In April 2016, I left Goa, India; after dropping out of college and traveling the world ever since that time, the most common question I get to this day is: “How to become a digital nomad and make money traveling?”.
Having dropped straight out of college, I never got a “9-5 job, nor do I ever plan on. I dropped out mainly because a degree wasn’t going to help me achieve the goals I wanted out of life. I didn’t want to spend the greatest years of my life leading a life that felt like a lie.
I was resistant for a very long time to write an article about “Digital Nomads”, as there is a lot of bullshit out there in the Digital Nomad community about sitting on the beach doing nothing while having millions pour into your bank account.
Firstly shit like that doesn’t exist, sorry to burst your bubble, and a few people are selling that dream of being a “digital nomad” to make a quick buck.
The term “digital nomad” gets used so much on the internet nowadays, and sadly, most people get exposed to the term by someone trying to sell them something.
In this article, I will not move around the bush and talk primarily about how to become a digital nomad, but talk about their lifestyle and help you understand whether you have what it takes to become a digital nomad.
What is a Digital Nomad
A digital nomad is an individual who is looking to work online when traveling the world while embracing a nomadic lifestyle and frequently moving from one place to another. Unlike a typical image on social media of 20-year-olds working with their MacBooks sitting down in a beautiful location, digital nomadism is all about creating a perfect work-life balance.
As a digital nomad, life is about the daily grind and the thrill of exploring uncharted territories, immersing yourself in diverse cultures, and connecting with people from all walks of life. Each destination will add depth to the days and bring stories you can tell to the entire world.
How To Become a Digital Nomad in 2024
There is a common conception that digital nomads are 20-year-old individuals traveling the world while working and enjoying the thrill of adventure.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth! Digital nomads aren’t just the people on Instagram sitting with their laptops on the beach; the diversity of digital nomads is incredible! There are digital nomads over the age of 60; at the same time, they are people who started out at 18, like me! It’s not just bloggers or CEOs who are traveling around the world, earning on the go. Digital Nomads come in all shapes and forms.
- On the technology-focused side, we have coders, programmers, developers, etc. On the creative side, we have writers, authors, designers, etc. On the business side, we have day traders, business owners, project managers, etc.
- On the marketing side, you have everything from social media managers and growth hackers to SEO Consultants like me. The digital nomad community also consists of everything from YouTubers and bloggers to online English teachers and translators.
Similarly, due to the diversity, there is no one first fixed the path of “how to become a digital nomad”!
It’s not possible to make a step-by-step course on how to become a digital nomad as there is insane diversity, and there is no one fixed path to make money traveling.
Anyone trying to sell you a course on how to become a digital nomad “exactly” they are most likely making his living selling the dream of being a digital nomad instead of creating any actual value.
Find out where in this spectrum you belong as a professional! What are you good at, and what do you like doing? The opportunities are endless, but if you pick something just because that’s what this digital nomad “guru” on the internet told you to do, you’ll probably get sick of it and won’t be willing to put in the work. Don’t even listen to me; think for yourself. I’m not your guru!
It’s the same way I feel about content creation and personal branding; I don’t believe everyone should start a blog like me because some people are better on video while others are better off starting a podcast! You need to find the medium through which you communicate best; similarly, you need to find what you are good at and like doing!
However, we will look at certain things you can do to be well-versed in your journey.
1. Identify Your Skill Sets and Strengthen Them
To become a successful digital nomad in 2024, it is important to identify the skills you possess and find the right skills that are in demand among small organizations. You have to strengthen your marketable skills by signing up for courses or organizing shadowing experiences who will learn from industry professionals.
Before I dropped out of college, I dedicated my free time to developing new skills, and I’m always learning new things thanks to the infinite knowledge available to everyone reading this; it’s called the internet.
Let me tell you one simple thing, I’m not lucky, I worked! I worked countless coffee-fueled nights and weekends doing hundreds of hours of research to learn about how I could make money traveling while my friends were out partying.
Some essential skills for a digital nomad are
- Excellent written and verbal communication
- Ability to budget and manage your finances
- Marketing and sales skills
- Knowledge of popular software, like Google Workspace and Microsoft Office Suite.
However, if you don’t have the skills you can turn into freelance earnings, then you can invest in certain items to garner the skills. Courses on Udemy can help you get lucrative skills for endless work possibilities.
