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How to become a Digital Nomad: Work abroad

What is a Digital Nomad?

A digital nomad (Or DN for short) is someone who works remotely over the internet to earn a living. It usually requires Wifi and VOIP (Voice over IP for example Skype). Work spaces are often  Co-Working Spaces or cafes. Difficulties include: obtaining visas, maintaining relationships with family and time-zone differences. Digital nomads are famous for always being on the hunt for a reliable internet connection. They're often incorrectly labelled as beach hugging layabouts. Okay I made that up.. but most people do think we hang about by the beach.


Why become a Digital Nomad?

Well, there are many reasons for why someone may wish to become a DN. For me it was about the ability to enjoy the freedoms of travel. But most importantly, to be able to afford to do it comfortably. Travelling is not a fad or a holiday for me, it's a lifestyle. I have worked in the rat race for 10 years. I had the opportunity through work to get some travelling done, this is what sewed the seed for me to further my travelling experience.

Many people believe that we need to improve our work-life balance. Like the old saying goes; 'You don't regret the things you did, you regret the things you didn't do.' How many people say to you: "Aww you are living the dream!" or "I wish I had the time or money to travel like you do."? And how many times have you said or thought that?

The point is, the world will keep ticking with or without you. Life will go on for everybody else in the world, so you have a choice. Do you want to spend it struggling to pay the loan on your house or car? Or, do you want to see the world, meet new interesting people and throw yourself into an amazing adventure? Then perhaps being a digital nomad is for you.


How did I become a Digital Nomad?

Let me explain how I managed to become a Digital Nomad. First of all, I worked a job in the U.K. I work in IT, I'm not a programmer, I'm not a web-designer (although I am learning). Basically, I look after programs and customers' data. I didn't have to work in the office, it was expected but technically there was no need for me to do so. Vicky, who I had decided was going to be my girlfriend had just moved to Japan and bought a house. I wanted to come out and live with her so that we could travel the world together.

To summarize, I didn't have to apply for a remote job, I took what I had and I made it work.


Digital nomads, hiding in plain sight


My Approach

1. Find out if it's possible.

I decided I would approach my work and ask them if there was scope for me to work remotely.  I did this initially by sitting down with my line manager and explaining my situation.  I wanted to know if this was something they would consider.


2. Make sure they can trust you, and make sure they know it!

I had always made sure that I was a respectable, hardworking and a trustworthy employee. This is important because a lot of trust is required to become a DN. I prepared an amazing pitch to my managers. I also took a basic salary and worked certain shifts which saved them money.


3. Show them why it’s good to keep you.

Help the company to save money, show them that you are conscious of how the business operates. Furthermore, show them that you can perform your duties away from the office. This is important to prove to them that this is the right decision.

In addition, I had to prove that I could work remotely. As part of my job we would sometimes work from home due to the times of the shifts, this proved I could work outside the office.

I didn’t take any pay rises and kept my basic salary. In most Asian countries it’s dirt cheap, you can afford to take a lower salary to entice the company into saying yes. But, hold that as a backup. Don’t willingly take less money if you don’t have to.


4. Make it legal, set-up as self-employed and make sure you know your taxes!

I had to ensure that I could legally work in the country I was going to. There are many different laws all over the world, you need to make sure you can work legally in those countries. In my case, I went and got a working holiday visa for Japan. The visa is good for a year and provided me with evidence that I could work legally in Japan.

In addition, I had to quit my job and become self-employed to be hired back as a freelancer. This is simple enough, but you need to make sure you have everything covered.
Insurance is crucial, I have a public liability insurance. This means if I make a mistake my insurance covers this, should I get sued. Much of this was specified in my terms of agreement with my company.


5. Technical Configuration – Get tech savvy!

For my job I needed a powerful laptop with encryption, antivirus, the whole nine yards. I use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to connect to my work environment so I needed to make sure my laptop was going to be able to cope with this. I also had to ensure that I had adequate security features for my work. I have a 'techbag' that holds my two laptops and portable gaming headphones with mic to take calls on my computer.

In addition to using my laptop I use a smartphone to take calls on through Skype. I use Office 365, Skype for business and Windows 10 for my work.

