Not long ago, the idea of working outside of the office would have managers laughing.
In recent years, though, advances in digital technology have made the possibility of working remotely a reality for many. From conversion optimization consultants to freelance designers... Facebook ad managers to YouTube SEO specialists, entrepreneurs and employees alike are embracing the digital nomad movement.
Jobs that allow people to work from anywhere are increasing at an exponential rate across fields ranging from software development to pharmaceuticals.
Entrepreneurs who are thinking about taking their business on the road can learn how to make their online venture a success by following the advice of top-earning digital nomads in their field.
What are Digital Nomads?
Digital nomads are workers who travel the world while making a sustainable income.
Remote positions such as travel nurses, freelance writers, independent graphic designers, and software developers are becoming more widely available as global Internet access continues to improve.
While some entrepreneurs choose to work on a contract or freelance basis, others negotiate a remote work deal with their employer, sometimes spending a portion of their time in the office and the rest off-site.
In general, though, most full-time digital nomads are untied to a particular place of employment and work as their own boss.
According to the Freelancers Union, 35% of the U.S. workforce, or 55 million people, sustain themselves through freelancing.
The Benefits of Working Remotely
The ability to work from anywhere has opened up a whole new world for online entrepreneurs across the globe, with more and more professionals choosing to take their work on the road.
There are plenty of good reasons that workers are ditching the traditional work structure in favor of working from home or abroad.
A Flexible Schedule
Remote workers not only choose where they work but also when they work.
This perk is an important consideration for many workers, with the number of people quitting their due to lack of flexibility nearly doubling from 17% in 2014 to 32% in 2017.
While not all digital nomads find success on the road, many positions offer the promise of a hefty paycheck for those at the top of their field.
A senior iOS developer, for example, can make between $130,000 and $160,000 annually, while an experienced systems engineer can earn anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000.
For many workers, it’s easier to be productive in the comfort of their own home rather than at the office.
In fact, 75% of millennials believe that allowing employees to work remotely would enhance efficiency within their company.
While working remotely does take some degree of self-discipline, telecommuters don’t have to worry about distractions such as conversations from coworkers or impromptu office meetings, allowing them to focus.
Working remotely also cuts back on time and money lost to commuting and enables offices to rent out a smaller, more affordable space.
Obstacles All Digital Nomads Face
Working remotely has its upsides, but as with any career field, there are also drawbacks to consider.
There’s a reason that more than 90% of new Internet startups fail within the first few years.
No matter their field, all remote workers face certain challenges that come alongside the nomadic lifestyle.
By its very nature, the nomadic lifestyle is unpredictable. Freelancers and contractors often don’t have a guaranteed monthly income or a set work schedule to follow.
Working remotely means sacrificing the stability that traditional 9 to 5 positions offer.
Many digital nomads also have to give up property and possessions, including their house and car back home.
Coping with Loneliness
While working in an office can be distracting at times, it also gives workers plenty of opportunities to get together and socialize during the day.
Working remotely, on the other hand, means infrequent human contact during the workday.
A solitary lifestyle can be demotivating for digital nomads, leading to a lack of productivity and even possible mental or physical health issues.
Succeeding as a remote worker requires years of hard work. While traveling the world as a digital nomad may seem like a vacation, many entrepreneurs find that the lifestyle requires much more effort than they were expecting.
It’s easy for telecommuters to overwork themselves, leading to demotivation and early burnout.
Advice from the Experts
One of the best ways to learn how to succeed as a digital nomad is by learning from other high-earning names.
Many online entrepreneurs earn a yearly income reaching six or more figures working as a freelancer or contractor, and they all have expert advice on how new players can make a name for themselves in their field.
Put in the Work
Nicole Faith, the owner of the website design and branding company 10 Carat Creations, quit her full-time job to act as her own boss.
She now earns an impressive annual income of between $150,000 and $200,000 without ever having to set foot inside an office.
According to Faith, the most key to success as a digital nomad is simply to work hard and avoid slacking off. “I want to get my work done in the most productive way possible, which has led me to systemizing and automating,” she says.
“Success can happen in weeks or months. You have to be willing to put in the unpaid hours to reap the rewards later on.
Your attitude toward making a lot of money online should be, ‘Why not me?'”
Collaborate with Other Professionals
Working as a freelancer or contractor doesn’t necessarily mean that remote workers have to shoulder their professional burden alone.
Working with other talented professionals within the worldwide freelance network can help digital nomads to diversify their portfolio and produce better end results on a project.
Steve Spiro, a digital nomad who moves countries each month and nets more than $30,000 annually, believes that he owes his success in part to his collaborative efforts.
“Digital nomads have made good money as guest speakers at workspaces, and have also earned consulting gigs from the local companies they have met,” states Spiro.
