If you love to travel and have found yourself googling “ways to make money on the road”, no doubt you’ve heard of the term digital nomad. You’ve probably even asked yourself what does that term mean and how can I become one? Well, you’ve come to the right place because I’m here to teach you all about the best skills for digital nomads to help get you started on your nomad journey!
In this ‘Becoming a Digital Nomad’ series what I’m going to share with you is the exact steps I took to get started as a digital nomad and make a living for myself while travelling the world solo. If you want to rewind a step further and learn how to build up the confidence to quit your 9-5, start here. Once you’ve got the knowledge and feel confident that this path is the one you want to take, it’s up to you to put in the hard yards. Sound simple? Good!
So how did my journey start? Well in April 2019 I packed my life into a suitcase and left New Zealand for Canada, the first stop on my travels. However, if we rewind about 6 months, that was when my desire to travel the world grew so strong that I knew I couldn’t ignore it.
After experiencing the pain of losing a couple of close family members within a short period of time, I felt like I was in a place where nothing seemed to be going right. I wasn’t happy in my job, I wasn’t happy in my relationship, I wasn’t happy full stop. After making a few mindset adjustments, this gave me the push I needed to get out of my comfort zone, quit the 9-5 and take my first solo trip.
My mindset didn’t change overnight, the first thing I had to become comfortable with was the thought of travelling solo. Previously having been the person who always said, no I could never travel by myself that’s way too scary, this was a bit of an adjustment.
The more I thought about leaving New Zealand, the more comfortable I became with the idea of travelling solo. It wasn’t long before I found myself thinking…what if I go for more than just a trip, what if I can turn this into a lifestyle. And boom! I stumbled across the term digital nomad and that’s when I decided I was going to immerse myself in learning as much about the nomad life as I could so that I could figure out how to make money while on the road.
Now I’m here to share all that knowledge with you. Why? Because leaving to travel the world solo was hands down the BEST decision I ever made and I want other people to have the opportunity to experience that too. Not only that, I want to give you the knowledge that will allow you to support yourself while you’re travelling so that in turn, you can travel the world long-term.
Okay enough chitchat, time to jump into the first question you need to know the answer to when starting on your journey…
What are the best skills for digital nomads to learn?
There are a ton of skills that you could learn but on this list, I’ve included some of the most popular ones that are likely to land you a job. If you’ve landed on this post it’s likely you are at the start of your digital nomad journey, you probably haven’t even started looking at jobs yet, you’re just trying to figure out how you’re going to make money online.
The skills you need to learn can be divided into two categories, hard skills and soft skills. What’s the difference? Hard skills are directly related to your job e.g graphic design, copywriting or digital marketing. They are what you need to know in order to be successful in your chosen field or career path. Soft skills are more to do with your personal qualities, and these are what make you a good worker e.g time management, communication, collaboration.
1) Social Media Management
This is a highly sought after skill, not just in the digital nomad world but in all businesses at the moment. The reason why it’s at the top of this list is that it’s soo easy to do remotely.
There is so much more to social media management than just scheduling posts. If a company is hiring a social media manager they are after someone who can come up with a bit of a strategy and drive growth to their channels.
If you’re wanting to grow your social media management skills, definitely get yourself familiar with Facebook ads manager. It is this platform in which you can drive targeted ads to not only Facebook but Instagram as well, including stories.
It’s a little more complex than just putting some budget behind a post and hoping it’ll reach the right people. It also takes a bit of playing around in ads manager itself to become familiar with the functionality and capabilities of the programme.
How to learn it?
There are a ton of free resources online but if you’re looking to fast track your way to success, it’s best to look at taking some courses specific to social media management. Podcasts are great too and there are a lot of creators out there giving so much of their knowledge away for free. Just find someone who’s an expert in their field, then see if they’ve got a podcast you can follow.
To go even more niche, try looking up courses specific to social media management for small businesses.
2) Digital Marketing
Next on the list is digital marketing which again is a skill that is highly sought after in today’s job market. Now before I hear you say, wait but digital marketing is so broad, what area should I focus on? Let me break down some of the key digital marketing skills even further for you:
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
- Analytics and data analysis
Now I get that might feel a bit overwhelming looking at this list, and I’m not saying you need to learn all of these skills in order to land yourself a digital marketing job. If there is something on this list that jumps out at you, either because you already know a bit about it or you think it would really interest you, go ahead and hone in on that.
The great thinking about digital marketing being so broad is that you can find specific jobs in each of these areas.
If nothing on the list stands out to you, that’s okay too! On the flip side, you can find positions for what you call a bit of an all-round marketer, usually, these are for businesses on the small side because they don’t have the budget to hire a huge team and need someone who’s the “jack of all trades”.
How to learn it?
The great news about this is that you don’t have to be an ‘expert’ at any one of these things. If you focus on building up some general knowledge in 3-5 of these areas, that’s a great starting point.
Take a course on essential skills to know as a digital marketer or similar and you’ll be well on your way.
I know copywriting was in the digital marketing skills list above but hear me out. Copywriting when it comes to a digital marketing role and copywriting to be a copywriter is quite different.
In the digital marketing world, you’re likely going to be writing short-form copy for ads, emails, websites. However, when you’re in the copywriting space, you need to be comfortable with writing long-form content which is quite a different skill, hence the separation.
What is long-form content I hear you ask? It’s things like blog posts, articles, newsletters, basically anything over the 500 word mark. Something that will make or break a copywriter is their ability to story-tell. The more challenging thing with long-form content is you need to find a way to keep the reader hooked.
