by Spencer Spellman, one of our favorite travel bloggers and soon-to-be travel guide!
I’m a digital nomad, self-employed, freelancer, workshifter, or whatever the latest buzz term is. That means I can work anywhere; well almost anywhere, at least somewhere that has a decent Internet connection 90% of the day. I do a little bit of everything, with most of my work taking place and existing online. I’m a writer, blogger, and consultant to the travel industry. Sounds like the dream job right? What you see are the far-flung destinations and the Instagramed food and drink photos, but there’s more than meets the eye.
I’ve been doing this for nearly two years, but before talking about what it’s given me and why I don’t want to do anything else, let’s discuss what I’ve given up. I’ve given up what most employees would refer to as the “perks” of a job. I don’t get any vacation time or sick days. There’s no travel stipend or bonus. There is no insurance, retirement, or benefits unless I pay out of pocket for it. There’s no water cooler talk or work happy hour. I don’t have an office and there’s not much of a community, unless I find a fellow nomad to work with or a co-working space. A person like myself isn’t doing this for the “perks”. You do it for the lifestyle.
Some days I work an hour, some days I work 12 hours. Some weeks I work on Saturdays and some weeks I take Thursday and Friday off. I wake up and start working when I want to. If I want to have a cocktail for lunch, then I have a cocktail. If I want to get out of the house and work, then I go to a café or to the park. The draw to being a digital nomad is the flexibility and lifestyle to work when and how you want. As the world becomes all the more connected, it makes it even easier for digital nomads to work, whether it’s from a café in San Francisco, a co-working space in London, or a beach bar in Bali.
Similar to major life decisions like going to college, entering the workforce, or moving across the country, becoming a digital nomad requires planning. One of the most important things is to know when to quit your current job. I didn’t quit until I had enough working enough hours digitally to equal the job I was preparing to quit. That meant the last month saw workdays of 70 to 80 hours.
Another important consideration is what you’ll be charging. This of course varies depending on your field, but it should be considerably more than what you would make from a day job. If you don’t factor in costs like benefits, phone/computer/internet charges, and other things that are typically covered by an employer, then you’ll undercut yourself and likely burn out or run out of money quickly.
Lastly is the question of whether to have a home base or not. I didn’t for nearly a year. I popped around North America, splitting my time primarily between Central America and the U.S. Missing some of the comforts of a home base, I’ve been living in San Francisco for the last year. However, I travel just as much, if not more, including a three-month trip this summer. To offset the costs, I just rent out my room on Airbnb.