Last Updated on July 7, 2020 by Camilla Gill
Here is my story on why I decided to be a digital nomad, and how to become a digital nomad too.
As a teenager, I felt incredible pressure from my teachers, parents and even my friends to feel excited about the prospect of university.
. . when in reality I felt trapped. . .
I couldn’t see the point of going to university for six hours of lectures a week for three years of my life, when I could be out living life instead.
But, I didn’t see how I was going to be anything else when everyone was expecting me to follow the ‘traditional’ path of university followed by a grad scheme in London.
This was back in 2009, I didn’t know anyone who was working online while travelling back then.
The idea of becoming a digital nomad didn’t seem like a real option.
I remember feeling so lost in my final years of school, not having a clue what I was going to do after school.
All I knew was that I wanted to travel and live abroad. I also knew I wanted to be my own boss. But apart from that, I had no idea.
Time was running out and after a gap year travelling in Australia, the time had arrived for me to apply for university. . .
NO ONE CARES
I went to my old school to ask for help with my university applications and luckily, a wise teacher sat me down and told me not to go university.
My teacher could see that I wasn’t 100% sold on the idea of higher education.
She told me that there’s no point in going to university if you’re not 100% invested.
All I would achieve would be a lifetime of debt and a whole bunch of hangovers.
I was shell-shocked.
It was the first time I had ever been told that there was a different path to choose.
I went home and bravely told my parents, expecting to be told in no uncertain terms that I would indeed be going to university and stop being silly.
But, to my surprise, my parents nodded and said, ‘No problem, Phoebe’.
Then it hit me, no one cared what I did apart from me.
2010 – MOVING ABROAD
From this moment on, my life changed direction.
Instead of applying to university, I went off to live in Brazil for 6 months.
Brazil led me to living in Portugal.
In Portugal, I found a job in a bar for a while before starting work in an estate agency.
After a year of working in an office though, I was back dreaming of travelling the world and being my own boss.
This was in 2014 now, and digital nomads were on the rise.
I would talk about how I wanted to work online with a website of some sort, but no concrete ideas of how to make it happen.
Eventually I worked up the courage to quit my office job in Portugal and made a plan to backpack around Colombia.
Predictably, I fell in love with Colombia and decided to find work as an English teacher there so that I could stay.
2016 – BECOMING A DIGITAL NOMAD
While in Colombia, I started exploring the idea of how I could be a digital nomad.
Being a digital nomad appealed to me for the flexibility and freedom that the lifestyle offers.
I love living in warmer climates but I also love my family and like spending time with them.
My perfect life would be living the majority of the year in a hot country but going home for a couple times a year for a month to two months at a time to spend time with family and friends.
The only way you can achieve a lifestyle like this is through remote work, freelancing or being a digital nomad.
But I had no idea where to start.
The idea of Upwork really appealed to me, but I felt like I didn’t have any viable skills to offer.
I didn’t have a cool skill like a web developer or content writer.
How can I become a digital nomad with no skills?
What kind of jobs could I do online that would allow me to become a digital nomad?
Still, I kept looking through the job postings on Upwork. Searching hopefully for any type of work that I felt qualified to do
Eventually though, I found remote work doing market research for small companies and solo entrepreneurs.
The market research projects were always one-off projects though. I needed to search for more steady work.
This came through in the form of Virtual Assistant roles, remote project management positions as well as long-term research jobs.
2017-2019 – JOURNEY TO BECOME A DIGITAL NOMAD
In my first year of working online, I was taking home about $1600/month.
This was more than enough for me to live comfortably in Colombia, but I was keen to increase my income and begin saving money.
My rate been steady at $15/hour for a while but, over time, my confidence grew and I gradually increased by fee on Upwork to over $35/hour.
After a year and a half of freelancing, my digital nomad income was a steady $3000 per month.
This came from a combination of long-term remote work jobs as well as individual market research projects for a selection of clients.
Then after two years of working online, I secured a well-paid contract with a successful digital marketing agency in London.
With this new client paying me such a good rate for SEO work, I was able to say goodbye to a couple of my lesser paid gigs.
In my third year of freelancing, I was being paid between $25-35/hour.
Coupled with the other contracts I had secured, my digital nomad salary was over $50,000!
HOW TO BECOME A DIGITAL NOMAD TOO
If I could turn back time, the one thing I would do is to start my journey to being a digital nomad much sooner.
My preoccupations had all been in my head.
I wasted time worrying about what others would think of me if I didn’t go to university.
I had forgotten that actually, no one cares what you do.
The people who love you want you to be happy and if they don’t want that, then they shouldn’t matter to you.
If you are fortunate enough to be young and with no responsibilities such as children, then why not give your dream a go?
Life is too short to always wonder what could have happened, so while you’re young give your dream a shot.
It’s so easy to get caught up in your little world, following along mindlessly with the crowd.
The best way to become a digital nomad is to try and surround yourself with like-minded people. Read stories on the internet, follow digital nomad influencers, listen to blog posts.
Virtually immerse yourself in the digital nomad world.
Even if you’re not young, there is still time to reach for your goals.
DIGITAL NOMAD RESOURCES
For more information on how you can start working online, check out these resources and guides below.