The best thing I’ve ever done is to set myself up as location independent. I can work from anywhere in the world that has an internet connection and a power source for my laptop. That’s literally all I need.
How to be location independent
I’ve been a digital nomad for almost two years now – location independent, remote working, digital nomads – they’re all different names for the same thing, worklife freedom.
The recent Brexit news has left many of my fellow Brits feeling angry, confused, desperate and wanting a change. Well, it looks like we’ve finally achieved that ‘Broken Britain’ status, with no sign of mending it in the future. So the only option is to make the change you want to see in the world in your own life, and leave the toffs to fight it out together.
Being location independent will free you up to live and work wherever you want. Including the other side of the world.
Here’s how to be location independent in 12 not so easy steps.
1. Start plotting NOW
Think about how your job can either go location independent or you can move employment to make it so.
If you’re at school and yet to choose your career path, have your eye on the bigger picture. Research the best jobs that will allow you to go location independent and tailor your choices for that. If I wasn’t already a successful travel blogger, I’d take an intensive coding course and dedicate myself to becoming the best coder ever. That’s just me, with my eye on the money and the freedom. There are plenty more options though, if the thought makes you want to stick pins in your eyeballs.
If you’re already in work think about the skills that would work financially out there in the big wide world. Any sales, marketing, hands on trades, language talents, organisation, or teaching experience will work well in many countries around the world to create your location independent life.
Make a plan, with headers like ‘me now’, ‘me in a year’ and work out how you can get from where you are to where you want to be in that time.
Write down everything you could do to make money, and keep the list, you might need to come back to it later. You can take a look at all the skills it requires to run this blog here.
My income comes 50% from my blog (sponsorships and advertising), 25% from copywriting and 25% from other pursuits linked to the blog. This post on the 7 ways I make money travel blogging will give you more of an idea of the diversity of my income portfolio.
Remember that you don’t have to set up your own business to become location independent – you could find a job that will let you work remotely. I’ve met plenty of people on the road who’ve either managed to persuade their bosses to let them do this by adapting their current role, or they’ve specifically looked for a digital nomad job that allows them to do this.
2. Sort your finances
You need to be able to afford to leave the shackles of your desk before you hand in your notice. I had a good chunk saved up for a house, before I made the decision to go freelance and location independent. It was enough to tide me over for a good few months if I needed it, but I’m happy to say that I’ve only added to it in the last two years.
Have enough to look after yourself for at least three months to be sensible about this. Maybe 6 if you can. And I’d definitely recommend you don’t leave guaranteed employment until all your debts are paid off (student debt doesn’t count).
Cut down on doing stuff and buying stuff. Spend that time on your location independence quest instead of going out or looking unnecessarily slick and that big day of freedom will come even sooner.
Having lived this lifestyle for so long now I can get by on very little. On the occasion I go back to London I do tend to have a little shopping spree, as I don’t feel my ‘jungle clothes’, as I think of them, suit the city, but it’s usually needed after a few months of looking like I do.
Cut back on labelled clothes, on buying clothes, on expensive products (unless you need them for your business), on drinking, eating out, brand named anything – to secure your freedom you’ll need to make some sacrifices along the way somewhere.
You also need to work out how much you need to earn each month to sustain your life. For example, I’ve travelled a lot in the last two years of location independence, more than almost anyone I know, so I’ve had to earn more than someone who’d rather do six month-stints across Asia, for example.
Digital nomad destinations like Bali, Chiang Mai, and Bangkok are so popular because they’re cheap to live, full of people with the same goal and have excellent Wi-Fi. Definitely worth looking at to keep things cheap in your first few months.
3. Use your current skills and contacts
You know the ins and outs of your current employment better than 99.9% of the world, depending on your role. This is one of the biggest advantages you have, so exploit it.
Over your employment you’ll have no doubt spotted a few gaps in the processes and issues in the systems at work, right? Well now’s the time to write up a plan of how you, as a digital nomad, can fill those holes. I’m going into my 25th month of working for my last employment, gapyear.com. I saw where I, and only I, could help, and pitched the idea.
Having the security of working for them for my first few months was brilliant. It’s now become a lot less of a per cent of my income but I still know we have a good relationship and hope we can work together for a long time to come.
If there’s a position that only you and your knowledge could fill, make a plan and start taking steps towards it now so when the time comes you’ve made yourself completely indispensable and they can’t say no.