You hear over and over again that people’s attention spans are shrinking, which means it’s more challenging than ever to keep them engaged. So if you’re an awesome storyteller which a great vocabulary, copywriting could be the path for you.
How to learn it?
When it comes to copywriting, the best thing you can do is practice, practice, practice. Yes, you can take some courses on how to structure your writing, make it engaging and brush up on your vocabulary but at the end of the day, you have to get writing.
If you’re totally new to copywriting but feel as though you would have a strong passion for it, then it probably is worth your while to take a course in order to get started.
4) Web development/design
Web development and web design are very similar but do have their slight difference and are both highly sought after skills. Every business needs a good website, right?
The difference is that web development is more focused on coding, whereas web design is focused on the look and feel of a site. You need to know things like what colours work well together, which font pairings to use, how to structure pages etc.
Both of these skills are incredibly easy to do remotely because basically, all you need is your laptop!
How to learn it?
Both of these skills are on the harder side to learn but you’ll reap the rewards later because with that comes higher pay. However, because they are harder to learn, be prepared to set aside more time and patience to really grasp this skill set.
It’s likely you’ll need to test your knowledge but offer to design or develop websites at a low cost when you’re getting started. This isn’t all bad news because this will help build up your portfolio which is crucial in this kind of work.
5) Graphic Design
If you’re a creative, graphic design could be your calling! Another skill that just requires your laptop and a bit of an eye for what looks good and what doesn’t.
Just like every business needs a website, every business also needs a logo! So that is a great place to start building your skills. Offer discounted logo design to get you comfortable with charging for your work and build a portfolio for yourself (a crucial step in the graphic design world).
If logo design doesn’t sound like you, not to worry! There are a ton of other areas of graphic design you could get into such as packaging design, branding, advertising materials, print design, the list goes on.
How to learn it?
When it comes to graphic design, it’s great if you’ve got some kind of qualification behind you so you’ve got the basics down. It will also help with getting your foot in the door in the industry. I’m not talking about a degree but a short course or diploma, something that you can pop onto your CV that will show you know what you’re talking about.
Of course, the other option is to learn by doing, and that’s totally possible too but it will take you a bit longer before you can charge top dollar for your services.
Alternatively, there are lots of courses online that will teach you what you need to know. They might not be the kind of qualifications you can put on your CV but it’s still a start if you’re a bit short on time.
When it comes to working with clients as many of the skills above would involve, it’s important to brush up on your communication skills. Being able to wow your clients and land good freelance jobs goes hand in hand with great communication.
You need to be ahead of the ball game when updating clients on where their projects are tracking, don’t have them come to you asking for an update and leave them wondering.
Great communication will help you come across as a confident worker and will increase your clients’ (or boss’s) trust in you.
Self-motivation is incredibly important when it comes to living the digital nomad life. Clients and jobs aren’t just going to come to you, you have to go out and find them.
It’s easy to find motivation when doing work you are passionate about, so when you’re deciding which ‘hard skill’ you want to focus on developing, ask yourself this question. Delivering on work you are passionate about is going to be so much more rewarding and it’ll give you the drive to keep grinding!
8) Time management
If you’re working with clients and freelancing, it’s likely you’re going to be managing your own schedule which means you need impeccable time management skills. Having the ability to plan out your day so you can be productive is crucial. If you know how to time block (and stick to it), you’ll be well on your way to achieving great time management skills.
Alternatively, if you land yourself a remote job, time management is incredibly important because essentially a digital nomad is all about how to make money on the road. This means you’re going to need to learn to balance out how you work while you’re travelling.
It’s all about planning ahead, working out if the wifi connection will be strong enough where you’re going for you to be able to work. If not, what’s your backup option? Maybe it’s a portable wifi device so you don’t get caught out.
This soft skill is definitely one that you tend to develop over time but it is still an important one as you still need to have some degree of confidence when it comes to pitching yourself to clients. You need to tell them why they should choose you. It’s hard to be convincing if you don’t believe in your abilities.
That is why it is so important when you’re just starting out to get the odd free job here and there under your belt. Offer to do work for friends, or friends of friends that’s relevant to the hard skill you are trying to build. Once you know that you can do it, start charging a discounted price for your services and then build from there.
As you get more and more confident, raise your prices to match. Remember not to undersell yourself!
10) Staying calm
The last soft skill that’s important to have for digital nomads on this list is the ability to stay calm. Things are not always going to go your way. When you’re travelling, life gets a little unpredictable and the best thing you can do is try not to get flustered about it.
Stressing yourself out about things you can’t control does nobody any good, so do your best to eliminate that. Who knows, maybe some morning meditation will become a part of your regular routine.
It’s also incredibly important to stay calm when you’re juggling clients and different freelance gigs. There will be multiple deadlines to meet, numerous client calls to be had and an endless to-do list (no matter how much work you’ve got on) so keeping a level head will become very valuable. You’ve totally got this though!
What if I don’t have any of these skills?
The answer is simple, practise practise practise! Go out of your way to put yourself in situations that allow you to grow your skillset. Take action today and reap the rewards for years to come.
Other than that, google is your best friend. I lose track of the number of times I google something within a day! Just don’t too far down the rabbit hole and you’ll be sweet.
Remember to believe in yourself, trust the process and hold your head high. If you want it bad enough, you can 100% make it happen.