Starting Out as a Digital Nomad

starting out as a digital nomad
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The children of the 80’s have come to understand the internet and the advantages it possesses. The ability to make enough money while on the road, to travel indefinitely, is a great opportunity of our generation. All you need is a laptop, some skills and wifi to become a digital nomad.

The location independent lifestyle of a digital nomad is life I seek to achieve through my online pursuits. I apply a few different tactics but mainly work as a freelance writer for now.

To be classified as a ‘digital nomad’, you will generally conduct money-making activities while travelling. They will typically work remotely—from home, coffee shops, shared work spaces and public libraries to get their work done.

For instance, I am a freelance writer for clients in Bangkok and the Philippines, working from New Zealand.

Great how we have come along! Most digital nomads usually start with a blog and then monetize it, possibly by writing an eBook, selling products, advertising or via affiliate referrals.  The majority begin as budget backpackers and get their stories from this experience and start a travel blog. Some will niche it down and become food bloggers, photo travellers, story tellers or video makers.. Each of us has our own set of unique skills to use as a means to generate income while on the road. Play to your strengths and make a start.


Nomadic entrepreneurs, digital nomads, hobos and professionals often work as:

  • Freelance writers
  • Photographers
  • Affiliate marketers
  • Web designers
  • Graphic designers
  • Copywriters
  • Poker Players – online
  • Virtual Assistants
  • Video Editors


I have chosen to separate digital nomads and tech nomads due to the huge difference in technical skill required. Tech Nomads are programmers, coders and app developers.

They are more highly trained in the technical aspects of computers and most likely have a college degree, charge a higher rate and are probably

When I started writing, I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. I had never been a ‘writer’ before. So I treated it like college projects. Get the info, do some research and get it done by a certain date. Although for college work, it was always last-minute and all nighters for most projects! With time it is becoming much easier to write for clients and this blog. Just like any skill, becoming a digital nomad requires practice, persistence and a willingness to keep learning.

digital nomad with no internet-oatmeal

Once a wannabe digital nomads blog has a few articles uploaded, it can be used to showcase their writing capability, photography skills and video persona. This will help when applying for freelance gigs and pitching to prospective clients. Keeping a portfolio of guest posts you have written and any newspaper articles is also a good idea.

You are selling yourself and your skills at the end of the day.

Starting out can be slow and difficult, but having proof of your skills is vital to success. Digital nomad writers usually start out offering their services for much lower than they are actually worth (been there, done that, it sucks but you have to start somewhere). This is to get ratings up and some positive reviews. All the while improving their writing skills and creating a better chance of gaining more freelance work.

Where you will get your work is another issue. I started with Elance but ended up getting my first gig by contacting a person directly with a personal message. I was not pitching, just mentioning about a video of his I had seen and then – I had my first client! I hate competing on sites like Elance and oDesk, but if you really want to live this location independent lifestyle and do not know where to start, they are good places to learn the ropes.

After six months, the majority of my work comes from recommendations and previous clients. I have not needed to pitch for a while and it is a good feeling. Such is the life of a digital nomad, for you never know when the work will stop and you are back sending e-mails looking for someones dollar bills.

 digital nomad with no internet-oatmeal

Image – The Oatmeal

Although the Digital Nomad overlaps on a variety of levels with the other styles of travel bloggers, they are unique in that they really possess an entrepreneurial spirit and desire to work from anywhere. Nobody gives them orders, they live by their own terms. If you are lazy and not good at what you do, it’s pretty simple, you will not get work. To be a nomadic entrepreneur you need to be hungry and aggressive in your pursuit of living the digital nomads lifestyle.

Whether you decide to kick it in Koh Samui, chill in Mexico, or go home for a while, ideally there will be some form of passive income coming in on the regular via freelance work. The cost of living in Asia makes it a haven for freelancers looking for a good quality of life from their online pursuits. I have reason to believe that Chiang Mai’s digital nomad community is huge and look forward to getting there in the coming weeks and getting involved.


Whatever the mind can conceive and believe the mind can achieve

Niche it up!