4. Gain skills
If you’re thinking, ‘but flipflop, I don’t have any skills’? Then it’s time to start picking them up. You can do a lot in a year, and in the same token, a year will go by in a flash. Imagine, 365 days to freedom. Yes please!
In my spare time I built up this blog over two years and five months to become my income source. You can do the same in a shorter period if you have a will, a plan and the wealth of information out there today. At least a year of that two was just fun for me – never in my wildest dreams to go as far as it has.
You’ll learn about things you never knew you had any interest in when you’re your own boss and trying to get your business off the ground. From finances to marketing to client management – there’s no such thing as ‘not my job’ when you’re the only one available.
The best time to pick up new skills is when you’re still in employment or education. See if you can get work to pay for them, volunteer for any extra courses or education, go to night school, or join one of the many training sites online or just sit and watch YouTube tutorials until you know it all.
5. But don’t be duped
Errmmaghod there are SO MANY COURSES on ‘how to be location independent’ – all trying to sell us the same dream.
Don’t believe all these ‘make-£5mill-in-3-weeks’ sites. It can be tempting, but, if something’s too good to be true, it usually is. Wasting money on these things is silly. I went to a conference in Chiang Mai, with some of these kind of people speaking, and I felt so jaded by the end of the day it was like I’d just found out Santa wasn’t real all over again.
For most courses like this the promoters will be getting a huge cut of the profits. For example, there’s a thing called Maria Forleo’s Business School, and if you manage to sell one through the affiliate scheme you’ll earn $1500. Yeah, that’s why it’s promoted everywhere and you’ll only hear positive things.
If the website is super salesy, they have a cheesey photo or after a bit of internet stalking they look like they’ve not been around for long then they’re of no interest to me. I also make sure to check for any red flags on their LinkedIn profile.
These courses can be good, I assume, but do your research and make sure you can spend the time to actually do them before you invest. I still have a year’s subscription to Lynda.com lying unused…
6. Learn from the best
This is difficult for me to advise on, as I don’t know your plan to location independence. It’s down to you to find the inspiration in your skillset and group. Find people who are doing what you want to do, one, two, three years down the line and work out how they’ve managed to reach the level of success that they have. Then emulate.
My biggest inspirations:
– Tim Ferriss, his book The 4-Hour Workweek changed my life, seriously.
– My best friends in the travel blogging world.
7. Dedicate yourself to it
The location independence dream isn’t the easiest one to achieve and maintain. Everyone would be doing it if that were the case. You need to totally dedicate yourself and your waking hours to making it happen.
Use your annual leave to work on your vision.
You could take crafty sick days, but don’t jeopardise your employment or you’re done for as you’ll then be wasting time on finding a new job and you won’t want to leave.
Don’t agree to social engagements that you don’t really want to go to.
Make sure you have an entirely free weekend now and then. You need the headspace to really work on your business or plan.
I met a guy once who took a vow of celibacy for a year to work on his business, I think he expected us to be impressed but we were just slightly confused, but it worked for him. You do you.
8. Do a trial
Take some holiday from your work, to work. You could go to somewhere like the Surf Office in Lisbon, Co Working in the Sun in Tenerife, Hus24 in Stockholm or the many other digital nomad projects popping up around Europe (and the world).
Location independent working isn’t a laugh a minute. You have to say no to things you might want to do, be in the office when the sun is out and the surf is great, and meet new people regularly to ensure you have some friends. You’re away from your friends and family, and miss out on life back home, but of course, that could be exactly what you want.
9. Get networking
Learning off other people that you trust and have a relationship with is the best way to learn anything. My path to location independence jetted forward when I started networking in London. I was just going to travel blogger parties that I heard about and invited to travel company events. I,met people in the industry who are now among my best friends, or at least favourite acquaintances. Networking is hard at first, real hard, but once you’ve been to your first event the hardest work is over. When you have that out the way you’re laughing, with all your new friends, probably after a few drinks.
Since those first events I’ve been to ones in Berlin, Chiang Mai, Minneapolis, Lloret del Mar, Austin and soon, Stockholm. Every meeting has been a learning curve. They’ve led to more friends, more work and some really fun nights out!
10. Sell all your shit
Own too much stuff and it starts to own you. I remember reading that a few years ago and was like YES!
I sold 75% of my stuff before I went travelling. Ended up dumping a load along the way. And still own the rest of it either in the three boxes at my parents, or in the backpack / now suitcase I’ve been carrying around the world.
