’s ebook, Anywhere, for tons of practical advice for living a digital nomad lifestyle.
If you work with contractors and other collaborators, you’ll also want to be thinking about how to best collaborate with your team across time zones.
A final area of consideration when it comes to living the digital nomad lifestyle is the aspect of travel. The following tools can help you find the best deals on flights as well as city-specific information you’ll need to properly rock the digital nomad lifestyle.
Hopper is a mobile app that tells you the best times to fly from place to place based on historical data. It’s ideal for someone with a flexible schedule, making it easy to plan flights when pricing will be at it’s lowest.
Scott’s Cheap Flights
Hopper relies on big data, but Scott’s Cheap Flights relies on actual people who scout out mistake fares and other ridiculously low priced flight options. You set your desired departure cities and Scott’s team sends email alerts for ridiculously cheap international flight deals with instructions for how to book—often through multiple emails each day. It’s ideal for serendipitous travel, which is perfect for the digital nomad lifestyle.
Planning your next digital nomad move? Nomad List gives you an idea of what to expect in each city as far as internet accessibility, rent, nightlife, weather, and even safety.
Wondering where to spend your day? Workfrom provides location-specific options for getting work done, remotely. It provides a number of search filters for picking a location based on noise levels, public or private accessibility, and which options are open late.
The Digital Nomad Lifestyle
If you’re just starting to consider the digital nomad lifestyle, this list is really just the tip of the iceberg as far as what you’ll need to be successful. Before selling all your possessions and breaking your current lease, make sure to do your research and plan out exactly how you’re going to pull this off.
If you’re ready to break into the digital nomad lifestyle, know that you’re not alone in doing so. Leave your questions in the comments below to connect with other digital nomads!