What is a Digital Nomad?

what is a digital nomad

So what is a digital nomad anyway? Digital nomads are remote workers with no fixed abode. Moving from country to country, we’ve escaped the mundane 9-5 to chase our dreams. Our office is wherever we lay our laptop, and we answer to no one but ourselves.

That’s all well and good, but what is a digital nomad? Who’s doing it, how are they affording it, and what does it take to become one? We’ll cover the following:

  • Who are the digital nomads?
  • Common jobs for nomads.
  • Where to find those jobs.
  • How much you can expect to earn.
  • If the nomadic lifestyle is worth it.


Who Are the Digital Nomads?

Could you pick a nomad out of a lineup? Is there a look, uniform, or classic style that defines a typical digital nomad? 

No.

Stand 100 nomads in a line and you’d find 100 different shapes, sizes, stories, and backgrounds. 

The two defining characteristics are a laptop and an unhealthy internet dependency, but that could describe half the world’s population.

Nomad List gives the average age of nomads as 33, although Statista shows that the older folk are also enjoying the nomadic lifestyle, with 24% aged between 50 and 80.

There’s a 52/47/1 split between genders, representing male, female, and other respectively, although the sample size of respondents is quite small (423), so actual numbers could be different.

Work-wise, according to Statista, 83% are self-employed. Of that 83%, there’s a 70/30 split between people who own their own businesses, and freelancers working in the gig economy.

There’s also a healthy amount of travel involved with nomadism, but that varies from person to person. Some nomads are slowmads; staying in each location as long as possible; 15% stay for 90+ days in each country. Others bounce from city to city, cafe to cafe, always on the move; 47% spend less than 7 days per city.

There’s no right or wrong way. As long as you’re productive, enjoying the travel experience, and maintaining your emotional well-being, you’re winning at life.

How many digital nomads are out there? Apparently, there are 35 million digital nomads! That’s more than the entire populations of Greece, Portugal, and Sweden combined!

Where do all these digital nomads tend to work? Home offices are the most popular reported workspace. That could mean any hotel, Airbnb, or coliving space. As long as there’s a reliable internet connection, we can work.

Other remote working hotspots include coworking spaces, coffee shops, and public libraries. There’s also been a recent increase in the number of nomads living the van life, using portable wifi hotspots to work remotely from the back of their RV.

Now we have a better understanding of the type of people that make up the digital nomad community, let’s look at what they actually do for a living.


digital nomads working in cafe


Common Jobs for Digital Nomads


Content writer

As a content writer, you create, edit, and publish articles. This can include blog posts, web pages, social media posts, newsletters, press releases, etc.

Content Marketing is still huge. According to a HubSpot survey, “66% of marketers expect their 2022 content marketing budget to increase more than their 2021 budget”. 2023 will probably see a similar level of growth.


Social media manager

A social media manager manages various social platforms, implements strategies, and creates reports. Typically, this involves posting content, responding to comments, monitoring interactions, engaging with followers, and more.

Sproutsocial.com reports that, on average, people bounce between 7 different social networks per month. It’s your choice whether you become a jack of all trades, or an industry expert at one. 


Videographer

As a videographer, you shoot and edit videos. Opportunities include recording videos for events, weddings, birthdays, conferences, and more. 

Another way to supplement your videographer income includes recording material to sell on the stock footage market. Whereas stock photos earn cents per image (which can quickly add up if you’re successful), videos can earn big dollars because of the high demand for video marketing. 


Virtual assistant

The classic Virtual Assistant role includes administrative tasks such as answering emails, scheduling appointments, managing databases, bookkeeping, and more.

With the recent increase in location-independent workers, the VA role has expanded to include any unwanted task, including content creation, image enhancement, performing interviews, etc. If it can be subcontracted, a VA can do it.


Copywriter

A copywriter creates concise copy for ads, marketing materials, and websites with the specific intent of making sales. You could specialize in specific copy like sales pages and cold outreach emails, or design an entire storybrand framework to enhance and clarify a brand’s messaging.

If you’re good, the sky’s the limit for how much you can earn. CareerExplorer.com states, “The copywriter job market is expected to grow by 7.6% between 2016 and 2026.” And with an average salary of $70k, that’s enough to fund a location-independent lifestyle. 


Online tutor

As an online tutor, you help students complete their assignments and projects online. This can be one-on-one or group sessions, and can cater to different subjects such as math, science, English, and more.

The market for English language teachers is vast, with potential earnings all depending on your experience and expertise.