Start selling your stuff once you’ve come up with a plan, signed up to the extra training and you’re well on your way to the location independence dream. Don’t do it any sooner, it’s too much of a distraction. This is a great way to earn money and with every object you sell, your wings will start to sprout (dad just bought me a glass of cava to the laptop, getting giddy).
11. Get started
I have a few readers (love ya!) who I’m in regular email contact with because they want to know how to be location independent. They want to be free, they have all the ideas, but they just cannot get started.
Whether it’s being unable to decide on a domain name, or unable to decide which of their ideas to actually pursue, they’re stuck. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and go for it. To just go, get started and make the dream your own.
Focus on the five things that will make the biggest difference and just get started.
12. Have confidence
With location independence comes a lot of challenges. Having a network, both on and offline, some money saved to back you up and either a business or work that’s starting to establish itself will make it a lot easier for you to get through these times.
Location independence isn’t all sunshine and roses and the freedom, independence and non commitment of it all can be a bit much for some people. Have confidence in yourself.
Being location independent
I love the location independent lifestyle. Having been made redundant twice in my life the fact that all my eggs aren’t in one basket is very reassuring for me. I’m currently working for about 12 different clients on projects and that number changes all the time. When one project comes to an end, another will begin (touch wood).
I can take time off to hang out with my friends, I’m currently with my family for 10 days in Barcelona and not having the stress or pressure of a home or any commitments to look after makes me a lot more flexible.
If you’re dreaming of location independence, you can do it!
I’d totally recommend saving something for your future though. Take a look at my PensionBee review to see why I think this is the best self-employed pension for us.
Hands up who wants to be a digital nomad, travelling the world while working from coffee shops and wherever there’s Wi-Fi?
Well, if you’re reaching to the sky one-handed right now there are a few things I’d advise you to consider before you go listing yourself as a digital nomad on the old LinkedIn profile.
I’ve been at it for almost two years now, trust me.
Top 5 Tips for Digital Nomads
1. It’s hard to just ‘be’ a digital nomad
Specialise. ‘Being’ a digital nomad isn’t a job. I’m a travel blogger who travels full time and that makes me a digital nomad. Other people are coders, or WordPress experts, or social media consultants, or game makers, or life coaches, or kitesurf teachers, or anything you could imagine, and that’s what makes them a digital nomad.
Find a skill or trade first, get real good at it, and then do that nomadically, and digitally.
2. Set up your business before you leave the day job
If you’re not at least a little established in the business you want to pursue as a digital nomad before you leave your guaranteed pay, you’re going to be putting a lot of pressure on yourself.
For me there was a definite tipping point, where I was as good as doing two full time jobs together and could financially afford to leave the day job but was too scared. Then came the relationship catalyst that meant I really had nothing to lose, so I went for it.
I knew how I could make money, I had a few freelance clients, I had processes set up, I’d bought all my equipment – laptop, cameras, chargers, batteries – and most importantly, I had savings.
3. You need a good work ethic
I’m a lot of things, but I’d never describe myself as a slacker. I accept it might look like it but that’s just because I’m efficient and get my work done so I can go out and play. I’ve always been like that. My parents’ hard graft definitely instilled a good work ethic into my brother and I, and I thank that for my ability to balance the work load on the road.
If you’re someone who finds it hard to knuckle down to work under your own steam, especially when there’s a whole lot of better options going on, you’re going to need to reassess your priorities and suitability.
4. Find other digital nomads
It’s a good idea to find your ‘tribe’. I’ve dabbled in the digital nomad space – with the people who go to meet ups like DNX and the Nomad Cruise – but it’s the travel blogger world that I feel most comfortable and myself in.
Find ‘your people’ and you’ll find people who can support you when you’re venturing into the unknown. You’ll find people on the same crazy schedules and time zones as you, and you’ll find others who can guide you and for you to guide within your industry and / or interests.
5. Stay positive and believe in yourself
Many businesses struggle to survive in the first few years, let’s not go into stats as if you’ve come this far you probably know them. The thing is, you’ll need to stay positive in hard times as a digital nomad. It’s even harder building and maintaining a business while you’re travelling than it is at home.
You don’t have the support network, your family to help, your friends to moan to, or sometimes even the language skills to order your favourite food when you’re feeling a bit down. If you’re doing this alone, and abroad, you’ve got all the pressures and unfamiliarity of travelling to add into the mix too.
You’ll need to be strong and undoubting in your resolve, but you might also need to be able to accept when it’s not quite working out too.
First and second though, you’re going to need that positive attitude, sometimes that might be all you have!