Who is a digital nomad, and how to become one? And could you make money when travelling abroad? The post-COVID work-from-anywhere culture is opening up huge opportunities for living abroad while working remotely, with some places even paying remote workers to move there.
So, could being a digital nomad work for you? In this guide, we look into how to become a digital nomad, best jobs for digital nomads and how to make working remotely in another country or location work for you.
A digital nomad is someone who combines working remotely with travelling to different countries and locations. Digital nomads might be employed by a company, or they might be self-employed or have their own company, but in any case, they depend on technology to do their work.
The ability to live and work from nearly anywhere opens up a world of possibilities to create the lifestyle you desire.
What do digital nomads need?
An excellent Wi-Fi connection is top of the list. Without one, nomads simply can’t do their work. Working alone far from family and friends can get lonely, so would-be nomads might also want to consider the availability of co-working spaces and whether their location is popular with other remote workers.
As with any expats, housing costs, healthcare, climate and general standards of living are other considerations.
How to become a digital nomad: things to consider
Thinking about becoming a digital nomad? Here are some things to consider.
- Are you ready for it? Being a digital nomad brings unfamiliarity and less contact with family and friends. You might want to try it for just a couple of months initially to see if it suits you.
- Do you have enough work? You’ll need enough income to keep going – and you may need to earn more than a certain amount to get a working visa for some locations. Also make sure you understand your situation with regard to paying tax.
- Do you understand working visa requirements? Research your destination(s) to make sure you’re eligible to work there legally. Take into account any changes to working requirements because of Brexit.
What do digital nomads actually do?
Digital nomads can do anything provided it can be done 100% remotely– Nomads can be writers, work in technology, sales, marketing, as bloggers or influencers, or even teachers, among many other things.
Can anyone be a digital nomad?
If your job allows you to work remotely and you have a stable wi-fi connection, then generally speaking anyone can become a digital nomad.
To be eligible for a digital nomad visa, you must:
- be over 18 years of age
- have a specific monthly income (amount varies from country to country)
Is it hard to become a digital nomad?
Becoming a digital nomad is hard work. There is no one to guide you along the way, so it will require a lot of planning, motivation and creativity. You will need to following skills and characteristics to help you along your nomad journey:
- Continuous development
What challenges do digital nomads face?
While becoming a digital nomad can be an amazing and enriching experience, it is not without its challenges. One of these is looking after your mental health when you find yourself alone in foreign countries. A survey by Solo Traveller World found that around 1 in 3 solo travellers experience loneliness.
You may also experience culture shock. Local customs, laws and traditions may make you feel uneasy at first. They can be difficult to understand as an outsider, especially if they feel very different to the ones you are used to back home. It’s a normal part of the integration process and best combatted by hurling yourself into the new language, culture and customs of life in your new country,
One of the most commonly-reported disadvantages of living in a foreign country is that it can be very hard to make new friends and join new communities: around half of all expats say they find it difficult to make friends overseas. In the worst case scenario, being unable to make new friends could lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. You may start to feel like you don’t belong.
The first and most important rule when it comes to making friends abroad is to get stuck in as much, and as often, as you can. This means getting out and about, trying new things and being open to new opportunities. Check out our tips on combatting loneliness abroad as a digital nomad.
How do I find a digital nomad job?
If the nomad lifestyle appeals to you, the first step is to find a job you can do remotely. This might be the one you already have. If you already have a job you love, consider asking your boss to let you work remotely permanently.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that you don’t need to be in the office to get work done – according to McKinsey, about 20% to 25% of workforces in advanced economies could work remotely between three to five days a week. So, provided your company agrees, and if it’s safe to do so, you can take your laptop and jet off to another location.
Alternatively, you might want to set up as a freelancer, although you’ll need to build up a portfolio of clients before you do this. There are also a number of job sites, such as FlexJobs and Remote OK, that specialise in jobs for digital nomads.
However, this will mean you will have to arrange your own working hours which can make it difficult to maintain a work-life balance. Start by trying to create a schedule that works for you. Are you a morning person? Or do you focus better in the evening? Create a plan that fits your lifestyle and you’ll find it much easier to stick to. It’s also healthy to try and establish a consistent routine which may help you navigate daily life easier.
What are the best jobs for digital nomads?
Here is our full guide on the best jobs for expats and people willing to move and work abroad.
Do digital nomads need work visas?
Digital nomads can find themselves in between categories when it comes to visas.
Many will travel to other countries using a tourist visa, returning home when it expires and applying for a new one. However, officially, tourist visas don’t entitle you to work in a country.
On the other hand, working visas might not be available to digital nomads because they won’t have a contract with a local company.
Fortunately, an increasing number of countries are now trying to attract remote workers to stimulate their economies post-pandemic, and are offering special visas for digital nomads. These are relatively simple to get and allow you to work and stay longer than you’d be able to on a tourist visa.
As well as offering visas, some countries are even paying people to come and work there.
The best countries with visas for digital nomads
Among the locations offering visas for digital nomads are:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Cabo Verde
- Cayman Islands
- Czech Republic
It can take around one month to process your digital nomad visa, but this can vary from country to country.
Banking for digital nomads can be a real challenge. Just like other tourists and long-term travellers, digital nomads have to face hefty fees when trying to access their funds from abroad. More than that, they often experience difficulties getting money into their bank account. Read our guide on how to open a bank account as an expat.
Since many nomads generate income in another currency, e.g. because their client is located somewhere else, they have to pay additional fees for that transaction.
Being based in different countries and paid in multiple currencies can present banking challenges for digital nomads. These can include:
- Difficulties opening a bank account – banks often require you to be resident in the country your bank is based in
- Transaction fees for using bank cards
- High money transfer fees
- Fees for withdrawing cash
- Exchange rate fees when paid in foreign currency
- The possibility of being locked out of your account – digital nomads sometimes find their cards blocked by banks suspicious of fraud
Banking options for digital nomads
There are a few possible solutions. Digital nomads might find that a combination of these work for them:
- Banks that offer foreign currency accounts – some have accounts that will allow payments in several currencies
- Banks based purely online – some of these won’t have the residency requirement for opening an account
- Alternative payment methods, such as PayPal
- Prepaid travel money cards
It’s always wise to carefully compare fees and charges when choosing a bank. Banking apps are also worth investigating as they can make keeping track of your money easier – a big advantage if you’re being paid by several clients in multiple currencies.
Looking to become a digital nomad?
There has never been a better time to think about starting a new life abroad. There’s a lot to think about, but now there are more opportunities than ever for would-be nomads who want to take off and explore the world.
Wherever you decide to move, just make sure you have the confidence of international health insurance – it can give you cover in multiple countries. At William Russell, we have been providing worldwide health cover for 30 years. Speak to us today to find out more about how global health insurance could support you.