Yesterday we talked about what a digital nomad is (someone who works from anywhere with only their laptop). We also talked about the benefits of such a lifestyle (you can live anywhere, travel anywhere, and still keep a paycheck rolling in). Today we will talk about the details of how this is done...
The job. First you will need some sort of employment that you can do online. EVERYONE should have some sort of online side business whether you plan to keep your job and stay in your office forever or not. This will give you a stream of income unrelated to your usual job. From this side business you can either grow it into something that can support you long term or you can ask your employer if you can work remotely or you can do a little of both. There are innumerable businesses that can be done remotely/done online, ranging from book authors to website designers to language translators to policy writers to video game coders to tutors to online consultants to online psychics to copywriters to online marketers...the types of job possibilities are endless.
The business. Now that you have an idea of what you want to do, you will need to run it like a business. Accounts payable, accounts receivable, taxes, invoices, marketing, customer acquisition...unless you are doing remote work for your employer, you will be your employer and as such you will need to set up your business, keep records, pay your taxes, etc.
A passport. Many digital nomads choose to live and work overseas where the cost of living is lower. Of course you don't have to do this and can set up anywhere in the good 'ole US of A if you like. If you choose to work overseas, you will need a passport, you will need to know how to enter each country (is a visa needed?) and you will need to know how long you can stay in each country (info here). Most importantly, you will still need to pay your taxes, even if you aren't even living or working in the US (info here).
Setting up shop. Once you have decided to become a digital nomad, have decided on your business or source of work, and have your passport in hand, you will need to set up shop somewhere. There are numerous websites devoted to finding the best places to live and work based on a range of needs--from low cost of living to most cultural bang for the buck (info here). Of course you can also choose to live in the US either in an inexpensive urban area or way out in the boonies.
What to take with you. No matter where you decide to nomad off to, you will need to take a few things including the tools of your trade (laptop, digital camera, digital camcorder, special software, VPN, etc), some cash to get started on, an understanding of how the local internet is (spotty or unavailable internet may be a deal killer for a particular location), and a good attitude (you are bound to have some disastrous days, that's just the nature of nomading). On the flip side you will have some amazing days so there's that...
What to leave behind. If you plan to live overseas, bringing pets is an unimaginable hassle. And although there are stories of digital nomads leaving behind their SOs I would recommend against such a drastic move (which will then require a great deal of coordination if you both plan to nomad together). You should ideally be debt free before you embark on such an adventure. You will also need to decide what to do with your vehicle/house/household goods/etc. We chose the nuclear option a few years back and sold everything (house and everything in it), put the car and a few personal items in storage, then hit the road with only what we could carry in our backpacks. We learned that with no debt at all, no mortgage payment, and only a few monthly bills (cell phone, car insurance, storage unit) it was very very cheap to live on a month-to-month basis.
Money. I already touched on debt above. You will also want to have some money to get set up as well as money in savings to tide you over until you are completely self-supporting as a digital nomad. You will want to have a few credit cards to use for emergencies or for large purchases (such as airline tickets) which have no foreign transaction fees. You will want to have your bank accounts set up so that money will be landing in your account regularly (ie: direct deposit with your employer, a Paypal account, Adsense or Amazon revenue attached to your bank account, etc). If you have any regular bills (we needed to keep our car insurance active even though the car was in storage so it would cover us when we drove anyone else's vehicle) try to put these on auto-pay, pay them ahead for six months to a year at a time, or pay them online monthly (don't forget to do this!).
Some other things. Logistically you will have a "to do" list before setting out that is about five pages long. Some things to consider: make sure your important documents, passport, driver's license, credit cards, etc won't expire in the very near future (it's a hassle to get them renewed while overseas). You will want to set up a private mail box for snail mail that you will inevitably receive. We did this and had our PMB service mail us whatever mail had been received about once a month to where ever we happened to be. Back up all of the files on your computer onto a thumb drive or external hard drive (do this in triplicate and leave one copy with someone back home who is responsible, save one copy to the cloud, and keep one copy on a separate drive). Alert your credit card companies that you will be traveling so you won't get a declined transaction because they think someone stole your card. Decide on health insurance (some policies will cover you anywhere in the world, some don't in which case you will need to buy this insurance). Get a Skype number. Also bring an unlocked cell phone with you so you can easily pick up a local SIM card.
Most importantly...being a digital nomad doesn't mean kicking back on the beach with a beer everyday. Many new DNs act like they are on perma-vacation but the reality is that you should be working and earning money everyday if you hope to be able to afford such a lifestyle.
Tomorrow we will talk about the myriad resources available to Digital Nomads...