What’s the difference between location independent, a remote worker, and a digital nomad? This guide explains the need to know answers.
It’s 2022. One of the few silver linings of the last two years is that remote work is here to stay. In fact, 85% of managers agree that having remote workers will become the new normal.
That’s awesome! That means that remote workers will be location independent and be able to travel the world as working nomads and clock on at any time they like, right?
Well, not exactly.
There are some differences between who is considered a digital nomad, a remote worker, and someone who is location independent. And knowing those differences might help you figure out which lifestyle is right for you.
This guide will explain the terms, advantages, disadvantages, and possible career options.
What Is Location Independent?
Location independent = Any worker who can earn an income anywhere, often online.
‘Location independent’ — we use this phrase a lot in our content and messaging. We commonly say that e-Residency is perfect for location independent entrepreneurs wanting to start and run an EU based business remotely.
But what does it mean to be location independent? Who are we talking about? Why is it important for e-residents?
You know how all bourbons are whiskeys but not all whiskeys are bourbons? It’s the same when figuring out the answer to — what does location independence mean?
It is an umbrella term that describes any worker or entrepreneur who can earn an income anywhere, often online. To be ‘location independent’ is to be free from a place or unconnected to a need to be physically present. If you are location independent, you do not have to live or work in any specific city, country, or continent to make money. Thought of in this way, location independence of course covers digital nomads, travelling entrepreneurs and remote workers.
While you are free from the need to be physically present anywhere at any time for work or business, you may still choose to live at home, but if needed or desired, your borderless business means that you can travel and continue running your business remotely.
Location Independent Careers – Work from anywhere
Most location independent workers are freelancers in the tech and creative industries. For example, software developers, social media managers, and graphic designers are all popular location independent vocations.
But you can also get location independent entrepreneurs, teachers, and accountants, too. If you can fulfil your work obligations with only a laptop, you can be location independent. It comes down to a question of personality: either you have a close connection to your fixed home or you’re happier travelling and staying in different places.
Advantages for location independent entrepreneurs
- Choose where you want to live
- Have time independence
- Create your own stable and productive schedule
- Freedom to travel and see the world
You can choose where you want to live! And the majority of location independent workers have time independence, too. You would be able to create a stable, productive schedule in a place that works for you.
If you want to book a spinning class for 10 in the morning and take a long lunch to meet a friend, you can. Or, you could work from home in your pyjamas if you wanted to.
Location and time independence also means you have the freedom to take your work or business on the road, travel the world, discover new places and experiences, and meet new friends or clients. Read about early adopter e-resident Simon, who not only is a travelling entrepreneur himself but also helps other professionals find freedom in being location independent.
Disadvantages for location independent entrepreneurs
- Lack of steady paycheck
- Fewer or no colleagues
- Need to have the right mindset
- Requires a personal determination to create healthy relationships and habits
Most location independent workers are self-employed, so you might find the lack of a steady paycheck stressful. And if you’re used to working in an office, you might start to miss having colleagues to bounce ideas around with.
And unless you’re a self-starter and passionate about your career, you might not have the motivation you need to hustle for clients.
Being location independent can also be lonely or uninspiring unless you have personal determination to seek out healthy relationships and make a routine of productive habits.
What Is a Digital Nomad?
Digital Nomad = a worker with no fixed address, earns money online whilst travelling.
Digital nomads and working nomads are interchangeable terms.
Digital nomads are (or think they are) modern-day Jack Kerouacs and Ernest Hemingways. They pick up their life and set it down where and whenever they like. They’ve simply swapped the battered notebook and typewriter for a powerful 13-inch laptop.
They believe this because, well, it’s true.
If you are a digital nomad, you do not have a fixed address and you earn money online while travelling. You do not follow a nine to five routine because you’re too busy exploring and being adventurous during those hours.
So, when comparing location independent vs digital nomad, the main difference is the lifestyle choice. E-resident entrepreneur Bertrand perfectly captures this attitude in this interview about his e-Residency journey.
Digital Nomad Careers
Unless you want to work in a European timezone while in Chiang Mai, Thailand, most digital nomads have freelance careers they can do any time they like. That’s why many digital nomads are content creators and entrepreneurs.
You could have many of the same careers listed as location-independent as long as they are time-flexible, too.
Advantages for digital nomads
- Travel the world
- Work where and when you want
- Total time freedom
How would you like to work on a hammock in Costa Rica or while munching on a cinnamon bun in Stockholm?! One of the biggest advantages of being a digital nomad is working from anywhere.
If you have the travel bug, you can satiate your wanderlust while bankrolling your adventures at the same time.
No commute, complete flexibility, and good vibes only.
Disadvantages for digital nomads
- No steady income
- Unstable working environment
- Difficult to maintain relationships
Like location independent workers, you are likely a freelancer or running your own business. This can be more unstable than employment. But as a digital nomad, you have the added instability of not having a consistent working environment.
If your Airbnb’s WiFi goes down, you might have no choice but to work in a noisy hotel lobby. And being in a different timezone and away from your family and friends can be isolating, too.
What Is a Remote Worker?
Remote worker = a worker with an ability to work outside of a traditional office.
Remote workers are the new kids on the block. Almost all are corporate workers in traditional employment that have the ability to work out of their office.
If you are a remote worker, you likely still need to work traditional office hours. Some employers may also dictate where you live, too. However, more and more as a result of the pandemic, we are seeing remote workers demand more freedom over where they choose to live and work.
So, the difference between remote work and location independence is that remote workers don’t have as much location independence as say working nomads. They might be able to work where they want to an extent but they might not have total freedom.
Remote Work Careers
Types of remote work include any career that is computer-based. This includes the jobs already listed but more time-dependent roles like customer service, virtual assisting, human resources, operations, and many more.
Advantages for remote workers
- Steady income plus benefits
- Flexible working environment
- More control over your time
As a remote worker, you get the stability (and benefits!) of employment but you’re able to work from places outside of the office. This could be your home, a cafe, or a co-working space. Kiss goodbye to commuting and eating sad office lunches at your desk.
And yes, you too can work in your pyjamas if you wish.
Disadvantages for remote workers
- Not 100% location independent
- May still have to work fixed hours
- Might feel isolated and bored
Many companies want their remote workers to live in a certain city or country for tax reasons. Your employers might not even like you going on a working vacation. Plus, you still need to attend virtual meetings and work regular office hours as set by your company.
If you’re used to working in an office, you might start to feel bored and isolated without colleagues.
Choose the Best Flexible Working Lifestyle for You
Being able to choose where you live and work is an exciting and almost unbelievable dream for some. But becoming a digital nomad, remote worker, or location independent can offer you that dream.
There are ways to open more doors and borders for you and your business, too. Any business that works paperless can be done remotely. If you register your online company in Estonia, you could become an e-resident and gain access to the entire EU.
E-Residency supports your location independent lifestyle and business operations. With your digital ID card always in your pocket, you can carry your business around the world.