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April 3, 2019

How to Become a Digital Nomad

The idea of being a digital nomad seems so romantic: work from a beach on a tropical island, working on your laptop as you sip cocktails in a cabana. And even though you might not find Wi-Fi on a beach, more and more people are ditching their offices and working remotely.

According to MOB Partners, about 4.8 million workers describe themselves as digital nomads, and another 17 million hope to become one someday. Some of us are well on our way to getting there; according to Gallup, 43% of Americans work remotely part of the time, and more than 30% work away from the office 4 to 5 days per week.

So how does one become a digital nomad? If you’re working from home or Starbucks, it’s not that hard: all you need is an Internet connection and a laptop, and you’re well on your way. But if you want to travel and still stay linked to the office, it becomes a little harder.

Work in the Right Industry

Obviously, some jobs are better for working away from the office than others. If you’re in the service industry, it’s hard to fix a leaky pipe or manage a restaurant when you’re 3,000 miles away from the location. Best industries for digital nomads are creative (writers and designers), IT, marketing and e-commerce. You can do most of your work and communicate using a laptop and an Internet connection.

Tools of the Digital Nomad

While you’re working, you want to be as connected as possible to your office. That means being available at all times:

  • Always have your laptop and mobile phone available. Also have a reliable Internet connection near you – whether it’s a wired connection or Wi-Fi.
  • Be available for chatting and talking on the phone. Apps such as Slack will allow you to chat with employees whether you’re tethered to your laptop or on your mobile phone. Video conference services such as Google Hangouts and GoToMeeting will allow you to conference other people into a call – even if they’re in another country – and even share computer screens. And of course, Ninja Number is our choice for a second business line that you can have on your cellphone. There are also many other business phone services out there that can help you manage your phone calls. Make sure you and your employees have either FaceTime or Skype available as well.
  • Have a shareable project management/to-do app such as Trello or Asana so that you can keep track of what your employees are working on – as well as organize your to-do list.

The Little Things (That Can Be Big)

You need to plan. A lot. This is a big decision that affects everything in your life, so you need to make sure you’re making the right decision.

  • Scout your location before you move. Does the place have a low cost of living? Where will you live? Do you need a visa or passport? Health insurance? What are the laws, rules and regulations?
  • Not sure where you want to move to? Try Nomad List, which profiles more than 2,000 cities around the world and ranks them on a variety of factors. You can even connect with other digital nomads once you arrive at your destination. Or use a service such as Remote Year, which organizes work and travel programs for people to work in cities around the world.
  • If you’re moving permanently, tie up loose ends at home – selling or renting your house, cutting off utilities, having your mail forwarded, etc.
  • Taxes. Will you owe taxes in the country in which you’re living, or the country where your business is located? Check with your accountant to see what tax laws you need to be following.

Keep in mind that becoming a digital nomad may not be permanent, and it may not be for you. Some digital nomads work remotely for 6 months and come home, while others may stay longer. Don’t let your business suffer, though; do whatever’s best for your livelihood – even if that means giving up the cabana on the beach.

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