Indulging a passion for travel and making money simultaneously is a coveted lifestyle of most people. When I was young, I knew I wanted to pursue my passion for exploring the world as much as possible.  And I actually enjoy working…when it’s the right job.  So it only made sense to pursue a career that enabled me to travel and earn a good living.

While there are a lot of jobs that allow you to do some travel while earning money (like being a flight attendant, working on cruise ships, etc.), these weren’t particularly of interest to me.   I wanted to create something of my own…and I wanted to be in charge of my future.  Luckily, technology has enabled this “digital nomad” location independent lifestyle.

And while many people talk about life as a digital nomad, few people really understand what that means and how it is possible to earn money while traveling.  Even though there are plenty of resources out there on the web about this topic, we wanted to shed some light on the subject as well and explain some of what we do to earn money while traveling.

Starting a Digital Business

A great way for entrepreneurs to make money on the road is to start some kind of digital business.  With the internet, there are seemingly endless ways to earn money online.  You just have to be creative and figure out what you can provide online that people are willing to pay for.  

Whether it’s information that people are looking for, like consulting advice or e-courses, to some type of professional service; it really depends on your skill set and passion.  It’s even better if you have some professional skills that set you a part from others, such as experience working at an advertising agency or being a certified public accountant.  Professional services are one of the best and most lucrative ways to make money with an business online.  But it’s certainly not the only option.

One of the most popular ways that people start an online business is by creating a blog that aligns with their experience and passion (as we have here with Peanuts or Pretzels).  Even though blogging is tough (and it’s technically a hobby until you can monetize it), it can be a springboard into building a brand and branching into different businesses.  In fact, we’ve ventured into a few other businesses as a result of our blog — including PoP Digital Media, our digital marketing and social media management company.

PoP Digital MediaOverall, there are many kinds of websites that offer information and services to people, and are able to build a following and monetize the site in various ways.  From affiliate sales, eBook and other digital product sales, and even personal services.

Yes, you really can make money online in legitimate ways!

Starting your own business is not easy though.  There’s a lot to learn, and like many entrepreneurs and small business owners, you have to master a lot of different skills from accounting to website design, SEO to copy writing, social media, legal crap, etc.  With SO many moving parts to manage, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  But the very nature of the internet is that you can learn about almost anything — so there’s a wealth of information out there to help you.

And if there is anything that you don’t understand or do particularly well, then find someone who does.  Which brings us to our next digital job…FREELANCERS!

Freelancing – One of the Biggest Digital Nomad Opportunities

If starting your own business seems overwhelming to you, then consider doing something more simple – like freelancing.  Freelancing probably the most popular option for professionals around the world to make money while traveling, or even while living in various places around the world.  Many people who have specialized skills, especially in areas where other people need help, can easily offer those services for a fee.

The great thing about freelancing is that you can decide just how much work you want to take on, and you have greater flexibility in when and how you work.  To find work as a freelancer, it’s always advisable to build your own network and get referrals that way.

However, there are also some pretty great sites out there such as FreelancerUpWork, and Hubstaff Talent (which advertises that they charge no fees to the freelancer).  There’s also Fiverr — where basically, people can buy and sell just about anything — example:  “I need a photo of someone jumping a limbo stick on rollerskates.”  And someone will do it and get paid.

Crazy!

UpWork for freelaning jobs

Top Jobs / Skills for a Freelancer

Here’s a just a quick list of some of the most popular jobs and skills that freelancers have, and are able to make good money doing.

Website Development

One of the most popular services out there is website development, since everyone is creating websites!  And it’s actually easier than ever to do this — you don’t even have to go to school for computer programming.  There are many platforms on the market (such as WordPress) that make it easy for people to use templates / themes to create websites on their own.  But many people don’t have the time or patience — so it’s easier to hire someone else to do it!

If you do have a degree in computers, then obviously you will be able to offer your clients a lot more — and you may be able to get large deals with bigger companies.  But for small-freelancers, there’s still a lot of money to be made by just doing simple website builds for people.

Website Design

Similar to the first option, but website design goes a bit further.  To do this, most freelancers have more graphic design skills and have expensive software such as Photoshop, etc.  They also have more technical knowledge because they need to know how to make the design and technical aspects work together.

Computer Programmer

Now this freelance job can get pretty technical.  But if you have the skills in this area, then you can really do well as a freelancer.  Many people who have websites want some custom work down, whether it is creating custom design styles, or tweaking an existing theme code to allow for enhanced functionality.  There are also opportunities for programmers to make their own website plug-ins for people to use on their existing websites, as well as even making apps!

