Meet the ‘digital nomads’
Oh, to pack in the rat race, to cast off the nine-to-five, to be free!
Interconnectedness is the name of the game in the 21st century, and it’s made this wistful fantasy a reality for the wanderlust-struck and office-phobes among us. Digital nomads are a new(ish) breed of entrepreneurs and freelancers who have rejected the tedium of office life to harness the freedom that working digitally offers.
What separates digital nomads from flexible working freelancers is that when they say that they can work anywhere, they really mean it, as they use their freedom to travel around the world. In this piece, we speak to two digital nomads in between travels to find out how they got started, and share tips to help you get started yourself.
Our first digital nomad, graphic designer and author Andre Anderson, built his client base to date by creating a portfolio of personal projects that he has shared online to build his profile. The first book he published led to him creating graphics that appeared across London during the 2012 Games. He said, “Sharing my work has been my way of connecting with the right people. I see my personal projects as passports to take me to the next step in my journey, so I have to keep putting my work out there. For me, the trick has been sharing my work on social media – so putting posts up on Instagram for example or YouTube videos to take people behind the scenes of my creative processes”.
Andre was good enough to share some top tips for becoming a digital nomad:
Promotion and networking
“You could produce a really amazing piece of work, put it online, but people might not see it in that moment, so it helps to push content out consistently,” said Andre.
To help with promoting your work and capabilities, schedule posts regularly over a month on your social channels or blog – make sure that people have somewhere to go to see up-to-date work.
“A big challenge is dealing with the paper work and taxes,” shared Andre. “You can’t just give them your tax number – there are quite a few forms to fill out.”
“Time difference is a big challenge as you have to work on your client’s time. I’ve been lucky that so far with my clients, when it’s afternoon for me, then it’s early morning for them, rather than the crazy situation of me getting ready to go to sleep whilst they are just waking up”.
“Digitally the main challenges we have are around communications and Wi-Fi. It doesn’t always want to play ball! This can interrupt Wi-Fi-based video chats and phone calls and can be a little frustrating at times. Whilst it sounds glamorous working in all these amazing locations it can be tough when you can’t get reliable internet speed and you have a tonne of work to get through!”
If you are working and travelling, ensuring you have a good internet connection is important. One thing you can do is think about your data roaming contract – explore O2 Roaming here – and using tools such as iPass, which has over 20 million hotspots in 120 countries, to help you find free Wi-Fi hotspots near you.
Writing in a blog post on LinkedIn called the ‘9-to-5 Revolution’, our second digital nomad Andrea Gamson said, “I’ve always been a creature of working in line with my mood. I can’t cookie cutter my workload (and my passion and drive) into exactly the same time schedule each day…the typical working office hours go against the grain of my moods. So it used to create an inner tension if you will. It’s hard when you don’t think there’s an alternative.”
After 15 years of working in digital marketing for various brands and charities, Andrea decided to put her skills to good use by creating Social Starters, an immersive social enterprise, which supports the work of social entrepreneurs in developing countries through consultancy and training. This works by offering places on the programmes to skilled professionals, career changers, freelancers or people on sabbatical, who are looking to do something different or update their skills. The training programmes currently take place in India, Brazil and Sri Lanka.
On growing the programme, Andrea shared, “We find all of our volunteers through the internet, and it’s really quite powerful. We’ve seen people join us from Taiwan, Berlin, Nairobi, LA and Amsterdam. For our development work we scope out potential partners online, get to know them via Skype, and then learn about the social entrepreneurs digitally before arriving on location. We’re a laptop business. We can operate from any cafe or front room, almost anywhere in the world, so long as there is a decent Wi-Fi connection.”
For last words on why trying the digital nomad style might be for you, we’ll handover to Andre: “Because I have a laptop, I can be anywhere and create work. It’s a freeing feeling and it’s nice to connect with people from around the world. To know that you have a worldwide clientele, and you aren’t tied down by geographical locations is definitely a freeing experience”.