How To Become A Digital Nomad (And Why NOW Is The Best Time!)

by | Mar 1, 2021

If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a digital nomad and leaving your worries behind to explore distant lands, never fear that your dream is only a dream due to Covid, lack of funds, family ties, or that you’re getting too old.

Now is the time to start preparing to turn your dream into a reality, and the good news is, there’s no better time!

How My Husband, My Daughter & I Became Digital Nomads

Eleven years ago, my partner and I, tired of the cold & dreary UK winters, sold everything we owned (which wasn’t much), scooped up our four-year-old, jumped on a plane to Cyprus, and haven’t looked back since.

Some 35 countries later, several 6 & 7 figure online businesses under our belt, and my daughter now 14, we’ve lived the lives of both digital nomad and ex-pat respectively ever since.

As I write this intro, I am sitting on a sunbed on a slightly windy beach at the beautiful Coconut Island beach resort in Phuket, Thailand. (Due to Covid, we’re pretty much the only ones here).

digital nomad life

In the not too distant future, when my daughter finishes her iGCSE’s, we plan to don backpacks and head off around the world adopting the digital nomad lifestyle once again.

I am 48 years old. Digital Nomadism isn’t just for the youngsters!

What is a Digital Nomad?

A digital nomad is anyone who can work and earn their livelihood online, freeing up the time to work from anywhere they like!

Many people think of a digital nomad as some twenty-year-old sitting on a beach in Bali, sipping cocktails and making millions.

Though I’m sure this is the case with some, it certainly doesn’t apply to all of us!

Many people choose to work and travel full time, while others are happy to maintain their usual lifestyle but enjoy greater flexibility over how many hours they work each week.

The fantastic thing about the internet and much-improved smartphones and laptops is that absolutely anyone can become a digital nomad. And you can do almost any type of work as well.

Below, I’m going to dive into much greater depth about the different ways to make money as a digital nomad.

But rest assured, no matter what your skills are or what you are passionate about, there is every opportunity for you to become a digital nomad if it appeals to you.

Whether that means working on a beach in Thailand or from your balcony at home in your pajamas. That part is up to you!

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Why Now is the Best Time to Become a Digital Nomad: 7 Reasons

As I write this, I’m locked down in Phuket, Thailand. Thankfully we’re fairly Covid free because the government shut down all the international airports back in March 2020 and hasn’t let anyone in since!

However, it means we can’t leave as they won’t let us back in, and frankly, there aren’t too many other places in the world I’d rather be right now.

Sounds scary though, right? Locked down in a foreign land, unable to escape with no clue about what the future holds!

Hmm. Not so scary when you’re the master of your own destiny. The captain of your own ship. The boss of your own business!

There is no argument the last few months have been a nightmare for so many on this planet. The world has been thrown into disarray with no one quite sure what they should do when they should do it, or what will happen next.

But with every challenge, there comes opportunity and if you’ve been thrust into working from home and are now dreading going back to the office, that opportunity couldn’t be clearer.

This is the perfect time to ditch your 9-to-5, escape the rat race, and become a digital nomad.

Here’s why;

1. Starbucks

Who doesn’t love a good quad long shot grande in a venti cup half calf double cupped no sleeve salted caramel mocha latte with two pumps of vanilla two pumps of white chocolate mocha and two pumps of hazelnut toffee?

Right?

Digital nomad working from Starbucks

Digital nomad workplace in Starbucks. Source: Pixabay

Imagine being able to work from Starbucks every day! Rock up, get your favorite seat by the window, the one with the plug under the table, set up your workstation, order your favorite drink, and away you go, my friend – seventh heaven, right there in a coffee cup.

But seriously…

2. You Have The Time

With many of us spending so much time at home right now, there’s never been a better time to start building an income online.

Step away from Bridgerton or dreaming of becoming the next Bear Grylls and consider getting your blog off the ground or growing an eCommerce business so that when the world finally reopens, you’re ready to take full advantage of it.

Right now, you can’t travel the world. You can’t be seduced by temples, beaches, or aquamarine seas.

Use your time wisely and take advantage of the fact you’re stuck inside with nowhere to go.

3. You Have The Experience

If your boss has had you working from home over the past few months in light of the current chaos, then they’ve given you an invaluable gift: experience.

You’ve been learning how to manage your time out of the office and how to communicate with your coworkers and boss remotely. You’ve gained invaluable experience in dealing with challenges across the web rather than face to face.

You’ve likely become a Zoom or Google Meets expert and started to get your head around online project management tools.

Asana - project management tool for digital nomad

Starting a Business Checklist in Asana – a project management tool

No matter what you’ve learned, I guarantee by working from home, you’ve gathered a whole bunch of transferable skills that’ll help you on your journey to becoming a digital nomad.

