How to Be a Digital Nomad Software Developer (Types, Skills, and Jobs)

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A software developer is an expert who develops, maintains, and designs software applications. These applications can be web-based, mobile, or computer. When one is a digital nomad software developer, the main difference is that they are working remotely (often in a distant country) and works on projects on a temporary or permanent basis through an internet connection. The amount of freedom this gives to software developers is incredible, thanks to technology advances in data speeds and availability. 

So, how can you be a digital nomad software developer? You need to:
• Choose the type of software development field you prefer
• Learn the key software development skills
• Develop expertise by working on projects
• Create a portfolio of jobs and making a website
• Continuously learn about your chosen software field
• Compete successfully to get projects
• Get client reviews and build your portfolio

I’ll come back to these items in a bit more detail at the end of this article. First, however, let’s fill in some details to get you to the point where you can plan and track activities you will need to do. I want to cover some of the key types, skills, and jobs available to the digital nomad software developer. It will help guide your decisions.

As background, to be successful in this career, it requires strong skills in software coding and sufficient experience working with design interfaces and information architecture. Job duties might include developing user-centered software, creating prototypes, researching new techniques, and advising on technical specifications. Employers often seek academic qualifications, such as Bachelor Degrees in information technology, computer science, or such related fields, in most cases. Also, numerous institutions provide professional certifications. Such qualifications demonstrate your skills to the employer. 

Let’s get started. I’ll cover first the different types focusing and describing three popular types. Then I’ll give some ideas of how and where to learn software development as a field of discipline, and then finally touch on how to find work when you are a digital nomad and want to find software development projects.

Types of Software Developers

#1 Mobile App Developer

The latest mobile applications and devices are significantly changing the way we communicate, access news and entertainment, and conduct business. Most businesses, programmers, and consumers prefer this innovative medium. It makes mobile application development a fast-growing career path. 

Mobile application developers must choose the operating software on which they will develop an app. After that, the developer will have to learn the software development environment for that system. The developer will, after that, write programs using programming languages, such as Objective-C, Java, or C++. 

Mobile Application Developer Academic Requirements

Most employers hire developers with a Bachelor’s degree in mobile application development, software engineering, computer science, mobile computing, or a related programming field of study. Most employers will also request to see a portfolio of your best development projects and other completed applications. 

Marketable skills in this field include Android application development, Java programming, object-oriented programming, HTML, JavaScript, Objective-C, C++ programming, game and simulation programming, user-interface design, CSS, and mobile media deployment. 

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Mobile App Developer Key Skills and Responsibilities

Typical day-to-day responsibilities for mobile app developers include:

• Mobile app developers code, debug, test, and monitor changes for mobile apps
• Mobile application developers can implement API (Application programming interfaces) to support different mobile functionalities
• Mobile app developers migrate existing web applications to mobile platforms
• Work closely with other organizational departments to optimize deployments
• Recommend changes and improvements to existing applications

#2 Web Developer

Web developers create web-based applications and websites that comprise most of the internet. Web-development workflows include collecting web content, planning website navigation and layout, coding the sites, and testing the website to ensure optimum performance and superior user experience. 

Successful web developers must be fluent in most of the programming languages that drive the World Wide Web. Web developers need a strong command of JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. Additionally, it is essential to understand a few server-side languages, such as Visual Basic, PHP, or Microsoft.NET, to create sophisticated web applications. Moreover, web developers can further boost their earning potential by earning certifications in a few database training programs, such as Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, and IBM. Such certifications show your ability to write web pages that can interact with business data. I wrote a full article on 7 Reasons Why You Should Become a Digital Nomad Web Developer – check it out if you want to know more information about web development.

Website development projects need many revisions and improvements, so web developers must be patient and good communicators to interact with clients and team members effectively. Understanding of color theory and creativity will also boost your value as a developer. Job opportunities for web developers exist in all settings, including government agencies and private enterprises, SMEs, or operating as a freelance developer.

