Digital Nomad

How to Run a Thriving Business as a Digital Nomad

With digitization decreasing the number of office-based jobs, you may find it's a good time to start your global travels.
How to Run a Thriving Business as a Digital Nomad
Image credit: kiszon pascal | Getty Images
Guest Writer
CEO of Integrity Marketing & Consulting
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The combination of work and travel is a dream life for many people. But, living life as what's come to be known as a "digital nomad" is not always possible: Financial considerations figure in, and job mobility may chain would-be nomads to a single geographic location.

Related: 8 Ways to Make Money As a Digital Nomad

Still, given the increased internet access possible in more and more parts of the world, working from anywhere has never been more possible. Pursuing a career as a digital nomad can be exciting and offer an excellent chance to learn and explore the planet. According to self-styled "global business executive" Glen Wakeman, location independence can be a fulfilling experience if you plan correctly.

What you need to be a digital nomad.

To move from a structured life to a freer worldwide lifestyle, you'll need to create a personal economy based on such flexible digital skills as primary research, PowerPoint creation, UX/UI design programming and computer security, among other computer-based pastimes. Access to an online marketplace or a constant stream of work is also key to ensuring you don't go broke during your work holiday.

Technology is your friend here, because the majority of economic tasks you do on your office computer can be done over the internet. A few extra responsibilities and risks are involved, of course -- such as the lack of a fixed salary. Still, you can jump this hurdle by understanding and mitigating the risks involved or even starting your own online business. The rest is up to your imagination, and wherever it may take you.

Related: 18 Ways for Digital Nomads to Make Money

Which skills work for digital nomads.

You can be the best engineer out there, but without the necessary platform to describe and verify just how good you really are, those skills might go to waste. Wakeman recommends setting up and maintaining a portfolio website with links to previous tasks you have completed. Targeting online service providers such as Facebook, Fiverr and Upwork for listings will also widen your scope and increase your chances of landing remote work.

In a gig economy, businesses save resources in terms of benefits, office space and training. They also have the ability to contract for specific project experts who might be too high-priced to maintain on staff. From the perspective of the freelancer, meanwhile, a gig economy can improve on the work-life balance (or lack thereof) that is possible in most jobs.

Due to the large numbers of people willing to work part-time or in temporary positions, the benefit of a gig economy is cheaper, more efficient services (such as Uber or Airbnb) for those willing to use them. For whom does the gig economy not work? It doesn't work for people who don't engage in technology-heavy services such as the internet. These individuals tend to be left behind by the benefits of the gig economy.

How digital nomads can bring their network with them.

You most probably have a LinkedIn profile, with your full academic and work experience and a couple of referrals. Before you set off to your digital nomadic life, however, ask for more referrals from friends and co-workers. This can be done by writing personal notes and explaining the purpose of the referral. “Once you get an inventory of leads, get them linked to your website. "This is a self-reinforcing process and can rapidly grow your customer base and cash flow," Wakeman advises.

It may be an especially good time to become a digital nomad: Digitization has contributed directly to the decrease in office-based jobs because software has replaced some types of work and shaved the time needed for other types. Other societal trends have included the entry of the millennial cohort into the workforce, as well as financial pressures on businesses to cut staff.

In addition, people today tend to change jobs several times throughout their working lives; the gig economy can be seen as an evolution of that trend. 

Where to live

Your dream destination will most likely not be the first place you should go to. Instead, a low-cost city with a good internet connection might be a better bet. Due diligence and research about the location you're thinking about will be instrumental in giving you a quality nomad life.

Also, consider location options that are close to one another before you start your travels. Call ahead to ensure that amenities such as water, internet and electricity are in constant supply at the lodgings you choose.

The bottom line

Carry at least six months’ worth of living expenses with you. Even in low-cost locations in the developing world, living as a broke tourist will be much harder than just staying home.

Related: 6 Ways for Digital Nomads to Save Big on Taxes

Finally, if you are especially conservative, carry with you a return ticket: You just might feel the need to come back in a flash and retire from your life as a digital nomad.

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