How to Become and Work as a Digital Nomad: The Ultimate Guide

Are you a wanderlust who dreams of waking up in the snow-capped cold mountains one day and a tropical beach with turquoise waters and palm trees the next? If you live to travel and want to work from your phone and laptop as you hop from one destination to the next, then the digital nomad lifestyle is perfect for you.

With 35 million digital nomads worldwide embracing digital nomadism, this lifestyle of freedom and adventure is becoming more and more popular by the day. If you want to live out of the suitcase and quench your thirst for adventure, read our ultimate guide to digital nomadism before you hit the road. This article covers the ins and outs of the lifestyle of digital nomadism and gives a breakdown of how to become and work as a digital nomad.

Who are digital nomads?

Digital nomads work remotely using technology while traveling to different places. They have the freedom to live and work from anywhere in the world. 

Many digital nomads are freelancers who deal with many projects and clients simultaneously, while others are entrepreneurs with their own businesses. Being one’s own boss allows digital nomads to design their schedules and draw a work style in line with their preferences.

What is it like to be a digital nomad?

The lifestyle of digital nomadism on social media might seem glamorous and rosy, but a lot goes on behind the screen. Becoming a nomad while building a successful career online takes time and effort. First, you need to save money, build a great brand for yourself, and try out different career options and places to see what you like best.

At times, nomadism can be demanding and lonely because of its uncertain and unpredictable nature. But once you learn to move past these challenges, this lifestyle of freedom and independence can be fulfilling and exciting.

How much money do you make as a digital nomad?

Worried about meeting your expenses as a digital nomad? While the average salary of a digital nomad is between $12,000 and $36,000 per year, how much you earn as a digital nomad depends on many factors such as your career field, the number of hours you put in, and the kind of projects you take on. If you plan well, you will be able to make good money in no time.

Here are a few in-demand jobs for digital nomads and their salary range:

  • Virtual Assistant - €15 - €48+ per hour
  • Freelance Writing - €15 - €70+ per hour
  • Graphic Design - €25 -  €70+ per hour
  • Coding -  €38 -  €120+ per hour
  • Sales Copywriting -  €28 -  €95+ per hour
  • Social Media Manager -  €20 -  €95+ per hour
  • Search Engine Optimization -  €21 - €95+ per hour

 

When you hit the road on your journey of digital nomadism, making the big bucks in the initial phases might be difficult. Setting up a business takes effort and patience. Eventually, you will learn the ropes and succeed at your business. While every digital nomad has to pass through this learning curve, you can speed up this process by enlisting help from Xolo.

We can help you set up and run your EU solo business from anywhere in the world. We take care of paperwork and the other boring stuff, so that you can focus on growing your business. So if you’re considering becoming a digital nomad and your dream customers are in the EU, you should consider signing up to Xolo Leap today!

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What are different digital nomad job ideas?

There are no limits to job ideas as a digital nomad. You can virtually work any job as a digital nomad if you have a stable internet connection and industry skills. 

If marketing is your forte, you can work as a freelance social media marketer, search ads specialist, or email marketing specialist. If you have technical prowess that you can put to use, then you can work as a developer or coder. Finally, if being creative and innovative comes easily to you, then you can pick up a few writing or designing projects. You can switch your job or even your field as often as you like.

What are the advantages of becoming a digital nomad?

Still finding reasons to turn your dreams of traveling into reality? From choosing your own work style and job structure to making yourself open to vast opportunities, there are many advantages of embarking on the journey of digital nomadism.

1. Flexible working environment


As a digital nomad, you fully control your working environment and hours. So, you can design your own schedule as per your preferences and needs. 

Want to work from different cafes for a couple of weeks? You can rent a studio apartment in a town. Feel like working from a tropical beach for a few months? You can find a beach hostel and stay there for as long as you like. 

You can also plan your day-to-day routine as you wish. For example, if you prefer working in the early morning hours and keeping the rest of the day free to travel and meet people or to surf, you can do that. You can work for six hours one day and twelve hours the next day. The options are endless. 

