Updated: Apr 25, 2020
The trend is growing.
Digital Nomads – a term used to define people who are location independent, uses technology to perform their job. Digital Nomads work remotely, telecommuting rather than being physically present at a company's headquarters or office according to the definition from Investopedia.
To connect with clients, they used tech-enabled applications such as Skype to Zoom with easy and affordable internet access.
Estimates by the MBO Partners State of Independence Research Brief last year found that 4.8 million Americans described themselves as Digital Nomads – 17 million aspire to the nomadic life.
An online survey of 1,000 Singaporeans commissioned by money transfer service TransferWise in 2018 found that 69% of respondents want to work remotely to travel the world. Among younger Singaporeans aged 15 to 34 – 74% want to do so.
Imagine this now:
A typical work day of a Digital Nomad (source: The Sunday Times, Sunday, January 27, 2019)
“……work calls with my international staff team are always between 2 and 6pm Singapore time. That never changes where I am” said Ms. Ng, owner of digital design studio Melewi."
“….when I was in Slovenia, I worked in the day until 3pm, so that I could dress up and go to a student festival in the evening” commented Ms. Nicole Tan, 28 who owns a marketing firm Pink Tangent."
Isn't that awesome?
The luxury of work-and-play is yours. In another minute - you can be surfing in Australia, drinking wine in France, trekking in Nepal or witnessing the great pyramids in Egypt.
Digital Nomads are part of a gig economy.
"Gig Economy consists of companies who engaged contract workers for a temporary period or project-based jobs, instead of hiring them for permanent positions." - according to Randstad Singapore, a recruitment agency.
It's said that 10% of the workforce in Singapore are Gig Workers. In fact, they are contributing to the economic growth of Singapore as reported in this article here.
Digital Nomad Jobs
Generally, the tasks related are mainly tied to the media, marketing and information technology sectors. They can be one-off project-based or recurring work. One can be a freelancer, be a business owner or work for a company on a contract/full-time basis.
Examples of Digital Nomad jobs:
1. Website Designer 2. Software Programmer 3. Digital Marketer 4. Consultant (social media, travel) 5. Copywriter 6. Blogger 7. Photographer
8. Graphic Designer
9. Facebook & Instagram Campaign Manager
11. SEO Specialist
12. Affiliate Marketer
13. App Developer
14. Online Customer Service Representative
15. Video Creators
16. Language Teacher (especially English in remote countries)
17. Content Editor
How much can I earn as a Digital Nomad?
In terms of pay scale, some of the Digital Nomads interviewed by media firms mentioned that the average remuneration is about US$50,000 per year.
Here is the catch.....
The earning pattern can be irregular. It depends on the volume of assignments per Digital Nomad and if they are willing to take up.
Let's say you are a Vice President of a firm and decide to plunge into the flexible work-life of a Digital Nomad due to corporate life fatigue - one can't expect a fat, monthly pay in 5 to 6-figure per assignment. It's mainly honorarium-based or slightly better. There can be a possibility where there isn't any jobs available for months in a stretch.
Why is this so?
Assume this simple scenario for easy understanding:
There are 100 global Digital Nomads and there are 100 assignments in total. Each takes up on average of one job. Per job may run up to one month's completion. That is just one job payment. That wouldn't be sufficient for regular financial maintenance over a year! Even if you scrimp and save, it's tough to eat bread daily. Of course, this is a little exaggerated. Then again, it's about enough supply and burgeoning demand.
The more Digital Nomads, the more challenging to get frequent job leads if demand slows which depends largely on the type of client-based work available.
Intense competition indeed.
Not to forget your retirement years - are you financially self-sufficient post 65?
That leaves the top 5%. They are able to make a decent living. The middle portion, a pool of digital freelancers, just making ends meet since there are just limited jobs available.
Are you good in selling?
It also takes effort to sell your profile uniquely to companies. This involves continuous networking and pitching to the right contacts through LinkedIn and specific events.
Do you have a career networking plan?
Are you great in building relationships such that the contacts will refer jobs to you?
These are the questions to self-ask before taking the switch to a Digital Nomad.
Does that mean Digital Nomad is a "no-no"? Not exactly. Many have walked this path - and are still doing it after 5 years.