“You might even find you have complementary skill sets, and that you can earn more money together.”
Co-founder of The Remote Experience and digital nomad Michelle Lawson believes that there’s even more than that to forging professional relationships.
According to Lawson, “Misery loves company, and I’ve found that working with someone who is also missing out on the same travel activities you want to do really helps manage FOMO.”
Follow Your Passion
Jenaya Robinson is a digital nomad who, alongside her husband, run a site for teachers known as Lesson Plan Diva along with Marry Me, a digital magazine.
The couple brings in between $150,000 to $200,000 a year as they move around the globe.
According to Robinson, it’s important to follow a path that you enjoy if you’re looking for success as a digital nomad.
“Do something you love and keep doing it,” she says.
“Turn your passion into your business and make the world your office, that way you will love working every single day.
Stick to a Routine
Even though remote workers may not need to be ready and in the office by eight, it’s still critical that they maintain structure throughout their day.
Without building a daily routine, it’s easy to get off-track and off-schedule.
Laura Gallaher, organizational psychologist and speaker, finds that routine is vital to her success as a traveling entrepreneur.
“I have a consistent practice of finding a meditation spot, finding a favorite local restaurant, finding a grocery store, and learning how things work in my apartment,” she states.
“Everywhere I go, I know that is my routine.”
For Gallaher, routine isn’t just about staying organized. It also helps her to cope with the instability that comes with the nomadic lifestyle.
“The consistency can help me cope with the anxiety of the unknowns that could otherwise interfere with my productivity,” she says.
Duncan Falk, another full-time digital nomad, also emphasizes the importance of routine.
“When you’re at home, you can’t play every day or just work for two hours and expect to afford your life,” he says.
“Same goes for when you’re on the road: You do your daily routine, but then after work, you get to explore a new place.”
Maintain a Work-Play Balance
It can be difficult for digital nomads to strike a healthy work-play balance.
It can be tempting to overwork yourself, especially for those who are just starting out.
Remote workers need to make sure that they not only make time for their work but also schedule leisure time each week where they can relax and unwind.
According to three-year digital nomad Mark Meyer, who works as a software engineer, remote workers need to be careful about how they spend their free time.
“Without having the cues of an office for what times to start and stop working, it’s very easy to feel like you should always be working, and sometimes it’s necessary to say ‘yes’ to that crazy fun thing,” he says.
“In the end, it’s all about balance—and finding how to be self-reliant.”
Hilary Welter is another traveling entrepreneur who specializes in marketing and research coordination and believes that work-life balance is the key to professional success.
“When you don’t have an office to physically leave, work is always with you. Whether you’re working days, nights, or somewhere in between, stick to some kind of work schedule, so you leave time to enjoy life,” she says.
Mistakes to Avoid
Succeeding as a digital nomad isn't easy.
There are several common mistakes that rookies tend to make when starting out in the online sphere, leading to problems with productivity and cash flow down the road.
Following False Role Models
While successful digital nomads may have invaluable advice to offer, following the example of the wrong entrepreneur can be a fatal mistake for budding professionals.
Some individuals tailor their social media sites to make their enterprise appear more successful than it actually is.
Aspiring digital nomads should be careful not to learn from fake personalities, as they’re likely to repeat the same mistakes.
Pursuing the Wrong Clients
For freelance workers and contractors, clients are the main determining factor when it comes to their revenue stream.
It's a good idea for online entrepreneurs to start building a client base before they begin their venture.
It’s essential that digital nomads take on the right client base to succeed. Too many new workers agree to take on short-term projects as opposed to looking for long-term clients who will offer consistent work.
Some of those new to the digital sphere also agree to lower prices early on in the game, which can put a cap on earnings over the long-term.
Choosing the Wrong Location
Digital nomads who travel from country to country can best increase their bottom line by lowering living expenses.
It’s crucial that remote workers research their choice of locale extensively before moving there so that they have an idea of how much they can expect to spend each month.
It’s also important to look for places that have a reliable Internet infrastructure in place.
Losing Focus or Motivation
Online entrepreneurs who lose sight of their goals tend to see a decline in productivity.
With a reduced revenue stream, they have more trouble maintaining their nomadic lifestyle.
The most successful remote workers make it a point to keep themselves on-task by creating a routine that balances work and free time to prevent early burnout.
What the Future Holds for Digital Nomads
The advent of the Internet has revolutionized the way that people work and operate their businesses.
These days, it’s easy for people to work from anywhere, with 70% of individuals across the globe working remotely at least one day per week.
From exotic forests to remote islands, digital nomads have the world at their fingertips.
With a goal in mind and a plan in place, entrepreneurs in just about any field can make their online venture a success from anywhere in the world.
In the coming years, we can expect to see a growing number of industries embracing the idea of remote workers as more and more people take their work out of the office and into the wild.