Helpful Tips for the New Digital Nomad

The chance to live and work as a digital nomad can open up exciting opportunities to travel, learn about other cultures and experience ongoing adventures. This trending lifestyle offers financial and geographic independence, and all you need is an internet connection. It’s no wonder this life is so appealing to the new digital nomad!

Armed with your skills and a laptop, you can set out to experience the digital nomadic lifestyle. But starting out on this journey isn’t always as easy as it might seem. These tips can help to make for a smoother transition into this new lifestyle. 

Research each culture

Before you begin your new digital nomad adventure, start with research, and lots of it. You’ll need an understanding of the international cultural differences that occur in business. If you’ll be working for a business in another country, you’ll need to understand the country’s culture. This includes etiquette, communication style and more. This will help you avoid accidentally offending your employers or clients. Additionally, you can keep from turning in work that would present their business in a bad light. 

Learning all the nuances of a different culture is a big task. While doing your own research can provide valuable insight, professional help can ensure you don’t overlook anything important. The U.S. Commercial Service office helps companies branch out into new and different cultures. It can provide you with important information on your upcoming career opportunity.

Be sure to extend your research to the industry that you’re hoping to work in, too. If you haven’t yet landed a job or are hoping to freelance, spend some time researching freelance opportunities. Look at important skills to have and the best ways to get freelance positions. Different countries emphasize different values in regards to skills and how workers use their time. Opportunities in one country may result in higher pay than in another country. By identifying digital work opportunities ahead of time, you’ll be better prepared to make that transition into life as a new digital nomad. 

Person typing on a laptop; new digital nomad

Research potential health and safety issues

Before you travel to a foreign country, research the potential health and safety issues you may face. Global health issues like Zika, measles, yellow fever and other diseases are more prevalent in certain areas of the world. You should familiarize yourself with issues that are present in your destination. Learn about strategies to protect your health and make sure you are up to date on all recommended vaccines before traveling. 

For your safety, familiarize yourself with the laws in your destination. Laws governing use of CBD, marijuana, alcohol and other controlled substances differ depending on your location. While you may be of legal drinking age in one country, those laws can change if you cross a border. Before traveling, take some time to review information on laws and any banned substances. 

Build up your experience

If you’re hoping to land a position as a freelancer or employee, start building up your relevant experience before it’s time to pitch clients or apply for jobs. Determine the type of work you want to do, then look up some job descriptions within that field to see the requirements they list. Look at your current qualifications and decide if there are any gaps in skills or experiences you should fill in. Online classes are a low-cost way to develop your skills. 

This is also the time to build up your portfolio. If you have previous experience as an employee or freelancer, you may be able to use some of your previous work as samples. If you don’t yet have professional experience in the field, offer to volunteer some time to a business or entrepreneur so you can build up your portfolio. 

Before you set out to freelance on a full-time basis, gain some experience as a freelancer part-time. While balancing freelancing with a full-time job will require some scheduling management, this gives you the time to learn the ins and outs of freelancing. You will need to develop skills such as:

  • Understanding how to approach and talk to clients.
  • Assessing a project’s scope and communicating effectively throughout it.
  • Taking and responding to feedback.
  • Managing invoicing and financial aspects.
  • Learning how to market yourself. 

Freelancing part-time with income from another source gives you a little more flexibility as you learn and develop your skills. You’ll learn valuable information about how you work best. Do you need music in the background to help break up the silence? Or do you thrive when things are absolutely quiet and there are no distractions? Pay attention to the times of day when you work best; you can use this information to maximize your productivity once you’ve gone full-time. 

This freelance experience can take some of the learning curve out of your transition to a full-time digital nomadic life. 

Laptop on a table with rice paddies in the background; new digital nomad

Be ready for challenges

The digital nomadic life sounds idyllic, but it will also be challenging. You will need to work hard, especially when you’re just starting out. Self-discipline, dedication, and the ability to hustle will all be important. Expect to work long hours during your first year or so as a digital nomad. Once you get the process down and build your client base, you can scale back to a more enjoyable schedule. 

There will also be tough times and stress. You may have a conference call scheduled only to discover the wifi is out. Or, you may find you can’t hear your client from the crowded cafe where you’ve staked out a seat. When you work with technology things have a way of breaking; when you combine technology with travel and uncertain internet connections, anything can happen. 

Working as a digital nomad can be hard. But if you prepare for the challenge, you can get through tough times and enjoy this amazing lifestyle. 

Get the right tools

Working remotely offers many benefits. But it can also pose challenges when you’re in a different time zone than your employer or client. Luckily, there are tools that can make working internationally easier and more effective. 

Cloud storage is ideal for digital nomads working different hours in different time zones. With digital storage, you can easily share documents with team members all over the world. It’s easy to use, accessible from multiple devices and customizable. Most cloud storage options allow you to upgrade for additional storage capacity.  

There are plenty of apps and programs that allow you to set up free conference calls and video chats with your team all over the world, but coordinating multiple time zones is tricky. Add Every Time Zone to your browser bookmarks and take the guesswork out of scheduling calls. 

While you’re at it, bookmark Nomad List, too. This comprehensive site can help you to decide where you’d like to travel next, whether you’re looking for a nearby city or are ready to make the move to another country. The site aggregates data about the best nomad-friendly locations in the world, giving you inside information on the cost of living, climate and more. 

Other tools of the trade include a reliable laptop, a smartphone and your passport. 

Person with laptop sitting next to person with tablet; new digital nomad

Learn to manage your finances

Learning to manage your finances in your nomadic lifestyle can be one of the most challenging skills you’ll need to master. Start by developing a budget and determining how much you’ll need to bring in each month to pay your expenses. Don’t forget to factor in the money that you’ll need to set aside for taxes, and add on a little extra so that you have some spending money. 

If you have any questions about taxes, talk with an accountant before you leave home. You don’t want to put off taxes and then find out that you’ll be penalized for not paying quarterly taxes or that you haven’t set enough aside.

If at all possible, try to build up some savings before you venture out into the digital nomadic lifestyle. Having this money set aside will relieve your stress when you encounter unexpected expenses, have a slow month of work or if that big new client project falls through. 

Prioritize your health

Traveling and working as a digital nomad does bring its share of stress, so be sure to prioritize your health. On quieter days when you aren’t traveling much, make an effort to get in some exercise. Go for a walk or do some yoga. While you’ll definitely want to indulge in the local cuisine, do this with moderation. Further, balance your alcohol consumption with some days off from drinking. 

Maintaining a work-life balance isn’t always possible in the gig economy. If you’re working as a freelancer you may feel compelled to take on all the work you can get. Resist that urge. Instead, focus on learning how to market yourself and keep a steady stream of clients. Try to save money so you have it available for times when things do slow down. 

Being a digital nomad is all about the experience, so enjoy what each destination has to offer. Take time off to explore your destinations; after all, that’s one of the main reasons to live a nomadic lifestyle. You can learn so many things from traveling around the world; don’t fill up your schedule with so much work that you miss out on these experiences. 

Your digital nomadic life is a journey, so take your time. Enjoy the freedom this lifestyle offers and have a wonderful adventure exploring the world.

About Jori Hamilton


Jori Hamilton is a writer from the pacific northwest who covers travel, social issues, and technology. You can follow her on twitter @hamiltonjori

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