While the 9-5 is still the norm for many of us, there’s a new wave of employees changing the job market: digital nomads. Armed with nothing more than a laptop and a strong work ethic, they’re giving a new meaning to flexible working hours, travelling the world while making beaches, cafes, and sofas their offices.
With more than 4.8 million Brits now identifying as self employed (via IPSE), and the surge in companies offering remote employment opportunities, there’s never been a better time to pack in contracted hours in favour of working on your own terms. FlexJobs report a huge 70% of digital nomads are female; Cosmopolitan UK spoke to eight of them who are making their job – and money – work hand in hand with travelling.
Danielle is from Montreal, Canada and runs two successful online businesses.
“I’ve always worked for myself – little jobs here and there. I was making a good income, living in Montreal working online, but it felt like something was missing. So, I booked a two-week trip to Costa Rica that changed everything.
“I ended up meeting up with a digital nomad group called Wifi Tribe in Nicaragua. I met people who didn’t just work for money but worked for purpose; fulfilment. I came back from that trip and sold everything I had. Three months later, I was back in Costa Rica and officially a digital nomad.
“In 2018, I set up an online school that teaches creative freelancers how to find better clients and travel the world, and also run a design agency. We help start-ups who have raised their first round of funding to build a market-ready product.
“I love travelling but it does come with challenges. Changing countries, learning a new languages and making new friends — it really forces you out of your comfort zone. There are moments it feels overwhelming, like when you want to communicate something but you can’t say it in the native language. But overall they challenges have made me such a more confident person, and that reflects in my business.
“I have been given the freedom to be authentically me. When you live in one place sometimes it feels like your identity is fixed. Your friends and family know you as one kind of person. Yet, when you touch down in a new country, you have no story. You can be whoever you want. In having that freedom, I felt freer to show who I really am.”
Find out more about Danielle’s Freelance Travel Network here
* $150,000 CAD
Jessica from Atlanta, USA, works remotely for a non-profit organisation as a Graphic Designer.
“I was interviewing for entry-level design positions at advertising agencies when the executive director of Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA) reached out to me. I negotiated a deal with my director that allowed me to work remotely for the first few months, and moved to Beijing in August 2014. I committed five hours a day to learning Mandarin and five hours every evening to graphic design work. When I came back to Atlanta, my director was incredibly positive about the experience, and encouraged me to keep travelling. In 2017, I bought my first one-way ticket.
“The remote role has allowed me the freedom to choose which country I work from, and given me time to pursue my passions and get involved in the community. But I do also get a steady paycheque, which removes a lot of the financial stress.
“Sometimes it’s uncomfortable to walk into a room or bar full of people and you don’t know anyone, but I have made friends through walking tours, nomad meet ups, language exchanges and hostels. I have been through most of Europe, and several countries in Asia such as the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, China, Indonesia, and Japan. I visited Colombia and Ecuador, plus some places in the Middle East, New Zealand and Australia. ”
Find out more about Jessica here
*Around $35,000 USD
India is originally from Sussex, UK, but grew up in France, and works as a content creator.
“While working in London in what I thought was my dream job, I started to neglect my health, and stopped taking care of myself. I was anxious, depressed and in severe pain from back surgery I had aged 14, which in turn made me miserable.
“I was signed off from work when it all came to a head a year ago, and realised I needed to follow my heart and start exploring the world. I refer to myself now as a digital content creator. Most of my work is writing and editing, but I also manage social media channels and websites for clients, and have designed an online course for people who want to become digital nomads.
“Being a freelancer can feel financially precarious at times, but fortunately everything has worked out so far. It’s also challenging figuring out a work/life balance when you’re travelling – knowing that you’re not on a long holiday, and inversely, knowing when to stop working.
“At the moment, I drive to Venice beach most evenings to sit and work during the sunset. It’s magical, and I have to take a few moments every time to appreciate how fortunate I am.”
Find out more about India here
Katrina is a US citizen who, was born in Germany, and works as a business consultant.
“I made the decision to become a digital nomad and sell my business (and everything else!) so I could travel full-time, after I discovered that my broad business knowledge combined with passion for this lifestyle translated easily. My day to day job involves advising other freelancers and service providers on how to structure their business and market their services to attain financial and location freedom. My earnings were $70,000 (£55,000) last year, and I’m projecting $120,000 (£95,000) this year, now that I’m fully freelance.
