8 Things To Know Before Becoming A Digital Nomad
Wouldn’t it be great if everything in life came with an instruction manual? Sure, we can do research and plan all we want, but we don’t know what we don’t know until we actually do it. We learn by trial and error, by making mistakes and adjusting.
When I look back on what I knew about being a digital nomad when we first started this journey, I have to laugh. Even though I had a lot of experience working as a freelancer, I didn’t quite realize just how different it would be to do the work from our van.
I want to share eight things with you that I wish I would have known before starting out as a digital nomad. Hopefully this post helps you as you set off on your own van life journey!
1. It’s Hard Work
If you follow digital nomads on YouTube or Instagram, it probably looks like one long vacation, full of gorgeous views, relaxing days, and spur-of-the-moment adventures.
No matter who you follow online, whether it’s an actor, musician, or digital nomad… one thing is almost always true: real life is never quite the same as it looks on the internet. I wish I would have known that being a digital nomad is truly hard sometimes.
Aside from finding a place to connect to the internet and having the discipline to sit down and work (instead of going skiing or mountain biking all day) you have to find your own consistent clients, make sure your expenses are covered, and constantly invest in your skills so you can stay competitive. That’s a lot for anyone to handle, let alone, someone who is always moving from one place to another.
2. You Don’t Have To Stick To One Thing
There’s freedom in knowing you can always expand your skills or even change direction if you don’t feel inspired anymore. When we first moved into our van, we didn’t really have a plan and honestly, it had a real impact on our success. We only had a few clients (ones we had previously worked with), but we didn’t really have a plan for growth. We just started making content that felt right in the moment, but long-term strategy? Yeah, that didn’t exist
Recently, we changed our business approach and it has already made such a difference. We’re still doing a lot of the same things, but we cut out some of our offerings and narrowed our niche so we know exactly who we’re marketing to and how we can serve our audience in real ways that make sense for our brand.
Even if you don’t have it all figured out, you can still start out as a digital nomad. Just make sure you have enough income to maintain your lifestyle, and a plan for future growth!
3. Income Will Have Ebbs and Flows
That leads me to point number three… income is not consistent. I knew that we weren’t going to be getting steady, regular paychecks, but I didn’t realize how much our income would vary. It didn’t take me long to realize we needed to have multiple income streams. Creating passive income sources… like YouTube videos, affiliate links, and digital downloads can really help ease the stress. If you want to learn more about the various income sources we have, you can check out this blog post.
When you have some passive income streams setup, you won’t panic as much when a client doesn’t pay their invoice right away or you don’t get the same amount of work one month as you’re used to getting.
4. It’s Easy To Procrastinate
Have you ever taken a laptop on vacation intending to get some work done… and then never opened it once? Yeah. It takes a lot of discipline to sit down and work when you’re in a beautiful location and everyone around you is having a good time.
Being a digital nomad can feel like being on vacation, but if you procrastinate and come up against deadlines, you might just start missing the days of having a predictable work schedule. I learned having a routine is absolutely necessary to stay on track and maintain the focus you need to get everything done.
5. A Routine Is Challenging
With that being said, routines are challenging. You might be thinking, “how difficult is it to just do the same thing every day?” Well, when the mountains are calling you to take a hike, or you find yourself in a new city and all you want to do is explore, it can be pretty dang tough.
Routines can be hard, even if you’re not a digital nomad. How often have you told yourself that you need to workout every morning, or drink more water, or stop working at 5pm… only to fail day after day?
I found that in order to complete projects on time and do a good job, I need a routine. I need to work consistently, and generally stick to the same hours (though it can be hard when you don’t have wi-fi access). I’ve learned that putting something off until another day never works because I will just want to be out having fun with everyone else!
6. You’ll Probably Work More Than You Did At Your Desk Job
When you work in an office, you’re generally only responsible for one aspect of a project, like the design or the copywriting. When you are a digital nomad, you’re handling most, if not all, of the project on your own.
Cody and I do not have a team of people helping with the invoicing, marketing, client relations, etc. It’s all us. So, you need to be prepared to do a bit more work than you’re probably currently doing, and know that you’ll be wearing many hats as a digital nomad.
7. The Only Thing That Will Hinder Your Growth Is YOU
Not enough clients? Typos in the content? Poor design? Marketing plan didn’t go as well as you hoped? All of that falls on you. So many people focus on the benefits of being your own boss (and there are many) but they fail to also factor in all of the responsibility. If something goes wrong, it probably can be traced back to a decision you made.
On the other hand, there’s unlimited growth potential. As a digital nomad, you can build your business however you want. Maybe being a virtual assistant makes the most sense for you. Maybe you have dreams of hiring a team and expanding into an agency. There’s no limit on your growth, but you’ll have to learn how to get out of your own way first.
8. You’ll Have To Be Flexible
As I mentioned earlier in this post, sometimes you won’t have access to wi-fi. How will you get your work done? There may be days when you won’t be able to sit down and work because you’ll be on the road. You have to learn how to build flexibility into your schedule and create a routine that works for your new nomadic lifestyle.
On days when we don’t have wi-fi (and I don’t want to drain the data on my phone) I read books or do some mind mapping. Our best ideas come when we give our brains a little space anyway. Just make sure your clients are aware that you won’t be available, and build a few “buffer” days into your project so you don’t end up blowing a deadline.
I don’t want to scare you away from the digital nomad life, but I do want you to have a little more information than we had when we started out. This lifestyle has been such a game-changer for us, and I’m all about helping other people achieve their dreams, too.