Discover your digital nomad “why” and “how”
Welcome to Week 1 of the free course: How to Quit Your Job and Become a Digital Nomad in 90 Days.
The first question that needs to be answered when deciding whether or not to become a digital nomad is simply how are you going to make a living? While there are hundreds of websites you can use to make money online as a hobby, if you want to make a full-time living, you’ll need to do some serious brainstorming.
By the end of this week you should be well on your way to understanding your digital nomad “why” and “how”. Feel free to read one day’s lesson at a time rather than the entire article at once.
Before we get started, let me share with you a little bit about how I’m currently earning as a digital nomad.
How I make money as a digital nomad freelancer
While you can expect to hear more of my story as the months progress, I just wanted to briefly share what I’m doing right now to make a living.
My self-proclaimed job description will probably make most of your eyes’ glaze over, but I’m a content marketer who specializes in B2B and SaaS companies. In layman’s terms, that means I blog for businesses. However, this isn’t all I do. I also ghost write for executives and consultants, develop marketing strategies for startups, and even do the occasional business coaching!
This is what I love about being self-employed – you have the flexibility to do what you want, try new things, and take time off when you want it (although that’s not always as easy as it sounds). If something is boring or offers low profitability, simply drop it and try something new!
Since I’ve left my traditional job, I’m able to spend most of my day working on freelance projects for clients that I find on Upwork, Indeed, Freelancer, or through referrals from current clients or my own sites.
Meanwhile, I spend a few minutes here and there on Fiverr and SEOClerk – where I sell tweets from a few novelty accounts and sometimes offer random tips/advice. While I make between $0-$300/month from these sites, some people earn $5000+ a month use these two tools!
And while “now money” is necessary for survival, I know that the key to financial success is making your money work for you – which I do two different ways. First, I invest through a variety of investment platforms (my favorite of which is real estate investing through Fundrise). I also keep much of my savings in a Betterment rainy day fund so I can earn a relatively-secure 2-3% return rather than the miniscule 0.25% savings account rates.
Second, I’ve just started investing more time and energy into this blog, Money Nomad, which is now earning me a few hundred bucks a month – not too shabby for a passion project! You can start a blog in 20 minutes or less and it might just turn into a money making machine (like it did for some of these digital nomads). I’ve discovered that blogging helps me land more jobs, but also seems to be a valuable business in and of itself.
And that’s it! As you can see, if you find a way to make money on your own schedule as a freelancer or consultant, you can then take control of your time and start investing it into other projects (such as businesses, eBooks, courses, blogs, extensive travel, etc.) while still paying the bills.
Now, let’s begin the process of making you a digital nomad. The course begins!
The course format
Each week I’ll list six days worth of activities to help you progress from employee to digital nomad over the next 3 months. Plan to spend an average of two hours per day working on these projects (possibly less this first week) if you’re serious about your transition to self-employed freelancer/consultant. If you put in the time to work smart, you will succeed.
Each day will consist of five elements:
- A quote: Who doesn’t love a bit of motivation?
- Daily thought: A few thoughts on how to continue your journey.
- Daily tasks (do these!): A short list of tasks/projects to guide you towards becoming a digital nomad.
- A success story: Motivation from a wide range of digital nomads (and others).
- Resources: Helpful tools, courses, books, etc., to enhance your success.
Commit to reading and doing one day’s activity for six days next week, and you’ll be a successful freelance, consultant, or maybe even entrepreneur, in no time at all.
Week 1 schedule
This first week is all about exploring your passions, becoming familiar with the world of online business, and discovering how you to monetize your current skills and interests.
There are a plethora of ways you can make money online – the key is to figure out which one will work best for you.
As I previously mentioned, the goal of this course is to help you become a freelancer or consultant – not necessarily a YouTube star, blogger, or entrepreneur. Ultimately, you can transition from your freelance career into these other fields. However, if your first goal is immediate flexibility, you want to start by selling a service that others want – either as a consultant or freelancer.
In future weeks we will discuss more about establishing yourself as a traveler. But to start, we need to get your business up and running! Once you have remote income, living abroad becomes easy.
