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How Do Digital Nomads Make Money in 2021? [8 Best Ways!]

14 Mins read

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.

Are you tired of feeling trapped in one location, stuck going into an office every day for the rest of your life? This feeling isn’t an uncommon one, and it’s sparked a global interest in the lifestyle of a digital nomad.

If you like the idea of making money as a digital nomad, then you’re one of the many folks who want to be able to work from anywhere and still make a great living. It used to be a pipe dream reserved for those with enough startup cash to get them by while they adventure around the world. But these days, it’s more doable than ever!

So, how do digital nomads make money? And how can you get started? Here’s our in-depth guide to making money from anywhere using little more than your computer!

What is a Digital Nomad?


There are a lot of misconceptions about the term “digital nomad.” Some believe that it refers to people who work in various corners of the internet, while others have questions about what lines of work are acceptable in this field.

Fortunately, there are plenty of different ways that this term is defined to fit your preference! Here’s the official definition:

A digital nomad is somebody who works remotely.

This is more than the typical “work from home” lifestyle that many of us have gotten used to in a post-pandemic landscape. For a digital nomad, these remote workers are the type who travel to different locations to do their work.

Rather than relying on one home office or office space, they use local resources to get things done. This may include working in libraries, coffee shops, temporary office spaces, and mobile hotspots – in different states or countries across the world.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

But what kind of work does the digital nomad do to fund this exciting lifestyle? There are a few common types of work that is done in this kind of environment.

Freelancers

A large portion of digital nomads are people who describe themselves as freelancers. They will be working with clients online, providing a skilled service that they have experience in.

Common freelancers might include:

  • Graphic designers
  • SEO strategists
  • Coders
  • Photographers
  • Bloggers

Not only is this a rewarding way to see the world, but it’s sometimes possible for digital nomads to get direct benefits from their travelling. For example, imagine being hired to write reviews for cuisines in different countries or being paid to take tourist photos while on your own trips.

Online Entrepreneurs

Another type of digital nomad is the entrepreneur who runs their own online business. This may be an online store, affiliate marketing site, e-commerce site, social media influencing, or software design.

While the location they’re moving within might not always directly impact the work, they remain working in a field that can be done anywhere in the world (as long as you have a stable internet connection!)

Investors

Investors are another kind of digital nomad. This individual is somebody who manages investment portfolios consisting of stocks, bonds, real estate, or other forms of investment. This may also be combined with different types of passive income.

Remote Workers

Of course, not everybody who describes themselves as a digital nomad is working for themselves. Some are remote workers who have full-time positions in companies. With more than half of many populations holding jobs that are compatible with remote work, it’s more common than you’d think. And it’s more common than ever now that the coronavirus pandemic has shown companies that it’s doable!

You no longer have to live in the same city as your company is based out of. You may be a remote worker 100% of the time, or find yourself going into the office once a month. Regardless, this kind of schedule provides flexibility.

There are a lot of possibilities when you’re not confined by the boundaries of a 9-5 job. This means that plenty of people are learning how digital nomads make money through various routes of employment, including combinations of the options above!

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

The Pros and Cons of a Digital Nomad Lifestyle


Digital nomad lifestyles are incredible for some. For others, it’s not the best option. Your lifestyle will play a big role in how much you can get from this experience.

So, here are some of the pros and cons of taking the nomadic route!

The Pros

You’re your own boss when working as a digital nomad. While there are the odd digital nomads who work remotely for a company, a large percentage of them are self-employed. This means you’re in charge of your own work style, and you can live whatever kind of lifestyle works for you!

Being your own boss also means setting your own hours. You may still have deadlines, but you’ll get to design your work schedule.

But by far the biggest benefit of being a digital nomad is that you have complete location independence. Most places in the world have wireless internet that will allow you to do your work and submit it on time. You may choose to spend your time bounding between cities, countries, or even continents. Wherever you want to go, you can!

Living with location independence is also a big motivator to spend more time travelling. You won’t have to wait for time off of work or holiday hours to see a part of the world you’ve always wanted to visit, since you’ll be able to work while you’re on the road!

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Cons

It can be hard to create a stable group of friendships or to build a family with a nomadic lifestyle. You may win the jackpot and find yourself in a partnership where both of you have the same lifestyle, but this isn’t often the case.

