Digital nomads: people who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner. (Wikipedia, 2017)
Digital nomads: people who can work when and where they like, travel the world and do cool shit, meet a ton of awesome people on the way, wake up when they want, actually enjoy what they do, and never have to use Excel or format slides ever again. (Thomson, 2017)
We're so lucky to live in this day and age.
Please take a moment to realise how insanely lucky you are.
Humans have been around for quite a while - you could have been born any time and any place; the fact that you're living in this insane technological era and that you're wealthy enough to be reading this is like you've already won the lottery - seriously man. The possibilities we have thanks to technology are almost limitless, and they're only accelerating. It's easy to forget that even just a few decades ago the internet wasn't really a thing and travel was insanely expensive. We are so lucky to have technology as such an amazing enabler in our lives. Just take a second to really absorb the insanity of the smartphone in your pocket - remind yourself that your parents lived most of their lives without the internet: they didn't have Facebook, they didn't shop online, they couldn't even Google things!
I find quite a few people are attracted but also resistant to the idea of living as a digital nomad, simply because it seems surreal, it's not 'normal' - yet. Most companies and people are still used to a more fixed way of working, because that's how it's always been - and these things don't just change overnight - but a paradigm shift is happening. I'm meeting more and more people who have chosen to live this way, doing freelance work online on their own terms. They work when they want and where they want. They live how they want and work a bit here and there. Doesn't that make more sense than working the whole time with vacations here and there?
Just because other people think it's crazy (they're simply not used to it) doesn't mean it can't or shouldn't be done. Now that you can, why would you not make the most of it?
Disclaimer: Maybe it's not for you, nothing is for everyone, maybe you like the stability and routine of your job - and that's fine. This is just another possibility. If it sounds good to you I'll try my best to explain how to get on the digital nomad bandwagon.
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
Find something you're good at, knowledgeable about, or passionate about.
There are so many different people in the world, that whatever you have to share will be useful to someone - trust me. Remember that we're full of cognitive biases. As you're going through the possible options in your head right now you might be thinking 'everyone knows how do that' or 'no one would pay for that' - you're wrong. For every single thing that you know, and feel is so obvious and/or easy, there are many people who find that same thing very challenging. You don't need any 'hard skills' that form the obvious remote working possibilities such as being good at graphic design or coding, although these are certainly possibilities.
For example, I've always been interested in investments. I've read about finance, money and companies since before I was a teen and over the course of more than a decade have accumulated a lot of knowledge. To me, now, this stuff is so obvious and simple that I often make the mistake of thinking that it will be the same for other people. Wrong. Most people will probably be thinking 007 if I start talking about bonds.
Go ahead, seriously, make a list, what do you know about, what skills do you have, what are you interested in, what are you passionate about, what do you spend your free time doing, what do you dream about doing?
Need a bit on inspiration/motivation? Watch this.
Research your space, figure out the best monetisation strategies.
Once you have your list of ideas, you're probably wondering how people are monetising (making money from) what they're doing. Well, let's say you've chosen baking as your 'thing'. Just go on Google and search for baking blogs, then head to Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and do some more digging. Find out what the top players are doing, figure out what works and what doesn't, reach out to some of the top dogs, figure out how they're making their money (this will vary depending on the field), see what the current trend is and where things are heading.
Let's say you like vlogging (video-blogging) - you make videos about your life and put them on youtube. As you probably know, you can make a good amount of money from Youtube ads (around $2.50 / 1,000 views) and people watch all kinds of weird, wonderful, dumb and even stupid or boring content. Don't make the mistake of thinking that no one would be interested in watching your content.
You can also make good money through affiliate marketing - this is one of the big ones and also my main source of income. It basically means being a middleman, selling a product for someone else and earning a commission for the sales that come through you. For example, you know all those folks who do the unboxing videos on youtube?
At some point during the video, they will inevitably point you to the 'link in the description' if you want to buy any of the products they have been unboxing and reviewing. The descriptions always looks something like this:
See all those bit.ly and amzn.to links? Those are what are called affiliate links. They're links which are trackable and connected to someone - in this case the unboxing dude. If you click on one of those links and end up buying the item, he'll earn a commission on that sale (the amount varies a lot, but could be 10-20% on average). If you're unboxing high ticket items and getting a decent amount of views, some simple maths will show you that you only need a few people to buy products through your links in order for you to start making a very decent income. You can do affiliate work with literally all kinds of things! (A step by step guide later in the post).