2. Interesting jobs


83% of digital nomads are self-employed, of which 34% work as freelancers. This flexibility allows them to choose their projects and clients. 

If you have always wanted to try your hand at travel writing, you can pick a few opportunities and see if it works for you. If not, you can move on to the next project. While learning new skill sets and enjoying many sources of income, you can control your workload and work style. If you get bored, you can break the monotony and change your project or job profile.

Becoming a digital nomad will let you take up jobs you are truly passionate about. Then, work won’t feel like work anymore. 

3. Adventure


As a digital nomad, you’ll travel the world, meet new people, and engage with new cultures. Your lifestyle won’t let you have any shortage of adventurous moments. 

You can complete your bucket list: spend a few weeks hiking mountains in Greece, go to Turkey for a hot air balloon ride, or live in a village in India for a couple of months. Digital nomadism will allow you to think outside the box.

4. Sense of freedom


One of the major benefits that the lifestyle of digital nomadism offers is a sense of freedom. As you are not tied to any location, people, job, or material possessions, you have the freedom to take the reins of your life and make choices that benefit you. 

You can move to whichever place you find appealing, build rapport with people you genuinely connect with, and do the jobs you honestly love. In addition, digital nomadism can help you try out things you otherwise wouldn’t. This will help you find yourself and give your life a new meaning. 

5. Personal growth


Getting out of your comfort zone is conducive to personal growth. As a digital nomad, you will put yourself out there and encounter situations and challenges. Whether it’s traversing an unfamiliar area or putting yourself in new social situations, each experience is bound to teach you something new.

The lifestyle of digital nomadism fosters personal growth by teaching you some valuable life lessons. As you navigate these situations by yourself, you’ll learn to be better at planning and organizing. All this will help you become self-reliant and independent.

6. Perfect work-life balance


Perfect work-life balance looks different for everyone. Some people like working 10 to 12 hours a day, while others prefer working only for 4. Many people want to spend quality time doing things they love rather than working themselves away at a job they dislike.

As a digital nomad, you can set your own working hours and workstyle and strike the right work-life balance. Then, in your free time, you can take up new hobbies, meet new people, visit different places, and do all the things you find fulfilling. 

7. Vast opportunities


With digital nomadism, your opportunities are limitless. Whether you want to keep traveling to new places every couple of weeks or want to stay put in one place for a few months, being a digital nomad makes both these options possible. By traveling to different places, you will get a chance to meet people from different walks of life. 

You can change your jobs, switch your lifestyle, travel as much as you want, and immerse yourself in new experiences. The world is your oyster.

8. Financial advantages


With the freedom to work on projects and with clients of your choice, you can take the reins of your finances. If you need more money, you can take on more projects and earn a few extra bucks, an option not offered in corporate jobs.

You can also plan your spending in a way that helps save a major chunk of your earnings. For example, if you choose to live in a more affordable country, you won’t be paying much for stay, food, transport, and other utilities. Additionally, you can work on projects that are based in expensive countries, and chances are they will pay you as per their standards.

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What are the disadvantages of becoming a digital nomad?

As with every lifestyle, becoming a digital nomad has a few downsides. However, once you learn to work your way around these issues, you can enjoy your life on the go as a digital nomad. 

1. No medical insurance


While being a digital nomad comes with its own set of challenges, not being covered by reliable medical insurance is perhaps the most significant disadvantage in the lifestyle of digital nomadism.

No matter where you live, good medical insurance to help you with finances in case of medical emergencies is important. Unfortunately, as a digital nomad, you will keep moving from state to state and country to country, making it difficult to find a policy that fits your needs.

Unless you put your roots down in one country, buying medical insurance is expensive. However, with the lifestyle gaining popularity, there are a few health (and travel) insurance plans for digital nomads that you can look into.

2. Travel disruptions


The essence of being a nomad is traveling. However, that also means dealing with sudden travel delays and cancellations. 

While travel disruptions can be frustrating even on vacations, they can be especially exasperating if you’re traveling in the middle of a working week. On such days, you might find it difficult to meet deadlines.