2. Build a Portfolio and Start Searching Job Boards
As a digital nomad, you need to have a portfolio to showcase your talents. Some sites you can use are Cloudways, WP Engine, or tools to host websites, which will allow you to create professional websites where clients can see your skills and experience. If you don’t have anything, then you can create mock projects, like writing articles, creating graphics, etc.
However, if you are already working, then you don’t really have to quit your job to become a digital nomad, as many popular “quit my job to travel the world” articles on the internet will have you believe!
If you work on your laptop and your work could be done with you sitting at home instead of going to an office, you could also do it from a beach in Bali (Okay, maybe an air-conditioned cafe by the beach :P)! This obviously won’t apply to all professions as you can’t perform heart surgery from across the world; however, if you work in the tech or business sectors, it’s very likely that your job could be performed remotely.
Many times, this might mean negotiating with your current employer and other factors; however, the idea of working remotely is becoming insanely popular, with some of the biggest companies choosing to allow their employees to work remotely! From Amazon and American Express to IBM!
Remote jobs are one of the most popular methods of how digital nomads earn a living. The benefit of being a remote worker is the security of having a fixed monthly income coming in! If you can’t turn your current job into a remote job, maybe it’s time to apply for a new job that allows you to work remotely.
There are companies like Automatic (the guys behind WordPress.com) that only hire remote workers, and there are sites like FlexJobs and WeWorkRemotely that post remote job offers from these companies.
3. Start Networking
Building relationships with people and other people in different industries. So, building relationships from the start is a great option. You can reach out to other users in the digital nomad space or your specific industry. If you are a freelance creative, then you can get in touch with publications that will be a good fit for your work. You can join a professional association if it is available for your industry.
If you know that there is a prominent individual in your industry who could give you a boost at the start, then try reaching out to them. Attending webinars or in-person workshops in your industry is an excellent way to network while you can also accelerate your skills and gain valuable industry knowledge.
Finally, you will need to ask clients or colleagues for recommendations or referrals once you have done working with them. This will help your future clients to have testimonials of your previous work. You can showcase these reviews on your website.
4. Build Your Savings
If you are planning to make a big move, then building a safety net is a great idea. This doesn’t have to be a big sum, but you are required to have some form of financial security for your travels. Having savings for the first 3 to 6 months is a solid start, ensuring you are safe from emergencies or unexpected expenses that may arise during the trip.
For starters, when I started traveling, I didn’t start out with a lot of savings; coming from a middle-class Indian family, I had barely 200$ that I saved over birthdays and Christmas as my startup capital. My goal was to pay for my travels by making money while traveling, instead of the usual “make money, save, and then travel.” that’s more common.
5. Determine your Budget and Decide Your Locations
The next important thing to consider is to decide your location for your travels and fit it into your budget. You should try and hit a budget-friendly mindset. You can select a major city with plenty of facilities; however, a remote or a village can make your entire journey affordable as well as adventurous.
The next step is to consider the quality of living in each of the places you have shortlisted to visit. For a digital nomad fast internet connection is a necessity. Some people may require a more social atmosphere, while others look for a place with more safety. However, what you want may not be what I prefer, so it is a choice you should make, and there are no courses in the market that can help you with this issue.
Check out NomadList, an amazing resource that lists the average price of living in different cities around the world!
6. Get Traveller Insurance
The next on this checklist is to get some digital nomad insurance. You may want to get yourself health, travel, or life insurance. In case you will be driving, you will need to have some kind of car insurance. You may not have all the types of insurance in the places you may be traveling.
This may not be a priority for everybody, but you can choose it as a layer of protection if you run into any issues on the way. Personally I use and recommend Safety Wings.
7. Optimize Your Digital Workflow
It is important to explore some of the digital services; so you are able to keep your workflow optimized and keep your life organized while you are on the road.
You will be required to pay or get paid when you are working remotely. Some top online banks like Wise, MoneyGram, and Western Union are some options you can consider. Most of the options can be used to withdraw funds easily, but they may charge some amount for each transaction.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), like Surfshark and NordVPN, are a great choice for surfing the internet as a digital nomad. These services help keep all your traffic encrypted and your information protected. Apart from this, you can look for accounting software to help keep track of the expenses associated with your new lifestyle and the income generated.
