April 28th, 2018
We are now entering a period of human history I like to call "the Age of Office Obsolescence". A Gallup Poll released in February 2017 found that 43% of Americans spend at least some of their time working remotely. Despite this, many people continue to commute to work, only to sit all day at a computer and carry out tasks that could be done from literally anywhere that has a WiFi connection. I think we're on the cusp of a revolution in how people work. While remote work isn't quite mainstream yet, it is still possible for the average person to work and travel full time.
I know this because I am an average person and, for the past year or so, I have made all of my income as a freelance writer. There are hundreds of online blogs which have published my work. When I tell this to people, I'm often met with the response "and you earn a living from that?!", to which the answer is yes. I even earn well above the minimum wage I was earning in my previous job. This is all done from my laptop, wherever in the world that happens to be.
I'm now starting to write a book on this lifestyle, so if you're dreaming of the digital nomad, location-independent work structure, then read on for my top five tips for achieving this.
1) Don't Be Afraid of Lost Income
So not everyone has the luxury I had of being poor. I went from working nights in a department store to becoming unemployed. Freelancing for me was always going to be a step up from where I was. However, I did have opportunities. With a degree from a good university, it was possible for me to land a decent office job and be earning above average income quickly. The trial shifts in offices and aggressive interviews were enough to put me off though and I chose to pursue my passion, despite the potential lost income.
You need to remember that once you've transitioned to location independence, you can work from literally anywhere. I moved from my home country of England to Poland, where rent and living costs are roughly half. This means I am able to take a 50% pay cut, with no decrease in living standards. Even now, I'm staying in a central location in Warsaw, where living costs are much higher than, say, Thailand. You could rent a decent Bangkok apartment for $135 a month, for something that would cost a New Yorker upwards of $1000. So if losing income is concerning you, think about the savings you could make by living abroad.
2) Find a Community
Whatever it is you want to do, be it marketing or poetry, there will be many others already doing it. (DM me if you want to become a freelance writer). Search for these people on Instagram, Facebook and anywhere else online. One of the biggest things holding you back is probably a fear of the unknown - a belief that it isn't possible. Find real people who are already doing it for tips and inspiration. The digital nomad community is full of people following their passions and as a result there isn't the competitive office politics you get in regular jobs. Everyone is doing their own thing and supporting others to do the same.
By surrounding yourself with positive influences, you will feel motivated. If you stay stuck in the same office cubicle, with the same people, you'll never come to understand that a different life is possible. I hate the term 'networking', but interacting with people already living the freelance lifestyle could provide work opportunities.
3) Start Off Slowly
Becoming location independent doesn't happen overnight. When I received my first freelance writing pay cheque in February 2017, I earnt £10 (about $14) in a month. Clearly, this isn't enough to live off. I was over the moon about it, though! Someone paid me for doing something I enjoy and had published it online with my name attached. It was a piece on passive income and, though I wasn't earning passive income at the time, it felt so good to share my knowledge of a topic and be paid for creating something of value. You need to celebrate these little victories. My only goal after that was to see if I could earn more the next month. Even £11 would have been a step forward.
It doesn't matter how long it takes. Once you've achieved a small win, you have a new baseline to build upon. By August that year, I had a regular income that would allow me to book a flight and live abroad for as long as I wanted. This is much faster progress than I could have ever dreamed of, but don't worry if it takes a little longer. Every step forward is another step you never have to take again.
4) Finding Your Passion
Passion is a word that I've already overused in this article, but it's really the key to everything. Sure, you can setup an online business and make millions, but money should always be second to doing what you love. Unless making money is your passion, of course. In which case, that's great too! However, for most people, freelancing might be less lucrative than a traditional day job.
In order to get past the struggles of doing unpaid work while you build a portfolio or a client pulling out last minute, you have to really love what you do. For me, writing is something I've always felt comfortable doing and it seemed a natural career path. Beyond that, I have a deep love for philosophy, politics and travel. As a writer, you can't only love writing. Otherwise, you'd only write about writing. My book is about the lessons of Diogenes (my favourite Ancient Greek philosopher), but it's also about freedom as a concept and how to approach 21st Century life. By taking an interest in concepts such as wellbeing and liberty, I have created a niche for me to slot right into.
For others, maybe finding a passion isn't so easy. Perhaps though, you just want to be free and travel the world. In which case, it's okay to take up work that you don't necessarily love. Maybe you can work as an online tutor or affiliate marketer. If it earns you the income to live the kind of life that makes you happy, then it is absolutely worth doing.
5) Simplify Your Desires
Without getting political, many people are trapped by consumerism. If you're going to work on the road full time, you might find that you can't afford all the things you take for granted right now. When I first hit the road to work, I was staying in some pretty awful and overcrowded hostels. I got used to sleeping on a thin mattress, in a room full of strangers and taking cold showers. Now in a privately rented room in a fairly nice apartment, I'm grateful that I know I can live without many of the luxuries I have today.
One of the things that helped me adopt this wanderer lifestyle is cutting back my possessions. My ultra-light packing list fits into a 20 litre backpack. Travelling is difficult and exhausting. By getting my possessions down to the bare minimum, I'm able to just focus on the things that are important. For me, that's my work. Since I usually only have one outfit available in the morning, I don't waste time deciding what to wear. This means that the only real decisions I have to make are what words to put down on the page. The brain can become tired quickly if overstimulated. Simplifying and slowing down can help it reach its potential. Deciding what is important and cutting everything else out is the most efficient way to achieve any goal in life.
Taking the plunge into a life of location independence may be scary, but with the five tips above you can't go wrong. It's a case of slowly building your income, while simultaneously cutting living costs. This will ensure you have the highest objectively measurable life quality, while feeling emotionally and spiritually fulfilled.
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