4. You Have The Discipline

The hardest part of being a digital nomad is staying disciplined. It can be tough to find the motivation you need to work when you’re sitting on a beach sipping from a coconut.

The same can be said for sitting at home with Netflix at the click of a button!

But, if you’ve been working from home lately, it’s likely armed you with the discipline to do what you need to do when you need to do it.

Now you simply need to transfer those skills to work on your own side hustle.

5. Your Wallet’s Feeling a Little Light

Unfortunately, a lot of us have had to take a big financial hit recently.

Starting your own lifestyle business now will not only supplement your income but put you in a position to give up your job when the time is right.

And if you’ve been learning to live frugally through these challenging times, you could probably use an opportunity to reduce your monthly expenses when this is all over, right?

Well, digital nomadism can help with that. As a nomad, you’ll be able to relocate to somewhere with a much lower cost of living. You can live comfortably for under $1000/month in countries like Thailand and Vietnam while you replenish your savings pot.

And speaking of saving money…

6. Travel is About to Get a Whole Lot Cheaper

For a short window of time when this is over, airlines will likely slash prices to revitalize the industry and encourage people to travel again. The same will probably be true for the whole tourism sector, including hotels, vacation rentals, and temporary apartments.

Hot Tip

If you use the time you have now to set yourself up as a digital nomad, you’ll be able to take full advantage of this golden window of opportunity when it comes around.

7. You Love Spending Time With Your Family

The chances are over the last few months, you’ve seen more of your family than ever before. For some, this may have been a stressful experience. Still, for many, this has brought families closer together, as the extra time has allowed for a deeper connection and understanding of each other.

We have a 14-year-old daughter and have been traveling as a family since she was four years old. And even though we went the traditional route of sending her to schools in the different places we have lived because our time is ours, we have been at every play, musical event, sports day, and parent-teacher meet.

Becoming a digital nomad isn’t just about travel. It’s about being able to work from anywhere on your own terms.

To be truly present in your child’s life is a gift that you can give yourself starting today.

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How to Make Money as a Digital Nomad

I believe that anyone and EVERYONE who wants to can become a digital nomad.

These days no matter what your skills or passions, there is a way to monetize them online.

When I first started online some 11 years ago, I first built a following teaching people Facebook Marketing. I went on to launch a membership site and generated $117,000 in 7 days. As my site grew, I became an affiliate marketer, sold ebooks, dabbled in software, and made a lot of money over the years with video courses.

Eventually, I built a 7 figure Amazon business with my partner and subsequently bought and sold some Shopify businesses.

My latest project and the one that wraps my whole journey up and that I have very long-term plans for, is what you’re reading right now. My blog and helping others build their own lifestyle businesses they can run from anywhere in the world.

To learn more about how you can make money while traveling around the world as a digital nomad watch my video:


 

But let’s say you already have a successful offline career that you’d love to develop online, giving you the freedom to work from anywhere.

As a quick example, let’s look at somebody who has spent the last 20 years of their life working in real estate.

This person has built up a vast knowledge of how to sell houses and understands how real estate markets work, how to invest, and how much money can really be made in this arena.

Now, from a random hotel room, 5,000 miles from home, how can this individual leverage this 20 years of experience to make money online?

Here are 3 ideas that immediately spring to mind:

  1. Start a blog Here, they talk about everything they have learned. They can monetize via advertising revenue and affiliate income to recommend useful products readers can buy. They could even expand into writing courses or eBooks that they can then promote through their blog. These can delve into great depth on very particular topics on real estate. Why is this so lucrative? Building these products can be very labor-intensive, but once they are done, they can be sold repeatedly with little to no expense of time or money.
  2. Start consulting They can start a service-based business where all they do is work directly with people looking to get started in the world of real estate investment. High-level consultants can get paid hundreds of dollars an hour for imparting expertise on very niche topics that less-experienced people need.
  3. Selling physical products An obvious avenue to go down here would be to write and publish a book on real estate investment. This book could be on any aspect of real estate. A great example that springs to mind is Property Investment For Beginners, by Rob Dix. This guy has spent years building his own portfolio of properties and condensed everything he has learned into a straightforward book for beginners. The book can then be sold, not only through Amazon, but any other physical or digital bookstore.

For more inspiration grab my 5 strategies to build a 7 figure online business:

 

Before I start to overwhelm you though let’s slow down and take a step back.

All of these money-making ideas fit neatly into three very distinct categories.

  1. Information Marketing
  2. Services
  3. eCommerce

Looking at our example above, they match up perfectly. Option number one is all about providing information online and then finding ways to monetize this information.

Number two is about providing a service to people in exchange for money.

Number three is all about selling physical products.

Strictly speaking, eCommerce refers to selling anything online, be it physical or digital products. But for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to group the sale of digital products into information marketing, keeping eCommerce as the sale of anything physical.

