How to become a digital nomad

Travelling full time has always been a goal for me, but I never really knew how to do it when I started dreaming of it. I used to be clueless on how the full-time travelers I see on TV and online did it.

I had questions like how can I become one? Where do I sign up to travel full time? Is there a course in college that can teach you how to travel full time? And things like that.

It didn’t help that I didn’t know anyone living that kind of lifestyle personally, which made it seem more unrealistic and impossible. I had no one to ask about where to start, or to ask what it’s like to live that kind of lifestyle.

After graduating from college I hopped from one desk job to another while still trying to figure out how I can get that dream life of just moving from place to place, trying out new things, and really immersing myself in different cultures.

While I did fall in love with my past office-based employments, I knew deep down that a 9-5 is not something I see myself doing for the rest of my life. It gave me the money I needed to go out and travel, but it did not give me the time to actually do it.

Eventually I learned about freelancing. I don’t exactly remember how I discovered it but I did know that becoming an online freelancer was the answer to how I can travel full time.

I slowly tried it out and it took me years to learn more about the freelancing industry. I had a lot of trials and errors because there was no one who I can learn from and ask for tips on where to start.

I was so clueless, as in.

There were also the emotional ups and downs that came with this decision. Lots of self doubt, atras-abante, and a hell of a lot of self-cheerleading to push myself and just keep going.

And finally I got the opportunity to become a full time remote worker that can basically work anywhere as long as I have a laptop and WiFi. I now have more time for things that I like doing such as chilling from one Airbnb to another, cafe hopping, spending the day with my family, and setting up a blog.

Wohoo!

So, if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you either want to become a full time digital nomad/online freelancer/remote worker because, like me, you also want to have more time for the things YOU love, or you’re at least doing your research on how to become one.

In any case, I wrote this article for you (and also because this is the most frequently asked question I get in my page hehe).

In here I’m listing my key takeaways from my past experiences and some truth bombs about transitioning into a digital nomad lifestyle. These are my top tips and recommended preparations for all my fellow Pinoys that are curious on how to become a full time online freelancer.

Full disclaimer: I cannot guarantee that following everything listed below will make you a digital nomad instantly. These are basically the things that I wish I knew when I started on my journey to becoming one. It would have made everything a bit more systematic and linear for me. But now that I learned all of these from my experiences, I want to share it with you guys so you wouldn’t have to go through a longer process like I did, and also to give you an idea on what you’re going to be diving into.

Let’s start!

 

1. Invest in a reliable laptop, smartphone and ISP.

These are the basic essentials when working as a freelancer.

A desktop computer is fine if you prefer a home-based setup or if that’s what you have available right now. But if your goal is to travel most of the time as what digital nomads do (nomads nga kasi XD), a laptop is the obvious choice.

I recommend investing in a laptop with at least an i5 or i7 processor so your programs will load up faster. Also because these are the minimum requirements of most clients who are looking for online freelancers.

A reliable smartphone can be a handy substitute when you do not have a computer yet.

It’s also important to have your own ISP that you can bring anywhere so you don’t have to solely rely on free WiFi. I personally use the Globe at Home Prepaid WiFi which is a plug-and-surf broadband. I would not recommend a pocket WiFi for online freelancers since it has limited coverage and cannot really accommodate most tasks that you will do in a laptop.

Globe at Home Prepaid WiFi

You don’t necessarily need to have a brand new laptop or whatever is the “best laptop for digital nomads” (which you will most likely Google like I did lol) if you can’t afford one yet. If you have money to spend, go right ahead. But if you’re just starting out, it’s best to use whatever gadgets you currently have and work with it, or buy a pre-loved laptop initially then save up as much as you can for an upgrade later on.

I started with a Lenovo Ideapad 110S and an old iPad Mini 2
I started with a Lenovo Ideapad 110S and an old iPad Mini 2 and would switch between these two devices depending on what task I would work on.
Then I bought a used Asus K55vj when I had enough money saved up
Then I bought a used Asus K55vj when I had enough money saved up. It’s the cheapest i7 laptop I found at the time and I still use it to this day.

 

2. Identify what you’re good at or passionate about.

What skills are you good at? Is it something that will provide value to someone else? Can you make money out of it by turning it into a product or a service that you can offer online?

Whatever your skills or talents are, stick to it and make sure that this is something that you can see yourself doing for at least 1-2 years.

I used to try out one thing then jump to another without spending enough time to really see if it’s something that I can specialize in. I later learned that it was not a practical way to build my skill set because it made job hunting a bit more difficult by confusing potential employers what they can do with me.

Do not make the same mistake that I did. There’s no harm in trying things out if you’re not sure what you’re good at or passionate about yet. But make sure that you are efficient with your time, energy, and your resources especially if you’re just starting out in the freelancing industry.

The sooner you start building the foundations for your skill set, the better.

 

3. Self-teach and take up courses in that area.

Once you figure out what you’re good at or passionate about, do things that will help you grow in that area.

I personally believe that in whatever you do, not just in the workplace, it’s always good to equip yourself with the basics rather than go out there with zero knowledge and expect someone else to show you the way from scratch.

I learned this the hard way and this made me stronger and wiser personally and professionally.

This does not necessarily mean that you need to be a pro at something ASAP. Do not be pressured into knowing everything all at once. Take it slow, build yourself up step by step, and focus on creating a solid basic foundation of knowledge and skills in your chosen area.

