How to Become a Digital Nomad

How to Become a Digital NomadWhat’s a digital nomad?  Well, the short answer is that it’s someone who has an online job they can do from almost anywhere in the world.  I happen to be one, and am excited to share the story of how I got started, plus 6 tips to help you find online work so you can earn an income on the road too!

How I Got Started

My digital nomad quest started when Mat and I came home from our backpacking trip in 2013 and were feeling sorry for ourselves because we had to stay in one place to work and save up money before our next adventure.  We kept wishing that we could work on the road so that the traveling never had to end, but it seemed like an impossible fantasy at the time.

Then one night (cue the inspirational music), a few months after we had settled in for a winter of working, I met some friends for dinner and they offered me a job working for their online store – completely out of the blue!  I had known for years that they ran an online business and that they often worked on the road, but for some reason it had never occurred to me that I might work for them one day.

Being the lunatic that I am, I almost didn’t take the job.  It was exactly what I was looking for, but I didn’t think I’d be able to figure out how to use all of their online programs, and was scared that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the rest of the team.  I ended up taking the job anyway, because I was even more scared of turning it down and not being able to try out the digital nomad lifestyle we were dreaming about.  The whole situation reminds me of a quote from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, that I really believe is true:

When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

Danielle cycling in Olafsfjordur Iceland - Exploring Alternatives

1 Year Later

It’s been almost one year since I started my online job, and in that time, Mat and I have been able to travel to places like Iceland, Germany and Spain, spend more time with family and even drive across the country in a camper van – all while earning an income.  It’s by far the best job I’ve ever had, not only because I can travel and earn money at the same time, but because I work with a team of amazing, alternative, and open-minded people who make every day a positive and fulfilling experience.

Being a digital nomad isn’t all plane tickets and beaches though – it’s just as much work as my previous office jobs were.  There are actually some parts of working online that are even more challenging than a regular job – for example, I’ve had to become a complete slave to WiFi.  If I don’t have an internet connection, I can’t do my job…at all.  When we were road tripping last month I spent whole days sitting in cafes and sipping cold coffee for as long as I could so that I could poach their wifi signal and get my work done.

I also work odd hours when we’re away from home to make sure that I’m online at roughly the same time as the rest of the team.  When we were in Berlin this Summer, I was working til midnight every night; now that I’m on the West Coast, I’m starting work before the sun even comes up.   The upshot of these challenges is that when the weekend rolls around, I’m on a trip and get to explore new places :)

I don’t think this lifestyle is for everyone, but if you’re a disciplined person who also has a travel addiction, it could be a good fit for you.  I don’t have a perfect recipe for finding online jobs (I’m still not sure how I got mine), but I’ve done my best to put together some tips and ideas about things you can do to increase your likelihood of finding online work.

6 Tips to Becoming a Digital Nomad

1) Start with what you have.  

If you’re not sure whether online work is for you, ask your boss or supervisor if you can try working from home one day each week/month and see how it goes.  Are you more, or less productive than at the office?  Do you enjoy working on your own, or do you miss the office environment?

2) Surround yourself by people who are doing it already.

Spend time observing the people in your life who are doing interesting work.  What do they do?  How do they do it?  If you don’t know any people working online in real life, look for them online.  Follow blogs and watch YouTube videos to find out how other people earn a living while traveling, and then take baby steps towards making it happen for yourself.

We did this for all of our alternative lifestyle explorations:
– When we got rid of everything we owned, we followed The Minimalists blog for inspiration.
– When we started traveling, we followed Married with Luggage  to find out how they traveled long-term.
– When we decided to become digital nomads, we followed The Professional Hobo to learn about earning money on the road.

3) Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for online work.

The more people you have looking out for online work opportunities, the more likely you are to find out about them.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve found out about a cool travel destination, blog or idea because a friend or family member knew we’d think it was interesting.

4) Apply for online jobs when you find them.