Let’s now look at each of these categories in a little more depth …

1. Information marketing

Perhaps the broadest of the three categories, here are four main types of information marketing.

The Educator

An educator is someone who provides information in exchange for money. This could include writing eBooks, creating courses, recording videos, writing blog posts. Anything that they can then package and sell for a fee.

Brian Dean is an example of a great educator. His leading online platform is Backlinko, an internet marketing blog that has grown over the last 6 or 7 years to reach well over half a million readers every month.

But he doesn’t make money when people read his blog directly.

Instead, he makes the vast majority of his money through people signing up for his advanced courses. Such as Grow Your Blog Fast and SEO That Works.

He charges a lot of money for these courses, usually over $2,000, which is well above the typical digital marketing course rate. Many of which sell for less than $100.

This is because he has cemented himself in the industry as one of the top 3 or 4 experts on SEO and digital marketing.

He’s developed a few fundamental techniques and given them personal trademarks. But the vast majority of what he shares on his blog isn’t exactly “brand new”.

Instead, he’s excellent at condensing information and sharing advanced techniques in a way that even a beginner can get to grips with.

Having built a large community of tens of thousands of email subscribers and social media followers, he has his own customer base at the touch of a button. He knows that whenever he releases a new product, A LOT of people will buy it.

No matter the price.

Backlinko - SEO training for digital nomads

SEO training from Backlinko

The Author

This is somebody who successfully packages information into a book format. These books can be either digital or physical. There’s a lot of crossovers here with eCommerce.

And to be honest, when it comes to making money online, there are many crossovers!

A great example of a successful author is Joanna Penn. In recent years, she’s published dozens of books, many of which have become international bestsellers.

She writes a mixture of fiction and non-fiction and has leveraged her experience as a successful author to expand into the realms of information marketing.

  • How to market a book
  • How to make a living with your writing
  • Audio for authors

She teaches others how to become an author while diversifying her income into an entirely new market. If you want to go down this route of being a digital nomad, I recommend buying some of her books!

The Creative Penn - resources that help you write

The Creative Penn – resources that help you write and make a living with writing

The Affiliate Marketer

Affiliate marketing is when you get paid a commission for recommending the purchase of somebody else’s product. These products could be physical or digital; it doesn’t matter.

As long as a reader clicks through an affiliate link online and then makes a purchase, the affiliate marketer will have made a percentage of the sale.

Initially built by Martin Lewis, MoneySavingExpert.com is a fantastic example of a successful affiliate marketing site.

Martin Lewis is a huge public figure in the UK, speaking out regularly on a wide range of financial topics, aimed at the every-day person who’d like to do a better job with their finances.

His rise to fame came alongside MoneySavingExpert.com, which is fundamentally an affiliate site though it may not be immediately apparent.

It covers a wide range of topics such as sourcing the best mortgage, consolidating credit card debts, and saving money on energy bills.

The overall end goal for most of his content is for readers to take action, such as picking a mortgage provider, choosing a new credit card, or switching to a new energy provider.

MoneySavingExpert then gets a commission for referring that customer to the chosen company.

The personal finance niche is perhaps one of the most profitable affiliate marketing niches (and also one of the most competitive).

In 2012, Martin Lewis sold the website to MoneySupermarket.com for a whopping £87 million! That’s roughly $120 million.

 

Money Saving Expert

MoneySavingExpert

The Influencer

The fourth category that falls neatly under Information Marketing is becoming an influencer. Influencers tend to be associated with bikini clad youngsters, with tens of thousands of followers on Instagram or popular gamers on YouTube.

But these days it’s a huge industry spanning young and old, celebrity and person next door.

One of my favorites is Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, aka Thor, aka The Mountain.

Thor on Instagram

@thorbjornsson on Instagram

With over 3.3 million Instagram followers (at the time of writing), Hafþór became a massive celebrity following his Game of Thrones appearances.

Of all things, Soda Stream reached out to him a few years ago and got him on board to promote their “Join The Revolution” campaign, showcasing how far the company goes to reduce household plastic waste.

You’d think that The Mountain, a beast of a man renowned for crushing people’s skulls open, wouldn’t be the obvious choice to promote their brand and the campaign.

You’d be wrong.

This single video has amassed close to 600,000 views, going viral overnight. Primarily because of the powerful audience Hafþór has at his disposal.


 

Clearly, we don’t all get a start as a star in Game of Thrones, but the key to monetizing becoming an influencer is to build an engaged audience who want to hear about products you recommend.

Many successful bloggers are either affiliate marketers, authors, educators, influencers, or a combination of all.

There is a lot of crossover and the chance to diversify how you make money online, so long as you have a platform and have built an audience around it.

