Being a digital nomad that has the freedom to work remotely, from anywhere in the world (a coffee shop in Singapore or a beach in Mexico), making money online, this location independent lifestyle is very appealing for many people. Some do things to pursue this dream. Other people are overwhelmed by the amount of information you can find on the subject. There are lots of sites where self-called “gurus” or “success bloggers” brag about making millions of dollars with their online business. Most of the times, it’s not true. However, to have an online income that pays for your digital nomad lifestyle, that’s possible. I am a successful digital nomad, and I will show you proof, by the end of this guide.
However, now it’s not about me, it’s about you. And in this step by step guide, I will give you the knowledge you need, the tips and tricks I have gathered in all these years. It will get you from beginner to digital nomad, or, if you’ve already started, it will help you advance faster. I strongly recommend reading everything. It can change your life.
Learn new skills to be a better digital nomad
A set of digital skills will help you find work online with ease. Sometimes it is enough to know to do one thing and specialize in it. However, to grow your online business, you should know different areas, that include website creation, graphic design skills, maybe some video editing if you focus on vlogging and video content, social media marketing to improve your online presence, SEO – search engine optimization to increase your site traffic. There are some essential advantages in learning skills like these:
- When needed, you can do things yourself.
- You can get a job anytime because skills like these are always needed. Take a look now at classifieds in your area and see.
- It takes only a little time to learn them (several days to a few weeks), and you’ll get better and better as you practice. Compare it to the traditional learning system, where it takes years to get a diploma that you’ll probably never use, and you’ll understand.
- The cost is minimal.
Where can you learn digital nomad skills?
I like this website – Udemy – for learning new things. It’s an online course marketplace where you can get courses for a few bucks. You can find here masterclasses with hours of video explaining the subject in detail, like these:
Adobe Photoshop Masterclass is a course that focuses on photo editing and manipulation. You will be able to retouch images, combine and manipulate them professionally.
Adobe Illustrator Masterclass is a course taken already by more than 50000 students. You will learn to create illustrations professionally. This masterclass will take you from beginner to advanced.
My tip: to practice with different Adobe Software when you learn, you will need Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. Fortunately, there is a free trial of 30 days so you can test all of them. You can even work with Adobe tutorials for every software included in the suite. These tutorials cover only the basic things, but it will get you started.
The Photography Masterclass has over 20 hours of video training, 60 articles and 30 downloadable resources included. You will master different scenarios, and learn how to use the light to make amazing photos, even with your smartphone.
Another great one for a digital nomad is “The Complete Digital Marketing Course” bundle. It contains 12 different classes at the price of one. You can learn affiliate marketing, SEO, social media and other things that can boost your business.
But don’t limit on these examples above. On Udemy you’ll browse between over 100,000 classes, covering any topic you can think of, including productivity, keeping yourself motivated and focused. They’re just celebrating 30 million clients.
SkillShare, an alternative to Udemy
As an alternative, you have the Skillshare website. It gives you access to more than 25,000 classes. The great thing about it is that you do not have to pay for every course you take. Instead, they have a monthly pricing policy with access to everything. Furthermore, they have currently an offer of 3 months for as low as $1. So, if you want to take many classes in a small period, this is a better option.
All these places, where you can learn new skills, are great for starting your digital nomad journey. However, you should decide what is best for you. Think about what you would like to do, learn about those you love, choose something and focus on that.
Inside information: my mother, in her 60s, started with zero digital knowledge and learned Photoshop from tutorials like the ones I mentioned. Now she is a pro designer @ Zazzle, with more than 5000 designs, making a decent income from this activity. If she was able to do that, you have no excuse. Start now!
Content creation and its importance for digital nomads
You’ll need content for any online business. I’m sure you hear “content is the king” and “a picture is worth a thousand words” often. It’s true. Both social media networks and search engines are in love with good text, fresh images, and original videos. Businesses understand it today, so they need content. Not just any, but a creative, smart type, that will help them consolidate their image, have an original brand touch and sell their products. That’s your part, to learn to create this content, for your business or as a freelancer.