Web Developer Academic Requirements

Mastery of a few programming languages and hands-on experience are the two main requirements for getting consistent work as a web software developer. Employers will typically ask to see a portfolio with a few live samples of web applications and websites that you have developed in the past. Professionals new to the industry can acquire much-needed skills by taking an accredited degree course in web development, software engineering, web design, or any other related field of study. 

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H4Web Developer Key Skills and Responsibilities

Typical day-to-day responsibilities and critical competencies for web developers include:

• Fluency in web development programming languages: CSS, JavaScript, and HTML
• Understand a few server-side languages, like PHP and Java
• Understand search engine optimization technique to develop sites that rank highly on search engines
• Test web apps and web pages on different browsers
• Implement CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to control the aesthetic styling of the website
• Develop sites that seamlessly interact with database systems, such as SQL Server and Oracle
• Continuously communicate with team members and clients to troubleshoot errors and optimize performance
• Design multimedia elements and website graphics

#3 Video Game Designer

Video game designers merge technical skills, creativity, and an innate passion for gaming to develop cutting-edge gaming applications. Depending on your employment goals and interests, this field has a lot of job opportunities to offer. According to the Department of Labor, employment opportunities for video game designers will increase by 30 percent this decade. It ranks it among the fastest-growing career paths in the country. 

Web Developer Academic Requirements

Given the recent rise in video game popularity, colleges are evolving their education programs by introducing new topics, such as 3D modeling, storyboarding, character animation, simulation programming, world design, and many more. 

Academic requirements for video game programmers is a typical Bachelor’s degree in computer science, video game development, mobile application development, software engineering, simulation programming or similar programming-centric accreditation. 

Video Game Designer Responsibilities and Skills

Typical day-to-day responsibilities and critical competencies for video game developers include:

• Devise the challenges, puzzles, and missions that players will encounter during gameplay
• Come up with narrative features, like role-play mechanics, storylines, and character bios
• Collaborate with sound engineers and artists to achieve the desired visual and audio style
• Conduct design reviews periodically 
• Maintain design documentation, including mission outlines, guidelines, and mechanics

Other Specializations You Can Choose

• Computer programmer
• Back-end developer
• Software tools developer
• API developer
• Embedded Systems Developer
• Security Software Developer
• Cloud computing

Common and Specialized Skills for Software Developers

To keep up with the global interest in better and new computer systems, many software engineers will gain employment in the coming years. If you hope to do well in this industry, you must keep up with the required skills and competencies. 

Personal/Interpersonal Skills

1. Communication Skills – Website development projects need many revisions and improvements, so web developers must be patient and good communicators to interact with clients and team members effectively. While this skill may take time for practice, it remains an asset. 

2. Attention to Detail and Patience – Patience and extreme attention to detail are necessary for programming, especially while fixing issues. Software developers might be asked to identify small glitches in endless lines of code to rectify errors. 

3. Interpersonal Skills – This is important even for remote developers. Unless you only develop software for personal use, other people will greatly influence your success as a developer. The ability to communicate effectively, work well in a team, and have the curiosity and desire to understand new concepts is critical for a successful developer. 

Trade Skills 

1. Computer Coding / Programming – Understanding coding languages is a prerequisite. Moreover, software developers must learn how to build projects from scratch and integrate any improvements with time. This job requires a strong knowledge of coding. Skills, such as code structuring, data structures, and algorithms are equally important. 

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It is essential to familiarize yourself with operating systems and programming languages. Try to keep up as they change, and choose one to master. 

2. Problems-solving and Logical Thinking – In software development, even small errors can lead to big problems. For this reason, you cannot succeed in this realm if you cannot solve logical problems. Software engineering involves structured reasoning and the ability to think outside the box.

What Do University Programs Offer? 

Snapshot of Current University Programs

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 24 percent growth in software development by 2026. This forecast places software development among the country’s fastest-growing careers. The proliferation of cloud and mobile technologies, the need to create secure systems, and the increasing demand for business intelligence will drive the hiring boom for educated and skilled software developers. The development of mobile apps represents a significant skill gap in the global job market. 

