What is a digital nomad and what do they do?
I am a Swedish digital nomad originally from Stockholm. I’ve spent the majority of 2019 traveling to destinations like United States, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. Covid-19 put a brief halt to this, but I’m looking to get out again as soon as possible.
Here you can read more about the digital nomad lifestyle, and also how I hope to specifically live it. Get some inspiration from a Swedish digital nomad far away from home.
About Stefan Nordström
Digital marketing consultant
7 years of experience
Expertise: SEO, copywriting, newsletters, conversions, digital strategy
What is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad is a person that works online regardless of location. A digital nomad can be a freelancer, consultant or a hired remote worker. The nomad lifestyle is getting more and more popular. It offers great freedoms since you can work pretty much anywhere with a good internet connection. But there are also challenges that don’t exist when you work the regular 9-to-5.
Digital nomads and social media
Many digital nomads make their living on social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube. A common practice is to share digital nomad experiences or other types of travel-related content. In the start of the digital nomad hype we saw a lot of people living remote like kings, without showing any of the challenges. Today, the image seems a bit more realistic.
And sometimes, it really is a struggle. There is still workdays, appointments and duties. It’s never a vacation. My plan was always based on getting work based on my previous skills, experiences and contacts. Some people leave home without any of that. Sometimes I can sound a bit bitter and cynic, but I don’t believe that’s a successful digital nomad recipe.
It’s fully possible to have fun as a non-successful digital nomad, as long as you’ve got the budget for it. Chris the Freelancer is a digital nomad I enjoy listening to, since he’s not afraid to talk about the negative parts of the lifestyle as well.
Digital nomad for life quality and life balance
My goal with pursuing a digital nomad lifestyle is not connected to flashy vacations or making a lot of money. It’s more about quality of life and experiences. Many people have big entrepreneurial plans.
For me, the digital nomad path is more about supporting a lifestyle that gives me room to do things like travel and play music. It’s important to manage your expectations before you go. Big money and entrepreneurship is not very compatible with being lazy on the beach all day.
But life balance can be a challenge. It’s easy to reverse the perks, and actually never stop working. Client acquisition and self-promotion is passionate. So passionate that you sometimes forget to stop. Personally, those borders can be an issue for me.
Upsides to being a digital nomad
The upsides of being a digital nomad are very related to the freedoms that come with making your own schedule. If you do it right, you open up the possibility to travel and see places you would never see doing the 9-to-5.
The chance to stay much longer than a regular tourist really opens up the chances to get to know places, and of course, people. The possibilities are endless when it comes to meeting new people. I’m not a co-working space type person, but I image that opens up the possibilities even more.
Another killer upside is variation. Of course, this exists for most freelancers, but it’s still worth noting. Working for different clients is refreshing. Chances are, you’ll also develop your skill set faster.
Downsides to the digital nomad lifestyle
The downsides of being a digital nomad has a lot to do with managing expectations. The hard work needs to be done, and many times it’s a lonely road where you have the sole responsibility to make things happen. It’s not a vacation, even if it can be at times if you do it right.
The work situation can be infuriating at times. Finding a good Wi-Fi is not always easy. If you find a place, it can be distracting. Coffee shops and airports can be noisy. It’s something you learn to handle in time, but it can definitely be something that decreases the work efficiency.
Visas can be a massive distraction. It was not one I was counting on, but having to conform to visa standards in Southeast Asia really did deter the digital nomad experience a bit. They’re usually short, and applying for them also costs time, energy and money.
When you’re living out of a backpack it’s also never fun to repack it for what seems to be the thousandth time. It has taken a lot of energy away from the positives, at least for me.
Digital nomad cities
There are many digital nomad cities that are hailed as the best for remote work. The comparisons on Nomadlist are usually good. On there you can see ranking factors such as costs, internet, fun, safety and much more.
Canggu and Ubud on Bali are definitely mentioned a lot, along with Chiang Mai in Thailand, Lisbon in Portugal and Budapest in Hungary. Different digital nomads have different needs, so it’s really good to check out these types of resources for more information.
It depends a lot on preferences, such as budget, climate, culture and standard.
What can you do as a digital nomad?
Nomads come in many forms. Some are creative. Others are systematic. There are many different paths to choose from.
Some fitting jobs for digital nomads overall are:
- Content marketer
- Search engine optimizer
- Social media
- System developer
- Travel blogger
- Web designer
- Web developer
My recommendation is to develop your skills first, and pick up some 9-5 working experience. You’ll gain the skills, as well as valuable contacts, that will make finding work much easier.
I’m not all about traveling, I’m also a content expert with a broad background in digital marketing. Some of the services I can offer are SEO, copywriting, newsletters, social media and conversion optimization. Interested? Please add me on LinkedIn or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve done some travel guides for spots I’ve stayed as a nomad. Hopefully this can help some of you out there to get a better feel for these places.