Depending on the needs of the student and your speciality, you could teach formal business English, run pronunciation classes for lab personnel learning scientific terms, or just chat once a week with someone trying to brush up before they go traveling.

Online learning is a massive industry, with the worldwide e-learning market projected to be worth $325 Billion in 2025. Dust off your chalkboard and go grab a slice of that pie. 

That’s just a tiny selection of the available digital nomad jobs. If you can work remotely, you can become a digital nomad.


digital nomads in cafe


What Are the Best Websites for Digital Nomad jobs

While it’s not unheard of to become a remote employee with a fixed contract, most nomadic jobs are based on the gig economy.

Here’s a list of top job websites for digital nomads that can help you find work anywhere in the world. These websites can help you land remote freelance gigs, remote part-time jobs, and remote full-time work.


Upwork

Upwork is an online freelancing platform with over 12 million freelancers and 5 million jobs. You can find freelance jobs from companies around the world on this site. It’s not nomadic-specific, and competition is high, but you can land some life-changing contracts through Upwork.


Remote.co

Remote.co is a remote work job board, focusing specifically on remote positions. On this site, you can find remote jobs from around the globe, it’s updated regularly, and they also share helpful resources for both employees and employers.


We Work Remotely

We Work Remotely is one of the leading job sites for remote jobs. The site has over 4.5 million visitors. You can find jobs from small companies to Fortune 500 companies on this site.

Other sites with remote work opportunities include:

  • DynamiteJobs
  • FlexJobs
  • Freelancer
  • Toptal
  • Guru


Which Digital Nomad Jobs Pay the Most?

Unless you have a fixed contract with a regular salary, you’ll likely fall into one of two categories – lots of low-paying clients, or a few high-paying gigs.

Both are viable, and both have their plus and negative points.

When you’re working, you’re trading time for money. You want to hit that sweet spot where you have enough time to enjoy the nomadic lifestyle and the benefits it brings, but you’re also earning enough where you never have to touch your savings.

But, if you want to become financially independent and make enough to retire early, there are certain jobs that pay much more than others.


Full-stack developer

Full-stack developers create and maintain software systems for their clients. They create and build programs from back-end to front-end. It takes a lot of skill, can be stressful, and the wages reflect it. The average salary for a full-stack developer in the US is $100k.


Web Designer

With 1.98 Billion websites already online, you’d think that the web design sector was pretty saturated. Yes, and no. Web designers create, design, and develop websites for their clients, and there’s no shortage of clients.

There are always new companies, start-ups, local businesses, entrepreneurs, etc. and they all need an online presence. The average salary for a web designer in the US is $60k.


Influencer

This is a funny one, as there are no hard and fast rules for how much you can charge as an influencer, but the average salary of an influencer in the US is $50k. There’s no specific skill set, as there are influencers in every niche. 

You basically need to find a niche, create content that speaks directly to that audience, and then hope that luck is on your side. If it is, and you go viral, the $50k is pocket change. The side income from courses, endorsements, adverts, etc, will all compound to massive earnings.

The beauty of becoming an influencer as a digital nomad is that you’ve always got fresh material. As you’re always on the move, you’ve got a constant change of background, fresh tales, and new stimuli. 


Copywriting

As discussed before, copywriting is a common job for digital nomads, and one that pays handsomely. The average salary for a copywriter in the US is $70k, although you could make that from just one high-ticket project.

If you niche down and become an expert copywriter in your field, say hello to both financial and location independence. 

That isn’t to say you can’t make good money from other occupations. If you’re constantly learning, developing, expanding your skillset, and investing in yourself, you’ll be able to charge a premium, no matter what you do.


Is being a digital nomad worth it?

Comfort and convenience are the biggest advantages of working remotely. You decide where you live and where you work.

Unlike traditional offices where employees have strict working hours and dress codes, remote workers usually have the freedom to work anytime and anywhere they want. Pajama Tuesday can definitely be a thing!

You don’t have the stress of commuting to work daily and can opt for healthier meals rather than lunching at the cafeteria every day.

You’ll experience new cultures, meet new friends, and enjoy daily adventures. You’ll push yourself to your limits and be forced to think on your feet. These interactions all help should you ever decide to return to the standard working environment.

With a constant stream of new horizons and new challenges, you’ll forever be learning new things about yourself. You won’t even remember what you once thought were your limits. 

Is it all sunshine and rainbows? Absolutely not.

You deal with taxes, insurance, occasional loneliness, the stress of finding new clients, visas, language barriers, jet lag, time zone differences, and many more random events which you can never account for.

But is it worth it? We say yes.

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