It means that there are more software development jobs than there are skilled developers to fill the gaps. Additionally, as tablets and smart-phones become a central tool in the business sector, software developers will be needed to integrate emerging mobile technologies with existing computer systems. Much training and continuous education are, therefore, needed. 

Many universities, colleges, and other institutions of higher learning offer training courses that feature marketable software development skills. 

Here are three examples of course and program descriptions to give you an example of what’s offered in a curriculum for software development.

#1 – Purdue University AAS – IT: Software Development and Programming Course

Through this training program, students will gain theoretical and real-world understanding to create software solutions for mobile devices, modern business applications, and the web. The students will learn a wide array of programming languages, such as CSS, HTML, Java, Visual Basic, and JavaScript. 

Program Highlights

• Mobile App development using HTML, Java, C, and C++
• Design and develop software applications and systems
• Software engineering theory 
• User-interface and user-experience design essentials
• Use Adobe creative suite to create web effects and graphics

Other related degrees include BSc. Information Technology, MSc. Information Technology, and BSc. Programming and Software Development. 

#2 – Southern New Hampshire University – BSc Software Engineering 

Students who enroll in this program will be able to use their software engineering tools to create secure software applications and systems. Successful graduates of this specialized program will be trained for roles, such as Application Developer, Programmer Analyst, Systems Engineer, and Full Stack Developer. I’ve listed two programs.

Program Highlights

• User-interface and user-experience design for mobile and cloud-based technologies
• Implement and evaluate emerging systems architecture
• Develop secure applications and software systems
• Identify software vulnerability
• Apply reverse engineering to support and improve existing software 

3. Southern New Hampshire University – BSc. Mobile Application Development

Program Highlights

• Learn the creative and programming skills to become a software developer for mobile applications
• Training in Android and iOS app development
• Programming expertise in mobile game and simulation development
• Usability and user-interface testing
• Art direction and mobile app design
• Programming using Objective – C, Java, PHP, and MySQL languages

Online Education Programs

INSERT TABLE HERE – Coming Soon – 

Digital Nomad Software Developer Jobs – Where to Find Them

If you are looking into getting started as a digital nomad software developer, it is best to start looking for potential clients on online freelancing sites. Below are a few options.

1. Upwork

There are many developer job opportunities on Upwork. Jobs include front-end development, Android and iOS apps development, user-interface maintenance, and many more. The jobs on this site are both long-term and short-term projects. 

Competition on this site is quite high. In this light, newbies have to come up with a right profile presence to beat potential competitors. 

2. Freelancer

Freelancer prides itself on offering thousands of software development projects. To get started, you must create a freelancer profile and then take part in different contests to show your skill. You have to ace the contests to get any jobs. It might sound like a tough way to get jobs, especially for new developers who might have limited skills. The bright side is that, given the popularity of the platform, there are very many clients who are willing to extend a chance to new freelancers. 

3. Toptal

Toptal is arguably the most popular development site for freelancers. The site focuses mainly on tech startups and companies; therefore, it only accepts highly skilled developers. You might have to develop your skills if you want to get assignments from this site. 

4. Envato Studio

Envato Studio is an upcoming freelancing site for graphic designers, programmers, and web developers. The website features both short-term and one-time projects that will make you a fixed salary. It is a decent platform to source clients. 

5. Stack Overflow

Stack overflow is a great community for programmers; it offers an excellent place for freelancers to network and gets job recommendations. Stack overflow, additionally, has a job board. You can use this board to search for remote programming assignments. 

Other platforms for remote software developers include:

• Fiverr
• PowerToFly
• Freelancermap

Competing Effectively for Software Developer Jobs

Budding software engineers need all the help they can get to survive in this very competitive job market. Below are a few tips that can help you to stand out among other programmers.

1. Adopt a high-performance mindset – The most valuable asset of any successful developer is in the mindset. A successful developer works intending to achieve as much as it is humanly possible. It is the prime advice and what you need to practice while seeking employment or working. 

