Are you wondering how to become a digital nomad with no experience? Maybe you are in a specialist field like astronomy wondering how you can work from anywhere.
The world we live in is changing rapidly leaving many people in an unpredictable environment where they need to change quickly.
In the last 10 years alone terms like digital nomad, location independence and work from anywhere continues to become more popular.
Just in my city alone the amount of co-working spaces is on the rise as well as platforms are being launched for local employers to hire remote employees.
Many people continue to struggle with the concept of working remotely or working for several employers from home.
Some even go as far as to dismiss it as something that only a few crazy people are doing and that it would never become mainstream.
In this post, I did a video interview with Rob who is considered to be the world’s first digital nomad.
Join me as I ask Rob all the pertinent questions so that he can tell you more about his experience after many years of working and traveling.
Who is Rob?
He is a writer, blogger and online marketer who helps people to create an online income so that they can go anywhere, do anything and be anyone.
Why do you make this claim?
He’s been a writer for over 30 years. He was a journalist and he switched over to become a copywriter when he discovered that they get paid more than journalists.
He became a freelance writer in July of 1988 and quit his full-time job at an Ad agency.
He’s been running his own freelance copywriting business for a number of years where he had his ups and downs.
Some good years and not so good years. It is a fun way to live. As the modern world gives us the technology we need to work from anywhere on the planet.
He believes that it is a fantastic life and opportunity and he wants to offer the same for his coaching clients.
Why he is the world’s first digital nomad?
He currently lives in Thailand which is a real hub for digital nomads. He has met hundreds if not thousands of nomads over the years.
Many of them say that they have doing this for a long time like for 5 or even 10 years. However, he has been doing this for 20 years now.
He’s yet to meet anyone who has been a digital nomad fo as long as he has been doing it.
He started his digital nomad lifestyle in Ireland. Where he took his family in an old, rusty Volkswagen Camper Van.
At the time, he just started an online business. He decided to go on vacation to Ireland with his family. He just needed to check that everything was going well.
Traveling around Ireland in those days there wasn’t WiFi, co-working spaces or Internet cafes.
The only way he could get online is if he drove into a town somewhere in Ireland and go knock on someone’s door and offer them IRL£10 to let him use their Internet connection for 30-60 minutes so he can check his email.
Some people will tell him to get lost and others would invite them in and they will make new friends. He will also get his work done.
Her worked his way around Ireland doing this and had a fantastic trip. This is the point when he realised that this could be a new way of working.
The phrase digital nomad did not yet exist at the time. He discovered that he can work and travel at the same time.
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What is a Digital Nomad exactly?
Essentially, it means that you have an income that is not dependent on your location.
So rather than have a job where you need to go into the office, factory or retails outlet you have an online business.
One could be a freelancer or have an e-commerce store or a blogger or many other options.
You have an online business which means you can work from anywhere once there’s Internet access.
It is possible to be half-way up a mountain in the middle of South East Asia and you can still get on the Internet.
There is not a need to travel nut many people want to see the whole world so the would spend a week in every country.
However, it can get tiring after a while as you realise that you need a base. Fo Rob, he lives in Thailand where his base is Bangkok.
He would travel from there to the rest of Thailand and South East Asia and around the world.
Of course, you can decide to stay in the west and work from home but it means that you now have the freedom from commuting, office politics and all those things when working as an employee in a 9 to 5 job.
As a digital nomad you have the freedom to work flexible hours that suit you and your family. For example, he was able to help with the school run.
This kind of lifestyle sis not exist 20 years ago. Many young people will take it for granted. He is still amazed as he remembers back then the only option was to get a 9 to 5 job.
He’s grateful to be able to do this and has not lost the novelty of being able to be a digital nomad.
Is it simple to go from 9 to 5 employee to digital nomad?
It really depends on the country, for example, anyone wanting to migrate to Thailand if they are over 50 it is pretty easy as they can get a retirement visa very easily.
Younger people will need to do visa runs once a month which is quite annoying. Overall it is not too difficult you’ll need to do your research and understand what are the rules.
What are the steps involved in becoming a digital nomad?
Any person can take it
Freelancing and blogging for example is something you can start doing in the evenings and weekends.
Dip your toe in the water and pick up a few clients or start a blog and get that up and running.
Once you start generating an income and proved the concept then you can quit your job and run the freelance service or blog full-time.
You can start it as a part-time side hustle and work things up from there.
What does freelancing mean?
As a freelancer, you don’t have a full-time employer. You work on a job by job basis. It is part of the gig economy. You work for different clients as and when they need your services.