8. Collect the Necessary Documents
You need to get all your necessary documents in order before you begin your journey as a digital nomad. The most common documents you need to gather include
- Passport- Ensure the passport has at least 6 months of validity.
- Travel permits and visas- intended for visiting your country.
- Social security card.
- Driver’s license- you can use it as a form of identification once you arrive in the new country.
- Medical records- to expedite any issues or potential procedures needed when abroad.
- Insurance documents- this includes everything from health, flight coverage, and other areas that are deemed relevant to your personal situation.
How To Make Money Traveling as a Digital Nomad?
Every day, I get so many messages from old friends from high school; they usually go along the lines of “OMG! You are so lucky”.
“How exactly do you make money traveling?”
“How do you make money to pay for your travels around the world?”
“Are you paid to travel the world?”
Here are a few ways you can make money traveling as a digital nomad:
A freelancer is basically an individual who is self-employed and is not completely committed to an employee for long periods. Initially, I started traveling by freelancing; I learned to build basic websites off YouTube and Google and then went cafe to cafe and pitched in order to get my first clients! Later, as my portfolio grew, I was able to network online and get more clients.
I’ve mentioned this a ton of times on this blog, but freelancing is the easiest to enter, and the path to success as a freelancer is simple. Simple, but requires you to put in a lot of hard work.
Take a skill, one that you like or at least are interested in, and get good at it! Maybe take a few courses on SkillShare to get even better! Then start doing that skill for other people who will benefit from it and get paid for it!
You can freelance doing almost anything, from being a virtual assistant to building websites or teaching English!
How do you get good at your skills? Well, one way is by doing it and learning more! eg. As a writer, a good way to get better at writing is to write more and read more! Similarly, each industry will have its own way of improvement!
2. Start an Online Business
Most of the people who get exposed to the digital nomad lifestyle think that they need to build an online business to earn passive income. For example, they believe that you need to earn millions of dollars pouring into their bank accounts while they sit on the beach drinking a beer! That’s usually the idea being sold to people to get them to buy a course or into a system, and shit like that just doesn’t exist!
There is no magic algorithm or secret that will make millions while you do nothing! Any online business takes a lot of hard work and patience to grow!
With any online business, there are only a few ways that you can make an income; Create a product (eg. book, software, etc) or sell a course, provide a service (web design, translations, etc), or sell advertising (Ads, affiliate marketing, etc).
There are a lot of options here, from an E-commerce store to a YouTube channel. Here’s my take on it and what I would do/did. Build a business around your passion or interests. Why do I say that? Because when you are working on something, it doesn’t really feel like work.
I have recently launched a digital marketing agency, Aroview.com, which helps you scale your SEO and rank higher on Google.
3. Travel Blogging
One of the simplest ways to earn money as a digital nomad is to start a blog. In early 2016, I started a travel blog called Think Travel Lift Grow. Eventually, I grew it to over 100k monthly users from Google in less than a year, and its income was enough to sustain my travel.
Later on, I closed down the travel blog and started this new site at JeremyNoronha.com.
Most of my affiliate links are for Amazon.com. However, I have a personal policy by which I never endorse a product or service I didn’t actually try or believe in.
When I just started my blog, I remember I made barely a dollar in my first month! But I kept putting in the work, and slowly, I saw some money coming in. Once that began, I started focusing more of my time on making it bigger and better.
I focused my energy on learning new skills to write better and learning new ideas that would help me grow the blog further, and eventually, it grew to be a full-time income. I don’t believe there is a “secret” or “hack” to success! It all comes down to Smart and then hard work. I have an article that’s over 6000 words long that shares everything you would need to know about How To Start A Blog And Make Money.
4. SEO Consulting
Search engine optimization is a very important strategy to help rank on the front pages of Google. You can become an SEO expert and collaborate with businesses to improve their website content, keywords, and metadata so Google ranks their content higher.
In the process of growing my blog, I became really good at SEO. I launched Aroview, a digital agency to help scale your business. Many of you guys reading this article right now- yes, you Probably Googled “How to Become a Digital Nomad” and clicked on this article.
Because I’m good at this “SEO thingy”, I’m usually at the top of Google for most of the things I write about and even beat big travel blogs, online publications, and even companies with a huge team.