As a digital nomad, you need to plan and organize your work so that even if unprecedented travel disruptions occur, you can still finish your work in time.

3. Financial compliances


Using a debit or credit card while traveling can be costly. And carrying cash while traveling isn’t the best option, especially in a new place. While several countries allow travelers to open a bank account, that isn’t feasible if you often keep moving from country to country. In addition, payment applications like PayPal aren’t a great alternative due to their transfer fees.

However, a few companies like Wise are working toward making international transfers manageable and cost-efficient. For example, with Wise, you can keep money in over 28 currencies by making a borderless account. 

4. Lack of emotional support


Regardless of whether you are a digital nomad, life can sometimes weigh you down. Many unprecedented problems can come your way. Finance, health, and accommodation issues can be strenuous and demanding. In such times, emotional support from family and friends is helpful. However, as a nomad being away from your loved ones can get lonely and depressed at times.

Connecting with other digital nomads through online platforms can provide you with comfort. In addition, you can create a network and build meaningful friendships with digital nomads living close to you.

What are the steps to become a digital nomad?

Want to become a digital nomad but don’t know where or how to start? Here’s a list of 6 steps to do before kick-starting your journey of digital nomadism. 

1. Identify your niche and specialty as a digital nomad

As a digital nomad, you’ll primarily earn by working online. For that, you need to identify your skills and decide what you want to specialize in. Do you want to write travel blogs or tech articles? Do you want to work as a UI/UX designer or a coder? Do you want to work as a freelance marketer? You need to first identify your niche and come up with a plan to monetize it online. 

Once you’ve identified your niche and specialties, work on building a brand image. Start by building a high-performing website, set up your social media channels and consider starting a solo business. If you don’t know how to go about launching a business and have concerns about administrations or bureaucracies, don’t worry: Xolo Leap can help you with business registration and setup no matter where you want to live and work from.

2. Set up digital nomad finances

As a digital nomad, taking care of your finances is of utmost importance. Since you’ll be traveling across different states and countries, you need to ensure that you have enough money to sustain yourself and your business and some more in case of emergencies. 

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when setting up and managing your finances as a digital nomad:

  • Make a budget when starting your digital nomad business
  • Set up and maintain an emergency fund for yourself and your business
  • Opt for safe and secure personal and business payments overseas
  • Keep some hard currency on you at all times for personal use
  • Use credit cards and debit cards wherever possible
  • Opt to pay using digital wallets over cards for contactless payments

3. Choose the correct bank account


As you’ll probably be moving from country to country as a nomad, keeping your finances accessible and safe at all times is crucial. So before leaving your home country, set up an account with a bank that allows easy international transfers.

Instead of picking the first bank that offers international services, do a little research and compare the plans from different banks. This way, you can set up an account that fits your needs and charges low interest rates.

4. Pick your first destination for your life on the go


Picking your first destination as a digital nomad can be tricky. While you might want to leave your comfort zone and choose a place from your bucket list, it won’t be the wisest decision. At the same time, you don’t want to end up at a place like your hometown. You need to find the right balance between both.

You can talk to other digital nomads and ask them for suggestions. Then, after selecting a place, go online and read as much information as possible. If you are unfamiliar with the language spoken there, download a few translation apps and learn a few essential words and phrases.  

5. Decide what to do with your things


Now that you want to begin your digital nomadism journey, plan what you want to do with your stuff. The lifestyle of a digital nomad is super minimalistic, and you surely won’t be moving from place to place with all your belongings. 

You need to decide what you will take with you, what you will keep in storage, and what you can get rid of. Your car? Consider selling it if your planned journey is longer than six months. Your clothes? While you won’t be needing your formal suits and winter coats while traveling, you can store some of these clothes at a friend’s. Your documents? You don’t have to travel with all your documents. Keep some essential documents with a trusted family member.

6. Invoice and pay taxes as a digital nomad

If you’re freelancing as a digital nomad, then invoicing your clients when you’re moving from country to country can be challenging. You need to factor in things like your residence country’s laws and rules, the currency you want to use, clients from abroad, business bank accounts, and methods of payment. One preferred way is to use an invoicing tool like Xolo Go, which allows you to legally and securely invoice clients from over 150 countries.

