We all know these pictures of bronzed, smiling nomads with their laptop and a cocktail on the beach. Sorry to burst your bubble, but being a digital nomad isn’t all that idyllic. But hey, don’t even think about bringing your laptop to the beach! Sand will get in your keyboard, that cocktail might spill over it and you‘ll get a headache from trying to read your screen in the blazing sun. What other mistakes can be avoided? Esther Jacobs and André Gussekloo, authors of the guide Digital Nomads: How to Live, Work & Play Around the World give us 10 tips to avoid the most common digital nomad errors.
1. Having no income
The whole idea behind the digital nomad lifestyle is one of sustainable travel supported by a stable or growing income. If you don’t have that income, you’re more like a backpacker on an extended trip, who always has to return home when the money runs out. Of course, there is nothing wrong about funding your travels with your savings while trying to set up your online business. More often than not, it makes perfect sense to start your freelancing career or internet business in a cheaper place than back home.
2. Not bringing back-up bank cards
André once withdrew money in Thailand, but forgot to take his card back. A huge facepalm moment, he readily admits. To add insult to injury, he found this out days later and couldn’t locate the ATM anymore. His bank didn’t want to send a new card to a temporary address because he was registered with them at his Spanish address. To cut a long story short, he had to jump through a lot of hoops to finally get a new bank card sent out to Thailand, which took over a month. If he hadn’t had cards for different bank accounts, he would have had to beg for money (which we’ve seen other digital nomads do – and that’s not a pretty sight).
Once a year, when Esther visits her father in Miami, she buys a new Apple computer and iPhone. Every year, ING blocks her credit card due to ‘suspicious activity in the Apple store’. It takes days to get the card working again. Luckily she has enough back-up: two credit cards, two bank cards, and a Paypal account.
On a small Greek island, André’s Spanish debit card was rejected in all ATMs, and at many places worldwide they refuse to take his –or anyone’s– American Express card. We’re now prepared for anything: we bring cash, as well as credit cards for the Amex, VISA and Mastercard networks. We hope you are, too!
3. Planning everything in advance
When you’re setting out on your first big trip, it’s understandable that you’re a little worried about things like finding a hotel, staying safe, and getting work done. Many new nomads book all their flights in advance, thus limiting the time they can stay in one place. A decision often regretted as the flight date gets nearer. Try to resist the temptation to plan, book and arrange everything in advance. You never know who you run into, what city or island turns out to be ‘hot’, or what business opportunities cross your path. Ideally, you’d have just a one-way flight into the country and a room for a few nights, allowing you to recover from your jet lag and to make plans once you’re there.
4. Wanting to see and do everything
André: “One thing I am definitely guilty of, is wanting to do and see everything once I’m someplace new. However, visiting the must-sees can often be a disappointing affair; standing in line and dodging selfie sticks to take a photo of a building or landscape – but only after passing row after row of tourist stalls.”
Esther has decided she’d rather feel like a local and prefers to stay in one place for a month at a time, getting to know that area well, instead of seeing a little bit of everything. It’s up to you, but remember your energy is limited and sightseeing takes a lot of it.
5. Failing to scale your business
No change, no progress. You will want to keep developing yourself – personally and professionally. Even if you’re a freelancer, there are things you can do to scale your business and make passive income. That’s right – waking up in the morning and seeing some extra dollars, or euros, or pounds, in your account. There are only so many hours in a day, so the only way to grow your business is by serving more people at a time. In some cases, this means stripping your business back to its bare bones and drawing up a new plan of attack. Fortunately, there are many online programs like Natalie Sissons Freedom Plan that help you with this.
6. Trying to re-invent the wheel
You are not the only ‘weirdo’ leaving the safety of a home and (in most cases) a job behind to pursue their dreams of location independent entrepreneuring. You can save yourself a lot of time and effort by learning from others who’ve been there and done that. Books about the digital nomad lifestyle, blogposts about travel hacking, YouTube tutorials on affiliate marketing – everything has been discovered and documented.
7. Wanting to do everything by yourself
Of course, hitting the digital nomad trail is very much about finding yourself and working on your own project. But traveling is a lot more fun when you connect with other nomads, as well as the locals. By networking, you also increase your chances of being successful in business; you will be connected to the right people and organisations.
8. Being too loud about your lifestyle
Since you aren’t stealing local jobs and you’re importing cash, the consensus among digital nomads is to get a tourist visa and play the tourist. However nice and friendly those expats and foreign retirees ‘on the ground’ may be, some can get annoyed with digital nomads and tell on them. Likewise, if you must blog about the destination you’re visiting, you better do so after leaving the place, or by being vague about your exact whereabouts (tell your readers you’re in South East Asia instead of Indonesia). After all, you never know which government agency or immigration service has taken to online screening.
9. Not trusting others with your work
When you’re growing your business, there comes a point when you need to hire help. Since many digital nomads choose to go where the cost of living is lower, they have more money to spend or invest back into their business. If you find yourself at this point, ask yourself whether you’re being too much of a control freak. Hiring outside help (a.k.a. outsourcing) means letting go and trusting in others to do the work as well as you would.
One good strategy to finding the right freelancer is posting a small job on a freelancer marketplace like Upwork. Make a shortlist of suitable candidates and have them do the exact same job, so you can see whose style, speed, precision and quality best suit your business. Once you’ve picked your coder, designer, copywriter or VA, you can award progressively larger projects.
10. Dating a local
If you find yourself lonely on your travels, there are various apps and meetups allowing you to meet other nomads or locals. Dating another nomad may sound like fun, but can be complicated: often your plans and travels go in different directions. However, if you fall in love with a local, you’ll be faced with a tough choice: leave the love of your life to continue traveling, or settle down with them? That means letting go of another love: travel, freedom, pioneering. Let’s hope you can convince them to try the digital nomad lifestyle out, if only for a while…
WORKSHOP: Are you considering a location independent lifestyle? Are you already on the road or preparing to leave your home country behind? Check out Esther’s next Digital Nomad workshop. This workshop could be the start of your new life…