Content creation is practically your ability to work with images, text, and videos, to edit and transform them professionally. For this you will need different pieces of software depending on what is your focus:
Image creation and editing
For images, I recommend this fantastic tool, one of my best finds. I use it on a daily basis since I find it very fast, efficient and easy to use. You can create images for any niche, in just minutes. The tool has more than 2,000,000 photos and 720 templates, as these you can see below:
With this tool, you’ll also get the right to use any photo for your projects. Add text, your images, icons, logo, or watermark, with just a few clicks. Furthermore, you can automatically create images with the size presets included for different social media sites, or with a custom size. Create banners, covers, headers, Pinterest pins (600×900), Instagram posts (1080×1080) or stories, Facebook posts, and ads. Change the size, rearrange the text, and you’re good to go.
You can get the free version for a test ride here. I’m sure you’ll love it. Then get the unlimited version to have access to all the goodies.
Adobe Software for Images and Graphics
If and when you need more advanced features, it’s time to go to the pro software. Adobe Illustrator is THE software to create any graphic designs, illustrations, and artwork. You can learn how to use it with the courses and tutorials I was telling you earlier. Download a free trial and test it with some Adobe Illustrator Tutorials. Beware, it’s addictive 🙂
On the other hand, Adobe Photoshop is what I use when I want to edit photos like a pro. You can do photo retouching and manipulation in no time, if you focus on it, even if you never work with it before. Other advanced features you’ll learn in time.
Tip: If you need only Photoshop and do not want to get involved in video editing or other Adobe Software, then, after your trial ends, you should take only the Photography Plan, to save some money. It includes Photoshop, LightRoom, and 20 GB of cloud storage.
Video Creation or How to edit videos for YouTube
Video content is an important part of digital marketing. A whopping 93% of businesses use it already (other relevant statistics here). Videos are attractive, engaging, and a great way to create a long-lasting relationship with your audience. These are all good arguments for you to consider adding video skills to your “digital nomad” strategy.
Adobe Creative Cloud Suite has different options you can use for video creation and editing, depending on your needs.
- Premiere CC focuses on editing media and creating TV, film and web productions.
- The After Effects CC is a professional software used for visual effects and graphics.
- With Premiere Rush you can create videos with basic options on any device, including your smartphone (iOS available, Android coming soon)
- Character Animator helps you animate your artwork.
My tip: There is a plan that gives you access to all Adobe products, but I recommend to start your 30 days free trial first. Test all programs for 30 days before you decide. Maybe you’ll only need Premiere Rush (enough for basic video editing) and save some money.
To create better videos for yourself or as freelance work, you should try Adobe tutorials. For more advanced skills use the websites I’ve suggested in the learning paragraph
Movavi – a great alternative to create and edit videos
As an alternative to Adobe Creative Cloud, you can use Movavi. This software is available for both Mac and PC users. You can create and edit videos, record screen, add special effects (even the much-requested Chrome Key – green background for YouTubers), convert media files, capture from a webcam, and many more, as you can see from the
Movavi is an easy-to-use tool for YouTube and other popular websites, to create and share your videos fast. Another argument is its pricing. You can get Movavi for a lifetime price, for both personal and business versions, very convenient when compared with Adobe monthly plans. Movavi is renowned for its short learning curve, even for people with no experience.
Where to get additional content for your projects?
There are times when you need content for a project but don’t have time to create it yourself. Maybe you need footage from Maya Bay Thailand for a travel video compilation. Or you need sounds and some vintage graphics to create a poster for an event. What should you do?
My shortcut: I always use existing content my life easier. You can find online stock photos, videos, graphics and vectors, music and templates. There are many resources available. Today graphic design means to creatively combine graphics for which you have the right to use.
