I’ve been working online while traveling the world for over 3 years now.
If I got a dollar for every time someone asked me, “What exactly do you do?” I’d have another passive income stream. Of course, there is the allure of globetrotting the world while working online from your laptop but the mystery remains, “How are digital nomads actually making money online?”
There are four main ways which digital nomads are making money online aka four ways you can make money online too.
Land a Remote Job with a Remote Company
Believe it or not, many companies actually operate fully remote. They don’t have an office and they have a distributed team that works from various places from around the world. You may find their workers at different coworking spaces, cafes, or simply working from home. Some iconic companies that operate remotely include:
- Buffer: They are an online tool for social media management.
- Automattic: the creators of WordPress.
- Zapier: an online tool that connects different online tools to seamlessly work together. This tool is a lifesaver for anyone working online.
- Toptal: Which hires the top 3% of freelancers.
You can check out this list of 100 Top Companies with Remote Jobs in 2018.
How to Find a Remote Job with a Remote Company
Remote companies hire for a variety of positions, just like a traditional 9-5 job hire for a variety of positions. However, it can be hard to know if a company operates remotely. If you’re looking for a remote job I highly suggest checking out FlexJobs – it’s a job posting site but they only post remote work positions. This makes it so much easier because you know that when you apply for a job that the company already operates remotely. You can also check out, ‘The 6 Best Sites for Finding Remote Work’.
Also, keep in mind most startups operate remotely. You can check out AngelList for a list of startups. You can also see if they recently got funding which is a good sign they may have the money to start hiring.
Become a Freelancer
The next, and actually one of the most popular ways people make money online is by freelancing. Freelancing is such a gem because you can:
- Start freelancing on the side of your 9-5 and build it up. This means by the time you quit your 9-5 you already have a consistent stream of online income.
- Work with a variety of clients and projects. This keeps things interesting.
- Work anywhere you want. Whether that’s a different country, a different cafe, or just straight up working in your PJs from your bed.
- Create your own working hours. Yup, you create your own hours so you can finally ditch that alarm clock.
- Essentially be your own boss. You can work wherever you want, when you want, charge whatever you want (yup, you decide when you ‘get a raise’). Ultimate freedom.
On that note, it’s easier for companies to commit to freelancers than employees. Most companies would rather bring on a freelancer because it’s less commitment than an employee. With employees, employers are responsible with a slew of paperwork and legalities and sometimes it’s just easier all around to hire someone for a project here and there then trying to make sure you have a large enough workload for someone consistently.
What is a Freelancer?
If you’re not familiar, essentially what a freelancer is, is a person who offers some sort of service ie. designer, marketer, writer, virtual assistant, consultant etc. They typically take on various projects with various clients. They’re essentially the same thing as contractors.
What to Charge as a Freelancer
If you go this route, keep in mind your clients are employers which means:
- No health coverage
- No pay for sick days
- No pay for vacation days
- You’ll have to pay for your own computer, equipment, software etc.
This means you need to consider these costs when determining your freelance rate. Yes, that means you’ll charge more and make more money as a freelancer. If you need some help with this, here’s ‘How to Calculate your Freelance Rate’.
Again, the majority of digital nomads and location independent professionals you see living the dream on Instagram are most likely a freelancer. As a rough estimation, probably 50% or more of digital nomads are freelancers.
Build a Personal Brand with Multiple Income Streams
Another way digital nomads actually make money online are by building a personal brand. This route requires a lot of patience as it can take some time to build up a personal brand.
How to Build a Personal Brand
It’s pretty simple.
- Pick a topic. First things first, pick something that you’re into and that other people have an interest in learning more about. Whether it’s travel, animals, personal development etc and create content around that topic.
- Pick a Platform to Share Your Content. You should stick with one go-to platform but it could be videos on YouTube, writing a personal blog, posting on Instagram etc. Then get to work putting out content consistently around your topic of choice.