The schedule for week one is as follows…
Day 1: Defining success for you
Day 2: Discovering what you’re already famous for
Day 3: Choosing the right skill to monetize
Day 4: Selecting your niche focus
Day 5: Finding thought leaders and role models
Day 6: Taking the first step toward your first sale
Feel free to read through this entire series at once, or simply bookmark the page and return each day. But don’t forget! If you truly want to become a self-employed digital nomad, then the key is to put in the time. Provided you are willing to study, research, and work, you will succeed. Sure, a few ideas might flop (plenty of mine have), but you’ll discover something that works very quickly.
Here’s a quick infographic about freelancing, and then onto day 1!
Day 1: Defining success for you
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Albert Schweitzer
When was the last time you stopped to think about why you are where you are? For most of us, our jobs, hobbies, and even political views are all the result of social influences. You pursue the degree your parents suggest, go to the university your friends recommend, base your political views on the part of the country where you grew up, and arrange your schedule to keep your boss happy.
Then, one day you wake up and realize that you’re living somebody else’s dream. Between the fear of failure and the fear of disappointing others, you’ve been chasing a blasé life. Sure, it could be a good life, maybe even a great life – but it’s not your life. It’s time to change that!
Becoming a digital nomad is not an escape – as problems will follow you wherever you go. However, becoming a digital nomad is a reset! Whether your dream is to work for yourself forever, or simply travel for a few months and return home, becoming a digital nomad allows you to regain control of your schedule (a key to happiness) and discover new cultures, places, and possibilities.
Most people spend more time planning their vacations than their futures. Don’t make this transition another haphazard attempt to find escape something you don’t enjoy. Instead, decide what your dream life will look like – and pursue that. Once you know what you’re working towards, and are convinced that it’s worth it, you’ll be able to keep up the motivation necessary to stay committed.
- Find a quiet place where you can be alone to evaluate why you want to become a digital nomad – and write it down. What do you hope to achieve? What will your day look like? Where will you be and what will you be doing? I guarantee that this transition will be a lot of work – so today you simply need to find that motivation.
I was recently introduced to Hans Hageman.
Hans was living what many people would have called the dream life – as a lawyer and nonprofit CEO earning a good six figures. However, as he approached 50, he realized this wasn’t his dream. He wanted more flexibility over his own schedule – and he wanted to know that he was truly making a difference. So he quit his job in New York, moved up state, and now does consulting and writing for a variety of businesses. Although he’s not earning as much as he used to, he loves his life.
As Hans realized, living your dream life isn’t about achieving what others consider success – but about discovering and doing what makes you feel fulfilled. Don’t chase dollars or power. Instead, do what makes you come alive.
- One of my top 5 favorite movies of all time is 3 Idiots. Although I’m not usually a fan of foreign films, this Bollywood movie will have you laughing, crying, and ready to change the world. Don’t judge this movie by it’s cover – it’s awesome!
- Live Your Legend offers a variety of great free tools for discovering your purpose. There’s also an incredible story behind the site, which is run by Chelsea Dinsmore.
- The Purpose Driven Life is another great resource for discovering how to develop a meaningful and impactful life.
Day 2: Discovering what you’re already famous for
“Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.” – David Frost
Most of us already have a reputation for something – and this is a great place to start when trying to decide on a skill or interest to monetize. Think about the last few months – when did people come to you for help or advice? What problem were they trying to solve?
Although this may not give you your golden ticket to freelance/consulting riches, it can certainly shed some insights on where your strengths lie. Friends, family, and coworkers can often recognize and assess our strengths better than we can.
When establishing a new life direction – especially one that will require ample self-motivation (such as becoming a digital nomad) – it’s critical to find a way to make money that successfully merges your skills with your interests. You want to find something that can pay the bills while still giving you the enthusiasm to get out of bed in the morning.
Through self evaluation and the input of others, you can discover what your strengths are – and how they might align with your dream career!
This is the last day of reflection – then we’ll get to the real stuff! 😉
- Compile a list of all your skills. Include what you do for work, what you do for fun, software you may use, things you’ve studied, your hobbies, etc.. Try to make this list as long, and as detailed, as possible.
- Create a list of your interests and passions. What do you love doing? What are you constantly talking about, reading about, and thinking about? Make this list as long as possible.
- Optional: Get feedback from others about these lists, What are the skills and interests that your friends and family see in you? Perhaps there are a few things you missed!
