The work life of the digital nomad is unlike any other, because you make all the rules. Where you work, when you work, and with whom you work — it’s all up to you. But with that flexibility comes responsibility, because the way you manage yourself will determine whether or not you’re successful — which I define as happy and profitable — in the digital nomad world.
While all digital nomads will approach work in their own unique way, there are several habits I believe are essential for any new digital nomad to succeed. Ian and I have developed these habits over our four years in the digital nomad scene, and they’ve all been vital in our own journey to success.
Are you a budding digital nomad? Read on to discover ten practical tips to help you build your own path to success.
1. Plan ahead.
Having an eye on the future will help you avoid irrecoverable failure. Set yourself up for success by keeping tabs on upcoming expenses, and always have an appropriate amount of savings for emergencies. On a similar note, avoid debt at all costs so you never have to dip into that savings. Don’t plan travel you can’t afford. Lastly, don’t forget you have to pay taxes on your income (and that you can deduct business expenses), so set the appropriate amount of money aside regularly for tax time.
2. Diversify your income.
As the saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Having one money-making idea isn’t enough to ensure your success in the digital nomad world. Come up with several ways you can generate income as a digital nomad, and get them all going ASAP. This is something you should do from the very beginning so you have the benefit of time-tested experimentation with more than one idea.
3. Get on a schedule.
Set yourself a schedule. You don’t have a boss to keep you on track, so you need to learn how to manage your time. I recommend starting off with a standard American work week schedule (e.g. 9-6, M-F) with a non-negotiable one-hour lunch break away from your computer. Tweak your hours to what works best for you. Work when you can be most productive, and take a break when you lose momentum.
4. Take care of yourself.
This goes along with setting your schedule, because not overworking yourself is key to happiness as a digital nomad. If you get sick, take time off to rest, get plenty of sleep, etc. You’ll probably be surprised how fast you recover. Eat a balanced, healthy diet to help you stay alert and be more productive. Lastly, stay active and get daily exercise. This will do wonders for your energy level and sleep schedule, in turn keeping your motivation high.
You can’t and shouldn’t work all the time. A healthy amount of playtime will actually improve your chances of success as an entrepreneur. It’s easy to become a hermit when all your work interactions are happening through a computer screen, but a healthy social life will keep your life balanced. Having regular non-work-related interactions will also help you maintain a creative mindset. You’ll likely find inspiration and motivation for your business through the experience of trying new things and taking part in activities you enjoy.
6. Challenge yourself.
You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve when you aim higher than the status quo. Set yourself reasonable but ambitious goals and put in the work to make it happen. Digital nomads must be motivated to learn new things every day. Challenge yourself to experiment with new things, learn new skills, and meet new people. This will help you become a well-rounded entrepreneur, and you’ll be more prepared to conquer a wider variety of obstacles as they come. It will also help you develop new business ideas to help you further diversify your income.
Be frugal for the first couple years, even if you’re lucky and see large initial success. Living frugally is an essential life skill for a digital nomad, and since your income will be variable, you have to be able to adjust your spending quickly. Avoid debts and signing any long contracts that require large regular payments. Long-term leases, contract cell phone plans, buying a new car… all these things should be avoided as a new digital nomad in order to give you the financial flexibility to stay out of the red.
Do you have what it takes to be a digital nomad? Read 22 Essential Qualities of Successful Digital Nomads.
Ups and downs in income and relationships are a normal part of a digital nomad life. This life certainly takes some getting used to. Keep a positive attitude and stay true to yourself, your passions, and your goals. Don’t waste your time or energy on obviously negative relationships. Focus on the positive and put your energy into the things and people that motivate you.
Build yourself a team of allies. Find like-minded individuals with similar goals and passions and build relationships with those who inspire you. Identify positive role models for yourself and follow what they’re doing online. Search for local entrepreneur meet-ups to learn about what others are doing, seek advice, and share ideas.
10. Reflect and Revise.
Take a look at what is and isn’t working for you and make the necessary adjustments. This isn’t limited to what is and isn’t making you money but also whether you’re enjoying what you’re working on. I think adaptability is one of the most essential characteristics for a digital entrepreneur to succeed. Do what you can to develop your flexibility and openness to change, and you’ll be well on your way to digital nomad success!
Remember, everybody is different, and the way you work has to work for you. You’ll learn so much about yourself in your first year or two as a digital nomad. Regardless of the exact approach you develop, these tips will steer you in the direction of success in the world of the digital nomad.
Are you a new digital nomad? Did you find these tips helpful? Have anything to add? If so, let us know in the comments below!
About the Author
- In March 2014, Diana called it quits on her traditional American working life and set out to explore the world with her partner in crime (and love of her life) Ian Norman. They now live a sustainable life of full time travel, working for themselves and seeking adventure at the same time. Here on North to South, Diana documents their journey in achieving and maintaining this "road less traveled" way of life.
- Books and Reading2019.01.2119 Books to Inspire You to Follow Your Dreams, Be Yourself, and Get Sh*t Done in the New Year
- Travel Life2019.01.14Our Year in Review: New Heights, New Wheels, and a Refreshed Photography Focus 
- Travel Life2019.01.11We Bought a Van! And this is our plan…
- Travel Gear2018.11.20North to South’s Gear of the Year 2018