What Is a Digital Nomad? Working Remotely While on the Go ✈️

  • Remote Working & Freelancing
Contra Tips
· 7 min read

What is a digital nomad? Explore the lifestyle, weigh the pros and cons, and learn how to embrace remote work from anywhere in the world with this guide.

Picture this: You sip your morning coffee on a sun-drenched balcony overlooking the ocean as you log in to work. It isn’t a dream — it’s a reality for many digital nomads embracing the freedom of living and working anywhere in the world. 

But what is a digital nomad, exactly? Join us as we discuss what this lifestyle is all about, examine the pros and cons of the nomad culture, and share expert advice on transitioning to a professional life with no fixed address. 

What is a digital nomad? 🌐

When you hear the term digital nomad, meaning an Independent or remote employee who lives and works in any location they choose, you should know it has the potential to be as good as it sounds. Though it’s not realistic for everyone, these wanderers work in cozy cafes across the globe, on sunlit beaches in warm climates, and in bustling capital cities with low living costs — a dream come true for those who can make it work. 

The digital nomad lifestyle relies on essential tools like laptops, tablets, and smartphones with stable internet connections. Today’s technology has opened a can of worms on the possibilities of what work looks like in our modern era. 

Digital nomads are unique because many explore the world full-time, seamlessly blending work and travel. According to a report from Shopify, the MBO Partners’ 2022 State of Independence research study found that 16.9 million US workers are digital nomads, a 131% increase from 2019. The number of digital nomads in the US has been rising steadily, particularly since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The pros and cons of being a digital nomad 🛫

While enticing and liberating, the living-out-of-a-suitcase lifestyle certainly has pros and cons. Here’s what to consider before you pack your bags and jet off:

Pros 👍

  • Live from anywhere. Work in nomad hotspots like Thailand, Costa Rica, and Portugal — look at a map and take your pick.
  • Increased productivity. Digital nomads don’t have time to waste in new destinations. The self-imposed pressure of wanting to get out and explore is a great way to maximize efficiency and accomplish tasks. 
  • Enhanced creativity. Getting out into diverse cultures and landscapes and having new experiences boosts creativity by providing insights and fresh inspiration. This exposure to novelty helps digital nomads think in innovative ways. 
  • Freedom from a fixed work schedule. Escaping the traditional 9-5 grind offers digital nomads the flexibility to set their hours, work at their preferred pace, and choose their environments. This high level of autonomy often leads to increased job satisfaction and better work-life balance.
  • Improved mental health. Digital nomads foster better mental health by feeding their passions. The freedom to explore new places and engage in fulfilling experiences contributes to reduced stress and greater happiness.

Cons 👎

  • A lot of alone time. Consistent travel is part of nomad life, making it difficult for some to build long-lasting friendships. This lack of connection can lead to isolation and loneliness over time.
  • Time zone management. Working across multiple time zones is challenging. Digital nomads must adapt their schedules, successfully navigate the time differences to meet deadlines, and communicate with clients and colleagues when everyone is awake.
  • Financial challenges. The digital nomad lifestyle can be expensive and unstable. In some cases, income fluctuates, and unforeseen expenses may arise. Having a contingency plan is a must.
  • Internet connectivity. An inconsistent wifi connection can throw you off and cost you money working a remote job. Finding reliable internet access can be challenging in some places, complicating productivity. 

How to become a digital nomad 🧳

Before becoming a digital nomad, consider whether your personality and goals align with this unique lifestyle. If you find that they do, don’t hesitate — follow the steps below! For invaluable advice and support getting started, consider joining Contra’s Slack community, where you can connect with like-minded Independents at various stages on their journeys who are happy to share their experiences.

Here are a few steps to become a full-time remote worker and traveler: 

  1. Start small. Instead of planning a long-term trip, join a co-working space or participate in a digital nomad retreat. This is an excellent way to ease into the lifestyle and discover if you like it. 
  2. Work on your Independent skills. To successfully live and work on your own, practice small talk. Strengthening your communication skills and organizational abilities is vital to success with new coworkers and clients when working abroad. 
  3. Plan your finances. Developing a solid financial plan for your travels ensures a consistent income stream and helps create a budget to manage expenses. 
  4. Learn to feel comfortable with a simple lifestyle. Embrace minimalism — you’ve got to carry everything, so pack lightly! This enables you to work, travel more efficiently, and focus on what truly matters.
  5. Take care of your future self. Invest in travel health insurance to protect yourself during your adventures, and stay vigilant about handling your taxes so they don’t pile up. Additionally, save up for unexpected inconveniences you may encounter on the road.

The best remote jobs for digital nomads 🧭

The rise of remote work has seen digital nomad work opportunities pop up across industries. These positions require minimal equipment and permit flexible schedules, making them ideal for individuals seeking geographic independence.

Some of the more popular digital nomad jobs include:

Writer/editor ✍️

Are you a skilled wordsmith? You might thrive as a freelance writer, editor, or content creator working on projects like blogs, articles, videos, and marketing materials. These roles adapt quickly to a remote lifestyle as they generally require only a laptop and an internet connection. Many full and part-time positions are available, depending on your specialization. 

Graphic designer 🖼️

If you’re a creative with a knack for visual communication, you may find success on the road as a freelance graphic designer. Project types vary, ranging from branding and packaging to web design, and they all have design software and online collaboration tools for ease of use. If you want to work for yourself in this field, create a portfolio on Contra to get started. 

Social media manager 📱

As businesses rely more and more on social media for marketing and customer engagement, remote social media managers are increasingly in demand. These professionals develop and execute social media strategies, create content, and monitor performance, all while working from anywhere with an internet connection. If you love organizing and working with content for socials, this may be the position for you. 

UX designer 🎨

User experience (UX) designers are critical in creating intuitive, enjoyable digital products. Through user behavior research, usability tests, and interface design, these professionals ensure platforms offer a seamless UX — work that can be done on a laptop, anywhere. 

Project manager 📓

As organizations continue to adopt remote work, digital nomads can thrive as project managers too. These roles require overseeing the planning, execution, and delivery of projects from start to finish using online tools and platforms. Successful remote project management means effectively coordinating and communicating with team members across the globe.

Online teacher ✏️

With advancements in online learning platforms, digital nomads can share their expertise as online teachers or tutors. This includes instructing students in one of a range of subject areas, from language courses to areas of specialized technical learning, all while working remotely and setting their schedules.

Contra is revolutionizing remote work 🗺️

While numerous platforms are available for finding remote work, Contra stands out from the crowd. We’re an all-in-one, commission-free solution that ensures fair payment for Independents — whether you’re looking to work for yourself full-time, find a side hustle, or manage your finances, we’ve got your back. 

If you’re searching for remote professionals to help you achieve your business goals, Contra’s an excellent resource for hiring top talent. Here are a few tips from our experts for working with Independents effectively. 

How-to: Go Full-Time to Freelance

By leaving the comfort of a steady job, you open the door to a more flexible work-life balance, the potential for unlimited income growth, and the freedom to choose the projects and clients that align with your passions and values
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