For those unfamiliar with digital nomads, it’s probably a good idea to start with some kind of definition, before talking about the revolution in working practices they’re pioneering and how it may just be the future for all of us.
As the term implies, digital nomads work in the online space, running their own web-based companies or contracting out their services on a freelance basis. The jobs they do rarely require them to be ‘on-site’, meaning they’re free to work wherever they want – hence nomad.
The last decade has seen a big rise in the number of these web-savvy professionals, ditching traditional career paths in favour of more flexible alternatives, allowing them to live and work just about anywhere in the world with a decent wifi connection.
Politely referred to as ‘location-independent’ employment, it’s seen by many as an opportunity to trade the drudgery of a 9-to-5 existence for a life of adventure and travel, without dumping their career prospects en-route to the airport.
Funding a location-independent lifestyle
You can only work if someone wants to give you a job and key to the rise in people opting for the digital nomad lifestyle is the popularity (and efficiency) of outsourcing duties formerly managed in house.
It’s a perfect storm. Companies looking to farm out more of their work, especially tech-based part-time positions, where finding suitable candidates can be expensive and time consuming, coupled with a growing number of skilled workers, looking to fund a lifestyle that bypasses the more mundane aspects of regular employment.
Don’t confuse true digital nomads with gap-year backpackers, blogging about Asian street food. Most are highly skilled individuals, who have already proved themselves in more traditional working environments and run their own businesses just as professionally as the clients they service. Others are in start-up mode – in need of little more than a laptop or tablet and a good internet connection to develop their ideas.
The only real difference between a digital nomad and somebody doing the same job in their home town is the view
Web design, coding, illustration and copywriting are popular choices for ‘location independent’ professionals, as is e-commerce, online marketing and social media management. Basically, if the work can be done on a computer – and delivered via email, the cloud or file-sharing – it can be produced just as effectively by someone at a co-working space in Bali as it could by the person sitting next to you.
It’s not all mango smoothies and surfing
Naturally, life as a digital nomad has its downsides. Working across different time zones is often cited as an issue and it can be difficult convincing clients on the other side of the globe to spend their money with you. Speaking more practically, loneliness and dodgy internet connections can be a problem, which is why many nomads often prefer co-working spaces, offering high speed wi-fi and the chance to meet other like-minded souls.
Yes, you really can live and work almost anywhere in the world – at least for a while
Having the freedom to determine your own work-life balance – and to some degree your income – is a popular reason many digital nomads use when asked about their choice of career. Having the ability to live and work in some of the world’s most exotic destinations, and move between them at will, is another.
That’s led to clusters of digital nomads and a boom in the number of co-working spaces popping up in iconic cities like New York, London and Barcelona, as well as popular tropical paradises including Thailand, Indonesia and parts of Latin America.
It’s official. Gran Canaria ranked the second best place in the world for digital nomads
Our own hometown of Las Palmas, in The Canary Islands, was recently ranked second in a list of the world’s most nomad friendly destinations – the only place in the top 5 that wasn’t in Thailand.
To be honest, we weren’t surprised. A completely European vibe, what’s often described as the best climate on earth (dry, warm and sunny), spectacular beaches, dramatic mountain ranges and no shortage of cultural delights, plus a cost of living that’s noticeably lower than other EU countries, make this southwestern tip of the continent a fantastic place to live, work and hangout.
What traditional business models can learn from digital nomads and the gig economy
At Secret Source part of the building we own is given over to a co-working space. It’s something we made a conscious decision to include when looking for our offices, quite simply because we knew we could learn a lot from the people using it.
Home to an ever-shifting and truly international mix of start-ups, independent service providers, developers, designers, workationers, translators and illustrators, it makes for an incredibly creative atmosphere where people share skills, develop fresh ideas and collaborate on new projects.
One thing’s for sure. Watching the way digital nomads work, the tools they use and the technologies they embrace – to eliminate problems like time difference and the physical distance from their employers or clients – has taught us a lot.
Discover some of the tools and time-saving tips we swiped from digital nomads here.