Embracing remote work and becoming a digital nomad is a life-changing decision. However, employers who offer this kind of freedom in 2022 are in the early majority of the adoption curve. According to data scientists at Ladders, 25% of professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022, and remote opportunities will grow steadily throughout 2023. As recently as December 2019, remote jobs made up just 4% of North American jobs. By the end of 2020, remote jobs rose to 9%, and today we’re closer to 15%.
Remote jobs aren’t all digital nomad friendly. Generally, the privilege of complete location independence goes to those with a proven track record of producing in a remote work setting. When digital nomadism becomes an option (based on employment status or independent income), there are several benefits and trade-offs which we wrote about previously. However, opportunity doesn’t guarantee digital nomadism becomes a sustainable lifestyle. In order to make digital nomadism sustainable and comfortable for more than a few months, professionals need to build new skills and behaviors. Luckily, with years of experience traveling the world as digital nomads, WiFi Artists members contributed some tips for success. We’ve narrowed the list down to five and are proud to share these tips with a new generation of digital nomads.
1. Establish a productive work routine in a functional space
A traditional work arrangement enforces structure. Leave the house before 8 AM, eat lunch from noon to 1 PM, have afternoon coffee at 3 PM, and watch the clock at 4:45 PM. Similarly, your physical work environment (cubicle, office, or desk clusters) offers its own routine—the ten minutes per day where natural sunlight peaks into your corner of the office. Golden hour sunshine hits the leaves of the fake potted plant.
Those constructs go away in remote work and digital nomad arrangements.
Creating a positive workspace and a productive routine becomes essential. Professionals can start by answering some simple questions:
What time of day do I get the most done?
What level of noise and activity allows me to be most productive?
Which days of the week are most important to my success?
The freedom to work when and where you want can be intimidating. Experimentation is key.
WiFi Artists offers coworking spaces (included in standard program fees) with workspaces in safe and bustling neighborhoods. So close to the shared apartments, diverse restaurants, and public transportation, spending part of the day at coworking spaces (with other digital nomads and entrepreneurs) provides balance. In Lima, Peru, and Medellín, Colombia, WiFi Artists have worked in Selina’s coworking spaces (pictured below).
2. Invest in the right tech
Digital nomads need the right technology to maintain professional productivity. Technical difficulties are frustrating, limit productivity, and raise questions from employers. Purchasing high-quality equipment out of pocket may be necessary, but always expense what you can from your employer.
Beyond the basics like a laptop, smartphone, and headphones, many digital nomads invest in gear that makes life easier. Some of these items include:
High definition webcam
External USB Microphone
Mini-monitor or second-screen for a laptop
Technology insurance is a good investment, especially for those who travel with multiple cameras or laptops. Accidents and theft happen, and planning for the unexpected makes life easier.
Important to note: Maintaining cybersecurity is essential, whether you’re a salaried employee at a large company or a solopreneur. Password managers, dual-authentication, and VPNs are all helpful. In addition, keeping software up to date and being honest with clients and supervisors about where you’re working from is best practice.
3. Keep your ‘at-home’ network close
Physical distance doesn’t have to strain relationships. Traveling as a digital nomad creates new communities but shouldn’t take away from existing relationships.
Give friends notice about decisions and progress in becoming a digital nomad. Share some of your travels on social media to help keep everyone in the loop. Creating new routines in communication with family, friends, and networks are required. For example, some WiFi Artists dedicate time every week to video chat. Creativity and good scheduling skills may be required. Be honest with family and friends when feeling out of the loop. Own up to prioritizing travel and personal growth. Good communicators make great digital nomads. Becoming a digital nomad can force us to improve communication.
4. Make the most of your freedom
Apologies if this tip feels a bit obvious. Digital nomads live in unique locations that many people only explore via Instagram or YouTube. As a result, maintaining communities, building new relationships, and planning your next travels take time and effort.
Don’t forget to be present every day. Stop to smell the flowers, literally or figuratively. Whatever brings you immense joy while traveling, do that. Traveling with a collective of digital nomads, like WiFi Artists, requires sacrifices. However, our leaders encourage program participants to take their space.
Keep in mind: Digital nomads travel to escape the mundane and challenge themselves.
5. Separate personal time from work time
Coming full circle back to tip #1, clarifying work boundaries is essential. If you work across time zones, emails and Slack messages will come to you at all hours. Bosses and clients test remote workers constantly, hoping that professionals will embrace their (sometimes crazy) schedules. At WiFi Artists, remote work and a digital nomad lifestyle are about balance, growth, and finding meaning in community. Clear boundaries help prevent anyone from taking away from those goals.
Logging off and shutting down (at a specific time, after a certain amount of completed work, or when you leave a physical location) allows digital nomads to recharge and be their best selves the next day.
Underlying all these tips is intentionality. Becoming a digital nomad, maintaining solid communities, and work/life balance don’t happen by accident. But, unfortunately, the world sometimes pulls us off of our path and challenges us to claim our space.
No question, following the tips above, is easier said than done. The tips above and success as a digital nomad require discipline, planning, and self-awareness. If aligning yourself with professionals with similar values and visions for themselves would be helpful, consider applying to a WiFi Artists program or at least checking out our upcoming trips. WiFi Artists is growing and would love to chat about what you can bring to the collective. Time’s of the essence, and there’s no time like the present to jump into being a full-time digital nomad.