How to Get Started as a Digital Nomad

Everyone has the possibility to become a digital nomad. But not everyone has this ability right from the bat. It is not feasible to expect that you can go instantly from your cubicle job to a life of running a location independent business abroad (although it can be exciting to try this out for a short period). In general you will need to get some things in place first; what that is depends on your station in life and career. For instance, when you already have an up and running coaching practice or a web store the jump to become a digital nomad is easier than when you work at the local supermarket. But I am convinced that the lifestyle is possible for everyone who really wants to.

Some things to take into consideration are:

Do not aim too high

Go for a modest lifestyle sustaining income first. This means you can get in the digital nomad mode without too much planning and hassle. It makes sure you make the step without thinking it over too many times which can cause you to chicken out of the idea. When you think about it you do not need that much money on an international level to sustain yourself (i.e. $2000 a month can already be very good income for low income countries).

When you have a certain skill, leverage it online as freelancer. In case you do not have a specific skill you can always do online grunt work, as text writing, or being a virtual assistant. Now, that will not be fun but ensures that you get a modest income while you are working on your long term projects. Of course, when you have a good office job, it would be silly to throw it away just like that. Working in a regular job while building your location independent business at the same time can also be a decent avenue. Just make sure you make the move at some point in time though.

The only thing I would really recommend against is that you save a lot of money in order to be a digital nomad. This is fine when you are a tourist, but when you really want the lifestyle it gives the wrong mindset. You living on savings abroad is a “losing money” mindset, which gives you some sort of deadline at which you have to return home. IMO that is not what makes a location independent lifestyle successful. Success is based on a “making money” mindset so you will be able to live abroad indefinitely (in a technical sense).

Do not aim too low

Have a grand long term goal towards which you are working. Making the first step is very important and you can do it with modest means. But when you only stick to this you will run into yourself and your dreams down the road in a few years’ time. It is better to also have some grand projects going on that can make money in the long run. For instance, you make money as a freelancer, which is great, but it is basically earning on a day by day basis. For a longer term view it makes sense to build some websites which can add value (i.e. a blog) or that you build a framework to employ other freelancers who work for you in some way, so you can grow your business.

This point can be summarized as: start small but think big. From time to time take a step back and think about how you can improve your skills/business/profit in the long run in a smart way – so not only by doing more work. This makes you a digital nomad to stay, and not only one that lives day by day.

Write down the steps towards your goal and quantify them

Note all the things you have to do in order for you to reach your goals. Make these steps small and attainable. Personally I am a fan of to do lists. It gives you a straightforward basis on what to work on for the day and as part of your bigger projects and goals.

Completing every step gives you also some sort of fulfillment and will give you motivation to keep working on your projects. When you have to do a big step at once or have only one goal quantified can look like that the goal is not achievable or too big to tackle. Making the steps small makes to you work on it little by little. And then, suddenly you big goal is achieved. That is a very gratifying feeling.

Do the work

Being a digital nomad and living location independent is not same as having a holiday (or at least not all the time). You will have to put in the necessary amount of work to make it happen. And perhaps when you start out you will have to do more work than ever. So it can happen that you find yourself on a beautiful beach or in a scenic mountainous area, just to find yourself working on your laptop on a new project, sweating away.

But when you really want it, it does not really matter. Because you know that what you want, becoming location independent, is worth it.

Have the right mindset

Of course before all this you need the correct mindset first. Do you really want it? Everyone has the possibility but that does not mean everyone should, can or wants to do it. You need to have a certain mindset that you want to be free, and not to be bound by normal conventions too much. Do not be swayed by social peer pressure.

And by the way, do not get too hung up on the principle of being a strict “digital nomad” or what it is supposed to be. That is not what it is. It is more about how to get the best out of yourself while using this skill to make money in a location independent way. So, think about your passions and core skills first, then think about how to make money from it online.