- Yes, YOU can actually do this. Most people think, I don’t know what topic I’d write about or they think:
- “but I’m not a writer”
- “there are better vloggers out there”
- “I’m not really that good at taking photos”
I remember when I was in my 9-5 I thought, “If only I was a good writer I could become a blogger and get paid to travel the world”. The funny thing is, is that technically I’m now a blogger and make money from it, however, I see myself more as a storyteller and sharer of information. If you can make the same mindset shift you’ll be able to get out of your own head. And don’t compare yourself to others, there is plenty of space for everyone online.
How to Make Money From a Personal Brand
Once you build up a personal brand you become an authority on a certain topic. People now know you as that person that knows everything about X topic. Once that happens, and it doesn’t take a huge following to get there, you can then make money the following ways:
- Online products – This could be an online course, an ebook, an online workbook etc
- Affiliate links – With affiliate links you link to a product or service (it could be t-shirts, an online tool etc) but your link has a special code attached to it to make it your very own and then one someone buy the product or service that you linked to, you get a percentage of the sale. Check out CJ affiliate or Amazon Affiliates if you want to get started. Most companies and products will be listed on CJ affiliate and if not you can reach out directly to a company and ask if they have an affiliate program. You typically have to apply but 90% of the time they’ll accept you.
- Sponsored Content – Once you’re an expert on a certain topic, brands will pay you to write about them, mention them in your videos etc.
- Press Trips – This may be more for the travel bloggers and travel vloggers but sometimes tourist boards will pay you to go on free trips – they’ll cover expenses such as hotel, meals and excursions and even pay you to then create content around the experience.
- Speaking Gigs – This part wouldn’t necessarily be a huge money maker especially for quite some time, but it can indirectly make you some money. As a speaker, you get in front of more potential customers who can then go on to buy your products, sign up for coaching with you etc.
- Coaching/Consulting – This is a great way to make money from a personal brand. Once you’re an established as an expert on a certain topic, people know that’s your forte and that you know your stuff. People will then pay you to coach them or mentor them to achieve what you’ve achieved or to know what you know. There may also be companies that hire you to consult for them based on your topic of expertise
- Freelance – Say you’re a blogger, oftentimes bloggers will also do freelance writing for clients as well. Or say you’re a vlogger, companies may hire you for video production for their brands.
- Other businesses – Once you’re an established authority on a topic you can then build a business off that topic. For example, I started this blog, The Remote Nomad, which is all about working online while traveling the world and living life on your terms. Then, when I started my company, WiFly Nomads, which is an in-person immersive experience in Bali that shows people how to get started working online, it was easy to get an instant audience for my company. I simply pushed everyone from my personal brand over to my new brand and company. Because both these brands hit the same topic and serve a similar audience, it was easy for people in The Remote Nomad audience to then have instant interest in WiFly Nomads.
Again, this is a long-term strategy but is an incredible long-term plan and there are endless opportunities when you become an expert on a certain topic.
Start Your Own Business
And finally, the last way digital nomads are making money online – they start a business. This is probably the most challenging thing to get started as it often requires time or money resources to get off the ground.
This could be a product, a service, whatever it is that you like. It’s a balance between where your skills/passions lie and what problem you solve for other people.
Remember, the only guarantee for failure is not trying at all.
Some things to consider when starting a business…
What is your WHY?
If your Why is to motivated by money, status, or something superficial, you might lose before you even have a chance to win. Entrepreneurship is like an emotional roller coaster with lots of ups and down and if you don’t have a true, deep purpose for what you’re doing, chances are you’ll give up.
What are you selling and what problem do you solve for people?
Go deep with this.
- If you’re a personal trainer it’s not health and fitness, it’s likely confidence that you’re selling.
- If you sell high-quality cars, you’re selling status.
- If you sell vacations, you’re selling a temporary sense of freedom.
Know what you’re really selling and what problem it solves for your customer. This format should help you gain clarity and allow you to consciously communicate what you do to others.
I help (who your ideal customer/niche) to (what problem you solve) by (how you help them)
Why would someone choose you over a competitor? Do you offer….
- Better customer service
- Better quality product
- More convenience
- More variety
- A lower price point etc. Warning: It’s advisable not trying to make yourself stand out over lower price point. That’s for another blog post…
And remember, a business is only a business once it’s making money, otherwise it’s just a really great idea. So, prioritize your top income generating tasks and make them your biggest priority at launch.