Writing

If you aren’t a techie or a designer, perhaps you can write.  Another big area for freelancers is offering writing services..  In fact, copywriting for companies can be quite a well-paid service.  You may also be able to provide help to marketing and branding teams by writing headlines or other text to use in campaigns.  But it’s more than just writing copy, sometimes people need help writing presentations, product descriptions and reports.  We’ve also met some people who provide essay writing help online, and have been able to use their own writing skills to earn some cash to fund their travels around the world.

There are even other areas where you can even specialize your writing, including:

  • Rewriting texts – basically, taking existing copy and changing it completely while preserving the meaning
  • SEO copywriting – a specialized and highly valuable skills for companies who want their websites to rank well on search engines (like Google)
  • Editing – if you have a good eye for detail, this is a great option because SO many people need editors.  From articles, websites, and even books!
  • Social Media Content – there’s a lot going on with social media today, and for businesses, it’s not as simple as writing what you are thinking in that moment.  Many companies are looking for people to help them write their posts and create all that content that they share!  Example:  writing Tweets and Facebook posts.

Teach English Online

If you are a native-English speaker, then another great way to earn money and see the world is to become an English teacher.  In fact, Josh and I quit our jobs in the States to teach English in China for just over a year.  It’s an amazing way to connect with another culture and depending on the country, earn a really good living.

Teaching Thick & Thin

Josh teaching English to kids in China

While it’s cool to stay in one place for a while and get to experience a culture like a local, being a teacher can be time-consuming.  And you are not actually a “digital nomad” because you are tied to a school location.  So another option is to be an online English teacher!

Every day we are seeing more an more online opportunities to teach English!  This is a really great way to continue your travels and have a more flexible lifestyle, and being able to make money from wherever you are.  The only issue is that you must have really good internet (not always easy to find in some parts of the world).

Translator

From our experience as English teachers and while traveling to so many countries as tourists, ours eyes have really been opened to the need for language translation.  It’s not just the speaking-translation that happens in person (which is very well paid by the way), but it’s the writing translation.  So many companies are doing business in other countries and they need their product descriptions, marketing materials, etc. translated into another language.

In some cases, the hard translation has already been done — but maybe they just need someone to “finesse” the copy so that it sounds natural.  Often times, a straight translation will sound really strange and native-speakers will be turned off (especially in marketing).  So having a person edit the translation to make it sound more normal and appealing to the customer is actually a really great service to provide!

Virtual Assistant

Yes, this really is a thing now!  With so many people starting their own virtual businesses, it’s easy for them to get so busy that they don’t have time for many of the details.  As with any major business owner, they are looking for assistants who can help make their lives easier!

There’s a wide variety of tasks that a virtual assistant can do, it really depends on their skill-set and what the client needs.  Things like data entry, social media help, contact and calendar organization, meeting planning, customer service, etc.

Other Opportunities for Freelancers

There really are so many opportunities for freelancers, it’s a little crazy!  So here’s a super quick list…even though it still doesn’t cover everything!

  • Video editor
  • Social Media Manager
  • Audio recording (voice over or book reading)
  • Internet researcher (seriously…it’s a thing!)
  • Content development
  • Customer service
  • Illustration / Animation
  • Artists — of just about every kind!
  • Accounting & tax preparation
  • Software experts:  like PowerPoint & Excel Pros!

Work Hard, Play Hard – Living the Digital Nomad Life

For the right person, the digital nomad life may be the exact lifestyle they are looking for.  However, don’t believe it’s all beaches and sunsets.  Running a business is hard work, even if you are a freelancer.  One of the biggest challenges of the digital nomad life is trying to balance work and fun.  During our current journey around the world, it’s been difficult to find good places to work without distractions…and solid WiFi will become your never-ending quest!

Working at a cafe in Bangkok...and lots of coffee!

Working at a cafe in Bangkok…food WiFi and lots of coffee!

It really is a work hard, play hard kind of mentality.  But when you can find the right job or build the right kind of business that allows you a freedom lifestyle, it’s all worth it to be able to earn a living doing what you love and living the life you want to live.

Wanna Be a Digital Nomad Too?  Just Ask!

If you are interested in learning more about our lives as digital nomads, feel free to reach out to us.  We aren’t going to sell you courses on this topic or anything, but are happy to advise you from our own experience and share some resources with you.  Just leave us a comment below or send us a note!

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