Thanks to the prevalence of the internet, it’s easier than ever to start up a digital nomad business and work independently as you travel around the world. It sounds glamorous, giving you unlimited freedom while still allowing you to make money and develop your career, but is this lifestyle truly right for you?
The Basics of Digital Nomad Businesses
According to IncFile, starting a digital nomad business is straightforward, so long as you have a solid idea. There are several business types that can easily fall into this category, such as:
- Dropshipping businesses. Dropshipping businesses serve as a kind of the third party between a manufacturer and a consumer. You’ll take orders from customers using a website or app and fulfill those orders with the help of a manufacturer (or other business).
- Software as a Service (SaaS) companies. If you have coding skills or connections to a team of developers, you could create a piece of software or an app, and charge money to people who use it. You’d simply be responsible for maintaining and improving it over time.
- Affiliate marketing or blogging. Consider starting your own blog, or a similar content platform, and using affiliate marketing links as a way to make money. Here, your big obstacle will be getting popular enough to make a reliable income.
- Digital products. Selling digital products, like eBooks or photos, can also be profitable, assuming you have an interesting target audience and a capacity to keep producing.
- Freelance services. Many freelancers, including writers, graphic designers, and photographers, become digital nomads, offering their services in new areas on a rotating basis.
Chances are, you have skills or interests that could feasibly allow you to start one of these businesses and start roaming—but should you do this?
Key Challenges to Consider
It’s easy (and natural) to look at all the benefits and high points of the digital nomad lifestyle, but you’ll also need to think about some of the key challenges:
- The discipline of being your own boss. Starting your own business means being your own boss, which sounds cool, but it only really works if you’re disciplined enough to follow through on your responsibilities. It’s entirely on you to make sure your revenue streams are secure and to spend enough hours advancing your business that it continues to grow. If you don’t have that discipline or that ambition, being a digital nomad may not be right for you.
- Inconsistent income. If you’re selling things online or offering freelance services, you can’t expect to have a consistent income—especially during your first few years of operation. There will be some months when you’re overwhelmed with work (and flush with cash) and some months cursed with a dry spell. If you aren’t good with budgeting your money, these dry spells can wreak havoc on your personal finances, possibly making it hard to cover your bills. Even good financial planners can struggle with the stress and uncertainty of inconsistent income.
- Unreliable technology. If you’re traveling from place to place in the true sense of the digital nomad lifestyle, you may encounter serious technical problems. What happens if the city you’re staying in has unreliable internet, across the board? What if your laptop breaks and you find yourself unable to get a new one for several days? Even a day of missed work can be problematic for businesses entirely dependent on the internet for survival. Are you prepared to deal with the fallout of that?
- Loneliness and inconsistency. Traveling is exciting, and seeing new places is an unparalleled experience, but chances are, you’ll be doing it alone, or at best, with a partner. After a few months, this can get frighteningly lonely. Your friends and family will all be back home, and digital forms of communication may not feel like enough to bridge that gap. You may not even speak the language in the area in which you’re staying, which can make matters worse.
- Business volatility. Digital nomad businesses tend to have certain volatility attached to them. A single new technology could jeopardize the cost-effectiveness or competitiveness of your business, or a new competitor could rise to threaten your earnings. Most of these challenges can be overcome with careful planning and reasonable business acumen, but you still need to be prepared for these circumstances.
Do all these challenges excite you more than scare you? Are you the type of person who’s self-motivated, resilient, and tolerant of radical, unexpected changes in your life? If so, starting a digital nomad business may be your ideal path forward. If not, you’ll want to think carefully about the pros and cons of this setup—and ultimately go with your gut on whether it’s truly right for you.