Today we have a very special article for you. It comes from my friend Oum, who you also can see in a little interview, together with me, in the very first post on this blog.
Oum has been living as a "digital nomad" for a few months now – and has chosen a working model that allows her to work from anywhere in the world. Without a permanent residence.
For many of us it is a wish to combine work and travel with free time management. But it doesn’t have to be. In this article she reveals how she took the step and what her learnings were from it. Maybe one or the other will follow her into this really enviable lifestyle. Write us if the article was helpful for you or if you have further questions.
The original article is written in English in August 2018. A little time travel.
If you want to read more of her (English), you are welcome to do so anytime on Medium. You can find her blog here: https://medium.com/@oumniaek
In April this year, I took the life-changing decision to become a digital nomad.
It has been now 4 months. I’ve been getting questions and comments from friends, family, and followers.
So I thought I’d share my experience — for the skeptical ones, but also the intrigued ones. It might inspire some of you
What is the digital nomad lifestyle? What do digital nomads do?
I find this definition from Investopedia quite on point:
“Digital nomads are people who are location independent and use technology to perform their job.”
Being a digital nomad means you work on your computer from wherever you want in the world because you don’t need to be in an office to do so! How cool!
So, why become a digital nomad?
Let’s talk a bit about why I took the decision to become a nomad, and really, why become a digital nomad?
After spending a year in Casablanca, I was sure that Morocco was not the place I would be happy to live in. I met amazing people and had the best year as a Yoga teacher, but I also did not find my happiness in terms of freedom, the overall openness of society, ambient craziness (in: “I need more craziness”), vegan food, yoga classes.
After spending a few months in Bali, I felt detached. From a physical home, from material possessions.
I felt that it was time for me to try being a nomad. Funnily enough, my very first tattoo represents a Dervish, eternal wanderers with no possessions, no attachment.
I knew I was not going to take it to that extreme, but same mindset.
I also wanted to experiment with being a location independent freelancer. I worked several years in an office, and after spending a year teaching yoga, I wanted to go back to a more brainy activity but was not excited by the idea to go back to a cubicle.
Becoming a nomad made sense.
How to become a digital nomad? Where to start as a digital nomad? And how do digital nomads make money?
It is actually shockingly simple!
#1 Know how you are going to earn money.
Once I knew I was location independent, I had to figure out a way to make money without having to physically be in an office. Freelancing looked perfect.
As a freelancer, you are location-independent, you are the master of your time and you still have the advantage of working with companies which have a higher budget than individuals.
#2 Setup the admin stuff.
Creating a formal structure for my activity. This is basically registering as a freelancer in order to be able to continue paying taxes (I’m all about contributing to society!).
Making sure I had the best bank for someone living abroad and moving a lot.
I chose N26. They are an online bank, their fees are minimal and they function worldwide. Their app is truly amazing.
#3 Start your revenue stream.
That’s the hardest part — finding clients and business. It can take time, but if you are thorough, you will find them. There is an abundance of companies who are willing to hire freelancers, it’s all about finding them!
Give yourself time:
I started scouting for clients before leaving my parents’ place. That way, I had no costs and I could afford to not have a job.
This transition period was key: it allowed me to look for clients without the pressure of rent due at the end of the month.
If you can, allow yourself such a transition time. Looking for clients in this comfortable situation will change the way you communicate to leads, the way you present yourself, and thus, the results of your search.
The right mindset:
A note on mindset:
When looking for business, or taking money-related decisions, mindset is crucial. For me, it is super important to take those decisions when I am in a comfortable mind space. When I am at peace and I feel capable. I once took a decision out of fear: I priced a yoga class way too cheap. The client was even surprised. I was pissed.
From that day, I stopped doing that. If someone wants me to take such a decision and I am not in the right mindset, I ask for more time. I meditate or go on a walk before taking the decision.
I feel my mind is much clearer and I take a decision that reflects my self-worth. Based on love and self-respect.
Use your existing network, and expand it.
Lots of people ask me how I found my first client.
What I say is “network”.
If you want to attract attention, get the word out there: say that you’ve got this new career/activity/skill to anyone you know. The network is really key in getting you started.
Tell your friends and family about your new activity. Reach out for potential clients on Linkedin. Shout it everywhere.
Joining a freelancers network also helps — you might just meet a designer who needs a copywriter for their client, or vice versa! People will gladly share with you their tips and tricks on how to find clients, which will save you time.
You can also try and apply for platforms such as Upwork. My personal experience showed me that this was not the best idea when just starting. After a few weeks (2), they shut my account and kicked me out of the platform. After reading about it online, I discovered that the platform kicked freelancers who didn’t get clients fast (within 2 weeks, in my case) because that affected their stats. Capitalism… Try it if you’d like, but beware that this might happen to you too.
In parallel, I also worked on building up a portfolio. As a copywriter, I need to show people samples of my work. So I gathered all the articles I wrote for myself and for other publications and hosted them on my website. I now include this link in every pitch I send.
Finally, as a copywriter, I also try and get published on big publications as this is a great way to showcase the quality of my work.
It’s all about being loud and bold.
#4 Setup goals and a test period.
As for every life-changing decision, I like to give myself a timeline and a goal. Something like: “by date X, I will have achieved that”. Achieving that goal or not shows if I took the right decision, and allows me to make the appropriate move for the next steps.
Let’s say you decided to open a restaurant. You set yourself the following KPI: if by year 1 you have not broken even, this is the signal that something is wrong with your business plan. This KPI is going to help you take the right decision after your test period — continue, amend or drop the project.
I gave myself a 6 month test period. During this period, I know exactly how much I need to live and where that money will come from (plan A is that this money comes from my new activity).
#5 Find your next destination.
Now to the fun part! Find your next destination.
During my setup period (staying at my parents’, looking for clients), I scheduled a trip to Lisbon and Berlin. I had heard they were good cities for nomads: good lifestyle, low costs, nice weather (in summer), tech scene and co-working spaces.
I loved the vibe in Berlin, so I chose Berlin!
If you can’t go to the places you are considering, groups like “Digital Nomads around the world” are great to do this research.
I also used Google to find the most nomad-friendly places (cities/towns with proper wifi, good coffee, easy setup, low costs). Lisbon and Berlin are very easy choices. Bali is also on the top of the list, alongside Thailand and, believe it or not, Medellin (Columbia).
How did I set myself up in Berlin?
I went the easy way: I found a co-living space. Finding an apartment in Berlin is a nightmare and it can take several months to find a room in a shared apartment.
Co-livings are companies which take care of all the setup hassle for nomads. They offer fully equipped accommodation (wifi included). All I had to do was to sign the lease with them and wire the money.
The only thing with co-living is that they can be more expensive than a normal room. If you want to go the latter way, a quick Facebook search will yield a plethora of groups where people offer rooms.
If you are intrigued by the concept of co-living, this article by Forbes will help you get the basics.
My journey as a digital nomad has just started.
I am still at my first destination.
My brain still has a difficult time understanding that this is not home and that the idea is that we keep moving.
It is not easy, especially when you spend several months somewhere. I have been in Berlin for 2 months now and will probably stay 2 more months. I started having friends and a little routine of mine.
But that is what I love in this new lifestyle. I don’t allow myself to slouch, to get too comfortable or too attached. It is a beautiful experiment. Teaching me detachment and flow. Trust, also, in that I will see the people I meet again, somewhere in this world. And finally, teaching me to be in the moment and enjoy every minute of every day, because I can’t take it for granted. In 2 months, I won’t be here anymore.
Where to? Stay tuned