I have seen them enjoying their time in Bali.
Bali, Indonesia is known to be a place for Digital Nomads.
Things may also change. Given the boom of tech-enabled jobs with many firms scratching their mind about online engagement and the need to reach out internationally, generally the best of the Digital Nomads will fill in the talent gaps. It's cheaper for companies to outsource on a contract basis.
What you need to do is find your niche area. Your unique skill that sets you apart from the rest. Careergowhere has a 1-1 session to help identify your Skill Mastery first.
Where to find Digital Nomad Jobs
2. Flex Jobs
What should I do next?
Firstly, identify where you are first before searching for Digital Nomad jobs.
It's known as a "Career Life Stage".
If you fall under the bracket of youth to young adult - maybe, it's an opportunity to travel remotely anywhere round the world. Get perspective that you never once imagine and bring back the once-in-a-lifetime experience that no one is able to offer.
That doesn't mean mid-life life stage is unable to do so. It's depends on one's life, family and financial commitments. If you are free as a bird, go for it!
Once you sort this out, the dream of a Digital Nomad may be a career reality.
Career reality or dream?
Here are my overall thoughts:
I like the idea of travelling and working remotely to more than 20 countries, staying at one location for up to three days or even three months or more. The thought of the experiences just blow me away. Get a worldly view, self-discover and make full use of time. After my work is done, I can be in a café in Argentina, hiking on a fjord in Norway, jump into Blue Hole in Jamaica or support the underprivileged communities in Ethiopia.
The rewards of being a Digital Nomad is endless - have a “new office”, meet new people, witness life that you never once imagine.
If one is married with children, with housing loans to settle and bills to pay, it may be a challenge to pursue an overseas nomadic work-life balance.
If one has accumulated wealth through work and assets, through businesses sold and investments that provide visible cash flow, and with children whom are grown up - living a nomadic life with your loved ones (who also subscribed to this idea) can be a moment of amazing discovery.
Culturally, we are living in an Asian society where values of family togetherness matter most, where a financial safety net for future retirement is a priority as cost of living increases with inflation.
Weigh the consequences.
It's just the timing.
Heck, you wouldn't bother. The best solution? Do it for a year and try it. Then, you'll know first-hand the life of a Digital Nomad.
You will understand whether Digital Nomad is just a passing phase of life or a clear career pathway. Sometimes, purpose is much more important than a monthly pay.
The Pros and Cons
In summary, I have tabulated an-easy-to-read diagram below:
So, there you have. Factors to think about for a Digital Nomad.
For a millennial, it sounds fun and exciting.
But one may not have the real-time work experiences yet.
Learning how to deal with people, work with co-workers and to adopt a sense of maturity in managing things can be important milestones towards career successes. So, a workplace offers an easier platform to self-discover.
Developing skills to talent is another – people reward handsomely for your expertise that needs time to be developed (unless you are a complete genius like Steve Jobs!)
Freshly out from school, one is given the chance to hone your craft and pick up the nuances of corporate work life.
Being a Digital Nomad in exchange of personal growth can be a huge sacrifice.
Hypothetically, it can be deduced that a Digital Nomad life may most likely end up to be a transition in life.
To a handful of folks - Digital Nomad is a mid-life career checkpoint:
"Quit my full-time job, take on assignments and find the inner satisfaction and life changing moment that gives meaning and purpose for the next 12 to 24 months"
Maybe, it can also be a permanent choice. Getting tired of the corporate lifestyle after 15 years of work - with savings and less commitment – hence take on paid project work with flexible time, travel worldwide to pursue things that are important in life.
Meaning and fulfillment.
Even though if one finds working in Singapore is too hectic, a decision to move towards a Digital Nomad needs more self-affirmation through a deeper thought process.
At least for me, I won’t take the great leap of faith yet.
I may be open for a short period of time to find out whether my career interest of a Digital Nomad is indeed what I think it is. That means, give it a trial first. If it doesn't work out, I will return back to work. But I have to ensure my basic needs are met.
No matter how I look at it, I have to evaluate the current stage of my career life stage. (just like the image above)
The answer may just be within yourself.