There is a lot of talk about the term digital nomad. There are groups on Facebook for digital nomads, companies are started targeted at digital nomads and books are written about the subject. At the same time there is talk about the resurrection of the consulting business model and a lot of talk about the gig economy. How does this all fit together and what is really a digital nomad?
A nomad is a member of a community of people without fixed habitation which regularly moves to and from the same areas.
Wikipedia on Nomad
The term digital nomad has its base in the definition of nomadic people, but takes it one step further. Nomadic people are nomadic in their physical world where they move both place to eat, place to sleep, workplace and social places during the course of the year, to survive and get the most out of life. The digital doctrine gives that everything that can be digital, will be digital. Where we eat and where we sleep are two of the most difficult parts of our lives to turn digital, while how and where we work and how and where we socialise have greater chances of turning digital. That our socialising is digital is not hard to undertand, just look at the children who FaceTime eachother completely natural from different parts of the house. How and where we work is however not completely digital yet and this is where the term digital nomad comes into play.
Is digital nomad just a new word for backpacker?
When we no longer have to stay at a specific location to work, a new way of life is suddenly possible. A way of life we so far are not used to. To work from home now and then or doing it part time is a pre-taste, but it is not until our way of supporting ourselves becomes completely location independent that the concept of digital nomad comes to life. The greatest advantage is the freedom. We can choose how we want to live our lives as well as where we want to live it. Many people associate digital nomads with a new type of backpacker; someone that just travels South East Asia for a lot longer than what the backpackers of the 00:s could afford. The picture doesn't have to be wrong, but it is the possibility to choose where yourself that makes the whole difference. The physical life can be either on Bali or in a Stockholm apartment and the working hours can be more than full time or as little as is required to put food on the table. Life can throughout the year be lived in surftowns around the world, or from a cabin in the forests of northern Sweden.
So the definition of a digital nomad would, according to me, be a person whos income comes from location independent work or from investments, combined with an active choice of where life is lived and an insight that it is possible to minimize expenses as a way of not being owned by an employeer.
All this might sound like a dream life, so how do people actually get there? The most common way today seem to be working with digital tasks either recurring for a specific client or as smaller projects for several. Managing content for digital marketing, working with translations of product descriptions or writing articles and blog posts for companies are some of the most common digital tasks.
The gig economy and digital nomads
The concept of the gig economy is used quite widely and often describes both how an Uber driver works by accepting and performing tasks that comes through the driver app and how consultants perform week long projects for their clients. Both have in common the idea that the missions are several, possibly comes from several clients/employers and that it is a start-and-stop type of work, that doesn't contain long term commitments. This way the control is with the one performing the work, for example the Uber driver can choose to not accept any rides during an afternoon when the sun is shining, if the economy allows. The gig economy works perfectly for a digital nomad, as long as the tasks can be performed without a physical presens.
Parallell to that the idea around the gig economy and digital nomadship grows, the number of people that moves from being employed to working as consultants also grows. Similar forces are behind both, where the possibility of getting more control over ones own time and ones own financial situation is what allures. For an employee that have taken the step to become a consultant, it can be easy to take the next step and become a location independent consultant. Many digital nomads with knowledge within programming and web development manage to successfully grow a location independent consulting career using these skills.
Location independent e-commerce
Another way of supporting a life as a digital nomad is to run a location independent e-commerce business, or by securing dividents from investments in real estate or the stock market. For the later the prerequisites is that one need to be a plain old rich person, but to run a location independent e-commerce business can be achieved by almost anyone. On that specific subject there is a lot to learn in my book E-Commerce for a Digital Nomad.
Download or order E-Commerce for a Digital Nomad here