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2. Perfect your trade – Whatever programming tools you use, including the programming language, learn it in depth. It encompasses more than just learning while you are working: take a course to understand the tool well enough. This might take a while, but consider it a long-term investment. 

3. Optimize yourself – Optimizing yourself means that you must keep learning to become a high-performance software developer. Programmers operate in an industry where they can learn something new every day. 

It also means that you must always strive to make your work process more efficient. Did I do the project as efficiently as I could? Could I have completed the task faster? How will I approach a similar project again?

In a market full of skilled experts and up-coming self-taught programmers, it is quite hard to stand out as a software engineer. However, if you hope to stand out, or you are seeking a competitive edge against potential competitors during job interviews, you should consider competitive programming. Participating in competitive events will give you a wide array of benefits, which increase your skillset, make your resume attractive, and improve your visibility. 

• Competitions will train you to be fast and focused
• Such conferences will enhance your ability to operate in teams through exposure to other programmers
• Competitive forums will train you on how to solve questions during interviews
• You will earn exposure to employers through competitive seminars

Advantages of Being a Software Developer

1. Numerous Opportunities – Given that countless commercial activities are adopting digital technology, there are very many opportunities for software developers. Many opportunities result in good salary packages, given that the demand is high. Simply put, software developers score more than other experts in regards to job opportunities and remuneration. 

2. Work remotely – Software developers can work from anywhere. Through online platforms like Fiverr and Upwork, all developers need is a laptop and connection to the internet. 

3. Continuous learning curve – Software developers keep on learning new ways of working. With your experience, your knowledge also increases. High-performing developers are always updated with new inventions and technologies in their field. 

Disadvantages of Being a Software Developer

1. Global Competition – Digital nomad software developers, operate in a well-connected and competitive market. Given this connection through emails and social media networks, many companies prefer to outsource to places like India to cut costs. 

2. Developers must develop their skills continuously – Technology is evolving rapidly. There are new inventions and enhancements every day. High-performing developers, therefore, have to remain updated. Holding the older ways of working will make you lose an edge to competitors. Developers must keep learning new skills.  

Coming Back to the Key Steps to Be a Digital Nomad Software Developer

Now that we have covered a lot of ground in defining the types, skills, and jobs that a digital nomad software developer needs, let’s go back and expand on what you need to do to become a successful one

1. Choose the type of software development field you prefer – We have outlined three possible major branches of software development that you can choose from and referred to some other options as well. They are smaller but just as important. 

2. Learn the key software development skills – There are of course university programs you can enroll to. We showed a snapshot of two universities. The programs may take a few years to get through, so the other option is online learning. I’ve provided a table that lists out some of the most popular that are available.

3. Develop expertise by working on projects – Once you have some credentials, jump into finding some projects. There are many platforms to compete for projects, and because of the high demand for software development in all disciplines, hopefully, it won’t take you long to start working on projects. 

4. Create a portfolio of jobs, and make a website – After you have completed a handful of projects, create a portfolio describing your talents and skills and success in the projects you have worked on. To promote yourself even further, make a website. It is a great way to show your customers your portfolio of projects. Even better if you are a web developer.

5. Continuously learn about your chosen software field – The online learning platforms introduced in the online education table are not just for learning the basics. Advanced and trending topics are covered too. Be active in learning new things continuously.

6. Compete successfully to get projects – Your chances of getting bigger or better-paying projects will increase if you follow these steps. Use all the tools at your disposal and compete for projects.

7. Get client reviews and further build your portfolio – You should always try to get references from successful projects completed. It adds to your credibility and builds your portfolio.

Final Thoughts

As software development needs to increase around the world, finding one area to specialize in will be beneficial to your software career, and this also impacts your life as a digital nomad. The field is so large that you might think it is good to have projects in many areas. However, I suggest that you focus on one area, like web development, and really go deep. Since there are many online programs to learn new coding techniques, it will lead to being able to offer your customers more services. The more services you can offer to customers, the higher your pay will be. I wish you good luck!

Michael Haralson

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.

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