There is only one thing trendier than doing cross fit or eat vegan, and that’s being a digital nomad. I heard the phrase 100 times but it never really resonated with me until the day I was called a Digital Nomad by my mother. It was strange because I never considered myself a digital nomad and more like a guy who works and travels (well, that’s a digital nomad, duh). All these years of exploring the world while scheduling conference calls with clients or writing content for websites I never realized that I was one of the lucky bunch, making a living without commuting to an office every day. I am very fortunate to be able to serve my customers while on the road to hidden cities or remote beaches. I am blessed to stay up late and sleep in on rainy Mondays. I feel very lucky to be able to work my own schedule without having to commit to a 9-5, Monday to Friday working week. Life as a digital nomad is fun, adventurous and somewhat less restrictive than the life of a blue-collar insurance worker but it’s far from what some people might think.
I have realized that people have some pretty crazy ideas about what the life of a digital nomad entails. Just to let you know, we don’t work out of hammocks down at the beach. We also don’t work in Pyjamas, coffee, and laptop in bed and not all of us are college dropouts, afraid of commitments. The list goes on, and I would like to share with you some of the wildest misconceptions I have encountered over the last year or so.
All too often people think that being able to make a living without going into an office every day means that we live our lives without a care in the world. What people don’t realize is just because we don’t have a desk, we occupy from 9-5, doesn’t mean that life doesn’t come with responsibilities or obligations. Life catches up with you, and no matter how and where you work, bills need to be paid. We might not work set hours, but that doesn’t mean our clients don’t. More often than not we are up early to complete last tweaks on projects so we can send them off before our customers get to the office. More often than not we stay up late to fit in one last Skype call before deadline day to make sure our client at the other end of the world is happy with the final product. Some might mistake a care-free lifestyle with care-free living. Digital nomads might enjoy a lifestyle that’s unique to others, but I want to emphasize that we don’t just hang out under the sun having a care-free life. At the end of the day, we are a product of modern society, which comes with a set of rules and procedures we all have to follow regardless of locations, jobs or lifestyle.
“Digital Nomads are lazy college dropouts, afraid of commitments.”
Ouch, this one stings because as far as I can tell it’s pretty much the opposite. This misconception has been thrown around a lot lately. While there might be the occasional black sheep out there, I’ve never had the chance to meet one of them because in the real world you have to be serious about your craft if you don’t want to be bound to an office chair or a 40h working week. I’m not sure why people have the perception that you can just wake up, pack your bags and make it as a digital nomad. It’s no different to any other career – you have to put in the work, earn your stripes and lay the groundwork for success. Clients don’t just fall from the sky and work isn’t just handed to you. I can only speak for myself, but I was a grinder for many years, working for various marketing and content agencies soaking up every possible detail I could. I started at the bottom of the food chain and gradually worked my way up to a level where I felt comfortable to “go out on my own.” If you decide to go out on your own, that’s great, but the real work starts now. Unlike working for someone or within a team, no one tells you anything when you’re flying solo. The hours you invest, the number of calls you make or the time you get out of bed is entirely up to you, and I believe that’s what separates the black sheep from the serious nomad. Sure, It’s fun to slack off work, stay out all night and sleep in the next day but it doesn’t get you anywhere. I guarantee you that the dream of making a living while traveling the world will approximately last three weeks to 3 months (depending on your savings) if you aren’t serious about putting in the hard yards or lack discipline.
“You can work from anywhere.”
Theoretically, this claim is true, but it gets a little more complicated if you apply it to the real world. The “work anywhere” really depends on the industry or the jobs you are working on. While some tasks don’t need any prompts or tools and can be completed virtually anywhere, but most of the jobs need resources like computers, steady internet or a desk. I’m a marketing professional, and most of my clients hire me for content creation or brand management projects, which means I work on ideas and concepts that rely on communication and human touch. In other words, I have to be very selective when it comes to working space or technology. My way of doing business depends on a reliable AND FAST internet connection, spacious working space and areas for meetings or conference calls. Some people have the crazy idea that I do business out of hammocks by the beach or trendy coffee stores around the corner, but I can reassure you that my office isn’t flashier than yours. Personally, I like to work from home as it is the place I feel most comfortable and creative to indulge into my daily writing or work on a client request. My favorite method of communication is email or Skype calls. I’m not a huge fan of meetings because of A; they require a lot of time and B; they are most of the time completely unnecessary, which means I try to avoid them as good as possible. I wish I could say something else, and tell you how amazing it is to work down by the beach sipping on coconuts but like I said my location of choice isn’t much different to yours.
“I wish I could live the life you do.”
Shorts answer is; You can! – But here comes the long version. If you are really serious about making a change in your life, you need to have a plan, and you need to be willing to embrace change. Planning and accepting change are two key concepts if you want to embrace life as a digital nomad. Whether you are working for someone or have your own business, you need to be able to come up with a clear and concise plan that addresses HOW, WHEN and WHERE you are planning to make a living. It’s important that you clearly identify how you are going to make a living while training for a dog sled race in Alaska or sailing the Mediterranean Sea on a catamaran. Don’t rely on job advertisements or the “I just go there and see” mentality because it often doesn’t work out. It’s crucial that you and your boss have a remote working arrangement in place before you leave or for a business owner/freelancer, you have a customer base that guarantees ongoing work for the time you are away. I can’t stress enough, don’t rush it! Have a definite timeline in place to get your affairs in order and sort out work arrangements with your boss or clients before you head off on a trip or take some time off for other activities. Make a list of all the things you can think off before purchasing a plane ticket or committing to an adventure and make sure you tick off the tasks once completed. It will not only help you to visualize your tasks you need to complete before you head off but also to get you motivated and ready for whatever adventure that lies ahead of you. Being a digital nomad doesn’t necessarily mean you head overseas and travel the world. It can simply mean that you want to spend more time at home with your kids while they are growing up. Whatever it might be, and whatever your intentions are, I suggest you know exactly where you want to go. The “WHERE,” in this case, doesn’t refer to countries or locations but to the degree of change, you are willing to accept. Whether it might be a trip around the world or just a more relaxed working arrangement to spend more time with your family, a clear direction of where you want to go and who you want to be will give you the best chances to succeed as a digital nomad.