This sounds like a no-brainer but like I told you earlier, it can be scary to take the first step towards your goal.  I haven’t found any great job boards that post online jobs (if you know of one, I’d love to share it!), so finding online work opportunities might mean digging through hundreds of job posts until you find the gem you’re looking for.

A good place to start could be the “careers” section of websites whose business is done mostly online because they’re more likely to offer work-from-home opportunities.  You might also try joining or networking with a local co-working space like Impact HUB, where all types of people go to get access to office/meeting spaces (which usually means they work from home the rest of the time and might be able to give you tips).

5) Learn new skills.

If you’re finding online jobs but are having a hard time getting hired, you might need to upgrade your skill set.  A lot of online job opportunities involve customer service, sales, graphic design, photography, copywriting, transcription, project coordination etc.  Think about the kind of work you want to do, then go learn the skills you’ll need to get hired.

6) Start your own business.

If you want to be completely independent, you could become a digital nomad AND be your own boss.  Starting your own business is a lot of work from what I’ve seen, and I certainly don’t have the guts to do it, but lots of people do it all the time!  One piece of advice I would give if you’re going to take this route, is to make sure your living expenses are low so that you don’t need to earn as much income to survive at first.

I have complete faith that you’ll be able to find an online job that’s perfect for you.  Let me know if you have questions or suggestions about anything I’ve mentioned above – I’m happy to help if I can!

Take care,

Danielle

PS if you like what we’re up to, you should subscribe to the blog by email so you don’t miss a post. You can also stay in touch on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube!

20 thoughts on “How to Become a Digital Nomad

  1. Darshan Stevens

    This is so great! I love that you two are still traveling around, and working online! A lot of my business is online, and I know all about being a slave to the wi-fi. I have found a partial solution is tethering to my phone (if you have internet coverage on your phone).

    1. Danielle Post author

      Hey Darshan – we were JUST talking about tethering to a phone when we’re on the road before we read your comment! It would mean getting a phone but it’s probably way cheaper than working in cafes + renting hotels on workdays! Which provider do you use?
      PS we might swing by and say hi this Summer if you guys are around! xo

  2. Tina

    Hi,

    I just found your blog and YT channel from IG. Looking forward to following your journey and learn some tips for when I hit the road.

    Take care and Happy 2015!

    Tina

    1. Danielle Post author

      Hey Tina – thank you for checking out the blog and YT channel! I hope what we’re doing is helpful and let us know if you have any questions about anything! Good luck with your travel plans and Happy 2015!

  3. Greg

    Great post! My wife and I are trying to surround ourselves with the kind of people who are nomadic and working location independent so that we can learn from them and also inspire/get inspired! It’s tough to do when all of your family and friends are of a different mindset and think you are crazy to even consider the option :) Luckily there are several people (like yourselves) that post their experiences and can interact with!
    As for starting your own business – you can totally do it and you kind of already are with your YT channel and this blog. I’m sure you can muster up the “guts” if it’s something that you really are driven to do :)

    Also, a few options for internet…:
    http://www.rvmobileinternet.com/alternative-options-to-millenicom/

    Thanks for the post!

    1. Danielle Post author

      Thanks so much, Greg! I really appreciate all of your positive comments :) We do have to stick together because it can get lonely when you feel like you can’t relate to the people closest to you. We’ve found that people think we’re crazy until they see how much fun we’re having and then they want to do it too!

      I’ll check out the RV internet link you shared too – we’re going to be in Canada when we move into the van but it might still have some good tips!

    2. Kirston

      Hi
      Sorry to push in but I’m finding that everyone I tell that this is what I’m planning to do think that I’m mad, so it’s nice to read that other people have the same reaction.
      I want to be free on the road and enjoying myself and meeting people with the same outlook on life
      :) :) :)

      1. Danielle Post author

        Hey Kirston, I’m sorry to hear that you’re getting negative reactions from people. We’ve had a lot of support but a lot of people also think we’re nuts when we tell them about our alternative plans. Hang in there and do what feels right for you! We made a YouTube video about how going against the grain can be hard if you’re interested: http://www.exploringalternatives.ca/long-term-travel-budget/

  4. Eric

    I’d love to learn more about the mobile internet options (saga). Could you post a video or an article specifically on that?

