I’ve been an expat most of my adult life, moving from country to country and along life’s path as it opened up to me. However, until this year I never identified as a Digital Nomad or being Location Independent. Pretty much because I wasn’t, even though most people in my life saw me that way. I’m a Californian and have worked in digital comms in Spain, India, China, Hong Kong, and Malaysia for local start-ups. Never on assignment as a foreign worker for a large company and rarely working freelance. So sure, the past couple of decades I’ve lived a nomadic existence but I wasn’t location-independent.
Until this year.
My daughter is off at uni now and I still have a weight of financial responsibility on my shoulders, but I’m freer to explore alternate realities for myself. So I am doing what makes me happiest …. engaging online and telling stories. Some of the time for myself on my YouTube channel and blogs (this one and my Asia travel blog Luxury Bucket List). And some of the time for my clients around the world. I work with brands and small businesses ranging from travel agencies, a global beauty brand, local hotspots, and even a TV celebrity. And I’m happy. Happier than I’ve been in years, in fact.
This path isn’t for everyone, which I know very well because it took me years to take the plunge. It’s as rich with benefits as it is fraught with pitfalls. It’s exciting, dynamic, and easy to fall in love with it.
So far in the past 30 days I’ve worked from downtown Kuala Lumpur, from Indonesia, and with a glass of wine in hand on the coast of the busiest sea thoroughfare in Asia.
3 Things I Know Are True About Digital Nomads & Being Location Independent
1. They Have Mad Skills
You can’t head out to travel the world and live a location-independent lifestyle if you don’t already know HOW you’re going to support yourself. Well, maybe you can if you are taking an online course at the beginning (actually, that’s not a bad way to start if you have enough savings to support yourself for a year before your revenue streams start to truly kick in). For this life to be sustainable you need a mad skill that you’ve honed. Then there is the obvious in needing knowledge and education into being digitally versed enough to be able to create a living from working remotely, this is however becoming to “norm” for newer generations as they become increasingly digitally native, which is a bonus when you think our future will more than likely be all digital. You need to be good at it and disciplined enough to ‘get the job done’ day after day.
Beyond that, you may need a niche to stand out from the crowd so don’t think that just being an awesome coder, editor, bookkeeper, designer, or ‘online whatever fabulous thing you’ve chosen’ will be your ticket.
2. They’re Hustlers
Not all digital nomads know how to side hustle like a pro but they’ve all got it in them in different quantities. That sounds a lot cooler than it really is but basically in a nutshell it means knowing how to package up your mad skill and pitch it. Sure, that sounds simple but it’s harder than you’d think. We are all good at something but trying to articulate that skill – without seeming arrogant or screwing it up – can be a challenge. Digital nomads have to jump that hurdle and promote themselves to stay ahead. There’s no two ways about it unless you have a permanent side gig you can count on. Side hustles can come in many forms but most are based online. The key to a successful side hustle is for it be quick and easy enough to fit into your schedule alongside your full time commitments.
Because I’ve always worked in digital comms I know how to leverage storytelling to pitch in the right way but honestly the sales bit is my LEAST favourite part of this deal.
3. They Have a Client Roster
You can’t head out to travel the world and hope to get by on karma and luck. If this life was easy, tons more people would be successfully doing it because it ROCKS beyond anything else out there for some of us. But it’s not a piece of cake. It takes a steady stream of income to keep anyone housed, fed, and living a life of relaxed freedom (because that’s what money delivers, right … freedom?). Luckily there are countless platforms that allow today’s digital nomads to bring in new clients from anywhere they’re sat around the globe. And that may be the best option for some. Although from my point of view, referrals and retainers are almost always going to be more lucrative, regardless of what gig you’re hustling.
I know that some people are exploring the idea of being a digital nomad or location independent because they see it as a way to escape the grind of their normal life. Others see it as a way to travel the world while they’re young. Any reason is a good reason in my book because I think that there are a million ways to be happy. More importantly, I support any kind of life that has us exploring/accepting/adapting to other cultures as a way to grow as humans and expand our consciousness to be more inclusive in today’s often ‘us versus them’ society.
If you want to be a digital nomad and mix up your lifestyle … try it!! What’s the worst that can happen, eh? I’d say that nothing you can imagine happening will be worse than leaving a dream unfulfilled that your heart holds dear. And who knows … maybe you’ll find out there is more to life than you ever thought was possible.