Digital nomad jobs are ways to make an income while traveling full-time. Starting off might be confusing, but I guarantee that it’s easier than it seems to escape the rat-race.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always slaved away at a job that I hated in aims to save as much money as possible. Upon reaching the savings goals, I’d finally be able to live the care-free nomadic lifestyle. But of course, this was only temporary and I always knew that the funds would eventually dry up.
Sound familiar? Most people that I meet on the road take a similar approach. However, there is an increasing amount of people that have beaten the system and are now traveling full-time.
In this article, I hope to help those feeling unfulfilled by the high costs and the low rewards of a conventional nine to five. I want to spread this incredible way of life to as many people as possible and in order to do that, I want to share with you my personal account of how I started off with online work.
Update 2021: I first published this article in 2019 and I’m very grateful to say that I’m still living the digital nomad lifestyle. I first packed my bags for full-time travel in 2018 and haven’t looked back since. While the 2020 pandemic slowed the travel pace down a little, digital nomad jobs are still definitely a viable option and perhaps more attractive than ever!
Learn How to Start a Travel Blog: The 7-Step Guide
Starting Out as a Digital Nomad: My Story
When first looking to chase online work, it can inevitably be a little hard trying to find a place to start. For most, it’s not exactly as easy as having a digital nomad job fall onto your lap. For me, it took several years of ultra-low-budget travel, nervously watching my dwindling funds until I realised I needed to pursue online work.
Cementing My Passion for Travel
I started off as a naive backpacker on my first year-long trip around Europe in 2015. To save up for this trip, I worked tirelessly, saving every single penny and locking myself into an obsessive money-saving mindset.
Safe to say, the hard work paid off and that first trip ignited in me an undying passion for travel. But, I knew that dedicating years of my youth to working and saving money for short-lived moments of freedom was not going to be sustainable in the long term.
But still, I didn’t see any other way. I returned to Australia, finished my degree while working several jobs full-time in the hopes of saving more money for more trips. I refused to buy a car and cycled everywhere, non-essential spending was reduced to zero and I picked up extra work wherever an opportunity lay, from babysitting to teaching Muay Thai classes, to cleaning gyms to trying my hand at start-up ventures.
Escaping The Cycle of Saving and Landing My First Digital Nomad Job
During the period following my first big backpacking trip in Europe to the moment I packed my bags for good, I still managed to fit in several short ultra-low-budget trips to The Philippines, Thailand and New Zealand. It felt great to be back on the road in those fleeting moments. However, all they really achieved was cementing my longing for a raw, minimalist and nomadic way of life.
Then, in 2018, after reading books like The Alchemist and The Celestine Prophecy, I began to question what the end goal really was for me. I needed a purpose that aligned with my passion for raw travel, minimalist living and photography. What was my personal legend? I knew that I didn’t fit into the conventional framework of life and western ideals didn’t resonate with me.
I began furiously googling things like “how to make money online”, “how to become a digital nomad” and “how to get digital nomad jobs”.
Most of the answers then just confirmed the little I already knew. That to work online you need to either convince your current employer or start an online business or eCommerce store. I had already tried starting an online dropshipping business and an online anti-piracy service but they ultimately failed because I wasn’t prepared to dedicated thousands of dollars to something that I wasn’t passionate about.
Then, I found an ad looking for remote online English Teachers. My partner Haylea and I applied immediately and within a week we were offered a contract paying $20 USD per hour to work 12 hours a week on Sunday and Monday afternoons. This seemed too good to be true for us. $20 was easily enough to get us through a day backpacking in South East Asia. We were each being paid that per hour!
And, when you want something, all the universe conspires to helping you achieve it.The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Seeing how easy this was shifted my mentality instantly. I quit my stable desk job and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. A few weeks later I and found myself training full-time and even fulfilling my bucket list dream of fighting Muay Thai in Thailand.
Update 2021: Looking back now I guess I always knew that the digital nomad lifestyle was the only real answer for me. I’m still living full-time on the road and have since worked several digital nomad jobs. This blog was the answer to my calling for purpose and it continues to fuel my passion for travel.
How to become a Digital Nomad: Getting your first online job
I hope that my personal experience has inspired you to pursue your dreams of becoming a digital nomad. So, with that out of the way, let’s focus on you, that’s why you’re here!