It is also increasingly challenging for families to begin this lifestyle, as you’ll have more mouths to feed, bodies to relocate, and childcare to consider.

Not having a fixed address or permanent home can also be a challenge to plenty of individuals. This is especially true if you’re spreading yourself across larger areas, as you may not even have a country to call home.

Finances are another potential con to digital nomad lifestyles. You have the potential to earn more cash than you would at another job, but your finances are bound to be complicated. You’ll have to consider the following financial questions:

  • How will you pay for room and board?
  • Where will you file your taxes?
  • How will you handle changing currencies when travelling abroad?
  • Where will you store your cash?
  • Do you have an ample emergency fund?
  • How will you handle health care when travelling overseas?

You’ll also typically need to have a fair amount of money saved up to live a nomadic lifestyle. This may be to secure stable transportation or to have emergency savings if you find yourself unable to get enough work while you’re abroad.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Getting Started as a Digital Nomad


The first step to getting started as a digital nomad is to find or develop a personal skill that is valuable enough that people will want to pay for it! For this type of nomad living, it should be something that can be done virtually.

Many people start doing this by considering their past experience. For example, if you’ve always loved writing or have experience as a journalist, you may be able to thrive as a freelance writer. Have you maintained a successful YouTube channel for years? Why not edit videos for others?

Once you have an idea of what you could successfully do through online work, you’ll want to figure out where to find these types of opportunities in your skills of choice.

Where to Find Work Online

Websites like UpWork or Fiverr are common places to start off or to connect with people looking to hire. Some individuals start on these sites and then branch off to finding their own clients, while others are able to make a living just from this type of gig work.

Other social networking sites targeted towards careers and job searching have plenty of opportunities to find direct employment or find leads on future possibilities. For example, LinkedIn allows you to find like-minded others and share career tips, while also directly searching for hiring options.

Some websites are also directly catered towards remote work. FlexJobs is one option that will connect you to full and part-time jobs, while also showing freelance work and company work.

Brush Up on Your Skills

Not sure where to start off? SkillShare has plenty of online learning opportunities for people who want to discover and develop their digital nomad skills. There are also videos that will show you how to make the leap from working a full time, in-person job to living and working nomadically! Try it out here for some inspiration.

There are also bloggers out there who have tried the same journey and documented their every step. YouTube is filled with free videos of people sharing their nomadic lifestyles, and you can search directly through what type of work they do!

What Jobs Can a Digital Nomad Do?


In learning how do digital nomads make money, it’s important to remember what type of work you can do – and what you actually want to do too!

There are some fields where it’s impossible or very difficult to be a digital nomad, like working in specialised health care, service jobs, or some types of sales jobs. However, anything that can be done remotely can be empower a digital nomad lifestyle.

You can also consider a digital nomad lifestyle where you do have a fixed address but continue to travel and work from around the world. Perhaps you have a small apartment in your hometown and go back for the winter, choosing to live as a digital nomad for the rest of the year. Or maybe you are needed in the office once every few months for essential meetings. You’ve got options!

As mentioned, the coronavirus pandemic has taught a lot of employers just how many jobs can be done remotely. Meetings are usually just as valuable when occurring over video chat, and meeting clients can be done virtually more often than we realized. If your previous role transitioned to working from home and you aren’t ready to go back to the office, consider asking your employer if you can maintain the work-from-home status for even longer.

8 Ways to Make Money as a Digital Nomad


We’ve discussed how to get started as a digital nomad and outlined the reasons why people choose this lifestyle. Now, it’s time to dig into the ways that you can make money as a digital nomad!

Freelancing

Freelancing is one of the most popular ways to live as a digital nomad. This is a favourite choice for many, as it allows freedom over clients, various different types of work, and more control over where you’re living.

Freelancers can find work in various fields, including:

  • Writing
  • Coding
  • Editing
  • Data analysis
  • Marketing
  • And more!

A freelancer is somebody who works for themselves, not a single company. This means that you are directly seeking out jobs and setting your work hours for yourself, choosing your wages, and ensuring that you’re properly trained for the work that you take on!