Of course, thanks to that, I managed to get into some pretty impressive consulting roles. For example, I became the Head of SEO at Foundr Magazine. You might like to read the full story!
How Much Money Outside the Internet
Making money while traveling the world is diverse and easier than most people think. Let us dive into some of the ways you can make money outside the internet while traveling around the world.
1. Teach English Abroad
Teaching jobs, especially as English teachers are incredibly abundant around the world. This is especially the case in areas of Southeast Asia and China. They pay well, the hours are flexible, the cost of living is low, and some schools will pay for your flight over. I have so many friends teaching English in Vietnam and China right now.
Most English teachers have TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA certification in addition to a college degree. The TEFL certification is the easiest and least expensive to obtain. Courses ranging from 40 to 120 hours are offered online.
2. Work In Hostels
If you stick to very tourist-centric areas, hostels are often looking for staff to work the desk or show the guests around town. If you can speak a language no other staff member can, that’s really going to help you to pull ahead.
You can find hostel jobs pretty much anywhere, particularly places that appeal to backpackers and budget travelers! Even if you aren’t getting paid and just volunteering, you will get a free room and save on accommodation and also maybe food. Helpx and Workaway are used often by a lot of travelers, but they also provide other volunteering opportunities in rural schools, yoga retreats, etc. Network and put yourself out there.
3. Sell Your Services
Everyone is good at something, and no one can say- “I’m not good at anything.” Use your skills and talents to find work. Teach people how to play music or how to dance, cut hair, hula hoop, cook for people — use whatever skills you have to find a job. There are so many opportunities.
Often times you can make a lot of money by answering the question: “what is super easy for me but very hard for other people?”
It doesn’t matter what you are good at; if you want it bad enough, you will find a way. Sell your service to people who will benefit from it. In this way, you’ll find that you don’t mind doing it like it’s something you would do for free.
4. Do Seasonal Work
Whether it’s the Australian work visa and picking vegetables, fruits, flowers, or picking up grapes in a vineyard in Italy. Farms are always looking to hire seasonal workers. So many of these places require additional help and people during the peak seasons, and they usually pay well.
Fruit-picking jobs in Australia are some of the easiest work to find, but the trade-off is that it is also some of the hardest work out there. Harvest jobs often pay great, especially if they involve big machinery.
If I couldn’t work online or if I didn’t have this blog and wanted money to travel, I would have probably ended up picking fruit in Australia. It is amazing to gain some extra cash to extend your trip. WWOOF provides organic farming jobs all over the world.
Apart from this, you can start busking, become an instructor, write reviews for hotels, and work in the airline industry.
How Much Money Do I Make Traveling The World?
I know, I know. You want details. Asking someone how much money they make is a very personal question, and it’s not something I’m entirely comfortable posting. Also, a lot of it is confidential haha, but I’ll give you an idea.
I have earned over 500$ in a single day, but I also have days when I have earned less than 20$. I make enough to make ends meet and also invest in my future!
I put most of my income back into this blog or into starting my other businesses in one form or another.
All businesses need investment to grow, including blogs.
I can travel for the rest of my life if I choose to, settle in any country I like, and work on the go and only need Wi-Fi, my phone or laptop, and Coffee. Especially Coffee!
The reality is that I actually have no idea how much I’ll make next month. Or the month after that. It’s one downside to working for yourself. In exchange for freedom, you often lose some security.
I’ve chosen freedom over security.
Now, I’m pretty sure many of you reading this are super inspired.
Well, in early 2016, I was the guy sitting in the library of my university and Googling the exact same thing you just did.
I looked at all the top bloggers and people traveling the world and realized that “Alright that’s great for them; they definitely put in a lot of work to be where they are now; what can I learn from them so that I can do the same?” Instead of complaining about my circumstances, I believe in taking responsibility and putting in the world.
I believe that anything is possible with hard work, patience, and dedication.
Pros and Cons of Digital Nomad
Ready For The Digital Nomad Lifestyle?
The digital nomad lifestyle isn’t all sunshine and rainbows; it takes a lot of courage to take the leap when you are just getting started. Hopefully, after reading this article on Digital Nomads. I hope you get a better idea and appreciation of the reality! It’s not sitting on a beach, magically making money on the internet; it takes hard work! But it sure is worth it.