In today’s economy, getting a reliable online job isn’t as hard as you might expect. Even when I first started in 2018, I considered it a distant dream but was shocked at how easy it was even then.
Again, let me reiterate that altough it might seem more attractive for many to start off by creating a brand or eCommerce business, this is actually a much more difficult venture.
Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve failed multiple times.
I spent a lot of time and money in these sort of ventures and I found that to get things running the way I wanted them, it just needed too much money. Money that I wanted to spend traveling. The universe rewards passion and starting a business just to make money is almost never going to work out.
But even with passion the main problem with starting your own business is that it takes time and money to set up. Although the rewards are greater in the long term, this route definitely won’t get you on the road any time soon.
For that reason, if you are like me and just want to fast-track your way to becoming a digital nomad, then I recommend looking for purely remote online work and then chasing any entrepreneurial dreams after that.
Let me tell you how to do that.
What are the Best REAL Digital Nomad Jobs for Beginners?
I guess beginner isn’t the right word. We’ve all had a job before, the only difference with digital nomad jobs is that you are able to work from your computer while traveling.
There are actually thousands of online opportunities out there. You just have to know where to look. Below I’ll introduce some options that got me started as a digital nomad. This is a similar path that many are taking because it’s reliable, consistent and will hopefully get you on the plane quicker.
Teaching English Online
My first online role and probably one of the best digital nomad jobs for beginners is online ESL Teaching. You’ve probably met plenty of people backpacking that do this to support their travels. This is because there is such a large demand for native English speaking online teachers. If you read my story above, this is exactly how I became a digital nomad!
By far, the best company to work for is DaDa. They are a Chinese company that employs thousands of English speaking teachers and has over ten thousand students. They let you create your own timetable and will pay you up to $24 USD per hour.
Click here to go straight to the DADA application page.
You are able to work up to 25 hours a week with Dada. Personally, however, I’ve found that a couple working 12 hours each a week got us through on a backpacker’s budget.
We travelled for 2 years solely on English teaching income and in the process hiked in the Himalayas, became a certified dive-master, sailed the east coast of Australia, bused around India, lived in a van in New Zealand, drove a Tuk-Tuk around Sri Lanka and had plenty of time for volunteering while backpacking through The Philippines, Borneo and many other places in Asia.
How to get the job
To apply, visit the Dada job applications website and begin the online registration. Assuming you meet the basic criteria, you should receive a scheduled Skype or Zoom interview within a week or so.
You will require:
- Working towards or completed TESOL / TEFL Course*
- Some sort of teaching experience (tutoring is enough)
- At least a high school level education
- Be a native English Speaker
- A laptop
*For online English teaching, you will need a 120 hour TESOL/TEFL certificate. One of the best-regarded and cost-effective ways to get your English teaching certificate is to do it online with MyTEFL. There are loads of cheap, dodgy courses out there but many don’t comply with standards and have a high chance of being rejected by in-person or online teaching employers. I highly recommend this online course because it is cost-effective and recognised everywhere as being high-quality.
Recently, China has introduced some laws requiring all teachers to at least have a Bachelor Degree in any field. In saying that, I know many online teachers that don’t have this qualification. If you don’t, try your luck anyway. Besides, a TEFL qualification is a great tool to have when you’re on the road.
What it’s like teaching online while traveling full time
Teaching English online is one of the easiest digital nomad jobs. It’s also really easy to learn and quite fun once you get going.
Because you develop your own fixed timetable, you will receive a fixed income each week. This is essentially the same as a regular job – you just don’t need to commute to an office and can work from a hostel, hotel or restaurant.
Teaching online requires nothing more than a laptop and a headset. Typically, students range from 4-14 years old. The in-house teaching application is similar to Skype, with both you and the student’s webcam visible. There is no need for extensive lesson planning or creation as all of the teaching material is supplied and tailored to your student.
You are given a slideshow, which you can allow your student to read, correcting errors and helping with activities. They also encourage free-talk and other games and activities that you can run on the fly.
Freelance Writing Jobs for Digital Nomads
My second job as a digital nomad was to write articles for an SEO company. These are essentially just articles designed to rank highly on search engines. They can range from product reviews to quick DIY guides to basic “mini-essays” on a popular topic.