Check out my in-depth guide on starting a blog for more help in this arena.

2. Services

This is more straightforward than many of the techniques mentioned above. Making money through services simply refers to doing a job for someone over the internet and getting paid for it.

You are essentially taking your skills and knowledge and selling them to people looking for those same services.

Here are 4 common routes for those looking to become a digital nomad and earn their living by utilizing their skillset.

Freelancing

This is the most straightforward way to get started. Working freelance, providing your services to clients on either a per-project basis or even ongoing work.

Typical freelancing work includes:

  • Copywriting
  • Social media management
  • Web development
  • Graphic design
  • Video editing
  • Virtual assistant
  • Accounting
  • Translating

To get started as a self-employed freelancer, your best bet is to head to sites like Upwork and Fiverr. Here, you can create a profile and list the sort of work you are happy to do.

The more experience you have, the more you can charge.

You will likely need to start small and work your way up. As you build up positive reviews from clients, you can slowly increase your rates and pick and choose work you would prefer.

The freelance sites will earn a fee for all the projects you take on, but they’re a great way to get started.

Alternatively, you could leverage your existing client-base to find freelance work or ask friends and relatives if they know anyone looking to hire.

Hire a freelancer on Upwork

UpWork – start working as a freelancer

Starting an agency

If you have a range of skills in one industry and don’t want to pigeon-hole yourself, why not start your own agency? Agencies provide an all-in-one solution, helping clients in a range of areas all under one roof.

For example, a digital marketing agency can help a company with tasks such as:

  • Writing new blog posts
  • Creating videos other types of content
  • Posting on social media
  • Getting publicity through other blogs/media outlets
  • Email marketing

It’s a step from freelancing and offers the chance to build a team of people, rather than just being a solopreneur.

Coaching

If you’re an expert in your field and want to teach others how to do what you do, then coaching could be an excellent route to go down.

Depending on your experience you can coach people in literally anything, be it how to grow their business, how to be a better web designer, or how to find more happiness. For a quick rundown on the different coaching models and how to get started, check out my full coaching guide.

And for inspiration, I recommend checking out Tony Robbins website. There is perhaps no better example of a successful life coach.

Ignite Your Life by Tony Robbins

Unleash the Power Within – personal growth and development coaching by Tony Robbins

Building a SaaS business

SaaS (Software as a Service) is a business model that requires you first to build a software tool and then license it out for others to use. There’s a good chance you use multiple SaaS tools yourself every day.

Big names in the industry include Salesforce, Shopify, and Hubspot.

There are thousands of such businesses out there, and the number is only growing every year. In terms of profitability, developing a SaaS business can be extremely lucrative.

It takes a decent amount of time and money to get started, but once complete can generate large amounts of residual income.

Take Note

Based on personal experience, I can tell you this … be wary of starting a SaaS business without technical knowledge or deep pockets. It can end up being extremely expensive to bring your product to market and take a lot more capital than you first expect.

Before venturing down this road, read more about my experience of starting a SaaS business.

3. Ecommerce

The third category I want to talk about is Ecommerce.

As mentioned above, I’m referring here strictly to the sale of physical products.

So, can you start an eCommerce store while living as a digital nomad?

You sure can! Gone are the days of needing to be at your store every day at 6am to open the doors and welcome guests.

In fact, gone are the days of even needing to touch a single product you sell online. Sounds crazy right? Stay with me.

Plenty of nomads make a full-time living selling products through an eCommerce store and bring in other people who handle the physical side of the business, namely production, stocking, distribution, and returns.

That’s what my Amazon FBA business was all about. We built our business to more than $3 million worth of sales in just a few short years, and never had to touch a thing.

The process goes something like this …

  • We negotiate with factories to produce a product to our specification.
  • A freight forwarding company organizes the transportation of the products to whichever countries we need.
  • Amazon takes hold of the product at their warehouses and handles everything else.

That’s it!

Customers find products through Amazon and make purchases. Amazon ships it to the customer and even handles returns if there are any issues.

If you want to build a successful eCommerce store independent of Amazon, this is also possible. Compared to working with Amazon, this can offer some unique benefits. Such as;

  • Higher profit margins
  • Full control of the customer experience
  • Greater ability to build a trusted brand

I’m not going to go into much more detail here, as the world of eCommerce and starting an online store is an incredibly in-depth topic. Just bear in mind that it’s entirely possible to sell anything you like.

It could be a product you’ve developed yourself, or it could be an existing product that you have dropshipped and branded as your own.

Hot Tip

Your job is to remove yourself as much as possible from day-to-day minutia and focus instead on the big picture of bringing more people to your store and expanding into new product ranges.

You can read my full step-by-step guide to starting an ecommerce business here.

Also, watch my video telling you how to build an ecommerce business you can run from anywhere in the world.