Building niche websites requires a good bit of time, effort and knowledge. If done correctly, though, it can be the most profitable venture for digital nomads with a decent site making $300-$500 per month through Adsense or Amazon.

Picking the right niche, doing the keyword research, writing articles and promoting the website are the most time-consuming and difficult parts, but it is all rinse and repeat once you figure out the winning formula.

As the times are changing, many digital nomads are hiring virtual assistants from the Philippines to do the monotonous work for as little as $300 a month, while they focus on other projects and creating more revenue streams.

I read a book called The World Is Flat a few years ago which discusses how the western world had embraced outsourcing to highly educated, cheaper labour overseas. This is the world of business and every entrepreneur knows profit is the bottom line and spending $20 on a banner or $450 makes a huge difference. Also, digital nomads are usually just getting by! It takes years to create a highly profitable income stream.

(I approached a few respectable designers which I found through other travel blogs and got no more than five replies asking for between $350-$450 for a custom website header. I found a guy in Indonesia who did my TropicalNomad banner for $20 on Elance. I just couldn’t afford nor justify paying such a price for a header image.)

Freelance Writing Opportunities 


As well as Upwork, writers can sign up with iWriter, Textbroker, and Fiverr  to pitch their skills and become digital nomads. Then you can work on your own terms and not like this guy!


digital nomad office oatmeal-Office

Image – The Oatmeal

 Recommended Reading for Aspiring Digital Nomads

Think and Grow Rich: The Original 1937 Unedited Edition

Be a Digital Nomad: A Making It Anywhere guide

Laptop Lifestyle – How to Quit Your Job and Make a Good Living on the Internet

Disrupting the Rabblement

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere

Disclaimer – For the record, these are Amazon links, if you click-through and buy, I will make about 7c..


Some websites with information on becoming a Digital Nomads are:

Smart Passive income – Pat Flynn has become famous for his transparent method of teaching people how set up and build niche websites to create a passive income. Good man Pat!

NichePursuits – Spencer does case studies and has all the information (and developed Long Tail Pro to target keywords) about picking keywords and building niche websites.

Makingitanywhere – Mish and Rob showcase their ability to travel the world as freelancers and make it anywhere… A couple of digital nomads taking on the world one project at a time. They also have an e-book on the topic.

Lifestyle Business Podcast – Dan and Ian pump out a podcast about business and creating the location independent lifestyle. About 70+ podcasts now and going strong.

Virtual Assistants – Chris Ducker is the owner of Virtual Staff Finder in the Philippines, where he connects highly skilled assistants with business owners looking to expand and get some help with their business.


  1. Great detailed post there Adam and I too am hoping to be able to pursue this lifestyle at some point. After 10 years of being a nomad, I’m kind of bored of working endlessly in random jobs for other people and companies. I want to do things for myself from now on and will check out some of the sites you have listed. Ultimately hard work and decent knowledge will reap rewards. Jonny
    Jonny Blair recently posted…Exploring Kampong Ayer: “The Venice of Asia”, Bandar Seri Begawan, BruneiMy Profile

  2. Love the use of the Oatmeal pics throughout this post!! Great write-up – getting more people to become digital nomads is only a good thing, more buddies around the world for the rest of us to meet up with as we work/travel!
    Erin recently posted…Digital Nomad JobsMy Profile

    • Cheers Erin,
      I love the Oatmeal’s images. He is great. There was one I seen once upon a time about being an Internet Marketer and can never find it on there.. Wish he had a search box! I am loving the community of bloggers and DM’s around the world. Cool people in every city! Met with 3 here n Queenstown and have 2 more lined up 🙂

  3. Awesome share! Thank you for the great advice! I’ve got my domain, set up my wordpress (uh, not really “set up”), downloaded a theme – and this is where I’m hitting a bit of a wall.. Any advice regarding the technical aspects of WordPress blogging? I guess I need to just sit through the tutorials of WordPress and canvas (the theme I purchased)…
    Unconventional Veteran recently posted…First test post!My Profile

    • Hey, the best way to learn is just to play around with the theme and experiment. If your blog is new then it won’t matter to much. I change my theme every 6 months to keep it looking fresh. Everything you could ever need help with for WordPress is on youtube.


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