After a couple of failed forays into the traditional working world, I decided I never wanted to work for anyone else ever again. And for the past couple of years, I’ve been carving out a successful life as a digital nomad with a home base in Prague. I wasn’t born rich, and I didn’t win the lottery. I have this lifestyle because I worked hard to get it. And you can, too. It’s not rocket science. You just have to change your mindset.
Digital nomads work a lot, but we don’t mind
I’ve probably never worked harder in my life than I do right now. Sometimes I work 12 hours a day, sometimes I work weekends. The difference between working as a digital nomad and working for a company is that I work completely on my own terms, so I don’t have to adhere to anybody’s schedule but mine. And because I can turn down any projects I don’t want to do, I only ever work on what I choose to work on.
Working 12 hours a day sounds like it sucks, but when I work harder, I make more money. Working a lot feels worse when the only person making money off your efforts is someone else (especially if they’re an asshole). Since I work from home, I can also take needed breaks whenever I want. Being able to try a recipe or take a long shower in the middle of your work day is the perfect way to make work less of a drag.
Digital nomads know their strengths
Before I decided to move out of the US, I was a classroom teacher. It was thankless, exhausting work with shitty pay. But the ability to teach and the ability to speak English fluently is a very valuable skill that I realized I could get a lot more use out of outside of the classroom and outside of the US.
When people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m an English teacher for the sake of simplicity. That’s not technically true. In fact, teaching is just a small percentage of how I earn money now, because I’ve found ways to monetize my other skills. But I’ve kept all my favorite students, and I don’t mind teaching occasionally. Because I do a lot of what I’m good at and enjoy and very little of anything I don’t.
Digital nomads know how to get job security, and it’s not the way you’d think
One of the most stressful things about a traditional job is not 3-hour meetings, or having to work on tight deadlines, or dealing with people who are incompetent or obnoxious. It’s the fear that at any point, your company could decide that your job is extraneous and you’d be out of work. No matter how established or successful your company is, that’s always a risk.
Job security and true peace of mind comes from having various sources of income. At the moment, I have six jobs, most of which could be part-time or full-time if I wanted them to be. But I don’t work for any of these companies. I work for me. Some of these jobs I’m contracted for and never do, because I don’t enjoy them as much or because they pay less. But if one of my other jobs ever dried up, I would always have a way to make money full-time.
Digital nomads go where our skills are valued
One of my favorite bullshit things about the corporate world is that they like to think they’re doing you a favor by giving you the job of 3 people at once. Like you can live off the opportunity to learn new skills. No matter how good your company is, they’ll always try to squeeze the most out of their employees, because their bottom line is more important than your happiness.
The great thing about being a digital nomad is that you can find something you’re good at and you can find a lot of people that will pay you to do that thing – whether it’s writing, teaching, IT work, business or legal consulting. And if they want you to do more work or different work, they have to pay you more for that, because you’re not a 9-to-5 monkey at their company. You bill by the hour.
Digital nomads don’t waste any time
One of the things I realized when I was working in different companies is that no matter how much money you’re making, you can’t buy time. Whether you’re busy or not, you’re expected to be sitting in an office at least 40 hours a week on top of commuting every day to work. This robs you of time to have a life. So as a freelancer, I’ve reversed that pattern. All my time is mine and if a company needs something I can offer, they have to buy my time.
By the same token, I spend my free time wisely, because I know every second wasted is money I could have made. So I work when most people do nothing, like when you’re on a bus going from one place to another or when you’re waiting for a flight to board. And let me tell you, there’s nothing more satisfying than making $60 writing some fluff piece for a website while I wait for a flight.
Digital nomads never stop looking for work
Most people settle, and the business world depends on that, because they make the most money off of people who settle for less than they’re worth. But if you know this, then you never stop looking for jobs. I could have stuck with my first online teaching job – a job I still have – if I wanted to. But I would have missed out on way more flexible and way better paying opportunities. As much as I love teaching, I love being able to work at the airport more. So I kept looking. And when something better came along, I started to phase out gigs that weren’t as convenient.
And because I work remotely, I’m not competing for the 12 jobs in my field currently available in any given city. Digital nomads look for work all over the world, because somewhere in the world, there is someone who needs your skills. Sometimes the best jobs come from the unlikeliest of places (like expat Facebook groups), even when you’re not really looking. Keep your resume updated and never let a good opportunity pass you by.
Digital nomads know that freedom is worth more than money
I don’t make a lot of money. I make enough to do well where I live and to travel when I can. Society wants you to believe that you should constantly be striving to earn more. But there’s always a tradeoff. The more you earn, the more of your life you’re expected to dedicate to a job. That executive salary comes with a company phone and the need to answer calls at all hours during your personal time.
As a digital nomad, I don’t have to answer to anybody at any time. I never have to worry about whether my vacation time will be approved, or if I’ll be asked to work late. I can wake up on a Tuesday and decide I don’t feel like working, and I don’t even have to notify anybody. I won’t work mornings, and I won’t work in an office, because I simply don’t feel like it. And no one can make me, because my salary is not contingent on any of these arbitrary “business” things. And that is more important to me than making a lot of money.