 
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How to Become a Digital Nomad in 8 Steps

Now I’ve walked through how many great ways there are to make money as a digital nomad, it’s time to get to work on actually becoming one!

Step 1 – Map Out Your Dream Lifestyle

This is a technique that I love to do once a year in early January. On my own, I take time to map out exactly where I see myself at the end of that year.

I like to be very visual here, describing the exact place I am, what I am doing, what I see, how I feel. The goal is to create a very clear vision of how I see my life.

For example this year, I wrote;

It’s Jan 1st, 2022. I’m sitting on Laguna Beach at 6am watching the sunrise. Rhett’s fired up the BBQ, and we’re about to have snags & onions to welcome in the new year. We’re still unable to leave Thailand, so have spent a fantastic Christmas & New Year with friends.

Life is good. We’re happy and healthy and I just had my best year yet!

My blog hit 100,000 monthly views in August as planned and my DR is 65. I published my first book – Your Lifestyle Business in November and am looking forward to making podcasting more of a priority this coming year….

I go on to talk about monetary goals, other milestones I’ve hit, personal goals achieved, and what’s happened through the year in general.

Personally, with such an uncertain future, I don’t think much beyond a year right now with any clarity, but I do have far-reaching goals for the next 5, 10 even 20 years, including;

  • Becoming a published author
  • Running Lifestyle Business retreats around the world
  • Growing my blog to 500,000 hits a month
  • Becoming an Angel Investor
  • Backpacking across South America
  • Raising $1million with my Micro Angels Fund

All of which fit with the dream lifestyle I have mapped out for myself and my family.

It’s always a good idea where possible to start with the end in mind as Stephen Covey says.

start with the end in mind
 
Hot Tip

Write out your bigger life goals and then create a very clear vision of where you’d like to be one year from now on route to those goals and then work back from there.

Here are some guiding questions to help you visualize a perfect day a year from now, in your dream lifestyle;

  • Where are you?
  • Who are you with?
  • How do you feel?
  • What are you doing that day?
  • How’s business?
  • What have you achieved this year?
  • What have you achieved personally?
  • How do you feel your year went?
  • How do you feel about the next year ahead?

Step 2 – Create Goals

I also love creating goals once a year, to steer my vision into reality.

I find that one year is far enough away to make some profound changes, but it is not so far that your dream seems unattainable.

And I can safely tell you that one year is plenty of time in which to become a digital nomad.

A very successful one at that.

So now you have your dream in mind, it’s time to start laying out some tangible goals.

Your goals will help you turn your hazy dreams into reality. Whereas stage one was more about how you felt, this step is all about what needs to be done to make your dreams come to life.

For example, to achieve your visions of a nomadic lifestyle, you might need:

  • To be earning $5,000 a month
  • To be working no more than 20 hours a week
  • To have 2 other people working for you
  • To have been to 3 different conferences in your niche
  • To have had 100,000 visits to your blog in the last 30 days
  • Have released 2 new digital products to your audience
  • To be finished working every day at 4pm so you can spend the evenings with your family

These are just examples, but as you can see, they’re clear and tangible. You have a deadline of 12 months to reach them, and you can work backward in deciding out how you will hit them.

Goals like the following are simply not clear enough.

  • “I want to be making lots of money”
  • “I want to be skinnier”
  • “I want to be happier”

Are you missing ACTION on your goals? Get some inspiration from this video.


 
Hot Tip

As a bonus step here, you can set yourself a BHAG. What does this stand for?

Big … Hairy … Audacious … Goal!

This is a ridiculously ambitious goal that you would really love to hit deep down in your wildest dreams. Dare to believe and dare to be outrageous. Set this one goal that, though extremely ambitious, is actually possible.

Perhaps it’s to generate a million dollars, become a New York Times bestseller, or be invited to speak at a major conference. It doesn’t matter.

What do you want in your heart of hearts? Go ahead and add that to your list of goals.

The final step with this is to make these goals ever-present in your life. Becoming a digital nomad is a big shift, both mentally and physically. But these goals will definitely help you get to where you want to be.

So it’s time to make them ever-present in your life. And the best way to do this is by constant reminders.

I’m talking post-it notes on the fridge and banners on your bedroom wall.

Or how about a big sign on your bathroom mirror? Every time you get out of bed in the morning and go to brush your teeth there are your goals. Staring at you, willing you on!

Step 3 – Decide Your Ideal Business Model

Now that we’ve come this far, it’s time to start making some big decisions and getting on the road to your new nomadic lifestyle.

It’s time to decide how you would most like to earn your living.

If you read the first section of this post, perhaps you are already filled with inspiration. If not, scroll back up and give it a read.

To recap, there are 3 main ways to make money as a digital nomad.

