Are you planning to become a digital nomad? Are you dreaming about sunny beaches or glamorous European cafes? Are you planning an escape from an uncertain political climate (any reference to Trump or Brexit are purely coincidental). Preparation is key: from taxation to residence, from accommodation to languages, the learning curve is deep.
There are so many preconceived ideas about being a digital nomad. I remember when I became self-employed to work as a massage therapist, and most people’s comments at the time were that I was lucky that I could do a job that was very mobile. In other words, they were highlighting the fact that I could literally work anywhere in the world. The truth is that the provision of services where you are required to be physically present in any one location, is not a straightforward matter. Without going too much into the detail, to establish yourself as a service provider where you have to turn up for work and convince clients to work with you means that you need to invest about a year of your time. Once you become established, you are likely to work 6-7 days a week. Exhaustion will set in and, if you are successful, you won’t be able to scale up your service unless you employ other people. Not only you become resentful of your working conditions and the inability to travel, but you are also location-dependent. Not exactly a nomad.
After 10 years working as a self-employed massage therapist, I launched my writing business in earnest, although I had been nurturing my blog/website alongside the therapies business.
Providing digital services is truly a location-independent business, so in this case comments from people saying you can take your work anywhere in the world make sense, as long as there is a good internet connection and you have a strong network of contacts.
However, from blogs and vlogs I am seeing a lot of content about scouring for internet connections, packing tips, travel hacks and building revenue streams (eg, from selling online books, products, courses and so on). Not enough is being said about taxation, for example. Getting hit with a large and unexpected tax bill happens more often than not, and it can severely curtail any future travel plans.
Disclaimer: this blog is not intended to be considered to offer any professional advice, but it is simply a reminder to do as much research as possible before launching your digital nomad career.
I found Digital Capitalist on YouTube and I thought their content was very good. There are so many factors you need to consider when it comes to taxation that are linked to citizenship and residence. I suggest you browse through their website. An interesting issue that is worth investigating is the case of dual citizenship. Some passports are more valuable than others and, although what you find in the media may suggest certain countries over others for travelling, taxation is a whole different game. Have a look, for example, at this article about dual citizenship. While you may not be planning to live and work in countries that are recommended in the article, I think it is worth finding out more about taxation in the country of your destination versus your country of origin. The recommendation is to speak to a specialist tax advisor and people who have plenty of experience of location-independent work.
Build a Business First, Travel Second
I would recommend to watch Chris the Freelancer on YouTube as his videos are very informative and detailed. He suggests to build your freelance business, start networking and start saving well in advance of your travels. His channel features interviews with other digital nomads: some of them are very established and have a wealth of knowledge to share. You can find Chris’ free guide on how to be a digital nomad his website.
Saving for a pension scheme is often overlooked by digital nomads. No matter what your age is, the sooner you start putting money aside for your pension, the better (and cheaper). Once again, ask for professional advice about how to invest your money. Also, a good read about planning to become a digital nomad is this article from The Guardian.
Is the Digital Nomad Lifestyle Right for You?
You need to evaluate all the pros and cons of being a digital nomad. As Chris the Freelancer explained in the video above, sometimes having a permanent job that pays for holidays, sick days and insurance might be a more suitable solution. This option would allow you to still travel while keeping financial security. The choice, as they say, is yours.