I made sure I knew every piece of my equipment, how it worked and how I would replace it if it broke. This enables me to maintain my high standard of availability and reliability.
I have a USB key with a Windows 10 boot image along with an external hard drive with system image backups of my machine. If my computer goes down, I can have it back up again within hours.

I had to ensure that I would have a decent and stable internet connection. I use www.speedtest.net to check my internet speed. For portable internet you can look into portable mifi's, pocket wifi's or if you can get a great data package, then you can tether your laptop to your mobile.


How do you become a Digital Nomad?

So, you are sold on the idea of becoming a digital nomad? Right, so next question is where to start. Well, you are currently doing the first step of researching the subject, which has led you here.
First of all, see if you can do your current job remotely. If that’s not possible, then check out my '5 things you need to become a digital nomad' below. Then carry on to the 'List of remote jobs' and links on where to find them.



5 things you need to become a digital nomad

You might be skilled in programming, you might even be able to sell ice to an Eskimo but, being good at your job isn't the end of it. To be a digital nomad, you need to think outside the box.
Let me give you an example:

I live in Japan, I require a telephone number to make and receive calls to my UK client base. Japan is notorious for being unhelpful in allowing foreigners to get a telephone number. To get a telephone number you need a bank account in Japan, but to get a bank account you need a telephone number. It's ridiculous, but I still need a telephone number.

In this instance, I set-up a UK Skype Number. I configured an Outlook Connector add-on to enable a remote office for my landline number in the UK. This forwards calls to my Skype number which would in turn ring on my laptop and phone through the Internet.  Voice over IP - I love it!
My work would not have provided me with this solution, I had to make it work myself.

If you work for a company that's in a different time-zone, chances are there may be occasions when you will need to take part in business meetings at  2 AM on Skype. This is part of life as a digital nomad, deal with it and make yourself available. You need to sell it to your employer - make it easy for them. If they are constantly having to wait for responses from you or can never have an actual conversation with you, then you might be looking for a new job. You have to be flexible with your work to become a succesful digital nomad.

If my work needs me to work on Christmas to enable me to spend my weekends on a beach in India, then I'm going to work on Christmas.

I will say yes as often as I can to requests. This is not to make my life harder, but to be that yes man, that they can count on. This is also useful when you need some flexibility from your work.  If you need to take some time off to go and sort out a new visa, they are more likely to say yes if you have been flexible with them. Being a digital nomad is about give and take.

If everyone else works from the office and you work remotely, it can be hard to prove your value at times. Even if you are doing the same amount of work as your colleagues, you need to make sure you are on top of your game at all times. If you have 1-to-1 meetings with your manager or periodic reviews then show them statistics. Managers always love statistics!

Show them that you are a hard worker, and show them evidence to back it up.

One of the most important things is communications. If you shy away from communicating with your colleagues or managers then you are asking for trouble. Show them you are there, if they have a question, answer it as quickly as you can. Speak up, ask your questions in business meetings and don't give them a reason to think that you being half-way around the world is any different from you being in the office.




What visa do you need to work legally?

So this is a difficult question. Most of the time embassies will not advise you on which visa to get so this is up to you to solve yourself. Many countries haven't caught up with the digital nomad trend yet, so they may not have any options available for you.

First, check the embassy website for the country, it should list the different visa options.

Second, call or e-mail the embassy and ask them, like I said they may or may not be able to help you.

What kind of visas are there?

  • Business visa
  • Work visa
  • Working holiday visa
  • Tourist visa

These are the visas you should be looking at as a digital nomad. Understand that some of the visa requirements will differ between countries. In addition, sometimes you just won't be able to work from one of the countries you're looking at.

A lot of people online say "Just go on a travel visa, don’t mention anything to anyone and you will be fine." In all honesty, you probably will be fine. For me this isn’t an option. My work needs to know I am legally allowed to work in each country. For me, I would always say stick to places where you can work legally. It resolves a lot of potential issues and headaches and you can rest in peace knowing that you are legal. The choice as they say, is yours.

Obviously, if you are European and you want to travel within Europe then you have no issues and the freedom is yours… Bloody Brexit! I guess I’ll have to marry a Swede.


Where can you work on a travel visa?