How do you handle being verbally abused, and ultimately fired, by a crummy boss? I recently met Caitlin who went through this and shares her experience in an awesome story that she refers to as From Fired to Freedom. After being let go from what was definitely not a healthy work environment, Caitlin made the most of her skillsets to become a freelance proofreader. Her first year she earned $47,000!
But that’s not the end. Realizing that other people may want to learn how to proofread as well, she packaged her knowledge into a course, ProofreadAnywhere, and now makes a full time living helping others learn how to make money proofreading. And, after success with this first course she partnered with a friend, Janet, to launch TranscribeAnywhere – a course that reveals how to make a living as a freelance transcriptionist. The flexibility of her work has allowed Caitlin and her husband to spend the last year working and traveling through South America!
Why do I like Caitlin’s story so much? First off, she made the most of a bad situation and came out WAY ahead using skills she already had. Second, her story is an incredible example of how freelancing can lead to a successful business. Once you discover how to make money on your own schedule as a solopreneur, it becomes possible to invest a portion of your time into growing a business, blog, etc. – something that’s far harder to do when you’re required to commit 40+ hours to a day job.
- For an incredibly motivating audiobook, I recommend listening to Lead the Field by Earl Nightingale. While listening to this book you’ll be more than inspired to get to work!
- I also want to share two short free courses offered by Caitlin from our success story. She provides a free 7 day course on making money as a proofreader and, in partnership with Janet, offers another free mini-course on how to become a transcriptionist.
Day 3: Choosing the right skill to monetize
“Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” – Jim Rohn
You can’t be good at everything. You’re either mediocre at a lot or exceptional at little. And let me tell you, people pay good money for exceptional work. While I can earn anywhere from $50-100 an hour writing on business topics – when I try to write about fashion or design, I’m suddenly earning $10 an hour. Definitely not worth my time! Even for my own blog, trying to develop exceptional title images in PicMonkey takes me far too long – which is why I hire someone on Fiverr to create these for me.
Lesson one: become excellent in one field, and do that.
But don’t commit to the first skill that enters your head. Take time to ensure that there’s actually a market for that service – and one that pays well. Ask yourself: how many people/businesses actually use this service, and what are they willing to pay? Although someone may pay you to make origami animals, there probably isn’t a lot of demand for that service. Particularly when compared to writing, graphic design, or startup consulting. People pay to have their problems solved – so solve a problem. Additionally, keep in mind that businesses are usually willing to pay more than individuals (although you can do well selling advice/services to individuals as well).
Lesson two: pursue a skill that solves a problem – usually around money, relationships, or a specific hobby.
Keep these two lessons in mind as you pursue today’s activities.
- Spend 30-45 minutes exploring the gigs on Fiverr and SEOClerk. Take a look at the categories, the number of sales, and the popularity of these gigs. Take note of any that you might be interested in doing.
- Spend another 30-45 minutes looking at the job categories and lists on Upwork and Freelancer. Read the job descriptions and take note of which jobs and categories most match with your skills and interests.
- Decide which skill you will pursue! After seeing what people pay for, and comparing that with your skills and interests, choose a skill. Anything is game – writing, social media management, transcribing, dating profile optimization, web design consulting, etc.. Just be realistic about the demand and your ability to deliver results. You can always select something else later if this skill doesn’t seem to be the right fit.
- What if you still don’t have a skillset that can be monetized? If you don’t feel qualified for any of these tasks, then just pick something that you think you might enjoy. Decide to become a great blog writer, learn how to create dynamic images with PicMonkey, become an expert Pinterst manager with Tailwind, or practice creating infographics using Venngage. These are all basic skillsets that can grow into high-paying freelance opportunities.
Caroline Beaton has a liberal arts degree in psychology. What good is that?! At first thought, not much. However, after discovering that a career as a psychologist researcher wasn’t her dream, Caroline committed herself to becoming a consultant sharing how millennials can thrive in the workforce by effectively using psychology.
She now writes, consults, and speaks using stats and practical advice to benefit both businesses and employees – and she’s written for Forbes, Huffington Post, and Inc, and a variety of other impressive outlets. Although not a digital nomad, Caroline’s work can certainly be done remotely!
As you brainstorm what skill you may be able to monetize, get creative! Perhaps a degree or experience that you thought was worthless could actually turn into something profitable.
- Brennan Dunn charges $500+ hour as a freelancer and has created a course that shows how it’s done! I’ve actually just subscribed to his free 9 lesson course Charge What You’re Worth and am currently loving it. Worth checking out if you want to maximize your freelancing income.
