It sounds and looks amazing – websites that show freelancers and gig workers on a beach, in swimwear, with their laptops open and the great ocean breezes providing the perfect temperature.
Have you ever really tried to work on a beach? The glare of the sun? The stickiness of salt water after having taken a dip? It is probably the worst work environment a freelancer can find, except perhaps trying to work in a crowded, noisy foreign coffee shop in which Internet service is “iffy” at best.
So how exactly can you satisfy your nomadic dreams and your freelancing career too? Here are some things that will help you accomplish just that.
1. Figure out your living arrangements
Clearly, you will need at least a part-time home-base. Hotels may seem like an obvious choice. But a good “business” room with a desk and good connectivity will quickly drain your budgets. So it’s better to opt for a short-term rental. Airbnb is only the tip of the iceberg right now.
As the freelance economy is poised for further rapid growth, an increasing number of savvy companies have now decided to cater to “nomads” by offering long-term stay solutions. You can browse sites like Roam or Selina, for co-living spaces that allow digital nomads to live in a community-like environment. Right now, they don’t have properties in so many places like Airbnb, but they are expanding as we speak. And, in general, most of these living spaces are cheaper or on-par with traditional apartments and hotel costs.
2. Research your destinations in advance
“The first thing you want to take care of is your passport,” said Mark Harris, CEO of Travel Visa Pro. “Make sure it’s in order and determine whether you need a visa to enter any of the countries you’re visiting soon. Check for the visa requirements and other paperworks that you might need to make your visit and stay seamless.”
Travelling to a tropical place may be a sound choice for a vacation. But getting work done in a humid, exhaustingly warm locale with no AC is not that fun. So balance your desire for visiting exotic places with a quick reality-check in terms of live/work arrangements.
Nomad List has an up-to-date review section for different locations based on cost, internet availability, weather and leisure/entertainment opportunities. All of the rankings are courtesy of other digital nomads and traveling freelancers, not the leisurely vacation-goers.
3. Optimize your traveling costs
Even if you plan to migrate to a cheaper region, your travel costs may end up being in line or even higher than your “domestic” living. So think about your travel just as you would when shopping for discounts and deals on products you buy. Everything from cashback and rewards credit cards to mileage rewards, to hotel and restaurant discounts that come with travel packages are worth considering.
As Ben Packard, founder of the frequent flyer website Thrifty Points states, “International travel costs can have a huge impact on a digital nomads monthly budget. Through the clever use of credit cards and loyalty schemes we’re seeing perpetual travelers not only reducing the cost of moving from A to B but enabling them to do so in a fashion which replicates a work environment. Gone are the days of smelly packed coaches, digital nomads are now flying in business suites at 35,000 feet thanks to free reward points.”
4. Give yourself that final “reality-check”
Before you launch yourself full speed ahead into your new career, selling all of your worldly goods and reducing your possessions to a knapsack and laptop, make sure that this lifestyle is truly a fit for you. Freelancing and remote work is not for everyone. Realizing that half way into your trip can be an expensive mistake.
So carefully consider what you are signing up for. There will be an initial period of loneliness, as you leave family, friends and your community. It takes time to establish new connections. If you are outgoing, you will have an easier time of this; you can also choose co-working spaces and residences that are designed for nomads.
Also, if your business receives letters from clients, suppliers, vendors or other partners, consider getting a virtual office. That way, you can still receive all letters in one place and have them scanned and emailed to you.
Establishing a work routine, especially if you are coming from a traditional work environment, will be a challenge. There will be much to do and see in a new place, but you need to commit to a certain number of work hours each day if you are going to thrive financially. Learn to resist temptation and reserve your downtime for the hours you set.
You will never know if life as a digital nomad really works for you until you actually live it for a while. Give yourself a test, if at all possible. Take a sabbatical from work, rent out your house and get your feet wet. Once you have had about six months of this lifestyle, you will probably know if it is right for you.