Writing a series about being a ‘digital nomad’ has been on my mind for quite a while. Every day, I wake up to emails and DMs in various social media inboxes asking me the same thing: “How can you afford to travel?” “Are you a full-time blogger?’ “How do you work on the move?” “How do you get clients?”
If you’ve been following me on social media for a while, you’d see that I show you both sides of the coin – the fun, travelling bit, and even glimpses of my day as I sit in the same spot from morning till midnight, working on my laptop. I’ve moved from the world of freelancing to start up my own digital marketing company, Digitally Scrambled, a year and a half ago, and I work on the move many times a year. It is exciting, no doubt, but I’ve never worked harder in my life. So let me make a few things as clear as can be.
Consider jumping into the digital nomad lifestyle if:
- You are prepared to work harder, MUCH harder and longer than you do at your job.
- You are okay with not getting an SMS from your bank at the end of the month saying ‘Salary Credited.’ Going weeks/months without being paid shoudn’t rattle you. I don’t mean that you need to be rich here. I mean being okay with having periods of no income flow and no clients, yet being optimistic and pitching harder.
- Patience is key! There were times when I made less than a quarter of my salary for months… and then suddenly made 5 times my salary the next month, just as I was beginning to feel like giving up.
Glad we cleared that up! Still want to be a digital nomad and have no idea how to get someone to pay you while you travel? I’ve compiled a list of ways to sustain you while you work remotely or how to find freelance work to allow you the freedom to be location independent.
1. Online Classified Ad Websites – I’d never visited Craigslist in my life, but during a particularly long slump of not having work, I randomly registered there, applied for a job and landed a retainer project that paid me for over a year. Sign up to as many high quality ad-websites as you can. But wait, it doesn’t end with just signing up. Create an impressive bio and profile. Dedicate an hour a day to opening these websites and scanning them for new projects. Often, the advertiser is in urgent need and will close on the first suitable application he finds. Graphic designers, content writers, chefs, event planners, accountants – technology and the internet have made it so easy to connect with potential clients around the world. There’s something for everyone if you look hard enough.
2. List your services – Often, potential clients don’t want to post their requirements to the public, but will scan ad-websites for vendors. Listing your services almost doubles your chances of finding work in any field you have expertise in. Create a complete, concise profile that screams professionalism and works in your favour, whether you’re pitching or soliciting for work.
3. Facebook Groups – There’s more that can go wrong than right when you work with people from Facebook and I’ve written a little about it in my last post, What Not To Do If You’re A Freelancer. Join groups that are meant solely for networking for work-purposes as well as groups with people who share a common interest as you. Good groups are very active, have a lot of quality people as well as requirements and hence, a post that applies to you may be lost in the timeline. Just like in Point #1, dedicate time every day to scanning posts from the last 24 hours in various groups. If you find a relevant post that requests for a profile to an official email id, it’s a safe bet. If they ask for a profile to be sent to a gmail or such an id, be cautious and check out the person’s profile or probe about the company they work for when you email/speak/chat.
In interest-based groups, genuinely engage with people and share helpful opinions. Often, people will come back to your profile and check out what you do. Have your Facebook profile stating this info along with where you’ve worked etc. This is a much longer route, but since you are being approached/referred, it is a surer way to bag a project.
4. Your old employer/s – I’ve often had my old employer approach me for a quick project or refer me to others. Don’t burn bridges when you quit your job. You may be able to work with them on a freelance basis, or they may turn out to be a client.
5. Network – I love attending events and meeting people, and I’ve met some of my best clients at events that I showed up to with no agenda. You have to be really proactive here, but it is undoubtedly the ultimate way to land a project. Don’t wait for invitations, and don’t be lazy to travel out of your neighbourhood to attend one. Set a target of say, 4 events a month. Attend meet-ups, trade shows, networking events, and be as ‘out there’ as you can. In metro cities, there’s no dearth of events you could walk into. Carry business cards, walk up to people and introduce yourself. Keep in touch with these people, professionally. It’s one of the best ways to land a client, either directly or through referrals.
6. Create your own business – Write an e-book, start an online course, be a consultant for businesses or entrepreneurs – whatever! If you can come up with a great physical product, awesome! Set up an e-store or sell via Amazon and travel all you like!
A digital nomad lifestyle may not only be for those who work digitally such as web developers/designers, digital marketers, graphic designers, accountants and the like. I have come across people who have applied to short term jobs in various cities and have lived in a new place for a few months. There are those who follow a passion – such as photography or biking and conduct photo walks and bike tours in various locations to sustain a living. Make-up artists, freelance journalists, graffiti artists, teachers – the professions are endless! Musicians have the scope to find gigs in any tourist location there is!
There’s a lot to think about before you take the plunge, and you will need a fair bit of experience and talent before you can convince a client that you can handle their work as good as (if not better) than a company. But if and once you do, you can think of a life of ‘slow travel,’ which is a great way to stay in a place for months, experiencing the culture and getting work done. That’s when you build a brand, a business, and ultimately, a life you love waking up to each day, rather than one that’s imposed on you.