The career landscape is changing. Inc. magazine recently reported that 63 percent of companies have remote workers, and Forbes proclaimed that digital nomadism — taking your laptop and working with you while travel the world — is officially on the rise.
There’s a palpable allure to location independence. We envision poolside work sessions, laptops in cafes, and the ability to take a cheap flight to Europe on a whim. Being a digital nomad sounds great, but how do you find a job like that?
Here’s how it went for me: I spent the last three years working evenings after my “real job” and settling in at a coffee shop each Saturday morning to ghostwrite for corporate clients and submit my own story ideas to editors. In 2018, I finally felt comfortable enough to quit my day job. Now a full-fledged freelance writer, I still deal with an inconsistent income and the tedious administrative duties of self-employment, but the freedom is worth it all. I don’t travel 365 days a year, but I’m able to take frequent trips and settle into new places for months at a time when I want a change of scenery.
My career is only one example of how to work from anywhere. There are infinite iterations of digital nomadism. Recently, while working at a coworking space in Bulgaria, I met other women who left their offices behind to work while traveling. They were happy to explain what they do and offer advice for anyone interested in a similar path.
Linda coordinates volunteer itineraries, tours, and village stays for Volunteer Society Treks Nepal. While traveling the world, she keeps up with the organization’s email, connecting travelers’ skills to charity projects and interests and making travel plans for them. She returns to Nepal regularly to visit hospitals, schools, and elderly care homes to determine where volunteers are most needed.
Linda’s career unfolded naturally from her love for helping others. She’s volunteered all over the world, and eventually, a stint at Volunteer Society Nepal turned into a job opportunity. While helping there, Linda slowly took on more responsibilities, on-boarding new volunteers and helping with the charity’s website. When the time came for her to leave, the organization asked if she would stay if they created a position for her.
“To start, look for a place that is interesting and something you really want to do. Websites like Workaway and HelpX offer work for four hours per day and free food and accommodations. Sometimes if you give people your help for free and you both discover the value of that, it becomes a win-win situation. That’s the moment the job can be created, and I’ve had that experience a couple of times.”
Translator and Proofreader
Martine is a Dutch-to-English translator and proofreader. After a decade of working as a literary translator, she switched to commercial work. She’s now registered as a freelance translator with half a dozen Dutch agencies, three of which provide consistent work.
It took Martine a while to realize translation work was something she could do remotely — but once she did, there was no holding her back. Currently working from Bulgaria, she intends to spend 2020 exploring Spain, Portugal, Montenegro, Albania, and Serbia. After that, she hopes to return to Asia (where she lived for two years) or explore South America (where she has never been before). Sometimes the time zone differences require her to work odd hours, but the travel is worth it to her.
“Make sure you have a few regular clients before you set off, to ensure you’ll have an income while traveling. Sure, you can get jobs off freelancer websites or seek out translation or proofreading opportunities in the places you visit, but in many cases, these will be poorly paid assignments, and you’ll have to hustle to get them. It’s better to have a few clients or agencies you can rely on to provide you with regular assignments. Don’t tell your clients at once that you’ll be traveling while working for them, as this will probably make them a tad nervous about your ability to meet deadlines; wait until you’ve built a relationship of trust with them.”
Laura Mendez Asbach
A certified life coach, yoga instructor, and yoga retreat organizer, Laura carries her mat with her everywhere from India to the Greek islands. Unlike many digital nomads, Laura’s career still requires face-to-face time with clients. But instead of setting up a practice in a brick-and-mortar studio, she arranges classes wherever she goes.
Planning for a traveling life as a yoga teacher took careful planning. After flying to Goa, India, for her yoga training in 2011, Laura immediately started teaching to build up hours of experience. She taught locally for two years before packing up her things to travel the world. Now she balances her time between teaching, hosting retreats, and traveling to new places to research future retreat destinations. Her favorite place so far has been the Greek islands.
“After a good quality teacher training, get teaching experience anywhere, anyhow, for free — on donation or in the park. Anywhere. I started with teaching friends in my living room. Once you have a client base, start to do one- or two-day retreats near where you live. Then the word starts to spread.”
Sami’s job: help people find jobs that won’t make them miserable for 40 hours a week. To accomplish this, she works with Europe’s top career tech bootcamp, CareerFoundry, and helps match applicants with careers they might love. Aside from her remote work for CareerFoundry, she also has private clients through her own online business and curated Slack community. One of her secret weapons is helping people brand themselves well on LinkedIn.
Sami launched her career by working as a career services specialist at ITT Tech in Tucson, Arizona. Taking the on-campus career coaching experience online has involved a lot of video conference calls and daily LinkedIn content creation for her clients. Aside from being able to travel more, going digital has also given her a broader reach: she works with people from Japan to Dubai to Kansas.