- The biggest name for stock photos is Shutterstock. It has over 245 million images available so you can find anything you need. It also has more than 13 million videos and music. A bit pricey, but it’s the best place to find quality.
- To get photos for your projects, you can use Stencil. With this tool, not only you can create great looking graphics, but it’s also a source for pictures you can use for you or your clients. There are over 2,000,000 photos to choose from. The best thing is that you do not have to pay for every picture you use, like with Shutterstock. Pay a monthly plan and receive access to all features.
- Another place is the Envato market. Here you can find digital assets that you can use: WordPress themes, templates, vectors, illustrations, photos, videos and music, all for $16.50/mo. This asset database is not the biggest, but if you want to get everything in one place, this is it.
The fact that you use content already created and just combining it will bring much ease in your digital nomad projects. You will be able to work faster. The price you pay for content is small, compared with the benefits of saving time and money.
Motivation: Try the two sounds below alternatively and ask yourself: which one I want to hear in the place I am working and living?
Just listen and decide for yourself!
Freelance Web Designing – a core skill for digital nomads
Developing your website is an
But they are wrong! Your website is a property in a way that accounts aren’t. A domain is always yours, as long as you renew it but your account can be banned or hacked. Even you are just a photographer or a tutor or a writer, own a website!
Consider your website as the heart of your business and develop everything around it. For instance, you can have your portfolio there, as I do here. You can be an affiliate and recommend your followers to buy some products (camera lenses, photography accessories, apps or software). This way you can receive a commission for every sale you refer. Many companies do not accept you to be their affiliate without having your own.
How to get a domain name
To start a website, you need to buy a domain. I always use this registrar. It’s one of the biggest in the world. It has many features I like, including privacy and a great support team. To register your domain, search for your preferred name to see if it is available. Follow the steps after that.
I recommend a two words name (that represent what you do), no numbers or hyphens and focus on dot com extension, not on other extensions (if it is possible). Example: get sailingwedding.com (that is available at the time of writing this article) instead of sailing4wedding.biz. 🙂 They often have price promotions like in the picture below.
Your options for hosting:
Hosting can be a tricky part of having a great website. Search engines like Google, Bing and other sites that link to you, will always look at the speed of your site and your site’s up time, that depends on your hosting provider. That’s why for hosting I use Siteground (including for this website you’re visiting). It’s one of the biggest companies, with servers in the United States, Europe, and Asia. It has an excellent loading speed and a fast customer support team, available 24/7 (you don’t want to wait when your site is down).
Prices start at $3.95/mo for one website. If you plan to have multiple sites, take the GrowBig plan, starting at $5.95/mo. Note that these are offers and the renewal price is different, but you can get up to 3 years at this special price.
To spend an extra buck and get an even faster hosting, you can go to CloudWays. They offer Cloud Hosting starting at $10/mo with many advanced features included. The best thing is you can try it for free.
Content Management Systems
After you took the domain and the hosting, you are ready to install your website. For websites you want to create, you should use WordPress. It’s a web publishing application used by more than 32% of all websites and almost 60% of sites using known content management systems. (source here). Fortunately, hosting providers that I’ve recommended earlier have applications to install WordPress easily.
If you want to open an online store – a place where you can sell products, then Shopify is the best option. It has more tools to enhance your e-commerce website than WordPress. Shopify comes with hosting for your website, payment solutions and shipping discounts. You have a 14-days free trial, to see how it works with zero risks.
Divi Theme from Elegant Themes:
Having a free theme for your WordPress is good for starting. However, I do recommend a premium theme that I use, called DIVI. Premium themes are great in so many ways:
- Search engines like Google love premium themes because they have better code quality than free ones so you can get better rankings, fast
- Divi has a built-in visual editor that you can use to customize your websites with drag and drop (beginner friendly)
- Divi has built-in templates that you can import with a click, making professional looking website development, very fast.
- You can use Divi for as unlimited sites, unlike other premium themes that charge you for every project.