However, there are also loads of basic copywriting jobs available as well. Having SEO knowledge helps a lot though since most publications are looking for writers who know how to rank on google. The great part is, almost anyone can learn it over the course of a few weeks. SEO knowledge is a great tool to have for those looking for how to become a digital nomad since it’s nowhere near as technical as coding or other software jobs!
There are several companies out there that require content writers. The company I worked for is quite small and are currently not hiring. But you can find many opportunities on the website; remoteok.io.
This is just a job site like SEEK for those looking for digital nomad jobs. Otherwise, if you’re in the states, you can also use Jooble to search for remote entry-level jobs with an opportunity to work from the road.
Getting a writing, SEO or copywriting job
With the increasing cost of your clicks, well-optimized content is getting more and more valuable. As a result, there are loads of companies looking for people to write content for them.
The only thing you need to get one of these digital nomad jobs is a knack for writing and some basic understanding of SEO. If you’ve written articles for university or school, these are great for a starting portfolio.
I also recommend finding and completing online courses on Udemy. I always check this site for new courses since sometimes there are crazy deals to up-skill your remote employability. I’ve even found some free ones that have helped me out massively with this blog!
Other Digital Nomad Jobs
While there are thousands of other jobs out there, I personally haven’t had the experience. Therefore, it’s hard to give you an honest representation of what it’s like.
However, I’ve met people that work as customer service and online assistant reps, coders, website designers and online data entry clerks. If any of these jobs represent your skill set, have a search online for remote opportunities. Again, remoteok is a great source for this (link above).
Even if you don’t have any of the skills for the jobs that I have mentioned, there’s no time like today to put in the work to become a digital nomad. Again, online courses are more highly-regarded than ever. Even google has started offering university and college-level education online!
Don’t know the skills but you’re looking for work to become a digital nomad? Follow these steps:
- Search SEEK, remoteok.io or Jooble for terms like: “remote work”, digital nomad jobs”, “online work”
- Look for patterns in the job ads that are attractive to you. Things like skills, education, software knowledge
- Begin self-learning the skills required, enrol in relevant online courses and familiarise yourself with the software used by the company
- Write several quality template cover letters and resumes, each tailored to the job you’re applying for
- Apply for jobs in quantity. Don’t limit yourself, send hundreds of emails. You’ll never have a chance if you don’t hit apply. Apply for them all and sell yourself. Embrace the fact that you are just starting out and disregard minimum prior experience. Trust me, my last desk job was in recruitment, I hired loads of people that didn’t meet the minimum requirements because often companies are aiming way too high!
What It’s Like Living on the Road Full-Time
*Update 2021: This section was written well over three years ago but I’ve left it here as a good insight into what life on the road was like when first starting out. It’s sure been a journey, and it’s just getting better. For all of you looking for how to become a digital nomad to embrace the world of travel and freedom, I wish you all the luck in the world, but you know how the saying goes, you make your own luck!.
For me, it’s coming up to a year of full-time travel. So far it definitely feels like the kind of lifestyle that I want to pursue for a long time.
Evidently, when first starting out with digital nomad jobs, you don’t earn a lot of money. However, it definitely is doable in areas where your dollar goes further like in South East Asia, the Indian Subcontinent or Central/South America.
Travel, photography, and writing are my passions. Digital nomad jobs and the overall backpacker lifestyle allows me to pursue this without the stress of diminishing travel funds.
In my opinion, working digital nomad jobs is a more rewarding and balanced life. I spend most of my days exploring jungles, temples, beaches, and waterfalls. I consider work as a necessary side-component of life, rather than the be all and end all that is the 9-5.
In the meantime, I now have time to focus on my own project such as We Seek Travel and get as many travel and landscape photography opportunity as possible. Ultimately, I’d love to fully support myself on a digital nomad lifestyle without the need for an occupation (more on this later). However, for now, sticking to digital nomad jobs and remote work is essential in keeping me on the road.
In total, I’d say that I currently spend about 15% of my time awake working, 15% on my blog and the rest on enjoying travel and taking photos. In contrast, when I was working a full-time job, the split was more like 65% working, 10% commuting and 25% for actual life.