“The challenges you face as a digital nomad are two-fold; logistical and social. On the logistics side, it’s finding safe, secure and comfortable accommodations. You don’t know the neighbourhoods and there are so many variables to consider. Socially, this lifestyle can be isolating unless you’re proactive about it. I prefer to be in a place for more than just a few weeks at a time so I have time to meet locals. My favourite workplaces have been a cafe overlooking an active volcano in Antigua, Guatemala, and the dock of a hosteleria overlooking the Pacific in Peru.”
Find out more about Katrina here
* $70,000+ USD
Anneka is from Northamptonshire, UK, and has just started working remotely as a freelancer.
“I spent most of my twenties travelling around Asia, after moving to Hong Kong to teach English aged 21. More recently, I wanted to try living in a different city in Europe, and thanks to the freedom of working remotely, settled on Athens.
“I’ve previously worked in fashion and retail writing, but my interests and experiences eventually led me to carve a niche in sustainability and cyber-security, which I’ve been doing as a freelancer since February.
“My experience as a digital nomad in Athens has been amazing; everyone has been so welcoming and I’ve met such a diverse mix of people. There’s a lot of very interesting things going on here, the city has a great energy. So far, my best month has seen me earning almost the same as when I was working full-time in the UK, with my worst month just about covering my rent.
Find out more about Anneka here
Sophia is from Massachusetts, USA, and works remotely as a freelance writer.
“When I graduated with a desperate amount of student loan debt, getting a job, any job, was the priority. I accepted a position as a paralegal; the commute was terrible, the work was depressing, and I didn’t fill fulfilled. I responded to a vacancy seeking a remote writer, handed in my notice, and have been freelance writing ever since.
“I moved to Scotland in the summer of 2017 on a whim; I didn’t have a place to stay, and had all of my possessions in my suitcase. I stayed in an Airbnb in Edinburgh for a couple of weeks before finding a place to rent, and have been established here ever since. I even found a Scottish fiancé! We’re lucky enough to do a fair amount of travelling together, too – in the past three months, I’ve spent time in Greece, Italy, and Germany.
“For a digital nomad, your four basic needs are food, water, shelter, and WiFi. Finding a stable and fast internet connection or a power outlet can be a real challenge, depending on where you are. I once had to ask a hot dog vendor if I could plug my laptop into his cart to finish a last-minute assignment…!”
Find out more about Sophia here
*Around $65,000 USD
Anuradha is from New Delhi, India, and works externally for the International Compliance Association UK and the Qatar Financial and Business Academy.
“Throughout my career I’ve had desk jobs in banking, insurance and retail. Five years ago, I made the move into consulting, which involves researching and advising global clients on ways they can upgrade the skill levels of their staff in specific specialist areas.
“Freelancing and exploring the world and its communities as an educator, ad helping to build training programmes for people, is what interests me, and I feel like I’ve found my calling in life. Sometimes, though very rarely, the language barrier is a challenge, but overall travelling for work is a pleasure and a privilege. I enjoy the freedom of being in charge of my time and my growth, and being allowed to develop as a global citizen.”
Find out more about the International Compliance Association UK here
* Between $85,000 and $110,000 USD
Kat is from California, USA, and works as a freelance creative marketer.
“After graduating, I worked at a raw vegan restaurant while doing recipe development and blogging on the side. I dabbled in copywriting jobs and continued to develop my portfolio while living in New Zealand, before moving to Indonesia to give freelancing a proper go. I love being in charge of my earnings, my schedule, and my clients.
“I offer creative services and support for passionate brands looking to grow through marketing, content and strategy. My salary is largely dictated by how much I want to work, as well as my client base and the country I’m in. I tend to work for start ups and boutique companies because they give me creative control and a voice, and I’ve often provided services to clients at a reduced rate because I believe in what they do.
“I’m currently in the process of scaling up, bringing in bigger clients and expanding. I hope to hit $30,000 to $40,000 (around £23,000 to £31,0000) this year with freelancing alone, and want to explore possibly getting a remote job with an innovative agency and a fixed salary.
“I love to surf and spend time by the sea, which isn’t always synonymous with being an ambitious, career-oriented woman – but you can do both. I’ve met some of the best people over the past years that have taught me that life is meant to be enjoyed, as well as work hard.”
Find out more about Kat here
* $20,000+ USD