  1. Information marketing
  2. Services
  3. eCommerce

There is no right answer here. Everyone is different, and everyone will have a different preference as to which one they choose.

If you’re still really unsure, here are some things to consider …

  • What do you love doing? Cooking, teaching, web design, helping less privileged people, yoga, playing video games, exercising. List out all the things you love doing.
  • What are you good at? List all the things you are skilled at. This could be a skill, such as carpentry or graphic design, or a character trait, such as leadership or motivating others.
  • What will people pay you to do? Remember, earning money online doesn’t necessarily require someone to physically hand you cash for a service. It could include companies paying you for ad revenue or promoting their products.

If you answer each of these questions fully, then you should start to see some crossover. The ideal opportunities for you lie at the intersection of all three of these questions.

Hot Tip

Also, check out my list of 189 online lifestyle business ideas. I’m sure you’ll find something you’d be willing to go for!

The best way to make money online is to do something you love, do something you’re good at, and have a way to monetize it. For example …

  • I love helping others to realize their financial goals and build dream lifestyle businesses.
  • I’m a content creator at heart and love writing blog posts, making videos, recording podcasts. etc.
  • I monetize via affiliate offers, courses, books, products and eventually my YLB retreats (once Covid is over!)

Intersection? The blog you are reading right now!

Step 4 – Begin Your Journey TODAY

There is a very old and very famous Chinese proverb you are probably familiar with:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

journey of a thousand miles

It beautifully sums up the fact that you don’t have to alter every aspect of your life all in one go.

Becoming a digital nomad doesn’t require you to pack up your belongings, head straight to the airport, jump on a flight and go to Jamaica without any idea of how you will actually make money.

In fact, this is the LAST thing I would expect you to do. That’s coming from someone who loves the idea of making big changes in life (and kind of did exactly that, except to Cyprus, not Jamaica).

Take Note

Instead, what I mean is that you should immediately start taking small steps to begin your life as a digital nomad. The best way to do that is to start making efforts to earn money online.

That could mean launching your new eCommerce store, signing up to Fiverr, looking for people to coach, or finding a developer for your SaaS product.

Remember, being a digital nomad doesn’t require you to be anywhere physically.

You can be a digital nomad in the same place you are right now. And by starting your new business, you have the chance to dip your toe in the water and see if it is viable.

If not, great!

Rather than being 5,000 miles away in an apartment, looking at a rapidly dwindling bank balance, you are instead at home, ready to try a new idea.

While I started my online adventure from my home, we rapidly transitioned to a traveling lifestyle. I honestly had no idea of how I was going to make money online.

This was a pretty stressful experience, and we found ourselves chained to our laptops for 12 hours a day, terrified that our new lifestyle was just one big house of cards about to collapse at any minute. In fact, as credit card debts began to pile up, there were moments we considered giving the whole thing up!

Thankfully we kept going, and the rest is history. However, you now have this unique opportunity to take advantage of the fact you can’t actually go anywhere right now. So, I urge you to take those first steps and make changes TODAY. Once things become profitable and the world opens up again, you’ll be in a fantastic position to follow the next steps.

Step 5 – Decide Where You Want to Travel

If you have no desire to travel and work, you can go ahead and skip this step.

However, if you are keen to regularly experience new sites and cultures, all while making money from your laptop, then read on.

It’s time to start thinking about the sorts of places you would like to live in or visit over the coming years.

There is no one set rule to follow here. I know plenty of digital nomads who spend most of the year in one place.

Like us, we spend much of our year in our home in Phuket, Thailand. And use this as a base for shorter trips elsewhere around Asia. Sometimes, these trips end up being months-long, sometimes just a few days.

It all depends on how we feel and how our schedules are looking.

At the same time, I know plenty of other digital nomads who are almost always on the move—spending just a few days in each new city or town or village before moving on to the next one—living a backpacker lifestyle full time.

Or how about taking your home with you? The rise of Covid has led to a massive surge in the number of van lifers out there. People who have bought a campervan converted one themselves and then used it to travel and work.

This option saves a lot of money on accommodation while offering total freedom over where you park up each day.

If this option appeals to you, check out my friend Bradley’s site, where he and his partner do exactly this. They converted a campervan and now live in it full time while running their travel blog and YouTube vlog.


 

For help planning your new lifestyle abroad, here are some top resources I can recommend:

  • 52 Digital Nomad Destinations – A rundown of the best spots for digital nomads, based on costs and WiFi connection
  • Nomadlist – I love this site. It ranks hundreds of cities and digital nomad destinations by WiFi, costs, safety, community, nightlife, etc
  • Skyscanner – For finding cheap flights
  • Booking.com – Best for shorter stays
  • Airbnb – Best for long term stays (many properties offer discounts for monthly stays)
  • 12Go – Best for booking transfers almost anywhere in the world
  • Nomadicmatt.com – The No 1 Travel blog on the web. There’s not much Matt doesn’t know about travel
  • Worldtravelfamily.com – If like us, you’re traveling with a family, this site is for you!

