In 2007, Tim Ferriss released an influential book that changed the lives of millions of people. When The 4-Hour Work Week hit the book stands, it opened peoples’ eyes to the possibility that you could choose to live and work from anywhere.
It showed us there was another way to live our lives. No more working our ass of, in a job we hated, to save money to enjoy our retirement when we were too old to really enjoy it at all.
Promises of living an unconventional life were popularised with Tim’s at-times sensationalist theories on how to live and work anywhere.
I read his book and bought into it, just like so many others who I meet on my travels. I’ve taken it a step further, turning this into a full time business and way of life.
I now know more people who have no fixed address than those based in one place. I have more friends who run a business or freelance career from their laptop while traveling, than people working in ‘real’ jobs or who own bricks and mortar businesses.
Ultimately we’re all choosing freedom — the freedom to live life on our own terms. It never ceases to amaze me, though, how few people know about this way of living even now.
The term digital nomad or location-independent just doesn’t make much sense to them. “It’s all just a fantasy” they say, or, as one reviewer of my book put it: “You’re selling a dream, Natalie”.
According to an inspiring video released by oDesk, however, being a digital nomad is the new way of working.
Welcome to the New Way of Working
Despite many people having been living as digital nomads for years, I’ve found the idea really is ‘new’ to almost everyone else.
For those used to a more traditional way of living and working, it can be hard to comprehend. Who knew you could build a business packaging your knowledge and skills into online products, programs and services, then run it from anywhere with just a laptop and internet connection?
After four years of being a “suitcase entrepreneur” and digital nomad, I got a bit tired of explaining how it all works — so I recently recorded a podcast on how to tell people what you actually do for a living. It resonated with people having a hard time getting family and friends to take them seriously, and not think they just spent their lives on Facebook all day!
I guess, though, that this is just part and parcel of pioneering a way of working and living which taps into new trends and technologies.
What Does a Digital Nomad Actually Do?
Next time someone asks you what a digital nomad is and what you do for a living, reel off a couple of these bullet points to paint a picture of the world we inhabit.
To me, being a digital nomad entails:
- Building a personal brand that people resonate with, so you can build trust and credibility and become the go-to person in your niche.
- Using social media to tell a story, build loyal fans and spread the word on why you do what you do and who you can help.
- Writing and producing content that matters on your blog, podcast or video channel. This lets you share your knowledge, spread the word and create consistent leads to your website who become your customers.
- Packaging your skills and knowledge into products (physical and digital) or services that people need and will pay for online.
- Delivering training, coaching, consulting, web design, copywriting and much more from your laptop.
- Working across time-zones, with international customers, colleagues and team members.
- Dealing with traditional companies, including those with a more restricted view of how and where business gets done.
- Dealing with a lack of reliable internet, infrastructure and services while living and working in different countries.
- Forgoing an office, sometimes a house and any semblance of stability to live dynamically and be consistently challenged.
- Valuing freedom above and beyond anything else — the freedom to do what you want, when you want, where you want and with whom you want.
We work just as hard, if not harder then people in offices, because we can technically work 24/7 and never disconnect. That said, we also get to enjoy traveling the world, or exploring our own city, because we are flexible, mobile and can choose how we spend our days.
The good news is that, according to a report by Intuit [PDF], by 2020 an office will be a thing of the past for many workers. More people will be able to work in non-traditional environments, enabling them to build a profitable career or business from anywhere.
When they do come around, you can share the following with them…
8 Key Reasons Why Being a Digital Nomad is More Possible Than Ever Before
1. Your business runs from anywhere, with a team of virtual workers around the world. You and they never need set foot in an office, and you can hire team members on sites like oDesk and Elance in less than 30 minutes
2. Your entire personal and professional life can be stored in the cloud with tools like Dropbox, accessible from any location at any time.
3. You have access to accessible, cheap and powerful information and tools with major capabilities. Many of them, like the highly-regarded project management tool Asana, come for free.
4. We’re shifting towards a flexible workforce, enabling businesses of all sizes to get more done with less. They can tap into a workforce that scales to meet demand, offers a myriad of expertise and fits any budget.
5. As technology prices fall, sophisticated mobile technologies will permeate our everyday lives. Smartphones will help us replace or bypass traditional computers, becoming the new standard for businesses and consumers alike.
6. With these increasingly interconnected markets, small businesses and freelancers are finding new opportunities. They often excel at producing specialized products and services to meet the needs of customers demanding personalization.
7. As a result, small businesses are proliferating, meeting the increasing needs of these niche markets. Thanks to new tools and technology, entrepreneurs are able to take on corporate giants. Customers no longer know – or even care – who’s providing their goods and services, so long as they’re great.
8. In a major shift from previous decades, our expectations are built on using technology to improve our lives and businesses. The increasingly powerful tools available to us will change the way we live, work and run our businesses. Digital nomads already know this, and use it to their advantage.
Life as a digital nomad is not mainstream yet, but if current trends continue, it soon will be. Soon, a location-independent lifestyle will be much more common, no longer challenged as a misnomer or pipe dream.
Until that day comes we should be grateful we are able to build real businesses while living a remarkable life.
Hmm, perhaps we should actually keep this a secret…
This post is part of Digital Nomad Month on Too Many Adapters.