Along with invoicing, filing tax returns as a digital nomad can be daunting due to the intricacies involved. However, paying taxes correctly is important regardless of where you live and work. Fortunately, there are a few solutions like Xolo Leap that can make the ordeal of paying business taxes easy. Besides having your business registered by Xolo Leap, you’ll also have a team of local compliance and accounting specialists to help you compile your monthly and quarterly tax reports

8 hacks to succeed as a digital nomad

Transitioning from a 9-5 job lifestyle to that of a freelancer living out of their suitcase can be challenging. But here’s a list of 8 hacks to help make this transition smoother.

1. Buy insurance as a digital nomad


Whether you move between countries often or set yourself up in one place for several months at a stretch, getting insurance as a digital nomad is key in ensuring financial protection. You don’t want to get stuck in an emergency in a country you’re unfamiliar with. 

Health and travel insurance will act as a safety net and save you from hitting roadblocks in your journey of digital nomadism. Many insurance companies customize policies for digital nomads. For example, SafetyWing’s nomad insurance costs $42 for four weeks and works as a monthly subscription. You can purchase it when you are already abroad.

2. Book affordable flights and lodging


While the lifestyle digital nomadism offers looks attractive and easy, it can be expensive if you don’t budget well. 

Since you will be traveling almost all the time, it is important to ensure that you spend as little as possible on your flights. But, how can you find the cheapest flights? Should you book your tickets early? Or should you wait until the last minute? One can never be sure. However, you can log on to Skyscanner and find the best flight deals.

Similarly, you don’t want to spend too much on accommodation either. Instead of booking places on a daily basis, finding long-term accommodation is more affordable and feasible. On Anyplace, you can find places tailored to meet digital nomads and remote workers’ needs.

3. Install a VPN


Digital nomads are dependent on technology and WiFi. And coming across super-fast free WiFi when you’re traveling can be great. However, not all public WiFi offers security and privacy. Using public WiFi makes you susceptible to many risks, including a Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack, packet sniffing, and malware infections. 

Installing a VPN service will mitigate such risks and let you browse privately through an unencrypted network. With several easy-to-install VPN services available, you can safely use public WiFi networks wherever you go. 

4. Collaborate with other digital nomads


Scared of the unpredictability of the lifestyle of a digital nomad? Struggling to find freelance projects? Worried about finding accommodation? Confused about where to base yourself next? Connecting with other digital nomads will get you answers to all these questions.

Whether you’re getting started with digital nomadism or have been on the road for years, collaborating with other nomads is always a good idea. You can get in touch with them via Facebook or other social media apps. By joining a virtual group of digital nomads, you can ask for tips and advice and learn from others’ experiences.

5. Find international clients as a digital nomad


As a digital nomad, you have no limits when it comes to location. Use this to your advantage and expand your clientele. Instead of working with clients only from your home country, look for clients in every nook and corner of the world.

Working with global clients will allow you to create a strong job profile and subsequently raise your remuneration. Additionally, if you find clients from richer countries, you can easily cover your travel and accommodation costs and even save some money.

6. Acquire digital residency


As an aspiring digital nomad, where can you register your freelancing business? What currency do you use, and where do you set up a bank account? How do you develop a legal framework for your business? What about your taxes? All these questions have one solution: digital residency.

The nation of Estonia offers e-Residency, which allows you to base your business and finances in the country regardless of where you live or work from. You can apply to become an e-resident of Estonia and make dealing with business administration work and finances as a digital nomad easier.

Besides e-Residency, a remote work visa is also an option for digital nomads to legally live and work in your dream country without having to apply for residency. Check our complete list of countries with digital nomad visas to see the differences and process of applying for each. 

7. Back up your data


Being a digital nomad means you entirely depend on technology and the internet for work, finances, and everything else. Data management is crucial. While a few tricks like installing VPN can protect you from risks, developing a robust plan to keep your data safe is essential.

