5 Ways to Make Cash While Living the Dream as a Digital Wanderer

July 1, 2018

The number of people working from home at least half of the time increased by 115% between 2005 and 2015, according to the 2017 State of Telecommuting report by FlexJobs.

But for some people, working remotely part time isn’t enough. Digital nomads take telecommuting to the next level, traveling almost constantly while still making a living.

If digital nomadism is a dream of yours, it’s possible to make it a reality with these five ways to make money as you travel the globe.

1. Freelance

“The majority of work I see digital nomads doing is freelance work,” said Chris Burdick, who’s been constantly traveling for more than six years. “It allows the worker the flexibility to work when they want and not be tied down to a schedule.”

Some of the types of freelance jobs especially suited for digital nomads include:

  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Programming
  • Graphic design
  • Web development
  • Translation
  • Virtual assistant
  • Social media consulting
  • Marketing

Burdick pointed out that the main challenge with freelance work is having the self-discipline to get things done.

“It’s so easy to get distracted and excited about meeting new people and exploring at each new place you go,” he said. “It’s crucial to remember you do actually have to work or you won’t have the money to keep supporting your travel-based lifestyle.”

Burdick recommended signing up for websites such as Upwork and Freelancer to find work as a freelancer — at least until you have a portfolio and can start getting higher-paying jobs by word of mouth.

2. Start a business

Burdick’s businesses don’t require him to keep inventory in stock. Instead, product shipments are handled by third parties, allowing more freedom. Affiliate models, where you make money by referring customers to websites and receiving commissions, also work well for digital nomads.

Being able to set a business on automatic at least some of the time is a necessity when you’re traveling to remote locations, according to Burdick.

“Sometimes I’d go a week or two without internet in rural Southeast Asia,” Burdick said. “Having my businesses set up to run without me constantly being connected is a big help.”

Depending on your business, though, there might be times when you need to talk to someone on the phone or respond quickly — and that can result in working abroad at 3 a.m. as you Skype someone in the United States.

3. Housesit

Rather than worry about housing costs while she travels full time, Kelly Hayes-Raitt prefers to housesit.

Hayes-Raitt has been housesitting professionally for more than 10 years and shares her tips and tricks on her blog HouseSitDiva.com. She has a small storage unit for items of sentimental value and does her best to avoid accumulating things.

While she freelances as a writer and editor to earn money for food and entertainment, Hayes-Raitt only asks for a free place to stay when she housesits, largely because of the visa situation.

“In some countries, if you’re paid to housesit, you have to go through the trouble of getting a work visa,” Hayes-Raitt said. “This way, I can say I’m not being paid for the housesitting and one of the biggest expenses you pay when you travel — lodging — is something I don’t have to worry about.”

Not having to worry about housing costs also leaves Hayes-Raitt a little more flexibility with her work, and the ability to work less if she wants because she won’t have a rent payment due at the beginning of the week or month.

Hayes-Raitt suggested signing up for free at HouseSitSearch to start out. But she warned that you might not get the best opportunities on a free site. Instead, if you can afford it, she recommended choosing a pay site such as Housesit Match or Nomador for higher-quality leads.

4. Work for a remote company

You don’t have to be a freelancer or start a business to work remotely. It’s possible to earn money by working for a remote company. Believe it or not, some companies don’t actually expect you to come into the office and don’t care where you live — as long as you get your work done.

Hayes-Raitt thinks combining work for a remote company with housesitting can be a winning strategy for digital nomads. You can live for free and pull down a regular paycheck.

For remote workers, though, Burdick warned that working all night can be a reality. “In Thailand, it was common for remote workers to come to the coworking space at 11 p.m. and work most of the night to match their companies’ U.S.-based daytime schedules,” he said.

Websites such as FlexJobs, Indeed, and Remote.co offer job listings for companies willing to let you work remotely. If you need help convincing your boss that you can work and be a digital nomad, programs such as Remote Year can help you craft an argument.

5. Rent out property

If you own a home or other rental property, you can still be a digital nomad. I actually looked into this option for myself at one point.

To make this work, I discovered, you might need to hire a property manager or work with a management company. It can be hard to take care of repairs and collect rent when you’re halfway around the world.

You’ll have to pay a percentage of your income to the property manager, but it might be worth it if it frees you up to see the world without worrying about all the headaches of being a landlord.

Is the digital nomad lifestyle right for you?

That is, as long as you prepare ahead of time to earn money and account for some of the inconveniences associated with times zones and sometimes-spotty internet.

“I’m always traveling and seeing new places and meeting interesting people,” Hayes-Raitt said. “If you have a natural curiosity and you want to experience the world today, this can be a great opportunity for you, whether you travel for a year, or make it your permanent lifestyle.”

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