- The team over at Freshbooks has created a free parable/story on learning how to charge what you’re really worth. It’s a quick read that I wish I had skimmed a few years ago.
Day 4: Selecting your niche focus
“Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Always remember that people pay for what they believe is valuable. This is why a 2nd rate wedding photographer can make $2,000 in a weekend, but an amatuer wildlife photographer is lucky to earn $2,000 in a year – we value our own wedding pictures more than generic zebra snapshots.
When it comes to deciding a niche to focus on, think about the value that you are providing to others. Odds are, you won’t make much money playing the guitar if you try to sell your music. However, if you teach lessons, write jingles, or develop a website that sells other people’s music, you can do quite well!
That’s why the next step, after discovering what skill set you’ll monetize, is to find a profitable niche. The more value to contribute to others, the better you’ll do.
How do you find the perfect profitable niche?
- Select an area that is broad, but requires specific knowledge (a business writer makes far more than a travel writer because of the specialization).
- Choose a topic that you will enjoy, so you don’t mind putting in the needed time to become an expert.
- Choose a topic that you are already knowledgeable about whenever possible. The more you already know, the faster you can deliver results (the key to making money as a freelancer/consultant).
- Be flexible. I initially thought I would just ghost write for leadership coaches. However, most of my work now comes from businesses that sell products/services to other businesses. By being flexible I was able to follow the money.
As you find a creative way to separate your skill set from the competition through an appropriate niche, you’ll open up the doors to making far more money and establishing yourself as an industry thought leader.
- Settle on a niche. Between the research you did yesterday and your own interests, decide how you will specialize within the skillset you’ve decided to develop and monetize.
- Create a deliverable within that niche! Over the next 1-2 hours, create something using your selected skillset and niche. That could be a marketing campaign, an article, a jingle, an edit image – you name it. And finish it today, so it better be a small project. What should you focus it on? If you don’t have clients, create something for yourself, a friend, a nonprofit, or Money Nomad (I will share it)! The goal is to simply produce something using your skillset and in your niche.
My brother is a legend in his own time. Although not a digital nomad (yet), he is certainly a globe trotter. For the last two years Steve has worked with ASAP in Cambodia, providing assistance for schools and vocational programs.
While many of my more altruistic friends have struggled to find work with NGOs, Steve has never had that problem. In fact, twice he has volunteered himself into a job that he loves. He simply starts assisting with a cause he believes in and, because he does it with excellence, pretty soon someone offers him a paycheck!
As a freelancer or consultant, don’t hesitate to start by working for free. If you focus on a niche you love, and do it well, it won’t be long before people start paying you for it. And who doesn’t want to be paid to do what they love?
- If you want to easily publish content (pictures, infographics, blog posts, etc.) without setting up your own website — then publish your content on HubPages. They take care of promotion and advertising, sending you 70% of what your articles earn. It’s a great way to build a portfolio and credibility. I’ve actually earned over $1,000 with my articles on HubPages (largely from my most popular one on what to do when you wet your pants)
- For writers, check out these articles to help decide on a niche: 12 Great Freelance Writing Gigs, 67 Freelance Writing Niches, and 101 Niches to Write About.
Day 5: Finding thought leaders and role models
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
One of the easiest ways to succeed at anything is to find those who are doing it best and copy them! That’s essentially what education is. And, in business, we just call it “best practices”.
Thanks to the vast networking and community building opportunities provided by the web, it’s a breeze to find the leaders in a specific field. Using Google, social media, forums and other websites, you can find those who are considered industry thought leaders. In fact, as you read up on a specific topic, you’ll discover that the same few people keep coming up! These are the people you want to become familiar with.
If your goal is to create infographics, figure out who the best designers are. If your plan is to write about healthcare, find the leading healthcare bloggers. Then interact with them. Share their content, comment, ask questions, maybe even buy their products. The more familiar you can become with these individuals and their work, the better off you’ll do.
- Find at least 5 industry thought leaders and follow them. Subscribe to their blog, follow them on Twitter, etc. Just make sure you can easily keep up to date on what they’re doing.
