How To Jump Start Your Digital Nomad Lifestyle.
Getting started is scary. I don’t care who you are, making the leap to working from wherever is a big deal, and there are a lot of uncertainties that come with it. That’s why it is so important to spend time thinking about how you’re going to make money and live on the road. You want this to be sustainable, which means doing things right and putting in some work upfront.
These are the five things I think everyone should do before they embark on the digital nomad lifestyle:
Invest in your skills and knowledge
Sure, you can “fake it until you make it” but wouldn’t you rather be able to charge higher rates right away? Investing in your skills is a great way to get started on the right foot as a digital nomad. Take a course or two, and invest in professional tools. It’s not going to be free, but if you wait until you’re on the road, I guarantee the price tag will be even more intimidating.
Having knowledge and resources to do your job well will allow you to confidently charge what you’re worth, and considering that the average small business gets 60% of its customers from referrals, giving your first few clients your best work is super important.
I've got a tool for you to learn how to get started as a digital nomad. All of the lessons i've learned, mistakes i've made, and knowledge i've gained over years of freelancing and becoming a digital nomad in a handy e-book.
Build a portfolio
In order to get clients that pay your bills, you need to have a portfolio that showcases the amazing work you can do. Invest in a professional-looking website and show off your past work. You want to make sure you’re only sharing the work that you want to keep doing. Even if you have less to share initially, it’s better than sharing completely unrelated work, or work that you have no desire to keep doing.
If you don’t have a lot of experience, it’s okay. Spend some time working on projects for imaginary “dream” clients and share that. It’s just as valuable, and it will help you attract the clients you want to work with because you had them in mind when you were creating it.
Have several (committed) clients
Before you make the leap into the digital nomad lifestyle, you want to make sure you have committed clients that you can do work for right away. Unless you have a good chunk of cash saved up, you need to have money coming in right away for gas, car payments, insurance payments, and fun things you want to do.
Keep in mind: committed clients are different from prospective clients. Having an inbox full of inquiries is great, but none of that is guaranteed income until they sign your contract and pay your deposit. That’s right, you need to be collecting a deposit. The last thing you need is to do a bunch of work and have the client ghost out on you. It doesn’t happen often, but there are shady people out there. Make sure you collect enough upfront so you feel comfortable and so the client feels like they have some skin in the game, too.
If you're just starting to get clients, I recommend using Hellobonsai. It's a helpful tool for freelancers to build contracts & send invoices to clients. This makes my life so much easier!
Set up multiple income streams
I’ve talked about this before, but it is so important. You cannot bank on regular income from clients. Things will always come up: a client doesn’t pay on time, you hit a slow season, or you are unable to work for whatever reason. You need to have multiple streams of income that you can rely on so you don’t end up in a situation where there’s no money coming in.
Think about other sources of income you can create once and continue to make money off of indefinitely. Some of the other ways Cody and I make money is with our YouTube videos, affiliate links, and digital downloads. We put in a little work upfront, post the content, and then we can collect earnings on it repeatedly without having to do any additional work, aside from maybe promotion every now and then.
There’s so many ideas for income streams out there. Hop on Pinterest and see what other people are doing. Choose ideas that make sense for your niche and your audience and get to work setting it all up!
Write a business plan
Honestly, a lot of online business owners skip this step because they think as long as they’re not borrowing money, they don’t need a business plan. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, setting up a business plan “is one of the most important steps you will take because the plan serves as your road map for the early years of your business.”
Cody and I have always had a business plan because we know if we didn’t, we would be tempted to change direction every other day. We are creative entrepreneurs, which means new ideas excite us and we’re always being pulled in new directions. However, we also know our followers and potential clients would be confused if we were constantly changing our business and our offerings. Having a plan, and doing your best to follow that plan, is helpful… especially for creative people like us.
This doesn’t mean you can’t ever change direction; we have! However, having a plan helps you make those pivots logically and cleanly, without confusing your audience.