Step 6 – Buy The Right Equipment

If you are new to the realm of making money online, then you’re going to need to invest in the right equipment/tools. Regardless of how you decide to earn your living, you will need:

A laptop

These days, you get a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to buying laptops.

However, if you’re just starting, then they may seem relatively expensive. Look at it this way; your laptop is the most critical asset in your arsenal for making money online.

A low-quality device will make working online a chore and greatly slow you down in the long run.

I’m not going to recommend any specific laptops, as I don’t have that much experience, and it depends on what you plan on doing.

If you just need to carry out more basic tasks, like emailing or writing, then you won’t need something as high spec as someone building websites. It’s best to do some research online to see what others in your chosen niche are using.

Take Note
 

NB: I use a small 12inch MacBook. I love it, as it fits in my handbag. Ideal for travel 🙂

WiFi/data

If you plan on living in the same place for a few weeks or months at a time, then make sure that your chosen hotel/apartment has good WiFi.

Common nomad destinations, like Chiang Mai, have great broadband connections almost everywhere, including when working in cafes.

But other more remote destinations that don’t have the infrastructure and limited accommodation choices may not have WiFi connections up to the task.

If you plan on moving around a lot, it’s worth picking up a local sim with a high number of gigabytes of data. That way, you can just hotspot yourself when on the move and work from anywhere.

AIS - Traveller SIM for digital nomads

AIS – traveller sim card for digital nomads in Thailand.

Two years ago, we were lucky enough to be invited on a boat trip to French Polynesia. We picked up a mobile dongle at the airport and were able to get a signal from way out in the Pacific. That’s how good they are these days.

Website

Your website’s complexity will depend mainly on what sort of business route you decide to go down.

If you’re opening an eCommerce store, then you can build one yourself with a tool like Shopify. Or instead, pay a developer to make you something more bespoke.

Shopify online shop tool for digital nomads

Create an eCommerce website with Shopify

If you are offering courses, consulting, or other services, then a professional website is useful to serve as your online portfolio. You can get started with a simple WordPress site and update it in the future by paying a developer.

If your business is going to be all about blogging and expanding into other services from there, then spend some effort getting a professional site love from the outset. For more help, check out my guide on how to start a blog.

Email

When starting, a free email account with Gmail or Outlook will be sufficient.

Once you become more established, however, you’ll need a custom email account, which you’ll get when you purchase a hosting package and set up your website. You’ll then be able to use the URL of your website in your email address.

Business bank account

It’s a smart idea to separate your business and personal finances. I’m not going to go into the realm of advising on business banking here, as it’s personal depending on where you are from.

But, if you are going to be receiving payment from abroad, then your best bet is probably Transferwise. They offer the best foreign exchange rates and allow you to open up a local bank account in dozens of different currencies.

TransferWise - Sending money from abroad for digital nomads

TransferWise – Sending money abroad for digital nomads

If you’re going to be living & working abroad, then be sure to get a personal travel banking card as well.

Depending on where you are from, you have a few choices here. Revolut and Monzo are becoming increasingly popular for travelers from Europe and even the USA.

Alternatively, your current credit card provider may offer travel banking solutions and even give you perks for booking. It’s best to look into what’s your best choice locally.

Other equipment

There are plenty of other things to buy, but this will depend so much on where you plan on living, what work you want to do, and which country you are from. Be sure to consider things like:

  • Visas
  • Passport
  • Travel insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Luggage
  • Clothing
  • Travel tech (camera, drone, GoPro, etc)

Step 7 – Eliminate Existing Ties

One of the biggest things stopping people from becoming a digital nomad is “giving up” existing parts of their lives.

Unfortunately, it is a trade-off. If your dream is to work remotely and live in different parts of the world, you will need to give up some of the things that tie you down, such as houses and cars.

If you are financially stable already, there’s no reason you can’t keep your house and rent it out. For many, this can serve as a great way to diversify your income source.

However, for just as many others, paying a huge mortgage every month is one of the most significant expenses weighing them down. And by cutting this out, you’ll be surprised just how cheaply you can live.

Monthly rent in many countries around the world is far less than the monthly mortgage or rental payments in western countries.

If your plan is to head abroad and live the digital nomad lifestyle for a few years or more, you will need to arrange a plan to sell many of your belongings or put them into long-term storage.

One of the beauties of traveling long term is realizing just how few of these things you actually use or need.

Trust me when I say, a minimalist lifestyle is incredibly enjoyable and freeing.