- Create a deliverable that emulates their style. Pick one of the thought leaders and create a deliverable that matches their style, formatting, focus, etc.. Again, this should just take 1-2 hours, but create something that follows their process and style. Even if it’s almost an exact copy, that’s fine! Although you won’t want to sell it, this is a great way to practice and become familiar with your niche’s best practices.
As I recently shared, Kelsey from TealMama just landed her first recurring freelance client! How did she do it? Well, she committed to putting in the time and working hard, but she also committed to learning as much as she could. She sought out those who were already succeeding and studied what they did – even purchasing a course from one of these thought leaders.
If you want to quickly achieve success in your field, don’t try to do everything from scratch yourself. Learn from those who are already doing it well and build off of their foundation.
- When trying to find industry thought leaders, start by searching for appropriate keywords on Google, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
- Find and follow trade publications, blogs, and forums that discuss your specialty.
Day 6: Taking the first step toward your first sale
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain
Do you know what the biggest hindrance is for most people eager to become a digital nomad? Getting started! By the time we finish daydreaming and imagining everything necessary to pursue our dream, we’re completely exhausted – without any energy left to make things happen. To overcome this, the key is to break everything down into small tasks that are easy to accomplish.
For example, let’s say you need to create (or change) your blog’s newsletter service – something I just recently did. This can seem incredibly overwhelming and sit on your to-do list for a long time. However, if you break it down into a series of smaller tasks, it suddenly becomes much easier to accomplish.
Rather than looking at the whole process, each day take the process one step closer. Day 1, pick a provider (I just switched from MailChimp to Aweber). Day 2, connect it to SumoMe (or any other lead generation tools you might use). Day 3, move over your contacts (or create a subscription form). Day 4, format your first newsletter using the new service.
If you get exhausted just thinking about a task, it’s probably not a task – but a project. Break projects down into tasks and you’ll accomplish far more (without feeling overwhelmed).
When it comes to accomplishing this digital nomad course, this means that you should do each day’s activities! Because they’re broken down into smaller steps, making this transition should appear far less intimidating – although still incredibly time consuming!
- Create a freelance profile. If you haven’t done it already, jump on Upwork, Fiverr, or Freelancer and create a profile. We’ll make your profile perfect later – but still put some effort into your title, description, and profile picture. And add the two projects you’ve completed this week as samples!
- Apply to at least three projects (or volunteer). If you are using Upwork or Freelancer that means actually sending out proposals. If you decide to create your profile on Fiverr, than list three gigs for sale. If you don’t feel free to sell on either site, offer your services for free to a cause or organization that could use the help.
Some digital nomads don’t worry about money much at all – focusing instead on trading their skills for lodging, food, and experiences. One great example of this is Lukas of Good Things Everywhere.
Lukas spent two years traveling the world helping nonprofits in exchange for the bare necessities. Although he would work for money as well (we all have bills to pay), most of his work focused around making a positive impact on organizations striving to change the world. As you can see from his site, it was quite an adventure.
Although Lukas was already a skilled designer and photographer, following in his footsteps is a brilliant idea for someone just getting started! While people may not pay you much, especially if you don’t have a portfolio, few people turn down free work. Why not develop your portfolio by volunteering?
- Upwork and Fiverr! If you haven’t setup a profile on at least one of these and tried to land a few jobs, you’re missing out. End this week by getting on these sites and setting up your profile.
Week one ends: The journey begins!
In all reality, three months from now you could be sitting on any beach in the world exploring a new culture and trying new foods. Or, if you prefer, you could be working from your home office – free to attend every one of your kids baseball games and music performances.
Either way, you’re on the right track.
Making the transition from employee to solopreneur isn’t difficult. It just requires a clear process and a time commitment. These courses over the next few weeks should help you with the process – now it’s up to you to put in the time!
If there are any questions, thoughts, or comments that came up while reading this post and completing the daily activities, feel free to reach out! If I can’t answer your questions myself, I’ll find someone who can.
Next week we’ll discuss how to prepare your personal finances for the digital nomad lifestyle – ensuring that the transition is seamless and painless. We’ll also dive deeper into understanding you freelance niche and see if we can help you land that first client!
For the comments:
- As you read through this week’s insights and activities, what questions came to mind?
- Is there anything else that should be added to this post? I plan to continually update this series – so recommendations are always welcome.
Return to How to Quit Your Job and Become a Digital Nomad in 90 Days: Getting Started to view other weeks’ content.