Elegant Themes pricing is per year or lifetime, and you have access to all themes and plugins, including Divi. It has 30-days money-back guarantee.
Another place to find premium themes is Envato Market. You can find WordPress premium themes and WordPress plugins for a monthly fee of only $16.50. This membership will also give you access to graphics, stock photos, videos, and audio.
For those who want more in-depth information, I am working on a video tutorial with step by step instructions on creating websites. I will post it here, so subscribe to be informed when it comes out.
SEO tools and analytics for your website and competitors
SEO is the ability to make your site perform in a way that it gets the first rankings in search engine results for your desired key phrases. It will bring you traffic relevant to your business. There are the tools you can use:
Keyword SEO Tool
First, you need to find low competition keywords that can convert well. For example, a user looking for a “beer fridge” on Google is interested in buying one eventually, while a user looking for “beer ingredients” wants just information.
As you can see in the image below, when searching “beer fridge” with this keyword tool I always use, you’ll notice that it has low competition (28/100), so it’s not too complicated to rank in the first page for it, and it has enough
(over 22k) monthly searches to focus on. Therefore, if you have a site where you teach people “how to make the perfect man cave” adding a page with “beer fridge” options will be a great idea.
An alternative for KWFinder is LongTailPro. It focuses on keywords with low competition that are easier to rank. When you enter a seed keyword in LongTailPro, it returns hundreds of suggestions that you can use. You can get keyword analysis and competitor’s insights. It comes with a 7-day trial to see how it works.
All in One SEO Tools
If you want to go further with your website SEO, you’ll need multiple tools. You’d want to audit your website, to know what kind of backlinks you have, and how many. You also want to monitor your niche and competitors to see what they are doing so you can work a strategy. For all these, you’ll need access to tools like:
Semrush Seo Tools. All plans include access to 28 SEO tools. Prices start from $99/mo. It has:
- Keyword Tools – keyword research, difficulty, and a magic tool
- Content Audit – analyze your content and its performance SEO wise
- Backlinks Tools – check your backlinks, their quality, and geolocation
- Traffic Overview – audit your traffic sources and how can you improve
- Advertising Research – see how your competitors advertise themselves
- Social Media Tools – get social media insights and automate all of them
- Site Audit – the most detailed reports on your site SEO and what to improve
Ahrefs SEO Tools. Price from $99/mo. Similar functions with SemRush, but I find this one to have a not so user-friendly design. Tools included:
- Competitor’s Analytics – see how others are doing in search results
- Keywords Explorer – a vast database of more than 3 billion entries
- Backlinks Data – Ahrefs has the biggest backlinks monitor
- Content Research – see what perform best for your niche
- Rank Tracking – location-based reports for specific search ranking
- Web monitoring – keep an eye on your competitors for improvements in ranking
Spell Check, Grammar and Original Content
Google will not rank your website if it’s written with grammar flaws and bad spelling. That’s why I use Grammarly. It’s a software that detects common mistakes in the free version, and more advanced grammar mistakes in the paid one. It comes as standalone software or as a chrome extension, for easy use. Furthermore, you can use it also to check plagiarism or duplicate content. Search engines love original content, so copying other articles won’t get you anywhere.
Speaking of original content, you should use subject related pictures and videos with good quality. We talked more about this in the “where to get the content” paragraph. Of course, you can use your own, but sometimes it takes too much time and effort.
Social media tools that help digital nomads work faster.
Social media is a great channel to improve your online presence and to get new clients. On the other hand, managing multiple social media accounts, yours or your client’s, will be time-consuming. That is why I recommend the tools below:
Again, you can use Stencil for social media needs. You can choose from photos and templates, create professional looking graphics in minutes, with sizes that fit your desired social media platform or a custom size when needed, and share them with ease. You can use it for free with limited options, but with pro or unlimited plan, you will unleash all its power.