You could be a freelance writer, where you write blog posts for one client, sales copy for another client and product descriptions for another client.
They’ll hire you when needed. You just need to have sufficient clients to give you regular work and pay the bills.
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Do you miss being an employee?
No, Definitely not. He does not miss the commuting, office politics but there is a social side. You do need to replace the social side if you are running an online business.
He makes an effort to join networking groups to get that social interaction. Some groups are purely social while others are business networking groups.
You do get the opportunity to choose the groups, unlike a 9 to 5 job you are unable to choose your fellow employees.
Some examples of these kinds of group include Toastmasters, RotaryClub and Stand Up Comedy.
What has your experience been over the last 20 years as a digital nomad?
As a family, they wanted to move out of London probably within a 10-50 mile radius. In the end, they moved 10,000 miles to Australia.
They ended up in Sydney which is something her could not have done if he was not a digital nomad.
His kids grew up going to the beach after school, doing surfing and boating and living a real Aussie lifestyle.
Of course the kids were in school but whenever they had the 7-week holiday they would travel all over the world as a family.
They were also able to see most of the world and enjoy the best of both worlds. They lived the Aussie life and travelled during the vacation time.
Was life always that great for the 20 years?
It was up and down and during the 2008 recession he got hit hard not from an online business point of view.
In fact, he had some real estate investments which really went bad. There has been times when he had difficulty.
Doing an online business you run into so many opportunities. It is very hard to focus on one thing.
He believes that online business owners suffer from ADD where they have 10 different projects on the go and none of them are generating an income.
What about the advice of not placing all your eggs into one basket?
From his experience, it is not easy to create multiple sources of income. When you find something that is working you should make it as successful as you can.
Rather than trying to work on several projects at once. It is very easy to think that if you’re successful with one then you can work on 10 different businesses.
However, you end up with 10 unsuccessful business projects.
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Is there ever a time that you got tired after or during that 20-year period?
Believe it or not, he still enjoys doing this every day because it is his hobby as well as his business. Often he is awake at 3 am as he just had an idea and he is up and ready to implement it.
Rob still enjoys it because it is always changing with new opportunities and always interesting.
He believes that he will continue to do it for another 20 years. Warren Buffet is 88 and he is still the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
What’s the best advice received to date?
The best advice he received was not really business advice. The night before his wedding, his uncle said to him,
“You are getting married tomorrow, make sure you enjoy everyday because it will go quicker than you can possibly imagine.
You’ll have kids and they’ll grow up and they’ll be getting married and you’ll turn around and think wait a minute where did the time go?”
His uncle was absolutely right. His kids have grown up and his eldest son is getting married in October and it does not feel like 30 years it feels like 30 minutes.
Many people get bogged down in studies and work planning for the future all the time and they forget to stop and enjoy the journey.
Make the most of the time that you have wherever you may be.
Will there ever be too many digital nomads?
No, not at all. There are endless opportunities he goes to a lot of meeting where he meets people with online businesses.
He’s consistently amazed at the kinds if businesses people have as they are in niches or doing things that he never thought could be a business.
They are making a living doing this strange thing? There’s no limit as to what you can do. There are 5 billion people with smart phones this year.
5 years ago we did not have this kind of opportunity. The market opportunity is bigger than anyone can imagine.
The one thing that impacted his life to date?
Everyone should choose something that they enjoy doing. If you are only doing it to make money then you’ll run out of steam after a while.
It is great that you can start a business using your passion or existing skills doing something that is important or worthwhile that makes a contribution to society.
What else can someone expect on the journey? What are the best resources and places to live?
If someone decides to go down the path of freelance work or consulting then it can happen for them really quickly.
All they need is one good client and they’re off. Once they have 2-3 clients then they can expect to be on a good income.
This can be as soon as one month if they market themselves properly. They can pick up one client a week for 4 weeks then they have 4 clients, this is sufficient to quit your job and become a digital nomad.
If someone decides to take the route to start a blog then it will take longer. They need to think of it as a long term project. Possibly 6 months to 1 year.
It is different for everybody some people can do it much quicker.
In terms of the best places for digital nomads, it is really up to each person as the world is their oyster.
South East Asia has the advantage in that it is cheap to live there. Flights and accommodation are cheap. It is very similar in Eastern Europe. South America is also good.
There are many places where your money goes further.
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Are there other advantages apart from cost in somewhere like Thailand?
He spends time both in the UK and Australia with is families in these locations. It really depends on what is happening with him and his family as to where in the world he spends time.
Here are 3-5 scenarios of jobs that are difficult to transition into a digital nomad life?
