• 6 MIN READ
How to Succeed in Freelancing While Living as a Digital Nomad
January 26, 2024
Becoming a digital nomad is the choice of many of today’s tech-savvy individuals. There are many reasons for this: convenience, freedom, the ability to work from anywhere in the world, and the fact that there’s no need to go to the office or comply with a dress code.
If you only need a laptop and an internet connection to work, and your income level allows you to choose any country to live in, why not take advantage of it? An important question is how to become a successful freelancer if you follow this lifestyle. Let’s look at how to become an independent digital nomad and succeed in this environment.
Who Are Digital Nomads?
People who work remotely and travel are called digital nomads. As of 2023, there were about 35 million of them worldwide, but the figure is approximate, and the number is expected to grow. These people generate an economic benefit of $787 billion annually.
According to Nomad List, most nomads are aged between 30 and 40 and most often come from the USA, UK, Russia, Canada, Germany, or France. The average salary for nomads is about $122,343 per year, with the majority earning from $50,000 to $250,000. The main employment types are full-time employment (42%) and freelancing (17%).
The professions that nomads choose are often IT-related. For example, men select software development, web design, founding startups, marketing, and SaaS. Women more frequently select marketing, creative professions, founding startups, software development, and UI/UX design.
What Does the Digital Nomad Lifestyle Mean?
Digital nomads are not just travellers and adventurers. Being easy-going is not enough to get good results in remote work. Every digital nomad should have a certain set of personality traits and skills and be able to find a balance between discipline and freedom to explore, ensuring productivity.
This lifestyle is not just an everlasting holiday. It requires a lot of self-control when, without going to the office and sitting in a familiar place in a working atmosphere, a person has to shape their schedule and distribute their workload. One has to balance their work and personal lives. On top of that, one has to adapt to life in different countries, learning everything from the language to the specifics of paying taxes.
The life of a digital nomad appeals to those looking to break out of the 9-to-5 routine and combine work with passion and adventure. However, it is not without challenges, from finding reliable Wi-Fi and managing time zones to travelling and remaining productive. Success as a digital nomad depends on adaptability, discipline, and a strong work ethic.
5 Common Misconceptions About Digital Nomads
Among the common misconceptions about digital nomads is the belief that they have a hard time finding stable jobs, are less productive than office workers, and are always happy. However, research and statistics debunk these and some other myths.
Myth 1: Digital nomads travel constantly
Although digital nomads can work from anywhere in the world, not every day is spent travelling to exotic locations. They typically settle in one place for long periods. This is more convenient as they can establish work processes, get into a familiar rhythm, and gain local experience.
Myth 2: Being a digital nomad is not a real job
Working as a digital nomad requires multiple professional skills and discipline. Working online (remotely) in an IT-related profession is as difficult as going to an office. Many work as freelancers, remote workers, or entrepreneurs, earning a steady income while managing the expectations of clients or employers. So, nomads can find many “real” jobs.
Myth 3: It’s a lonely way of life
Contrary to popular belief, digital nomads have plenty of opportunities to both socialise with like-minded people and create relationships. Travelling always allows them to meet new, interesting people and make useful connections for work and development. Nomads join co-working spaces, participate in meetups, and connect in online communities to build a useful network.
Myth 4: Nomads lack financial stability
Today, the pay system for remote and office workers isn’t much different, so stability can also be achieved through the digital nomad approach. Moreover, if a person plans their income and expenses carefully, diversifies income sources, and spends money competently, they can maintain a stable financial situation. They often budget their living expenses, prioritise savings, and choose to work with reliable employers.
Myth 5: Digital nomads are only young people
The digital nomad lifestyle is not just for the young. In fact, there are no restrictions. A person has the right to become a nomad at any age. Figures for 2023-2024 confirm that not all nomads are young; 74% of digital nomads are over 30. Age is not a barrier to working remotely and travelling.
Choosing the Right Freelancing Career
Not all professions will suit the digital nomad lifestyle. The first prerequisite is the ability to work remotely via a computer, so doctors, waiters, receptionists, construction workers, nannies, and other similar professions can be discarded. Typical fields are writing, consultancy (e.g. business or legal), IT and development, PR and marketing, online education, design, and creative niches.
For many people, becoming a freelancer means making more money. Hence, many people want to know the answer to the question, “How much do freelancers earn?”. While this depends on various circumstances, you can read more about it in our article: “Average Freelancer Salary: Industry Statistics”.
Before you become a digital nomad, it’s important to identify your strengths and passions and match them to market demands. Here are more tips on how to become successful.
Engage in Networking
One of the main lifehacks for getting settled quickly and easily in a new country as a digital nomad is to find a community of like-minded people. One can use platforms like LinkedIn, freelance job boards, and social media platforms to connect with other digital nomads. The same works well with potential clients or employers. A strong online presence can be your greatest asset in attracting attention.
