There are so many amazing aspects of being a digital nomad. Likely, the most appealing one is the sense of freedom that comes with the digital nomad lifestyle. The idea of no longer being tied to your 9-5-day job or climbing up the rungs of middle management might be enough to get you to make that lifestyle transition.
However, with all this freedom, you might begin to ask yourself – what do we do about a career. In one sense we have chosen to jump out of the normal routine of 9-5 living. On the other hand, work is important. So, how can a digital nomad build a career?
It is essential to remember the need for a realistic attitude when it comes to the digital nomad lifestyle. Make sure you are taking the time to reflect on your skills and abilities that you can put out into the world. Ultimately, to be a successful and happy digital nomad who is reaping all the benefits of the lifestyle, you need to have money-making skills.
Unless you have a savings account that has got you covered for the rest of your life (wouldn’t that be nice?) you are going to have to work.
Now, you may begin to worry. What if your skills aren’t good enough? What if you can’t think of any that you have, at all? Don’t fret! This article will give you suggestions on how to optimize your new lifestyle to build your new career.
It will require hard work and a little grit, but if you have the will and access to technological resources, you can soon become an expert in one field. Alternatively, you can become a jack of all trades. Read on to learn more about the best ways digital nomads can build their careers.
Expertise in One Field – Specialize
Like anything good in life, the digital nomad lifestyle and the freedom that comes with it requires hard work and daily practice and preparation. One way you can build your career is to become an expert in a specific chosen field. Choose one that interests you or one in which you are confident will provide you with enough income.
It takes time to learn something new, of course, so have patience with yourself. However, don’t ever fear that you are not adequate or smart enough to become an expert. There are a plethora of tools and technological resources that make it relatively easy to learn a new skill.
If you have a WiFi connection for research and online learning, and a computer to download necessary software programs, you will be just fine. Like we’ve mentioned in previous articles, digital nomads must have the right amount of self-discipline and determination.
Make sure you are continuing to take time to reflect on your capability levels when it comes to time management and workload execution. When you are learning a new skill from scratch, it will become necessary to have these qualities.
• Virtual Assistant
A virtual assistant provides business support to individual clients and business owners, just on a remote basis. Mostly, anything an administrative assistant would do in an office setting; you would also be done remotely via the internet.
Essentially, your role frees up time for your client to complete tasks, and your time management and organization skills help structure another person’s workday.
The good thing about being a virtual assistant is that you don’t have to be a wiz when it comes to technological knowledge. You need to hone in on your office and clerical skills. You should generally be comfortable working with a computer, typing and using online organizational tools such as Word, Outlook, and Excel.
The most important skill to have when becoming a virtual assistant is the ability to be flexible. Each person you work for likely has a very different personality and perhaps work ethic. Some people might be extremely responsive, and others might take a while to hear from. If you are willing to learn the traits and quirks of your boss and adapt to those traits, you will likely be very successful.
Communication skills are vital to this role. You must stay on top of email threads and be efficient with these tools, especially if your boss lacks the skills in this area. They are relying on you to help them understand their next move, meeting, or location. You are their eyes and ears. Not only must you be good at communicating details across different people, but you also need to be able to stick up for yourself as needed.
If you feel like your boss is making your job more difficult because of a lack of communication, then you need to be able to express those thoughts and ideas. It will improve the situation for both of you. If you come from a position of wanting to better your boss’s professional life, they will learn to respect and heed your advice.
In this position, you will need to be very self-motivated and highly skilled with time management because someone else’s schedule is now dependent on you. Most of the time, your tasks will be critical and highly urgent. You must be able to rise to the occasion and learn as you go because most of the tasks will be challenging and new. Clients put a lot of trust into their virtual assistants, more than other positions. You are like an extension of them.
When we say designer, we do not mean fashion, but rather online/digital, which might include graphic design or website design for clients. If you have an internet connection, you will be good to go. The beauty of design work is that it so heavily depends on creativity. If you are a designer, you’re likely already a creative person, to begin with. Combine your natural inclination towards unique beauty in the world with gorgeous surroundings and then infuse that into your work.
Creative designers are passionate about traveling and learning about new cultures because they know their experiences will bring fresh perspectives to their work.
As a designer, you should already have a foundational skillset surrounding web or graphic design techniques as well as an understanding of the programs which build these designs such as Adobe Photoshop. However, even if you are not an expert, again, if you have internet access and the will to learn these skills, you are golden!
Keep in mind that each location you go to and every you are exposed to will enable you to adopt different design techniques or styles based on those regions. Each little adventure you experience overseas can be woven into your design stories. It makes your work more appealing and competitive to clients than a designer whose work only has domestic influence.
• SW programmer
Software programmers might require more fundamental skills and starting expertise than a virtual assistant. It is because they need to be very comfortable with web design, coding, and the back-end computer algorithms which make software databases look and work seamlessly.
That is not to say that these skills cannot be learned by themselves with a lot of practice, but it needs an extra amount of self-determination. Software developers are also known as software engineers and are essentially the brains behind the information technology of a company’s systems. They develop systems that control and run internal and external communication networks.
A software developer might build a client’s website with graphics, HTML coding, and content. They make a websites’ features work effortlessly, and the look and the layout of the website aesthetically correct. Ultimately, the hardest part about this job is the need to understand computer coding. It is not a skill that you can pick up easily by watching a YouTube tutorial (unless you are a genius).
Therefore you must be willing to dedicate a large amount of your nomad career learning this information in an academic setting first. The payoff can be great, as some software developers can make upwards of 100,000 US dollars if they have a solid client list.