Currently, I am aware that you can work as a digital nomad in Thailand on a tourist visa. Check out the Asian Correspondants report. In addition, I checked and confirmed directly with the Thai embassy so I have an email from them saying that I can work there on a travel visa as a digital nomad.


In Cambodia you can register for an annual business visa for $285 and a work permit for $150


The last place on our list is Svalbard, in Norway. There is no immigration and no visa required. But it’s a harsh environment and one that you probably won't spend very long in.

For the moment that’s it on visas. Things are changing every day and the potential for new countries to open themselves up to working on a travel visa is enormous.
If you aged 18 – 30 (some places up to 35) then you can get a working holiday visa. This is great and was my choice for Japan. Again, check with the embassy of the country you want to go to and see what options they have available. Remember, you still need to pay taxes wherever you are, and if you are unfortunate enough to be from the US then you will have to pay them in your home country in addition to other countries.



What Kind of Digital Nomad Jobs are there available?

The list can get very long, but it’s important to know your options. In addition to this list, check out these websites for freelancers.


Freelancer has been around for a while. You get a certain amount of free bids you can use each month. This refills and you can also pick up jobs from most areas, some are remote, some require you to be on site. This is definitely worth checking out if you are serious about generating an income as a digital nomad.


Upwork is previously known as Odesk or Elance. You can create a profile on this website, complete exams and link it up with your LinkedIn account. You're able to apply for jobs, clock your time with their desktop application and generate a decent monthly income. There are many different jobs that come up on Upwork, ranging from translation to IT Support. Be sure to check it out and start earning cash now.



Job sites for remote workers










Technical Job Ideas

1. Technical Support Engineer/Anaylst

Support a user base on a product range.

2. Software Engineer

Works with software from dev ops and maintenance.

3. Software Developer: java/Ruby/API/Salesforce/C#

Works on developing applications for hardware, software etc.

4. Mobile Applications Developer: IOS/Android

Works on development applications specific for mobile platforms.

5. Web Developer: PHP, WordPress

Web Developers - building websites, programs etc. which operate online

6. UI/UX/Frontend Designer

Designing art work, usability and general navigation of programs and web apps.

7. System Administrator: Windows, Linux, Unix, Mac

General support for work environments.

8. SQL/Oracle DBA

Database Administrators administer the company databases. You should have previous experience or qualifications.

9. Technical Writer

Technical writers will develop technical manuals and documentation for applications, hardware and software.

10. Multiple languages support

Provide a support role for IT in multiple languages.




Not tech savvy? Non-Technical Job Ideas

1. Customer Support Adviser

This is a non-technical support role. You may be advising customers on technology, such as how to use a system or program but you will usually be given training on the product. You just have to learn about the product and its basic support. You will usually have a technical support engineer who can provide assistance to you.


2. Online Language Teacher

This can be teaching English over Skype, email or on a website. Here are a few language websites you may want to check out.





3. Translation Jobs

If you speak multiple languages, then maybe language translations are for you.




4. Social Media Marketing

This job is great if you are good with Social Media, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.


5. Financial Analyst

Good with digits? Well, then why not become a Financial Analyst or Finance adviser? Perhaps you can build up your customer base and go self-employed. Or maybe you can work for a finance services provider.


6. Online live chat support representative

These roles can be supporting customers in anything from travel websites to product sales companies.


7. Copywriter

Can you type really quickly? Some companies require someone to literally just type out the content for them. This may be the opportunity you are looking for.


8. Market Researcher

This role can involve researching the internet for a specific market area. For example investigating other websites in the same niche, providing reports and statistics.


9. VA - Virtual Assistant

Many people become a virtual assistant. Being a VA essentially means that you're an assistant for someone else. You may for example do their emails, plan their journeys and sort out their taxes. This may be a part-time or a full-time role. There are many options out there, don't be afraid to sign up and try.

10. Travel Blogger

Obviously this one will be on our list. Many companies will pay you to write for them, in addition, many will also send you on trips fully paid for. Check out all of the websites online and send them an email. Usually you will need to pitch an idea to them based on what they are looking for, but once you get your virtual foot in through the door you should be able to get more writing gigs from them. Here's a list of websites you may wish to have a look at.






Give us your comments!

These are my tips to becoming a succesful Digital Nomad - What are yours?


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