It's all about moving away from trading your time for money - I strive to create work that can keep working for me forever in the background and that is easily scalable; the goal is to create various streams of income that are completely passive. Youtube videos or blogs are good examples: you make the video or write the post once and then it just sits on the internet making you money forever, without you having to do anything else. Suddenly you realise that the hours you worked to make that piece of content are worth A LOT - much much more than you could ever by doing a 'normal' hour's work. For example, I wrote a trading guide a couple of years ago and put affiliate links in it. It took me a solid week to write it, but it's been producing a solid $400+ per month since then, and it will continue to do so indefinitely.
Remember, money is relative.
Let's fast forward a bit and say that you're managing to earn around $1,000 a month online. We're all used to framing money relative to its purchasing power wherever we live - so if you lived in NYC you might think 'well $1,000 isn't even going to cover my rent'. On the other hand, if you were in Cambodia you could pay for your rent and still have $950 to spare. I'm not saying we should all live in cheap third world countries, but it's certainly an easier (and often stunning) place to start.
Money isn't just a number (for a more in depth discussion about this read my other post), it's highly circumstantial. What matters is what you can do with that money - its purchasing power. You often can't dictate how much you earn, but you can dictate how much you spend. As an example, earning $1,000 in Thailand is probably equivalent to earning around $5,000 in the US as everything costs around 20% as much here as it does in the US.
My affiliate work: a step by step example.
There are almost endless ways to make good money online, but I know that vagueness doesn't help anyone getting started, so I thought I'd give a personal step by step example.
As I mentioned earlier, one of my main interests over the last decade has been investing/trading. As I explored this space purely for my own interest, I stumbled upon some types of investing (again enabled by technology) which were fairly new and therefore allowed me to become somewhat of an SME (subject matter expert). People were interested in what I had to say and I realised I had found a good little niche suitable for affiliate marketing.
Let's take this post as an example. I'm writing about what I love, what I believe in and what I find interesting. I'm sharing some interesting and useful (hopefully!) information with you. Spammy affiliate links don't work because people can recognise them and they don't like being pushed into a sale or feeling like they're being used to make money. But if you can make your affiliate links fit in to your valuable content organically then people don't mind - it's a tradeoff. I'm sharing this information with you and in return maybe you decide to sign-up/buy whatever I'm recommending and I earn a commission. Simple.
So one of the main companies that I have worked with is an innovative trading platform called eToro. I'm going to use them as an example as I can show you my affiliate account, how it works, how much I earn etc (still not sure why talking about money and earnings is so tabu...). See how the word 'eToro' a couple of lines up has a link embedded in it? That's my affiliate link, so if you click there and end up creating an account and depositing money I'll earn a commission.
I know what you're thinking... how much commission? Well, it's pretty good. They match what your referrals deposit up to $400. So if you click on my link and then deposit $100, I get a $100 commission. If you deposit $400 I get $400. If you deposit $10,000 I still get $400.
If you can find things like eToro that you understand and are passionate about they really sell themselves. And getting a few hundred dollars for every person you refer is not bad at all. Think about it, even if this isn't your area of expertise, how many people do you know who are interested in investing? Almost everyone is curious, as people want to see their savings grow. The problem is that investing is often a scary and complex world and people never get round to it. eToro solves this probelm as it's the most user friendly platform you'll find and it allows you to simply automatically copy other people who know what they're doing. It's really an easy sell - we all know a bunch of people who want to start investing but never get round to it. Earn yourself a quick and juicy commission while also helping them be smart with their money.
In order to be an affiliate partner and create your own links and earn commission, first you need a normal eToro account. You can create one here (it's free - you don't have to deposit); this is the account you actually use for investing/trading. Once you've done that (only takes a minute or two) you can create a partners account here; this is the one where you create affiliate links and track your commission etc.
Once you have both these accounts head to your partners account - it will look something like this.
You can see an endless amount of details such as how many clicks you are getting, where from, how much you're earning and much much more - let's start with the basics though. Go ahead and click on the 'choose marketing tools' on the left hand side. The link you'll see is your unique link (it will look something like the image below). Whenever someone signs up by clicking on your link, they become your client, so you earn the commission. Go ahead and share it with your friends who are interested in investing, or put it on Facebook, or wherever and just see what happens - you might be pleasantly surprised. Most people tend to be quite greedy, so if you share a cool platform that makes investing easier, they will be curious.
That's really it, the bare bones of affiliate marketing. Find something you can sell, sign up as an affiliate, and get people to click on your link. It's a huge industry - almost every sizeable company will have an affiliate program. Amazon for example is a huge one.
I hope this intro to being a digital nomad shed some light onto some ways to leverage technology in order to live on your own terms. In the future I will create more in depth guides, so keep an eye out or subscribe to the newsletter to be alerted when there is a new post.