Your freelance work might be dependent on where you’re travelling, such as reviewing local tourist areas or being a videographer for travel agencies. Other work, like data analysis or web design, doesn’t depend at all on location and allows you to travel freely.

fiverr vs upwork
Image courtesy of Fiverr.

Consulting

George Bernard Shaw once wrote that those who can’t do, teach. But what about the people who can do and still want to teach?

Consulting is when you provide expert advice to individuals doing a certain job. If you’ve proven your worth or skills in a specific field, you may be experienced enough to offer consulting services.

Consultants typically work with businesses of different sizes. If you offer work as a freelance consultant, you may find yourself travelling to locations to provide them with a service in person. This will still allow you to travel, though you’ll have less of a say in where you travel to and how long you stay there.

Other consultants are able to do their work completely virtually. For example, you may be an expert in e-commerce, offering consulting work for existing e-commerce brands. This is all doable online, with no in-person work needed!

Blogging and Affiliate Marketing

Have you always felt the desire to write? Blogging is a fantastic way to live as a digital nomad. It allows you to create your own content on your own time, drawing from your passions.

There are many types of blogs you can create. In fact, we already have handy guides on a lot of successful niches!

Here are just a few of them:

The first step you’ll need to take is registering a domain name. This allows you to take up space on the internet and provide a home for your readers! Our favourite way to start off is with GoDaddy, as it also allows you to purchase hosting plans. Find out more here!

Affiliate marketing is a similar route. This is where you share products taken from affiliate networks and programs and promote them to your followers. Every time a follower buys, you’ll earn a commission!

You can choose to incorporate affiliate links throughout your blog or another website, or you can make a website specifically for affiliate marketing!

Making money from blogging and affiliate marketing will take some time. This means that it’s a great route to explore in addition to other ways of living as a digital nomad.

You may also decide to wait until your blog has started generating enough income before you start living nomadically. If you want to see how one website was grown from making £0 per month to £3,000+ (which is more than enough to make it as a digital nomad), then take a look at our affiliate dashboard here!

Running an E-commerce Store

An e-commerce store is essentially any business that sells products online. Consider any online retailers that you love, like Amazon, as well as more traditional retailers that are online, such as Target or Best Buy. Long gone are the days of in-person shopping for all of your essentials when online shopping exists!

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Running an e-commerce store is a great way to answer the question, “How do digital nomads make money?” While many people may run e-commerce stores with physical goods, it’s common for digital nomads to take the approach of dropshipping.

Dropshipping is when you sell to customers, but don’t maintain the inventory yourself. In that way, affiliate marketing and dropshipping are similar. Rather, you’d connect with a supplier who provides the product. You’re more of a middle-man between the customer and supplier, while still making plenty of cash.

You can run a dropshipping site from anywhere in the world, regardless of where your suppliers or customers are. This makes it a perfect choice for the aspiring digital nomad!

Not a fan of dropshipping? You can also consider selling digital products, like software or online courses. Selling your own services will also work in this category, combining it with freelancing.

Renting Out Your Home

Do you want to travel the world, earn money from anywhere, and still have a permanent address to go back to when you desire some much-needed family time? People who live in nice homes or near popular attractions, or even those with unique living situations, are turning to home rental services to earn money.

The most common way to do this is by renting out your home on services such as Airbnb. You can allow others to stay at your place year-round, blocking it off for the times that you want to stay home. You’ll earn rental income and be able to keep your property without worrying about the costs of rent!

As you learn how to manage properties through rental services, you may be able to purchase more homes. Eventually, you could own places all around the world that you rent out (or stay in while visiting the area), growing your nomadic empire!

Selling Online Courses

Remember how we mentioned Skillshare classes earlier in this guide on how do digital nomads make money? The videos that you watch on this platform are created by people with experience and expertise that they’re able to sell.

Is there something that you consider yourself an expert in? If you’re a pro at something like writing, video editing, management, public speaking, or any other talent, then you can monetise it!

Some platforms like Skillshare take a more basic and beginner-friendly approach, allowing you to upload videos or short courses for people to follow. Other platforms, like Udemy, take a more in-depth approach and encourage you to upload full courses with tests, lectures, and more. Your talents might fit better on one platform, or you can host an entire school worth of classes!

Click here to get started on Udemy today!

