Digital nomad: More freedom on the job

The global availability of the Internet has opened up previously unimagined opportunities. Equipped with a smartphone and laptop, digital nomads can work from almost anywhere in the world. Find out what it means to be a digital nomad, which jobs are suitable for the lifestyle, and what its advantages and disadvantages are.

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What is a digital nomad?

Digital nomads make use of the fact that the Internet is available globally and tap into the technical possibilities of working independent of location or working hours. In theory, a digital nomad could be working from a different location every day or alternate between home and travel, work from a café, from a coworking space or from a hammock on a Mediterranean beach. The only requirements are Internet access, in some cases software or applications, and a power outlet to charge laptop and smartphone devices.

Many people decide on the digital nomad lifestyle seeking more freedom and an improved work-life balance while traveling and discovering new countries and cultures.

To round out our digital nomad definition: the term “nomad” originates from ancient Greece and refers to “roaming” and “grazing”. Nomads are by definition not sedentary but wander from one place to the next.

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Types of Internet nomads

Most digital nomads are self-employed or registered freelancers and tend to work for a wide variety of clients. But there are other ways of becoming a digital nomad:

  • An employee can work remotely as long as the company allows it. In the wake of new work and agile working, many companies allow their employees to attend the office temporarily and grant flexible working the remainder of the time.
  • Company founders who manage their own company (temporarily) can do so from a distance.
  • Operators of online stores or sellers of digital products can work from anywhere.

If you’re unsure whether life as a digital nomad suits you, you could test being a “part-time nomad” first. This works if, for example, you’re self-employed part time and only want to travel a few weeks or months of the year.

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Ten common jobs for digital nomads

Generally, any job that can be done online or using a computer is suitable for digital nomads. The less dependent you are on others, the more flexibly you can organize your working life. The following jobs are particularly well suited for digital nomadism:

Programmer

Whether you’re implementing apps, websites, stores, or other software, as a programmer not only are your skills in high demand, but you are often able to work by yourself. Collaboration tools for agile working facilitate cooperation with colleagues.

Graphic designer

Graphic designers tend to work alongside app and web programmers. But designers who primarily work in advertising or publishing can also work as digital nomads.

Writers and editors

If you earn a living as a writer, editor, or freelance copywriter, it’s fairly simple to work independent of location. Bloggers, for example, can be digital nomads. Life on the road could even provide material for the stories you publish online.

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Consultants and coaches

Many forms of counseling and consultancy work well remotely. The Coronavirus era has led to a sweeping change in thinking when it comes to distance coaching or consulting. One thing to keep in mind is that personal contact is very important, so it's a good idea to match your time zone to those of your clients.

Online marketer

Whether it’s controlling newsletter campaigns, search engine optimization, or managing social media profiles, all of these tasks can be handled easily from anywhere in the world.

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Virtual assistants

A job as a virtual assistant is great for those changing careers. As a virtual assistant you’ll be managing emails and appointments, moderating meetings, and overseeing other organizational tasks. Depending on your previous education, you can also take on other tasks for a team or an individual.

Accountant

One special task of a virtual assistant could be accounting, for example. This could be done on behalf of or as support for a tax consultancy or independently. Apart from deadlines that can be planned in advance, accountants are rarely tied to a certain location.

Analysts

If you enjoy working with numbers and mathematical correlations, data analysis might be the right role for you. As a digital nomad in data analysis, you could examine data, create models, and test hypotheses for customers globally.

Online store owner

Another sector to explore for digital nomads is eCommerce. Online store operators can work anywhere as long as they have someone to ship the goods or manage their stock and warehouse for them. Smaller online businesses such as selling e-learning courses or other digital products are also highly flexible.

Photographer

Not a true online-only job, yet often ideal for digital nomads is to become a photographer and live wherever your shoots take you. You’ll need a laptop and Internet connection to post-process and share your finished photos.

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Advantages of a life as a digital nomad

Reports from those who have worked as digital nomads for quite some time show that this way of working has plenty of advantages:

  • The high flexibility of jobs creates a strong sense of freedom and self-determination.
  • Digital nomads can focus on what’s really important in their work and achieve results more quickly, because time is too valuable for trivialities.
  • Besides working, the focus of this lifestyle is on traveling and exploring new cultures. It broadens personal horizons, and strengthens important “soft skills” when collaborating with others.
  • In practical terms, long commutes and costs for office space and equipment are saved – a big plus for employees and employers alike.
  • Digital nomads tend to maintain a minimalist lifestyle and often have significantly lower living costs.

The disadvantages of being a digital nomad

As attractive as life on the road sounds, there are plenty of disadvantages to consider before you begin toying with the idea of joining the Internet nomads:

  • Not all jobs are suitable for digital nomadism. Industries or people who work in close contact with others are usually tied to a place of work and fixed working hours.
  • Not everyone is made for the freedom of digital nomadism. Some people will miss their friends and family after a while, while others fail to remain organized and motivated.
  • Decentralized working or frequently changing clients means you rarely get to know your colleagues more personally. Maybe you only ever communicate with them in writing. This can weaken team morale and commitment – a fundamental challenge with virtual teams.
  • As a digital nomad, you depend on Internet access and equipment to function smoothly. Where this fails, jobs may take longer to complete, or you may miss deadlines.

The decision whether life as a digital nomad is right for you is highly personal and should be weighed carefully and, where necessary, must be discussed with your employer.

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