“My advice for anyone who wants to be a digital nomad is to pursue a hybrid model with multiple income streams. I work with CareerFoundry for a baseline income, and then I do freelancing with my online business. A lot of people come into the nomad world and can’t enjoy the travel because they’re desperate for money. You can get a good remote gig and work on your business. You don’t want to have the loss of one client be the reason you’re stuck in Singapore and have to call your parents!”
Rosemary Kimani & Claire Rouger
Co-Founders of Authentic Food Quest
Rosemary and Claire, who are partners in life and business, didn’t start their careers dreaming of a food and travel platform. Rosemary worked in advertising at agencies in Chicago, Paris, and Los Angeles. Claire worked as an engineer in France, where she was born and raised.
When the pair started a life together in France, Rosemary remembers falling in love with the notion of exploring Europe through local food and drinks. Once, over a meal with fellow Americans in Paris, she mentioned the traditional roasted guinea fowl she’d savored during Christmas dinner with Claire’s family. She was shocked when her fellow diners admitted they hadn’t tried many local foods, preferring to stay comfortable with dishes they already knew and loved.
The idea for a food and travel platform was born. After months of planning and studying travel publications and digital marketing strategies, they launched Authentic Food Quest in June 2015. Two months later, they sold most of their possessions and booked flights to Argentina. Now they spend their days traveling and tasting, speaking to local chefs who use traditional ingredients, highlighting food markets and cooking classes, and writing practical guides for travelers interested in experiencing local food culture.
“What’s your risk level? You need to know for yourself if you’re comfortable with the uncomfortable. I recommend hustling on the side while you have a job because blogging takes time. Once you get to a certain level, you will have passive income without too much overhead. What I recommend for people starting out is to network with people who’ve done it, who can tell you how they’re monetizing — what they’ve done and what they’re doing today.”
“If you’re unhappy and you’re looking for something that fulfills you from within, my point of view is to go for it — but go for it thoughtfully. Start with knowing your expenses. If you have a loyal audience who buys what you sell, if you’re addressing a specific need, you don’t need to have millions and millions of people. You will need a lot of patience within yourself and compassion for yourself. Celebrate the small moments and hustle through the tough moments — always with your goal in mind.”
Content Writer, Web Designer, and Creative Studio Owner
A freelance copywriter and self-taught web designer, Inge has also opened her own digital branding and web design studio, Mana Creative Studio. She works builds websites full of visuals and words that represent her clients’ personal language and styles.
Though now free to write, design, and work from anywhere with an internet connection, Inge first started her career in a corporate consulting job — one she dreaded from the very first day. After struggling for years, she quit in 2012 to go on a soul searching journey to Southeast Asia. The region is popular with digital nomads because of a low cost of living. There, she invested in personal development, yoga, and meditation retreats to get back in touch with her own beliefs and values. And she realized she could make an income from writing, something she’d always loved. She found her first copywriting client online, then moved to the Netherlands to attend more business networking events and connect with fellow freelancers. Her career and travels soared from there.
“Start writing! Even if it’s something small that doesn’t earn that much. Just get started and grow it from there. Develop your skills, and let everybody know you’re looking for work as a writer or web designer. Networking is also very important: on Facebook, be visible and helpful in groups, talk to people, react to job offerings, and meet people in person at networking events.”
Lisa left behind a successful consulting career to travel in January 2019, exactly three years after she registered ‘Around the World, LLC.’ The premise was simple: she wanted to develop a product she could sell online. The business needed to be one she could manage from literally anywhere around the world.
For months, Lisa studied product creation, outsourcing, SEO, overseas manufacturing, importing, and online sales — all while still working full time. She finally chose a sock product, but the design and implementation hit several snags before finally landing in her online store. Once available, the quirky Saucey Socks turned a profit quickly. Since then, Lisa has expanded to 30 products, with storefronts on Amazon, her website, Uncommon Goods, and a few brick-and-mortar boutiques.
“My advice to anyone looking to start selling products online is to remember that it is a business, not a get rich quick scheme and not ‘passive’ income. I’ve seen so many people fail because they think it will be so easy and then are shocked by how much work it is. Prepare to work harder than you’ve ever worked and know that you will make mistakes. Learn from them and keep going.”
3D Architect & Interior Designer
When Shelly, who worked as an architect in Israel, decided she wanted to travel the world, she knew she needed to think outside the box. How does a person who develops on-site plans tell her clients she’s in Germany this month, Bulgaria the next, then flying off to parts unknown for the winter?
But she made it work. Though she still loves working with a handful of clients by using a 3D architecture program to submit designs, she also created her own online company, AgamDNA. There, she offers online courses and personalized tutoring for architects and designers interested in using 3D architecture technology. When she’s not helping other professionals hone their skills, Shelly also offers remote “second opinion” consulting on interior design layouts and architecture blueprints.
“If you come from a profession that is not digital, you have to be OK with letting go of titles and old ways of thinking in order to make something new. I had such a long training process to become an architect, and the more time and money I put into it, the harder it was to give up having that title. But I asked, what do I want more? I decided I wanted to travel.”