When we left in 2010, we listed everything we owned for sale on Gumtree (the UK equivalent of Craigs List) and sold the lot within a week! As we had decided to pack up and leave so quickly, we did end up almost giving some things away, and from our sofas, beds, drawers, books, CDs, daughters toys, kitchen equipment, etc., we only walked away with about $1200!

You have the opportunity to be far more prepared than we were and get a much greater return for some of your possessions.

If parting with things that you have thought to be important to you for so long is a scary thought, then it’s best to take baby steps. Head to online stores like eBay and list a few items that you know you don’t need anymore and start to sell them.

This process does become easier and can be done over a few months as you start to make more money online and become more prepared to become a full-time digital nomad.

Before traveling abroad, here’s a list of things you may need to deal with:

  • Selling or leasing your home
  • Handing in your rental notice
  • Handing your notice in at your current job
  • Canceling direct debits (gym, food deliveries, etc)
  • Selling unnecessary items
  • Putting other items into storage
  • Making friends and relatives aware of your plans

Step 8 – Revisit Your Plan Regularly

Congratulations! If you’ve taken a few weeks or months to follow these steps and make changes in your life slowly, there’s a good chance you are already a digital nomad or certainly on your way!

It can be an entirely different experience for everyone, but no less liberating. You now have the chance to live your dream lifestyle all on your own.

The final step I encourage you to take is to revisit your plan and try new ideas regularly.

What do I mean by this?

The world is always changing. The way you make money today as a nomad may be entirely different in 5 or 10 years. Stay alert to evolving trends and try to get ahead of the curve.

Just look at my journey over the last ten years. It started purely on social media, helping newcomers to Facebook find organic ways to build their email lists.

If I had stuck solely to that plan, I would be broke right now! Instead, I repeatedly tried new things and eventually built a multi-million dollar a year Amazon FBA business.

And what a rollercoaster that was.

Now, I’m focusing on building this blog into a mainstay of the industry and helping as many solopreneurs and digital nomads as possible to craft their dream lifestyles.

I spend most of my year living in Phuket, but we also love taking as much time as possible to travel to other parts of Asia.

As discussed above, I am a firm believer in assessing my goals and targets at the start of the year. But I will also revisit this every 3-6 months if necessary.

I encourage you to do the same.

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Digital Nomad FAQ

How much do digital nomads make?

Digital nomads make anywhere between a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. The sky’s the limit with how much you can earn.

Is being a digital nomad legal?

Yes, being a digital nomad is 100% legal. You just need to follow the same principles as you would working in a regular job, such as paying taxes.

Hot Tip

Google ‘accountancy services for digital nomads’ in your home country. As this is such an expanding area, there are specialists who can guide you to ensure you’re living above the law no matter where in the world you visit.

How do digital nomads make a living?

There are a multitude of ways to make money as a digital nomad. I like to group them into three categories for ease of understanding and to help solopreneurs & digital nomads quickly and easily see which business model is best for them.

The categories are information marketing, offering services, and ecommerce. Above, I go into much greater depth about what jobs are available under each of these categories.

What skills do I need to become a digital nomad?

All digital nomads need basic computer skills, as well as self-motivation and creativity. Beyond this, it depends on what work you plan on doing.

If you have skills from previous employment, then these can usually be transferred towards a digital career.

How much money do you need to be a nomad?

To become a nomad, you need enough money to get you started in whatever job it is you choose to do. For example, if you want to become a copywriter, you need enough money to buy a laptop and pay for your other monthly expenses, like rent and food.

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Other useful resources for building a digital nomad lifestyle

I’ve compiled a list of useful resources from around the web, to help you in different elements of building your digital nomad lifestyle.

Banking

Visas, Taxes, Insurance

Online Communities

Packing

Family life

Productivity

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How to Start Your Digital Nomad Journey

There are many ways to become a digital nomad.

You may choose to start your own website or blog, sell products on Etsy, Amazon, or your own online store, become a YouTuber or Instagram Influencer, or start your own Joe Rogan style podcast.

The world is truly your oyster in the online digital world we currently live in.

However, the fastest route to becoming a digital nomad is undoubtedly freelancing.

Assess your skill sets. What are you good at? What do you love to do? Where can you add value?

Perhaps you’re a great writer, good at graphic design, love to edit videos, or are a master at TikTok!

Maybe you’re a project manager, a consultant, a career advisor, or work in a legal firm.

Whatever you do, there is someone out there who needs your services on a contractual basis.

Use sites like upwork.com, fiverr.com, and freelancer.com to pitch your services and start to work your own hours.

Then when you’re ready, you can turn your freelance work into a fully-fledged business that funds your lifestyle.

Anyone can do this, given enough time and dedication. Right now, you have the time; do you have the dedication?

Good luck!

Please share with anyone you think this might benefit. Thank you 🙂