    Thanks SO much!

    Inspiring journey you two are on!

    Best,

    Eric

    1. Danielle Post author

      Hi Eric – saga is right! Mat did a ton of research to find us the best mobile internet plan in Canada, we bought a mobile hotspot device and on day 1, everything was working perfectly! The internet was super fast and we were working from the van in the middle of a gorgeous park! Unfortunately we are heavy internet users since we use it for work, and we used up the entire plan in less than 4 hours. Now we’re back to working from cafes, libraries, grocery stores, Walmarts, etc.

      I might be able to give you some specific tips if you let me know if you’re based in Canada or the US (or elsewhere!)?

  5. RV Chua

    Hi, I love your YouTube channel and subscribed to it. I am trying to read up on how to find an online job so that I can have free time to do other things I enjoy. I am currently on a qualification process for an online job. It gave me quite a headache with the new topic that went over my head the first couple of days and trying to work with spotty internet connection. I am doing this while still in my current day job so that I can have a feel before I finally take the next step. Hoping to read more articles and watch your videos in your upcoming adventures!

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Thank you so much for checking out the blog and subscribing to our channel. I really appreciate it.
      I didn’t realize that there were courses to become qualified for online jobs – that sounds very cool. If you have a chance, maybe you could share a link to the course if you end up enjoying it? Take care and happy exploring!

      PS – spotty internet is definitely one of the challenges of working online ;)

  6. Effie

    I fully understand the need of internet connections as I have 3 teenagers. This summer I decided to cancel my internet/cable/phone in the hopes of getting my kids outside and saving a little money…ha. I will admit the first week was a complete meltdown, the second week my kids got creative. they walked around with their cell phones looking at the open wifi signals, this is what we learned. most signals with a (guest) will let you sign on after reading their user agreement. here in the US most fast food places have wifi, as well as any library, hospital, and even most Churches.(according to the preacher next door, the bible app is very popular…lol) you don’t need to go inside just pull up in the parking lot. this is how my kids survived another of my (crazy) ideas…lol ah the memories they will have. I hope it helps.
    much love, Effie

    P.s. I found you from the link on http://www.faircompanies.com

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Hi Effie, that’s a great story! Good work trying to get your kids outside – even if it’s just to find a wifi signal haha! We did a lot of that too – walking and driving around looking for connections. Libraries were one of our top fave places to work :) xo

  7. Chris

    Danielle, Mat loving the blog and videos.

    My tip would be to try becoming a digital nomad at home before you leave, perhaps doing the job you already do. I started working for myself some years ago, continuing my career as a landscape architect and environmental consultant, and could pack my entire office in a small backpack. Working from home would get lonely, so I used to rent a desk in a shared office, or work in the local library (free!) or in hotels/coffee shops. This meant if I had to take work away on holiday with me (groan), it was easy as I was already set up for it.

    A couple of years ago I left Ireland where I was living and working and moved to the UK, but I’ve continued with my work in Ireland throughout that time. The secret for me has been avoiding the need to attend meetings! I’ve always worked through other consultants and that helps enormously!

    Anyway, hope it’s still all going well for you.

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Hi Chris,

      Thank you for sharing your digital nomad experience & tips. They’re super helpful and I wish we’d known about all your secrets before we got started. They’ll be super helpful for anyone reading the comments here though, so thank you very much!!! Take care and happy exploring :)

      Danielle

  8. snipoftriv

    Thank you for the posts! It’s inspiring indeed. But I never have the guts to be one.. maybe not now.. I look forward to more of your content! Keep it going!

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