• Video editor
Video editing is, no doubt an exciting career and a great way to create montages of all your time traveling abroad. Making money off it as a career is just a bonus. The risk with video editing is that many people who have basic access to a phone camera and a downloadable app can consider themselves editors. That doesn’t make you good, however. If you choose to become a video editor as a career, you will surely have to invest some time and money when crafting your skill.
There are many great editing platforms for beginners to advanced, such as iMovie, Pinnacle, Adobe, and Vegas video editing software. If you have a laptop, software, and a camera of some sort, you can be an expert editor. However, consider investing in the highest quality software and cameras to give yourself a leg up against the competition.
You will need to be able to tweak a video to a client’s exact specifications and educate yourself on editing techniques to reach a specific vision. Although creativity and the ability to create unique content is preferred for this role, you still must be flexible.
You need to listen to an idea you might not agree with to meet your client’s needs. The best way to become good at editing is by practicing a lot. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to learn, and it just takes some time and patience. If you are someone who loves a sense of reward and achievement when creating projects, this could be an excellent option for you.
• Podcast expert
Podcasts are all the rage these days, and you can find virtually any topic whatsoever. Anyone can learn the skills required to produce a podcast, as it just requires knowledge about audio editing. There is plenty of free editing software such as Garage Band, which already comes on Apple computers, and Audacity, a free internet downloadable program.
Stitcher is particularly great for audio editing focused only on Podcasts and not just sound files in general. The hardest part about producing a podcast is the meticulousness of it all. Audio editing requires a good knowledge of sound levels and how to seamlessly incorporate the levels of microsound bites into a high-quality macro output.
Like video editing, podcast editing does not require a lot of extensive outside education other than tutorials, a willingness to learn, and some patience and practice. If you are creating your own unique podcast, you will have an overabundance of great content for inspiration while traveling overseas.
Importance of Variety of Experience
Though you may ultimately decide to take the route of becoming an expert on a single topic, know that it is ok for you to try many different fields and become a “jack-of-all-trades.” You might find that your mind cannot focus on merely one thing. Or you are having trouble taking necessary steps to master a particular topic completely.
Whatever the reason, having a broad scope of jobs gives you a fantastic experience in several different fields. It will allow you to be an all-knowing, valuable source of information for someone who hires you!
Having a variety of experience can help build up your further success rate in two ways: building your portfolio and building your reputation. Remember that with every project, you learn valuable new lessons. Whether that be by learning new professional/job skills, or by learning how to work with different people across different barriers culturally and professionally, all of this builds experience.
Being a digital nomad is all about the adventures that come with each experience, the expected, and the unexpected. Remember not to be too hard on yourself as you develop these new skills and become flexible to new opportunities. In the big picture, that’s pretty much the whole point of being a digital nomad, right?
Think of each experience as a stepping stone to personal and professional development. Remember also that you are exposed to so much more of the world than your professional peers. With all these new experiences, it is hard to put a price on the wisdom and memories you are accumulating. These types of experiences can then be applied to your work further down the road.
Building Your Portfolio
As you take on more and more jobs and try different things, make sure you remember to track everything! Just like we’ve said in the past when it comes to personal growth journaling, you can make a professional journal for growth as well.
Whether it’s through bullet journaling or note tracking or traditional journaling, getting these thoughts down around your projects is pivotal to remembering each experience you had. When you develop your portfolio and resume, you don’t just want to jot down a bunch of things you did. It’s not about being a doer, but being accomplished!
When you start a new project or learn a new skill, make sure you are tracking what that new skill was, when and how you learned it, and what sets you learned it in. Most importantly, add to the entry about how that work made you feel, and what you truly accomplished in terms of the impact you made on the job or the project.
Being able to show that you’ve had a lot of experience and also that you made an impact while accomplishing a task indicates that you value the quality of your work. It helps to keep things in order because the more jobs we get over the years, the harder it becomes to remember all the skills we have.
So, in a sense, building a quality portfolio or resume that you can present to an employer requires that you develop your internal portfolio first. It should be a two-step process.
Building Your Reputation
The next part of the equation is building your reputation. After you have completed a task for someone or finished your project, make sure you get a recommendation letter or evaluation form from them. If they weren’t thoroughly satisfied with your work, and are not willing to recommend you to someone else, take the opportunity to understand what can be improved. If you can, set up a platform for yourself where you can show potential clients online reviews.
If you want to get hired, you need to market yourself! Advertising your services through personal websites or blogs will help with your personal branding. It will also allow previous clients to leave reviews and feedback for potential clients to research before hiring you. Many cheap and easy-to-use websites can help create your own sites, such as GoDaddy.com or Wix.com.
These platforms offer extra features such as personal blogs, so if you are inclined to journal about your digital nomad lifestyle publicly, you can as well. These public blogs are appealing to potential clients because they increase your likeability. People like transparency and trust those that are willing to be open about their lives. If you can show that you are open-minded and honest about your personal and work experience, your credibility builds.
When building your digital nomad career, there isn’t any wrong way to do it. When deciding whether you want to have a varied skill set, or become a grade A expert on a particular topic, make a pros and cons list. Your career-building process will be more natural if you invest the proper time and money as you start yourself up.
Remember that you bring your unique strengths to your work that nobody else can compete with. If you combine a strong self-belief with a willingness to practice new skills and market yourself, you have a high chance of building a successful career!
I’m the owner of Digital Nomad Explorer. I’ve traveled to over 50 countries and been an expat in Scotland, Finland, and China. I was a digital nomad while having my own robotics company and traveled throughout Europe and China working remotely. Currently, I’m location independent with a home base in Kirkkonummi, Finland.