The idea of life as a digital nomad is incredibly seductive.
As we tap away on laptops in the comfort of our living rooms, more and more independent journalists, copywriters, bloggers and editors are thinking, “Why can’t I do this abroad?”
With the prospect of working next to a tropical sea or exploring the ancient cities of Europe — all while furthering your career — it’s no wonder people are intrigued by location-independent work.
But there are practicalities to consider.
Simply being a freelancer won’t necessarily facilitate enough freedom to become a digital nomad, and while travel is usually a desirable goal, committing yourself fully to globetrotting may not be the best option.
If the convenience and ease of remote working has you thinking about traveling as you earn, here are some things you’ll have to think about before setting off as a traveling freelancer.
1. Is your client base strong enough?
It’s pretty likely you’ll have to look for new work while abroad, but having a few clients you can rely on — either for steady work or referring others —will make working abroad much less of a headache.
This lifestyle may well open up new opportunities for you, especially as there will be huge scope to widen your writing experience by providing stories to travel magazines and websites.
But heading out entirely into the cold probably isn’t a good idea if you are trying to craft a lifestyle rather than a short holiday.
Do you have a fairly reliable stream of income?
Are your clients happy with your work enough that they’ll be willing to forgive any issues you encounter getting an internet connection? Will you need to increase your skills in order to create new opportunities to earn money?
These are all questions it’s best to answer before you go, so you don’t find yourself on the other side of the world without the career you had been carefully building in your own country.
2. Are you prepared to make sacrifices?
We are inundated with images of perfect foreign shores. Yet, while there are amazing experiences to be had from travel, there’s nowhere in the world where you can permanently escape the realities of everyday life.
You may spend a lot of uncomfortable days traveling between locations, lose the sense of security of having all your things around you, have to carry as little as possible, go weeks without speaking to loved ones or have real trouble finding a suitable place to work.
If you can make it work abroad, any transitory issues will be well worth it.
However, if you’re the sort of person who likes their creature comforts and you don’t have the budget to make life as easy as possible, it may be worth considering working abroad on a short-term basis in order to see if it’s for you before committing.
3. Will accommodation be an issue?
Simply having a place to sleep that’s clean and not completely awful may be all you need if you’re only going to be away for a short time.
But if you plan to travel or settle abroad on a more long-term basis, good accommodation will be essential. There’s not much more likely to ruin your motivation and working habits than worries about where you’ll be staying that night, or living somewhere that depresses you.
Renting locally may be the most sensible and economical option if you plan on staying in certain areas for months at a time. Renting locally will also give you a much more authentic experience in an area, letting you really get to know a country. If your budget is extremely tight, house-sitting gigs or couch-surfing with the locals may be a way to facilitate your wanderlust on a shoestring.
Whatever you choose, it’s important to remember your surroundings will make up a huge part of your peace of mind; even in the most beautiful locations, staying somewhere that feels unsafe or unpleasant will have an impact on your enjoyment of this lifestyle.
4. Do you have an emergency fund?
Traveling on a shoestring may seem romantic (and would probably create loads of great writing material), but make sure you have the funds for any emergency that may crop up.
Being stranded, ill or completely broke in another country doesn’t seem like so much much of an adventure when you have no idea how you’re going to get out of the situation. Traveling needn’t involve having oodles of cash, but you do want enough to ensure nothing can go seriously wrong.
Keep some money squirreled away for emergencies only, avoiding the temptation dip into it if you ever fancy a treat.
5. Have you got patience for paperwork?
Unfortunately, becoming a digital nomad is one of those fun, adventurous and exciting things that involves an awful lot of incredibly boring bureaucracy.
Whether you’re sorting out taxes, trying to get visas or tackling any number of unexpected pieces of officialdom, if this is the sort of thing that drives you mad, committing to this lifestyle might be more trouble than it’s worth.
A few hours of mind-numbing form filling could be far from enough to put you off, but it’s important to be aware that a footloose and fancy-free lifestyle still comes with its own annoyances.
Have you taken your own writing work abroad? What other questions would encourage writers to ask before they pack their bags?