I’m going to come right out and say it. I quit my job to travel the world. Perhaps a decade ago it was something new, but with the digital age and our constant connection (no pun intended) to social media, it seems like every other week another person is quitting their job to do the same. As the age-old saying goes though, nothing is free. So how are people affording this lifestyle? What is it they are doing differently to fund the #travelforever life and be a successful digital nomad? And how do you get a piece of the pie, too?
Whether you work your ass off to fund a four-week holiday, save for three years to take a gap year or work while abroad, there is always work involved. So, if, like me, you never planned to become a digital nomad but find yourself enticed by the freedom and life of travel, this article is for you. I made all the mistakes (yes, there were many) so that you don’t have to – here’s what not to do if you want to be a successful digital nomad.
1.) Don’t Pigeonhole Yourself, Skills-wise
Ugh, we’re kicking this off a little seriously, eh? OK, so here’s the thing: At one point or another, most of us had no idea what the heck we wantedto do with our lives. I, actually, wasn’t one of those people. I wanted to be a lawyer, so straight from high school, I went on to study for 6.5 years and came out a qualified lawyer. My mother was very proud. Needless to say, telling her that I was now leaving my law career (which, before you ask, was nothing like Suits) to pursue a life of travel blogging did not go down well.
The biggest struggle for me in transitioning from a lawyer to a travel blogger was my lack of transferable skills. Legal writing is so far from creative writing that studying law was a disservice to me! I found that I was starting from absolute scratch – I have had to learn how to find my voice in my writing, how to build a website, how to manage social media and how to run a business.
I’ve worked on improving my photography and videography skills, and my plan is to never stop learning. I made sure to broaden my horizons so that I don’t rely on blogging alone and all of these skills can lead to many alternate, successful digital nomad career options.
So, if you are still figuring out what you want to study or you’re considering being a digital nomad, pick courses and skills to learn that are transferable and will leave the maximum amount of options available to you. If you’re unsure of what you want to do and feel pressured to pick something, look at online courses (there are a lot of cheap or free courses on sites like Udemy) and try your hand at coding, design or social media management. You can also look at TESL certificate courses to teach English abroad or online!
2.) Don’t Rush The Process and Launch Too Early
We know that patience is virtuous (insert eye-roll) but what do you do if you’re super excited to just get into it and start seeing that cash roll in? Well, you don’t rush it and you definitely don’t want to launch your blog or business before it’s ready. This is my biggest regret with my blog, LVV Travel.
I initially launched it as a blog for family and friends to keep up with my travels, and being so eager to get my travel blog up and running (though admittedly, at the time I wasn’t planning on turning it into a business), I missed many key things related to branding, marketing and, most importantly, content.
My website today is completely different from where it was two years ago, although I was completely capable of achieving the same result back then. I was impatient and rushed the process, hoping to get it live despite not having content ready. I am still paying for the mistake now because I often find myself behind on writing and getting consistent content out in a timely manner.
If you are planning on launching on a blog or perhaps you plan on offering services such as virtual assisting or social media management, take your time to hone your skills so that you don’t feel immense pressure to do a million things at once. Not only will this make your blog/business more attractive and appealing, you will also enjoy it all a whole lot more!
3.) Don’t Compare Yourself To Others
Oh, the green-eyed monster. With social media being what it is and the world publicizing only our successes and never our failures, it’s tough not to compare yourself to others and feel pretty crappy about your results. If I had a dollar for every time I thought to myself, “they’ve only had their blog for six months and they’re already getting X, Y or Z” … A lot of these thoughts are completely understandable and natural, but you also get to choose how you view your own success and the success of others.
I realized over time that comparing myself brought no benefit to me – I wasn’t even getting motivated to do more, I just felt like a bit of a failure. So, I decided to change my perspective. I defined my own success. Even without getting paid, I was traveling, building skills and collaborating with brands. I set my own micro goals based on my time, skill set and plans to upgrade my skills. Your goals have to be realistic – everyone is on their own journey, and this is part of yours.
Remember, even if it seems like everyone is doing the same thing as you, each person is unique and offers something different. Rather than seeing others as the competition, start seeing them as colleagues in the same market and focus on what you offer that is unique to you. In other words, just do you!
4.) Don’t Take On Every Task Yourself
Hold up, this isn’t a contradiction to the first point. If there’s one thing echoed across groups and forums for digital nomads, it’s the amount of time and effort wasted taking on every task yourself. While we should give everything a shot, there is a fine balance between how much time a task is consuming versus spending the money outsourcing it. For acontrol freak and frugal person like me, I found it very difficult to accept that I needed outside help. This resulted in tons of wasted time that I could have better spent doing something else that was vital to my blog (such as content creation, which only I can do).
Accept your strengths and weaknesses and separate the tasks into ones that must be completed by you and tasks that can be outsourced. Look at various Facebook groups for digital nomads and consider trading skills if you can’t afford to pay someone. Websites like Fiverr also offer digital and website services for reasonable prices. Consider your budget and what is worth spending money on. Most recently, I found that my website was too slow. I read various posts and articles on how to speed it up and realized the task would likely take me around 15 to 20 hours to complete. This was time that I just didn’t have. I outsourced it for $50 and felt a weight lifted off my shoulders when the job was done a day later!
5.) Don’t Forget To Balance Work with LIFE
If you want to be a successful digital nomad with flexibility and freedom, please know that it’s not always easy (check out this recent post on the Downsides of a Digital Nomad Lifestyle). The demand for your time and energy is huge and it may not always pay off (for many people it doesn’t). It’s crucial, though, for your mental health and for your business, that you don’t forget to maintain a work-life balance.
Remember why you wanted the digital nomad life in the first place and don’t let the work consume you. I promise you, your to-do list will keep growing, and there will always be work to do. However, the opportunity to go diving in the Red Sea with your bestie or spend a week in Bali with your family may be a now-or-never scenario. And, besides: Work will always be there when you return from your adventure!
Work is a means to end and shouldn’t become your entire life. Don’t forget to keep living and traveling and enjoy your life as a successful digital nomad. That is, after all, the reason you got into it in the first place, right?
What are your thoughts on the DN life? Did you make the same mistakes when launching into your life as a digital nomad? Or are you a newbie who’s found this article helpful? Share your experience with us and comment below.