Digital Nomad Insurance
Digital nomad living is all about minimalism and reducing costs and outgoings. Thankfully, it’s possible to cut pretty much all of the insurances you might be used to and just revert to one single cover for health, travel and personal belongings.
That’s because the two insurers I’m suggesting have single plans that cover it all– talk about a life hack!
As of 2021, SafteyWing offers a new “Remote Health” policy plan, which is one of the most comprehensive and cost-effective health insurances for those living life on the road and working digital nomad jobs.
I’ve used both throughout the years and have written a comprehensive comparison guide which you can find here.
Otherwise, enter in some quick details and get a quote for each below:
Tips for Saving Money While Traveling
With online digital nomad jobs, It’s entirely possible to not only fund your travel but save money at the same time. When I first started remote work, I was sure to limit my work hours to fund my needs. I didn’t want to find myself working all day every day. But, sometimes it was necessary to save a little bit more for flights, cameras or a broken laptop.
There are thousands of opportunities to volunteer your time while traveling. Not only will you be giving back to the countries that have given you so much, but you will also often be rewarded with free food and accommodation for your time.
Since these are the biggest, and sometimes only costs when it comes to travel, you will essentially be able to save all of your online income while volunteering.
The goal is to volunteer in the morning or day and work digital nomad jobs in the afternoon or night. The beauty of this is that it benefits everybody. The communities you are helping get much-needed support while you can have a rewarding experience and save money at the same time.
A great volunteering organization with projects around the world is All Hands and Hearts. Check them out.
House & Pet Sitting
One of the best ways to cut costs and actually earn some extra money while traveling and first starting off as a digital nomad is to sign up for house & pet sitting.
Basically, loads of people all over the world are looking to travel but first need someone to take care of their house or pets while they are away. For those looking to become digital nomads, this is a perfect niche to fill, especially when first getting started.
The best globally recognised service is Trusted House Sitters. They get loads of requests and you are able to publish an account whereby people in your area can request you to sit for them! You will need to sign up and pay a yearly fee to become a registered sitter. However, you will easily reclaim this money within a week of paid house sitting (not to mention the free accommodation).
The best part about this is that you basically get free accommodation and continue to work online as a digital nomad to save and earn loads more money!
Increase your working hours
Whether you’re teaching online, writing, or coding, it’s usually pretty easy to pick up some extra workloads. The companies and jobs I’ve listed above are usually pretty happy to have you working more hours.
The great thing about this is that it acts as a pause from travel. Take a couple of weeks on a tropical beach or among the rice paddies to stop moving around and just work. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save when you’re not spending money.
This goes without saying. Full time travel can be extremely cheap. It can also drain your funds fast. Typically, I spend under $10 a day on food and always try to sleep for under $15 a night.
Update 2021: I still stick to a similar budget because I value minimalism above all.
Sometimes, adventures, transport, and other things will cost more. However, these are essential for the travel experience and can’t be avoided.
What can be avoided, or put better, limited, are nights out. This is probably one of the biggest money drainers there is for backpackers. Although I’m not a stranger to a beer or two, I do this as a lifestyle rather than an escape from real life. Therefore I try to limit big nights out and definitely don’t party every day.
In saying this, if you find yourself in Myanmar (Burma), you can find bars that sell pints for 850 kyats ($0.56 USD).
How to Deal with Money, Pay and Taxes as a Digital Nomad
When first starting off with an online or remote job, it might be confusing as to how you deal with money. Rest assured, this is not much more complicated than a regular income in your home country.
However, one of the most important things is avoiding transaction costs. These are fees and conversation rates that quickly diminish your already stretched income.
So, get rid of your expensive phone plan. Cancel your unnecessary monthly subscriptions and combine your insurances under a single “travel cover“.
How to get paid
The best way to get paid from an online company is using TransferWise. This is a company and mobile app that physically sets up a bank account in your name anywhere in the world. You can then get paid in any currency, including US Dollars, Chinese Yuan and British Pounds.
The best part is, you can exchange between currencies at the best rates and for a fee of around $1 per transaction. This is by far the best and most effective way to handle pay and money as a digital nomad. It’s also completely legal and secure.
