The 3 Types of Digital Nomads – A Field Guide

Which One Are You?

We’ve all seen those Instagram accounts. Maybe we follow them.  After a while, the pictures look the same.

The bikini girl holding a beach towel over her head as it streams behind her.

Sleek laptops in chic coffeeshops.

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A cold drink – could be rose, could be frose – in your hand against a city skyline.

Sunsets. Footprints in the sand. Hotel pools. Adorable doors (doors seem to be a theme for some).

Expertly curated outfits that make me wonder: how much did you pack?

I have been a digital nomad, off and on, since 2008. That marks almost a full decade without pants. But, unlike most bloggers on Instagram, most of my location-independent career has been spent in my apartment.

Does that make me any less a part of Tribe No-Pants? I don’t think so. The location-independent life is what you make of it – a bespoke alternative to a traditional career.

What Kind Of Digital Nomad Are You?

1) WANDERLUSTER

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Varenna

Many people can make a decent side income – enough to sustain travel through places like Southeast Asia or parts of South America – being a WANDERLUSTER, especially if they have experience with SEO, website creation, digital marketing, or copywriting.

You may make money travel blogging, like this Singaporean who quit his office job to travel the world and now runs a travel startup. It took years to get there, but the people who believe in overnight success are the same people who believe Ivanka Trump is a natural blonde.

Many Wanderlusters also support themselves via affiliate marketing. Under affiliate marketing, you (the affiliate) promote a product on your websites to potential customers, and get a commission for each sale you make.

You can probably make the quickest money via affiliate marketing – many people who claim to make $50,000 or more via their blog are affiliate marketers – but it’s a sales job, which entails a level of hustle.

You could be freelancing for clients in all parts of the world, but that implies you have a skill that people will pay a high hourly premium for, such as writing, law, web design, or anything tech-related.

writing

Teaching English is also a popular vocation among digital nomads. If you have educational experience, you can create online courses which subscribers can pay for (or not).

Instagram models often fall under this category. It takes talent and hustle to create a personal brand that stands out in a sea of ta-tas and derrieres, so affiliate marketing might be a way to pair up with brands before you can start to leverage your own brand.

2) BOSSMAN

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Nothing says I’M DA BOSS like MANF*CKINGHATTAN

You own a business, but don’t have a physical office.

Your nomad quotient is a function of your team and your clients. If you manage a team, and most of your clients are on or around the same time zone, you probably aren’t trotting through the Annapurna Circuit.

E-commerce

Many location-independent entrepreneurs make money in e-commerce – selling a physical product which they design and produce via a website (and affiliate marketers), or selling a variety of products through an online store.

If you enter the ring of e-commerce, you should be prepared for hard work. E-commerce involves successfully juggling issues with customers, suppliers, manufacturers, shippers, and other vendors.

You’ll have to learn about Automated Dropshipping – selling products online and having warehouses and suppliers ship them at wholesale prices (convenient if you’re traversing the globe) – as well as Inventory Management.

You’ll need a slick web interface to create THAT USER EXPERIENCE, so you might need to hire a tech-savvy Wanderluster to sling some code onto the page for you.

And – this comes as one big, fatty-fat DUHHHHHHHH – you’ll have to figure out what the hell to sell. Pick a niche.  Niches make riches, and you’re not Jeff Bezos.

Then focus on finding a wholesale supplier or dropshipping merchant who can handle order fulfillment.  But if you get that first crucial piece of WHAT THE HELL DO I SELL wrong, you’ll find yourself up a particularly putrid creek.

HANGING A SHINGLE

If you’re ditching your white-collar corporate life, you probably have some clients that you can take with you. This is particularly true if you’re a lawyer, management consultant, executive recruiter, or some other sort of pants-wearing suit that helps make rich people richer. 

Many lawyers bounce out of BigLaw to start their own solo practice, for example.

But shingle-hangers could spend months building a pipeline of deals before the money starts flowing in, so don’t attempt this without at least a 6-month cash cushion or a daddy-warbucks anchor client.

And don’t leave your corporate job in a blaze of glory, either.  Your reputation is literal gold if you’re going into business for yourself.

3) REMOTE WARRIOR

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When you’re dialing into the conference call with a 631 area code

This one’s self-explanatory. You’re a W-2 employee working for a company that is 100% remote, or has liberal work-from-home policies.

You fit somewhere on an org chart, are part of a team, and, while you can do your job from anywhere with an internet connection, you try to stay reachable by colleagues and clients during regular business hours.

This is a setup that works particularly well for military spouses, caregivers for children or elderly family members, or anyone with mobility issues.

It also works well for the more risk-averse who need the comfort of a steady paycheck but embrace the freedom of a flexible workplace.  The downside: no last-minute popping off to, say, Lima because you caught a craving for pisco sours and ceviche. Those reservations at Central may have to wait.

Have I missed anything? Are you a digital nomad that isn’t described by any of the above categories? I’d love to hear your stories.

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