The Complete Guide to Being a Digital Nomad: Key Things to Know

If you are interested in running a business remotely, this guide can help. Here are key things you need to know about being a digital nomad.

Hardworking bright organized digital nomad visiting his favorite cafe and sitting in a terrace while having a productive day working on projects
Fresh air everywhere for digital nomads working outside at terrace cafes.

Nomad life has existed for centuries. Our ancestors travelled and hunted in small nomadic tribes until their lifestyle declined.

Recently, the modern-day digital nomad movement has increased in popularity. A digital nomad is a person who lives and works in whatever location they choose. Unlike remote workers, who have a base camp, digital nomads often change locations.

If travel and freedom from the 9-to-5 sound perfect for you, keep reading to learn more about how to be a digital nomad.

Below is a complete guide on how to be a digital nomad, covering:

  • Step by step guide on how to become a digital nomad
  • Advantages vs. disadvantages of being a digital nomad
  • How to make a living as a digital nomad
  • How to set up a business in the EU with e-Residency
  • Understanding if the digital nomad life is for you

How to Be a Digital Nomad

Sometimes social media skews our vision of a digital nomad in the wrong direction. Bloggers, high tech nomads, and freelancers make it all look so easy. But becoming a digital nomad doesn’t happen in one day.

It takes a lot of planning, creativity, and hard work. Let’s look at five steps beginners should follow to get started.

  1. Find your skillset
  2. Choose your first location
  3. Start freelancing
  4. Build your business
  5. Find a community

Let’s take a closer look below!

1. Find Your Skillset

Whatever skills or knowledge you have, you can make it work remotely. Some, like coding or graphic design, are easier to do from any location. Other skills may be more difficult to practice remotely. But it is possible!

A good place to start is by browsing job ads and freelancing websites to see what clients are looking for. Then you can work your way backwards to become the perfect hire.

2. Choose Your First Location

Where you live matters. Running a remote company from a small island with unstable WiFi probably won’t get you very far. Living in Paris on a freelancer’s budget will have you running home within two months.

And of course, it’s important to consider your legal right to reside and work in a country. Many countries, such as Estonia and Malta, now have digital nomad visas or remote worker permits.

Budget, legal rights, and ease of living should all contribute to your decision. No place will be perfect but if budget is more important to you, consider these locations:

  • Mexico
  • Georgia
  • Romania
  • Vietnam
  • Thailand
  • Cambodia
  • Estonia, of course!

Want the best of both worlds? These gorgeous places are not the most budget-friendly but they’re modern and relatively cheap:

  • Czech Republic
  • Croatia
  • Portugal
  • Colombia

3. Start Freelancing

Once you’ve determined what you’re good at, start by getting small gigs and freelancing for clients. The pay might not be astronomical and the work might be tedious, but the experience is everything.

Once you’ve built up a portfolio, experience, or credentials, you can move into creating your own business. Most digital nomads prefer to have several income streams, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

4. Build Your Business

If your goal is to start a remote company that can be managed from anywhere in the world, become an e-resident! Did you know that Estonia has the highest number of start-ups per capita in all of the European Union?

But we also know that digital nomad business registration can be confusing. Check out our free webinar on starting a remote company in Estonia. We’ll help you figure out the answers to all your tough questions in our Live Q&A.

Join our free webinar about company formation in Estonia

Learn more and register

5. Find a Community

The best part of being a digital nomad is finding new communities of like-minded people. Being part of a community is not only good for business but also good for our well-being! Working remotely shouldn’t stop you from doing that.

Not only will socializing make you happier, but it can also connect you with potential clients and job leads. As a digital nomad, this can be a crucial part of your success. Check out co-working spaces, cafes with good WiFi, and meet-up events to find your community.

If you’re interested in seeking advice about remote entrepreneurship and the Estonian business environment from the e-Residency community, join the e-residents of Estonia Facebook group or reach out to EERICA (the Estonian e-residents International Chamber Association).

Advantages vs. Disadvantages

The high-tech digital nomad life sounds amazing. Working in a beautiful European cafe or even on the beach is an upgrade to a dull office. But there are some issues digital nomads face.

Digital Nomad Advantages

Freedom is, of course, the biggest advantage to being a digital nomad. You have the autonomy to choose your location, your work hours, your vacation hours, and much more.

Less stress is also a possibility. That’s not to say that a digital nomad life is a vacation, but the little things that caused daily stressors will disappear. Rush-hour commutes, work meetings, and lack of free time can put a lot of pressure on us.

Some more amazing bonuses to being your own boss include:

  • better work environment
  • dressing for comfort
  • more time for creativity
  • traveling and exploring
  • increased motivation
  • self-development

Digital Nomad Disadvantages

No job or lifestyle is perfect. Every good has its bad and digital nomad life is no exception here.

First of all, being a digital nomad is hard work. There’s no one to guide the way and help you along. You need to figure out paperwork, visas, new languages, and international business on your own.

Another possible disadvantage is motivation. To be your own boss or run your own business, you need an enormous amount of self-motivation. People who prefer to be told what to do and when to do it may run into trouble here.

Some other downsides to the digital nomad life include:

  • homesickness
  • missing out on big family events
  • no income guarantee
  • language problems
  • feelings of isolation

Before setting out into the world and starting the nomad life, you need to figure out what kind of person you are. If you love challenges, independence, and are highly self-motivated, this might be the perfect opportunity for you.

Setting up a Business in the EU With E-Residency

E-Residency provides freedom for remote entrepreneurs and digital nomads like smiling Natasha.
E-resident Natasha Zolotareva

One of the biggest downfalls of this lifestyle is bureaucracy and paperwork. Enter Estonia’s e-Residency programme! An easy solution to start and run a business based in the European Union.

Natasha Zolotareva is a digital nomad and e-resident. She runs a location independent, global PR agency with clients mostly in the US, UK, Israel, and other English-speaking markets.

Natasha obtained her Estonian e-Residency in 2018, mostly so that she could run a European business remotely and access Estonia’s ecosystem of digital services. In a recent interview, she notes that e-Residency has allowed her to easily manage her business while she and her partner were locked down in Thailand during the COVID-19 pandemic, and continues to help work with clients around the globe, as well as her Ukrainian-South African team.

Location-independent workers from any country can apply for a secure, unique digital ID issued by the Government of Estonia. This solution is perfect for:

  • entrepreneurs
  • freelancers
  • business owners
  • consultants
  • digital nomads

Anyone looking to start or run a 100% remote EU-based company can apply for Estonian e-Residency. There are no restrictions based on citizenship or residency to become an e-resident.

Is the Digital Nomad Life for You?

The digital nomad life isn’t for everyone. Some people prefer living in one location, going into the office every day, and sticking to what they know.

Before making this critical decision, you need to ask yourself if you:

  • crave adventure
  • have a unique idea
  • dream of creating a start-up
  • have a solid business plan
  • love travel
  • are into technology

If you answered yes to any of these questions, this might be the perfect chance for you!

Sign up for our e-Residency webinar to get more information. And don’t forget to join the live Q&A for more detailed answers to your questions!

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