Develop an In-Demand Skill Set
Most jobs for remote workers are in fast-paced fields such as IT, design, marketing, and education. Continuous learning and keeping up with trends in these fields is a must. For a digital nomad, this may mean taking online courses and attending webinars. Such professionals should remain in the context of the industry, gaining new skills and learning about trends (e.g. AI, ML, AR, crypto). This helps them adapt and sets them apart from others.
Estimate Freelance Market Rates
The next step is to evaluate your skills and get an understanding of how much to charge for your work. A digital nomad could ask other freelancers how much they charge for similar work to determine the average rate for the type of task.
You can estimate your desired annual income and divide it by the number of hours you work per year to calculate your hourly rate. When determining your rate, you should also analyse your niche and industry. Sometimes, the same tasks for different niches will attract different fees.
Study Your Client
A better understanding of the client will also help you determine the freelancer’s rate. For example, on the Upwork platform, you can find the client’s past assignments, the professionals they’ve chosen, and how much they’ve paid for similar services before.
A lot depends on what country your clients are in, so you need to know how much your clients usually pay. A customer in the US or Europe will usually pay more than a customer in East Asia. It’s also important to know whether the client is a large corporation or a small business.
Beyond networking, the way you present yourself is critical. Create a social media account, such as LinkedIn, and do some self-promotion. To land a job, you may need to create a portfolio that showcases your skills and experience. In a competitive environment, you have to stand out and be a credible choice for a client/employer and build and maintain a good reputation in your field.
Managing Logistics and Productivity
It is paramount for the digital nomad to manage logistics. This is primarily about choosing a country with an affordable cost of living, renting a house/flat, finding a workspace with reliable internet access, and creating a comfortable environment. Among digital nomads, co-working spaces that provide not only Wi-Fi and a desk but also a supportive community are becoming increasingly popular.
Once you’ve decided on the physical location, you need to think about your mental state. Productivity is key for freelancers who travel the world. They often can’t afford to disrupt their workflows. So, sometimes they have to do without a tour of a new city and a holiday on the beach for the sake of work.
It’s important to develop a daily routine; digital calendars, planners, time management apps, and a disciplined approach can come to the rescue. Remember that being productive is also about taking care of yourself. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate sleep are crucial.
Financial Planning and Stability
Achieving financial stability can be challenging, but it is achievable with proper planning. Unlike a traditional job, freelancing can mean a variable income, so freelancers should have a financial reserve and a well-thought-out budget. How do digital nomads ensure financial stability? Here are some ideas:
- Diversifying your income sources can provide stability. This means that if you have multiple clients, independent income streams, and passive income sources like real estate or investments, you are more secure than those with only one source of income.
- Investing in skills that can open up new opportunities. Continuous development in your field and acquiring skills in other areas is essential. In case something goes wrong with your work while travelling, you should know that you can use your side skills.
- Investing in insurance, both medical and travel. Therefore, you won’t have to shell out several months’ salary if you have an accident. In addition, insurance is sometimes required to obtain a visa.
- Keeping in mind the cost of living in your chosen locations and currency exchange rates. The choice of country and the prices of food, transport, and accommodation will determine the amount you need to earn each month. This, in turn, determines the number of hours you work and your hourly rate.
If your business involves international sales, you need to keep an eye on whether your customers will be able to pay you. This can affect all your operations and require adaptation, as there are factors that can make it difficult for a client to send you funds.
When you work as a freelancer, you have no borders, and Payrow’s services can help you with accepting payments from clients in different countries. We offer easy-to-use online solutions to invoice international clients seamlessly. Use Payrow to automate reporting, track income and expenses, and manage documents in one app.
What are the best careers for a digital nomad?
The best careers could include software development, founding startups, PR and marketing, SaaS, creative professions, UI/UX design, writing, consultancy, and online education. Such careers are particularly suited to the digital nomad lifestyle, as they offer flexibility and allow remote work.
How do digital nomads manage financial stability?
Financial stability can be achieved through diversifying income streams, investing in skills, employing effective budgeting techniques, investing in insurance, and planning for irregular earnings. It’s also important to give international customers the ability to easily pay for your services and secure transactions.
What are the essential tools for a digital nomad?
If we’re talking about hardware, a digital nomad may need a reliable laptop, a backup tablet, a headset, noise-cancelling headphones, a lap desk, a mouse, and an external power bank. Some essential tech tools include a fast internet connection, a VPN, a collaboration suite like Slack or Trello, video conferencing software, and project management tools.
Can digital nomads form meaningful community connections?
Of course, it’s possible. Networking with people from different countries through freelance platforms, online communities, or even in person (co-working spaces and local meetups) helps digital nomads create useful connections and make friends who share their goals, values, and worldviews.
What is the biggest challenge for digital nomads?
Perhaps the biggest challenges are adapting to a new country (language, legislation, taxes, and finding accommodation) and having to adjust to a new work-life balance. Managing logistics such as visas, bank cards, and reliable internet connections are also common problems.