There are many professionals for whom life has become a balancing act between the mundane weekly grind and brief holidays which end all too soon. “Why does this week have to end?” and “I wish we could just stay and work here” are cries of common complaint as a holiday nears its end.
For many, this is no longer a pipe dream. The growth of technology means lots of jobs now require nothing more than an internet connection and a computer. This, combined this the much-agreed notion that travelling is good for the soul, means that scores of professionals are uprooting and travelling the world, working as they do so. With the advent of Wi-Fi every oasis can become an office, and every beach a building.
‘Digital Nomads’ (as they have been coined) are paving the way for an entirely new professional lifestyle. In a hyperconnected world, this new way of living is becoming increasingly popular. If you have the right temperament, attitude and drive there’s no reason that this couldn’t work for you too.
With that said, as with any ‘That’s-It-I’m-Completely-Changing-My-Entire-Life’ decision, there are a few things you should consider to ensure a smooth transition from working stiff to digital nomad:
Down to business
Before selling all your possessions and announcing that you’re becoming a global wanderer, there are a few necessary evils to take care of.
First and very much foremost, you need to consider whether you can actually do your job in a location-independent way. Plenty of digital jobs such as consulting, accounting or designing can be done effectively from anywhere.
But if there are elements to your work that mean you absolutely must meet face-to-face with clients, or use machines and equipment which aren’t portable, you’ll need to think carefully about how to make it work.
Simply employing someone to help, or making some small cutbacks or adjustments could prevent you losing crucial income because you couldn’t be there in person. Run through some hypotheticals and do a bit of planning!
Digital elbow grease
It might seem trite to point out, but starting a life as a digital nomad also requires a good deal of hard work. You’re effectively setting up your own business, and this means that some solid graft will be required initially (but as the saying goes: ‘hard graft is more bearable when you’re sat under a palm tree.’)
You’ll need to square up and sort out your legal and financial obligations. It could be tempting to use the same bank accounts for your personal and business life, but this can lead to problems.
You’ll still be liable to pay tax, and you’ll likely have some other legal elements to consider. Do a bit of research, and make sure you understand your obligations.
Tools of the Trade
With the boring bits out of the way, now it’s time to think about what you’ll need for your location-independent lifestyle. Here are a few must haves:
PayPal: The staple and one of the most straightforward online payment tools, PayPal can enable you to sort international transactions with ease. There are however country-specific solutions you may have to consider. For example PayPal is rarely used in the Netherlands, with the local business community favouring iDEAL. Again, research is important to determine the needs of your customers in different countries.
World Clocks: Chances are that as a digital nomad, you could end up having conversations or conference calls with clients in completely different time zones. No one likes a phone call at 3am, after all. An app or a web-browser extension displaying global clocks will ensure you know when’s a good time.
Skype: Skype is one the most popular tools for video calls. Dito Google Hangouts. All you need is your device and an internet connection.
The fun stuff
You’ve organised your assets, you’ve armed yourself with a brand new Mac and every business and travel app out there, and now comes the fun bit – planning where you’re going to stay first.
You should think about how often you want to travel. You could stay in one place for months, even years on end, or work around a change of scene every few weeks. The choice is entirely yours.
One thing to think about is where you’ll be staying. This depends a lot on income, and your financial situation.
If you’re a high-net-worth individual, investing in global luxury holiday homes could provide you with multiple bases to do business from all over the world.
If you need to be more careful with capital, then hostels can be a great cheaper option, and it’s a good idea to do a bit of homework about your destination. Sometimes even renting a place to stay is a feasible option.
Another important thing to think about is where you’re going to do your work; a noisy and crowded hostel room isn’t always a good place to focus. All over the world digital nomad ‘hubs’ are popping up, with internet access, seating and even refreshments. Check out this fantastic infographic which shows where some of the best hubs can be found.
The world is your oyster
For anyone with wanderlust, one of the biggest hurdles that gets in the way of travelling is time. Modern professionals don’t have a lot to spare, but if you work in the right industry, and with a bit of careful planning, there’s no reason why you can’t combine your work life and the life of travel you’ve always dreamed of.
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