Recent years have seen an increase in Digital Nomads – workers who use technology to work from wherever they choose. Advances in IT have made it easier to set up shop from locations worldwide, and more jobs have become less location dependent.
According to a recent study of American workers, as many as 4.8 million already identify as Digital Nomads and this number is set to grow.
There has also been a dramatic increase in Digital Nomad travel services and organized ‘Nomad Trips.’ While it’s easier than ever to embrace the Digital Nomad lifestyle, there are still challenges you must take into consideration beforehand.
The Digital Nomad term may evoke images of working on a project beach side with a cocktail in hand, or sipping on a cappuccino in trendy cafe while virtually engaging with clients, but these images are often misleading, if not downright false.
Making the Digital Nomad lifestyle work takes time and effort. Research, careful planning and flexibility are all key. In other words, in order to enjoy the multiple benefits that being a Digital Nomad can bring, you need to be prepared.
So maybe you’re ready to become a Digital Nomad, or you’ve already made the leap. How can you best prepare to embrace this trend and make the most of it? Here are some main considerations you should take into account.
Reliable, Steady Work
The Digital Nomad lifestyle comes with a certain amount of uncertainty. Confusing visa regimes, travel problems, unreliable wifi, and cultural differences can all cause a certain amount of stress. One thing that shouldn’t be uncertain in this environment is your financial independence.
Being in a foreign country means you most likely won’t have a safety net to fall back on in a pinch. Given that most digital nomads are freelancers it’s important to make sure that you have a steady flow of work lined up before making any big moves.
There are freelancer sites that can help facilitate setting up jobs, but ultimately it’s important to have a financial back-up plan when setting out. Putting aside an emergency fund for any unforeseen circumstances, for example, can help alleviate some of the financial stress.
Location, Location, Location
Perhaps one of the biggest choices you’ll make as a Digital Nomad is where you want to work from. While this may sound like a simple choice you can make based on the nicest weather and cleanest beaches, there are more important considerations to make.
First and foremost is the visa question. Immigration systems are complex and difficult to navigate. While many countries are more than happy to have tourists in their countries, and many Digital Nomads simply use tourist visas, the question of working remotely is a trickier one.
Some countries will turn a blind eye to Digital Nomads setting up shop to work on projects, as long as those projects based abroad and not with local clients, and others have even taken steps to encourage this trend. Estonia, for example, already has an E-Residency program allowing you to easily establish a location independent e-business, and is set to launch a specific Digital Nomad work visa. Other countries will surely follow with their own programs.
Regardless of the route you take, make sure to take the time to research potential locations up front. You should also consider other factors like cost of living, internet speed and quality of life, as all of these factors combined with your personal preferences can help you make the best choice.
Health and Happiness
Staying healthy while on the move is challenging, and the transient nature of the Digital Nomad lifestyle can make it difficult to follow any long-term health and fitness routines. This goes for physical as well as mental health, as the lack of a support network of friends and families can be a challenge that many don’t foresee.
One potential solution is hook up with interest groups in whatever location you’re in. A local hiking group, for example, can help keep you active and introduce you to people with shared interests. Setting up shop in a co-working space can also serve to expand your social circle as well.
Another consideration is health insurance. Luckily, there are some decent options for travellers which Digital Nomads can take advantage of as well, and in many of the top destinations health care is significantly cheaper than the US or other Western countries.
Keep it Secure
Relying on public wifi for your work leaves you more prone to security risks than someone working from home and relying on their own connection. As a Digital Nomad, you should take into consideration all of the factors related to secure communication for remote work.
Take precautions to make sure that your work and communications remain secure. Private VPN, and encrypted email and messengers are some of the tools that you may want to invest in as a Digital Nomad. If you’re more risk averse, you can also consider setting up shop in a reliable co-working space, which are becoming more prevalent worldwide.
One other option is to buy data from a local provider and set up your own network. This can both keep your work more secure and solve the ever present connectivity challenge that Digital Nomads face. You may even save money in the end when you consider the amount of expensive coffees you may need to buy on a daily basis in order to use free cafe wifi.
The technological revolution we’ve witnessed over that last decades has brought a never before seen level of flexibility to many workers. It’s never been easier to pack up and start working from somewhere else, but that doesn’t mean it’s always a simple process.
In order to make the Digital Nomad lifestyle work for you, you need to prepare. In this way there will be more of the pleasant beach time that many of us imagine, and less of the stressful moments that we dread.