Railway Sleeper Jobs
He’s sure that is not their entire life as they may have hobbies outside of work. Maybe they play golf or football or maybe are good at woodwork or carpentry.
Whatever skills they have there are other people who want to learn those skills. They can create a course so that they can teach those skills or offer coaching or consulting.
It could be where a person lives for example. You can create content on things to do and costs of things in your local town, city, state or country.
If you are really stuck you can start something 100% from scratch. You can spend an entire weekend watching videos on real estate investment. You’ll know more than most people by Monday morning.
You can spend further time doing a few paid courses then you’ll know enough to help other people.
They learn a lot of things around going into very challenging situations. So they need courage, bravery and systems to keep themselves safe.
Firefighters are highly trained people in all those things. These skills are things that other people would love to learn, people like corporate executives.
Sales executives who needs to make cold calls and they don’t want to do it are in a very similar situation to firefighters who need to run into a burning building and he would rather go home and be with his family.
The Secret Service
Wow! If he had secret service experience he would write books. The would make good money writing Kindle books.
For example, if you Google ‘Mark Dawson’ he’s a very successful author. He writes James Bond style books and he coaches other people on how to write books and publish them.
Things have changed so much now you can write books and publish them yourself without the help of a publisher.
He publishes non-fiction books on Amazon (KDP).
Line worker (Electrician who works on poles)
They will have to be really good at safety. They can offer training courses for other electricians and other roles that may face similar challenges.
These kind of markets are huge. They all want to stay safe. It will be worth it for them to pay $1,000.00 for a really good training on safety with electricity to get certified.
They can learn how not to kill themselves.
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They can certainly sell online. They can start a Shopify store or sell through Amazon FBA.
As long as it is small enough to be shippable. For example, there is a guy who sells snooker tables online using Ebay.
He has a million dollar business doing just that.
What are the typical roles that people can expect to do as a digital nomad?
Everybody has skills that they can use to become a digital nomad. It could be professional skills that they picked up during their career or it could be a hobby or a passion.
Maybe they have life skills like public speaking. These skills can be monetised in three ways using the three Cs.
It is very easy to create a course using modern technology as well as platforms like Skillshare or Udemy.
Minimal technological knowledge is required.
Coaching is next on the list that is pretty straight forward where you can teach things like relationships and how to find a partner.
He knows one guy who offers a coaching program on how to do handstands. This person has a million dollar business teaching people how to do handstands.
This guy charges several thousand dollars for his hand stand coaching program.
Consulting is more likely to be working with companies rather than consumers. It suits people who have business or professional skills.
Especially great for people who retired in their 50s or 60s but they are looking to remain active during their retirement.
How can one shift from being an employee to a consultant?
You don’t need a lot of expertise. He remembers going on a program for coaches and the speaker said that you only need to know 5% more than the people you’re coaching.
So long as you can impart that extra 5% then the attendees are learning something valuable.
For example, if you have experience writing short stories and you assume, sure everyone know how to write short stories that’s not the case.
The truth is many people don’t know how to do it so you can create a course or coaching program in this area.
When is the best time to take the leap?
Now, people keep putting off things, waiting for their kids to grow up or until they can earn more money.
Before you know it 5, 10, 20 years will pass and they did not achieve their goals and dreams.
By starting now there is no need to quit your job but you can start by doing research in the area of interest.
Start by looking at a number of Youtube videos and reading blog posts on that topic. Just take it step by step.
Spend time looking at blogger income reports to see how real the opportunity is for many people.
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Here is the 5 Step Formula to become a Digital Nomad
Here is Rob’s 5-step formula for digital nomad success.
- Identify a niche that can work for you that you can share with other people.
- Work out how to maximise the value. What is the biggest change they can experience that gives transformation. For example, you can teach face painting but it is not a transformation for the learner.
- Join communities in that niche, find out what problems they have, what do they need to know, what problems are they trying to solve.
- Outline the product to the community and try to glean some feedback.
- Create a product and market it like crazy. The key is marketing.
One key takeaway. Yes, you can do it. If you can write an email and open a web page then you are tech savvy enough to become a digital nomad.
Do you offer coaching?
He did not intend to do it but it as he has been travelling around and people asked him what he does and he explained the digital nomad concept.
They would say, well how do you do that? do you offer and coaching or mentoring?
He offers face to face coaching as well as online mentoring.
Where can you find Rob?
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Alvern is an avid blogger for 10 years and the host of the Success Unscrambled podcast.
Read Alvern’s inspiring story from her eye-opening experience 3 years ago to becoming a Blogger and Podcaster with a dream to reduce illiteracy among women.