Teach Virtually

In addition to teaching via your own online courses, there are various routes of virtual nomadic work that allow you to teach in real classrooms virtually. Specifically, teaching the English language to individuals in other countries is a market that is always booming. People are eager to learn popular languages, and are more than ready to learn them online after the COVID-19 pandemic proved that online learning is feasible!

You can also offer online tutoring. This can be in your specific niche as a virtual nomad, or in any of the various subjects or languages that you thrived at while you were in school!

Your online lessons can be advertised on various job boards or local marketplaces. You can also find companies, like VIPKID, that find the work for you. They let you set your own schedule while also ensuring that you have stable work.

how do digital nomads make money
Image courtesy of VIPKID.

Frequently Asked Questions


Going from somebody working a consistent schedule to an individual who travels and earns an income while going wherever they want is a massive lifestyle change. It’s also a commitment that you need to plan for.

So, we understand if you have some questions! Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions people have when wondering how do digital nomads make money.

How do I monetise my skills?

We have already discussed the various ways that you can earn an income while working virtually, though it’s common to wonder how your unique set of skills can be monetised.

The first thing to do when asking this question is to make a list of all of the things that you know how to do, or are interested in studying more. Maybe you’re a great storyteller or love working with kids. You’ll then want to branch out and think about how each of these skills could be turned into a job, no matter how small it may seem.

Let’s take the storytelling example into consideration. Do you love writing creative stories? Then you may be able to find a way to monetise it in the following ways:

  • By writing ebooks for people as a ghostwriter
  • By editing novels and improving the work of other writers
  • By teaching English to children, as you’ll be able to tell stories that get them excited to learn

A lot of digital nomads have various hats that they wear along their journey and don’t settle into one singular job. The skills you monetise may take you across many different niches, and that’s a part of the fun!

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

How much do digital nomads earn?

Money is often the biggest question. That’s a given, considering you’re asking how do digital nomads make money!

Fortunately, you can earn almost as much as you want to, depending on how much work you want to do. Some people live a digital nomad lifestyle because they want to work less, and are happy to earn enough to live off of and nothing more. Others use it as a way to make millions while also travelling.

If you want to see proof that it works, one study conducted found that 22% of digital nomads were able to make between £28,835 and £57,086 per year, which is in the range of an average salary. With that said, online earners have the potential to make far more than that – you just have to build up a roster of clients or different streams of income!

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

How much does it cost to be a digital nomad?

There are a lot of costs that come with being a digital nomad. You may not have a normal rent to consider, but the following are common fees associated with this lifestyle:

  • Transportation costs (car, plane, trains, etc.)
  • Shelter costs (short term rentals, van living, etc.)
  • Internet costs (high-speed internet and cellular data plans)
  • A high-quality computer that will withstand a lot of travelling
  • Food

Overall, being a digital nomad is often cheaper than living in a city or town, as many big-ticket traditional costs are lower. You’ll also buy less stuff, simply because you have less space for it all. One analysis found that, on the low-end, digital nomads spend about £650 per month.

Do digital nomads pay taxes?

Everybody has to pay taxes. It’s important to track all of your expenses as a digital nomad, including logging your receipts and storing tax-deductible logs.

You’ll typically submit your taxes through your home country, which is wherever your fixed address was prior to your lifestyle. While taxes as a nomad are complicated, you can always read a thorough digital nomad tax guide or invest in getting somebody to do your taxes for you.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

How Do Digital Nomads Make Money Wrap-Up


To summarise, finding out how do digital nomads make money is a journey that inspires plenty of people to start a new way of living themselves.

It is a freeing thing to do, encouraging you to say goodbye to the confines of the 40 hour work week and a single place to live. You’ll get to see more of the world, spend time reflecting on life, and earn money while doing it!

Throughout this guide, we have discussed the following ways for digital nomads to make money:

  • Freelancing
  • Consulting
  • Blogging
  • Affiliate marketing
  • E-commerce stores
  • Renting homes
  • Selling courses
  • Teaching virtually

As you can see, there are a lot of ways that you can learn how to succeed as a digital nomad. And if you decide to pursue this lifestyle, you’ll probably take on a few of them!

So, reflect on your skills and passions, and start planning for your future.

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