How to start your career as a digital nomad
You’ve survived university – the ups, the downs and all the uncertainty. Now it’s time to start looking for a job and kicking off your career.
If the thought of a long commute on a crowded train to work an office job from 9-5 every day makes you break out in hives, don’t fret. Thanks to the rise in flexible working conditions and companies hiring remote workers, those entering the workforce now have more choice and flexibility than ever before.
Digital nomads are taking advantage of this shift and setting up their laptops on a beautiful beach in Costa Rica, a chic cafe in Paris or in one of Croatia’s historic cities. Keep reading to find out how to start your career as a digital nomad and work and travel your way around the world!
Tips for finding a career
What jobs can you do as a digital nomad?
Now that employers understand that giving employees flexibility boosts productivity and retention, there’s been a huge shift towards supporting location agnostic work – that is, working from anywhere. So unless you’re starting a career in a job that requires interpersonal interaction or a physical presence at a worksite, you’ll find plenty of opportunities that support remote work in large and small companies.
Start searching here:
Use the ‘remote’ option under the location filter on any job platform or LinkedIn
Remote only job platforms such as FlexJobs, remote.co and WeWorkRemotely
Join social media groups for digital nomads, such as ‘Remote Work & Jobs for Digital Nomads’ or ‘Digital Nomad Jobs’
If you’re already employed, speak to your boss about working remotely
Alternatively, if you have in-demand skills such as content creation, digital marketing and SEO, virtual assistance, social media marketing, writing or UX and web design, you may be able to find your own clients and work as a self-employed freelancer and set your own hours.
Things to keep in mind
Not sure if life as a digital nomad is for you? Here are some things to keep in mind.
Resourcefulness, self-motivation, openness and optimism are the key personality traits that successful digital nomads have. Resourcefulness ensures you know how to make the most out of any situation and know how to solve problems that arise when traveling. Self motivation will help you stay on track when it comes to hitting deadlines or finding new clients, while openness and optimism will help you build connections and enjoy the journey as you adapt to your new life on the road.
Time zones are necessary evils when you live a digital nomad lifestyle. It’s unlikely you’ll always have colleagues or clients in the same time zones, so you’ll have to learn to compromise. In return for living abroad, early morning meetings or late night presentations may become the norm. Take this into consideration when thinking about where you’ll live and work – hostels might not work, but a private Airbnb or hotel room will offer you more privacy.
Your wage will vary greatly depending on how much you’re working and the type of work you do. One study found only 30% of digital nomads make the same amount of money they made in their 9 to 5 jobs. However, this may be because they choose to work less while on the road, and leave more time for exploring. And if you’re a freelancer, your earnings may vary greatly from month-to-month. So it’s important to set a budget, understand your tax obligations and organize digital nomad travel insurance when you work remotely. And always keep a savings buffer to tide you over in case you lose your job or a big client while on the road.
Your living costs will also vary greatly depending on the countries you plan on living in. While Asia, Eastern Europe and South America are often fairly cheap, Western Europe, New Zealand and Australia are much more expensive. Similarly, shared dorms in a hostel will be much cheaper than renting an Airbnb. Ultimately, it comes down to your wages, style of living and overall budget. This cost of living chart will help you understand how much you can expect to pay in various cities around the world.
Depending on where you plan to base yourself and your nationality, the visa rules vary greatly. So make sure you do your own research to avoid running into visa complications. Also, take note of countries offering dedicated digital nomad visas such as Croatia, Antigua and Barbuda, Estonia, Malta and Mexico. Not only will it make your stay hassle-free, you’ll also find a large community of fellow digital nomads that you can join to make friends.
Skills you need to develop as a digital nomad
Working remotely means you’ll often be pulled between fun activities due and work commitments. When the beach is calling, but you have a deadline, or your meeting coincides with an awesome trip your friends are begging you to join, your organizational skills will be put to the test. Digital apps such as Trello for project management, Slack for instant communication, Zoom for virtual meetings, Calendly to book meetings across time zones, and a digital calendar will help you stay organized. While some people may want to stick to a strict routine to ensure they don’t fall behind, others may work better by staying flexible, and accepting there may be some late nights and early mornings.
Whichever strategy you choose, always remember you’ve made a commitment to a job, and that should come first, or you may find yourself without a paycheck very soon!
If you’re working remotely, chances are your colleagues or clients are also spread across the world. So developing cultural awareness will be vital to ensure things run smoothly. Different cultures have different expectations when it comes to punctuality, communication, management and interpersonal relationships at work.
To understand more, try reading the book The Culture Map or dive into a course that allows you to develop your cultural awareness.
Without the face-to-face contact you would normally get in the office, you may find it harder to communicate and build connections with your colleagues or clients. So it’s important to work on your communication skills, both written and verbal, to avoid miscommunication and fracturing relationships.
If any of your clients work in a language that isn’t your native tongue, it may also be worth refining your foreign language skills, to make sure communication flows more smoothly.
Starting your career as a digital nomad is a great way to earn a wage and travel the world at the same time. It will boost your communication and organizational skills, as well as building your understanding and acceptance of others – all important qualities employers look for. And remember, if it’s not working out, you can always return home. So what have you got to lose?