Update 2021: I still use TransferWise (now called Wise) for all of my income and payments. It’s by far the cheapest and best way to handle money when traveling and earning money outside of your traditional banking country. They now even offer debit cards so you can spend local currency anywhere in the world pretty much for free.
Internet for Digital Nomads
Internet connectivity largely dictates where you can go as a digital nomad. In saying that, you’d be surprised at just how easy it is to get a decent connection anywhere in the world.
I always just buy a local sim card wherever I go and use the 4G (LTE) hotspot from my phone to my laptop. I always buy prepaid plans with a decent amount of data. I’ve been doing this for four years now and when I was teaching, I never missed a class, even in the desert of India and remote islands in The Philippines.
However, I always use the Speedtest app when planning a place to stay. You can also check LTE coverage maps for the telecom provider you’ve chosen to see the area to look for when you need to book a room to work.
I then use Booking.com and search the location for hotels and hostels using their map feature, cross-referenced with the telecom provider’s coverage map. This has yet to fail me but there were a few times where cafes were the only option to work in some regions.
Essential Gear for Digital Nomads
When starting off as a digital nomad I wouldn’t say you need much more than a decent laptop and a phone to hotspot off. I’ve been using a Macbook Pro for several years now and I love. it.
I’ve got a dedicated “shop” on this blog that lists all of the electronics, travel gear and photography gear that I use. But, for digital nomad work, here are some of the things that I couldn’t do without:
- International GaN Charger: New technology that enables fast charging of laptops, camera batteries, phones etc in a tiny form-factor
- A good backpack: I go with a high-end 75L Osprey since it’s pretty much my house andI can use it for hiking and travel
- Packing cubes: Essential for organising my very few possessions
- Pacsafe retractasafe lock: Small, lightweight retractable cable lock for securing my belongings in a dorm or hotel room
- Microfiber towel: A travel essential
- Geopress water purifier: No more plastic bottle waste. I’ve used it to get fresh drinking water from Indian cities to backcountry trails
Digital nomad jobs and taxes
The tax situation will vary from country to country. Even though I don’t live there, Australia still expects me to pay income tax on any remote or foreign income. Most digital nomad jobs consider you to be a freelancer, even those with fixed schedules and working hours.
Due to this fact, you will most likely need to keep track of your income and declare it in your home country. I can’t advise too much on taxes as it just varies too greatly. But, if you’re just starting out on becoming a digital nomad, then I wouldn’t worry too much. That’s because most of your earnings are going to be reduced greatly, often falling below taxation thresholds.
The beauty of it is that your costs and outgoings will also reduce dramatically since you won’t be paying off a mortgage, car, insurances, phone bills etc. Financial freedom is easier than you think.
Escaping Occupation and Starting Entrepreneurship
For many, the digital nomad dream means escaping a job completely and running things on your own time. While remote freelancing gives you way more freedom than a conventional job, it’s still working for someone else.
That’s why many decide to take the dropshipping or eCommerce route to begin with. Like I said earlier, this is fantastic if you have the time and money to set things up. Usually, however, it takes months (or years) before you see your first dollar come through.
While running your own business is definitely the most rewarding way to live, it definitely isn’t easy to get there. That’s why in this guide I’ve detailed ways to quickly and easily get you living on the road.
My goal was always to fund continuous travel. When I achieved it in about a month of searching, I was shocked at how easy it was to achieve. Moving forward, I’d love to be able to be fully independent of external sources of income and completely focus on this blog.
I consider digital nomad jobs an essential step, and entrepreneurship and ventures to be next.
Like I mentioned earlier, travel, photography, and writing are my passions. It seems natural then to understand why I started a travel blog. While I definitely didn’t start WeSeekTravel to make money, it’s a project that I’m personally passionate about and if it can allow me to fulfill my dreams of full-time independent travel then I’m going to give it my all.
Update 2021: My dreams of traveling full-time from photography and blogging are now a reality. This blog is now my largest source of income and it continues to grow. I still have the same passion for raw, budget, and adventure travel. I typically still live off less than $50 per day, no longer by necessity but by choice. I’ve learnt a lot along the way, but taking those first steps to becoming a digital nomad is by far the best thing that I ever did. Don’t wait until tomorrow because that day never comes. Take those first steps today and thank yourself for the rest of your life.