Social Pilot is a great tool that helps you manage social media accounts. You can schedule posting, get better engagement and analyze your performance so you can improve in time. It will transform you in an agency being able to manage multiple accounts with ease, reducing time spent and boosting your results. The 14-day free trial will give you a test drive to understand better how it works. Unlike other similar tools, social pilot works with all major social accounts shown below.
Where to find work as a freelancer
Now let’s talk about where a skilled digital nomad can find some work. With the ideas below and a “think out of the box” approach, you’ll be fine.
- Don’t forget the power of personal networking: family and friends. After you developed your skills, let people know what you can do. Post work examples on personal social media accounts, talk about what you can do with everybody. You never know who needs something done. Take a minor project for free, as a sample, to show your abilities.
- LinkedIn is a social network based on professional skills or what you can do. It has a link to search for jobs and even apply the filter for showing only the remote/home-based ones. It’s a great way to find location-independent jobs that are perfect for your freelance skills. Here is the link for remote jobs offered by businesses in the United States. Use other filters like experience level, job type, state or date posted.
- Local classifieds is another good place to find freelance jobs. Every country has its own, similar to Craigslist for the United States or Milanuncios for Spain. You should be careful about how you arrange payments for your work since the websites do not manage this.
- Another option to get work as a digital nomad are websites where you can post gigs that you can do, or you can search, bid and get jobs posted by others. They take a commission from your payment, but your money is secured.
Sites with jobs for digital nomads:
- Fiverr is an online services marketplace where freelancers create gigs, for prices starting at $5
- PeoplePerHour is the same as Fiverr and has more than 1,500,000 digital nomads that are posting what they can do
- Freelancer comes with a different approach – people post projects, and you can bid to work on them
- On Upwork people post jobs, and you can get work for in different categories
Most digital nomads know all these websites above. This competition makes it harder to get a job there. That’s why smaller sites like local freelance marketplaces can produce better results. I’ve prepared a list with another 50 websites. Download it for free, when you subscribe here.
Checklist on How to be a Digital Nomad:
- Learn new skills to start and improve
Getting the knowledge you need to become a digital nomad.
- Decide what digital nomad skills suit you the best
Decide what fits you the best, what would you like to do.
- Create graphic designs fast and make them look professional
Create great content in minutes with graphic design tools.
- Learn to create and edit videos for YouTube or other projects
Tips for YouTubers and freelance video creators/editors.
- Get and use content already created to work faster
The shortcut for always having good quality content for your projects.
- Learn to easily create a website like a pro web designer
Website creation is useful for your business or for freelance gigs.
- Learn SEO to get traffic from search engines
Use Search Engine Optimization tools for free website traffic.
- Use Social Media Tools that help digital nomads work faster
Social Media can be managed fast with these great tools.
- Learn how and where to sell your work
Find out the best places to sell your services as a digital nomad
- Keep yourself motivated. Always learn and evolve.
You need to control your productivity and the direction you’re going.
Final Thoughts on being a digital nomad
You don’t have a boss when you enter this new lifestyle. It’s your job to keep yourself productive. There are some resources on Udemy that will keep you focused and motivated. It’s so easy to procrastinate when you do not have strict deadlines.
Is important to keep yourself always learning. Take new classes, get new skills, watch YouTube Videos, read articles all the time. The digital nomad environment is evolving. Things that are working today might not work tomorrow. You have to adapt and reinvent yourself. Scale when you can and move forward.
About me and keeping in touch
I am not a million dollar guru. I am somebody just like you, who started earlier. Therefore, I am making money online since 2007, as you can see from this picture.
These are from only one source, Google AdSense. Now I own Amazon affiliate sites and am a freelance graphic and web designer. Meanwhile, I have traveled to more than 30 countries, and I am just warming up. Today I am a successful digital nomad, with earnings of more than $10,000/mo.
As you noticed, I tried to teach you the things I know, to recommend the best tools I’m using. I will add constantly add new ones, guides, reviews and other information like this. So please bookmark this website, follow my social accounts (footer) and enter your name and email address here.