Making backups of your data on cloud storage and external hard drive can protect it against hardware failure, viruses, theft, and other online threats. Backups can help retrieve data if these failures occur.

8. Organize your paperwork


When you think of sorting paperwork for traveling, you might only think about your passport, visa, identification cards, and other travel documents. 

However, if you’re an aspiring full-time digital nomad, you need to organize all your original paperwork and store it properly. This includes everything from your birth certificate to business licenses to insurance. 

You might consider carrying some documents with you when traveling while leaving some others at home with a trusted family member or friend. Carrying photocopies and digital copies of these documents can also be a helpful hack and can prevent loss or damage to original copies.

Best destinations to live and work as a digital nomad

When choosing a place to live and work from as a digital nomad, you need to consider a few factors. Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Does the place have good internet access? 
  • Do other fellow digital nomads have good experiences with the place?
  • Is it safe? Is it a friendly place for expats?
  • What kind of visa can you apply as a digital nomad and what are the visa requirements?

 

While you’ll find digital nomads in every corner of the world with stable internet access, some destinations are more popular with digital nomads than others. Here are the top 10 countries to live and work in as a digital nomad.

 

Countries

Broadband Speed

Mobile Speed

Monthly Rent

Happiness Index

Remote Job Searches

Digital Nomad Score

1

Canada

149.35

85.54

€950

7.23

83900

74.35

2

U.K.

76.49

41.72

€927

7.17

68400

63.43

3

Romania

188.55

41.48

€325

6.12

10980

62.28

4

Sweden

158.73

56.64

€885

7.35

3490

61.54

5

Denmark

179.81

66.68

€1059

7.65

1080

61.49

6

France

177.93

50.45

€758

6.66

5360

60.8

7

Netherlands

125.82

88.13

€1213

7.45

3440

60.27

8

Australia

58.52

88.35

€1148

7.22

17600

60.16

Switzerland

186.4

73.85

€1545

7.56

3840

60.15

10

Germany

120.13

49.67

€824

7.08

12720

60

How Estonian e-residency benefits you as a digital nomad?

The nation of Estonia introduced e-Residency in 2014 to allow citizens of any country to set up their own digital business with a base in Estonia. This move allows people from all over the world the convenience of accessing the European market without having to move to Europe.

Running a business means you must comply with the legalities and financial demands of the country in which your business is based. Starting up and maintaining a business can be even more exacting when you are location-independent. If you change countries often, you might have to apply for a new business license each time you move. You’ll also have to deal with the currency of the country where your business belongs. The whole process can be cumbersome. 

Obtaining an e-Residency from Estonia can help you move past all these administrative problems and allow you to focus only on increasing your profits. You can base your businesses and finances without having to move to Estonia or even Europe. With Estonia’s advanced digital structure, location-independent entrepreneurs can enjoy the credibility and benefits of owning a company within the EU.

How to apply for an Estonian e-Residency?

You can apply for your digital ID through the official website of the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board. You’ll have to submit copies of your identification documents and one paragraph outlining your statement of purpose. Estonian e-Residency comes with a one-off state fee of €100. Read our guide to see the detailed steps to acquire an Estonian e-Residency.

Set up and run a company with e-Residency as a digital nomad

After you get your Estonian e-Residency card, you can set up and manage an EU company online and work from anywhere in the world. First, you will need to choose a service provider and establish a legal address in Estonia - Xolo Leap can help you with this. Then you will need to register your company through the e-Business register and pay a state fee of €265. After that, you’ll have a presence in the EU market, have a transparent business entity and enjoy full remote control of your business.

Manage your digital nomad business with Xolo

If you want to take the plunge into your journey of digital nomadism but are holding back because you don’t know how to manage a digital business, Xolo is here to help. Our Xolo Leap plan can make starting a digital business in Estonia easier by helping you through local compliance, accounting, and taxes. 

With Xolo doing the heavy lifting of setting up a digital business for you, you can tick off all the things on your bucket list and enjoy your odysseys as a digital nomad to the fullest!

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