Whether you’re new to something or you’re already experienced, make continuous learning a regular habit. Read articles and blogs. Do research on what other related skills in your area you can learn. Familiarize yourself with the common tools you will need to use, and constantly be up to date with the latest trends.

We are in a time where we have easy access to the internet and all the information we need are online so take advantage of it.

If you have money to spend, take up courses or attend workshops related to your chosen area. This is not just a way to invest in yourself, it’s also a good way to network with people you can learn from in that same area.

BTW! If you’re interested in taking up courses in digital marketing, check out Colzzky.com. They offer free and paid courses on different digital marketing areas that are in demand right now. This is especially helpful for those who want to get into online freelancing by becoming social media managers, virtual assistants, or digital marketers.

 

4. Get as much relevant experience as you can.

This is where it gets a little bit challenging. The truth most people will have a hard time dealing with is freelancers with little to no experience will not earn much YET.

The sooner you accept this reality, the easier it will be for you to go through this path of becoming a full time freelancer. Most of us will go through this phase, but it’s important to remember that not getting paid much YET is only temporary.

To get experience, you may have to do projects in exchange for non-monetary payments like free food or drinks, shoutouts, or getting featured in your client’s online channels.

You might even have to do it for free or for a really low pay in some cases especially if you’re the one reaching out to business owners and offering your services.

But that’s totally okay! Do not be discouraged if most clients are not willing to pay you money when you do not have anything to offer YET in terms of professional experience and credibility.

Remember, you’re still in the process of getting experience to increase your value as a professional so you can start building a solid portfolio of your skill set, which we will talk about next.

I will be making a separate blog post on how to get experience as a freelancer so make sure to stay tuned!

 

5. Start building your portfolio.

Now that you’re all set with the basic knowledge, skills, and experience in your chosen area, it’s time to build your portfolio as a freelancer.

Nowadays it’s important to have online presence because if we’re searching for something, we almost always use Google and social media to find it.

And that’s what potential clients who are looking for freelancers do. They are always looking for people to outsource their work to especially here in the Philippines.

They turn to sites such as LinkedIn, Fiverr, Onlinejobs.ph, and Upwork to look for freelancers to work with.

Make sure you set up a profile in sites like these and put all the relevant details about your skills and experience in there. Do not forget to put your contact details.

There will be times that they will reach out to you so it’s best to keep your profiles updated regularly. They may also ask for your social media profiles but most of the time that’s just for background checking and social proof. I recommend doing a social media clean up to have a balance between casual posts and content about your professional skills.

Aside from setting up online profiles, you can also create your own blog which can showcase most of your work. For a few sample inspos, here are some of my friends’ blogs that provide more social proof of their experience in their respective niches.

Yabee Eusebio – Photography

Nick Aguilos – Photography

Valerie Deveza – Online marketing

The Flawsome Lady – Travel and lifestyle

Urban Ponder – Urban living, lifestyle and travel

The Lakwatserang Negra – Travel, freediving and motherhood

In relation to setting up your portfolio, I will be making a separate blog post on how to be more hire-able as a freelancer so stick around!

 

6. Update your resume and online portfolio regularly.

As you learn new skills and get more experiences, make sure to to add these to your resume and online portfolio.

Doing this will help you track your progress when widening your skill set as a professional and also to avoid sending out an old version of your resume or portfolio when an opportunity for a freelancing job comes up.

 

7. Dedicate a time for client hunting.

Even if potential clients do reach out to freelancers, it’s also important that you put in the work by reaching out to them.

Go out there and market yourself. Put in the work and dedicate a few hours of your day to looking for a client to work with.

Set a goal for yourself on how you can land your first freelancing gig like sending out your resume or business proposal to at least 10 potential clients per day. Or dedicate two hours daily into creating a list of prospects that you can offer your services to and send them an email about what you’re offering. Whatever diskarte you would like to do, go for it, but don’t be spammy.

IMPORTANT: Whether you are just a beginner or an experienced freelancer, set a baseline rate for your services.

Do research on what most freelancers around the same professional level as you are earning so you will know what you’re worth and kung kelan ka binabarat. XD

 

8. Save up what you’re currently earning…

…whether you’re still waiting for a freelancing gig or you already have one.

Do not transition into becoming a full-time digital nomad if you’re not financially ready.

One of the downsides of freelancing is the potential financial instability – and this is one of the top reasons why most people are scared of it.

To make sure you transition smoothly, have at least 3 month’s worth of savings as a safety net and a separate source of funds that will fuel your freelancing career while you’re just starting out.

Whatever your source of cash is right now, I recommend saving up as much as possible and find other ways to earn more money like selling some of your stuff, renting out your place, or taking a part-time job until you have enough to switch to a laptop lifestyle.

 

 

Overall, having a basic and solid foundation of your skills as a professional will help speed up the process of becoming a full time freelancer.

You will also need to be financially prepared to avoid the emotional roller coaster of feeling unstable.

This process will require a lot of time and effort. But as long as you put in the work, stay focused and consistent in increasing your professional value, I have no doubt that you can also do it.

As for me, I’m personally enjoying this lifestyle at the moment, especially because I worked hard and went through a lot of pain to become a full time freelancer. If you guys want to hear my personal story on how I became one let me know in the comments section.

Until then, pukrat ato!

Colleen

2 Replies to “How to become a digital nomad”

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