Becoming a digital nomad

Becoming a digital nomad

The question we get asked the most is: "How do you afford your travels?" and the answer we always give is: "We work online, all we need is a laptop and an internet connection. So we are free to live where-ever we want and right now we want to live in our van and travel." And this is the case, even though being a "digital nomad" is not as easy as some people make it to believe. 

We are on the road now for one and a half years, so for the last one and a half years I'm considered a digital nomad I guess. I don't have a regular job, but I do try to land as many freelance jobs as possible and even though sometimes this pays out, most of the times to be honest, it doesn't. It sounds so romantic, but in reality it's hard work and you have to learn to take no for an answer. 

Before we set off I had regular job, I worked, in random order, in finance, marketing, consultancy and sales. And I acquired many skills and much experience in these fields so I had good jobs with nice salaries for most of my adult life. The downside of these jobs were that they required my physical presence. Either I had to go the office or I had to go to my clients. I had a lot of freedom, but I simply had to show up somewhere every day. It's needless to say that I can't hold a job in which I acquired my skills over the years now. Traveling around fulltime and showing up at the office simply don't go hand in hand.

During our travels I decided to become a digital nomad. I thought: I'm a smart guy, I can learn new stuff. So this is what I did. I learned how to write (better). I learned how to edit videos. I learned how to build websites. And I learned (a little bit) how to shoot better pictures. In all these new skills was money to be made. So I started reaching out to potential clients. With some years of sales under my belt I know how to write a pitch. I know how to close a deal. And I failed. Miserably.

The thing I didn't think of whilst studying on my new skills was the most important thing of all. I have no network and I have no portfolio. The first being much more troublesome than the latter as it turned out. To earn someones trust in a playing field with many, many players takes time, dedication and funny enough it requires physical presence in this digital era. 

On many of my pitches I got positive answers, things like: "I like what you are saying, why won't you come to my office next week so we can talk this through. Does Monday 11AM suit you?" Well, when you are living in a van in the dessert of Morocco or the mountains of Greece Monday 11AM in Amsterdam, London or Berlin is not an option. So most of these conversations ended the same: no appointment, no job, no money.

I started to rewrite my pitches, stating clearly that I was not in the position to have a physical sit-down. But that I, obviously, was available for Skype, FaceTime or Google Hangouts anytime to get to know each other better and I have to say the results were definitely different: the amount of positive answers to my pitches dropped to zero. Nobody wanted to work with someone they didn't know without seeing them in the flesh before.

It's not all bad, every now and then I was successful, one of my pitches came through and I got a small job. I earned a few hundred euros and felt good about myself and started to think I might just become a true digital nomad. But most of the times this was not the case. So I'm still searching for alternatives and pitching and in the end I will find something. For now I'm just lucky that I have a girlfriend who does land the jobs and who is also kind enough to buy me some food and drinks and keeps me on the road.

Becoming a digital nomad is definitely possible. Hedwig is doing it and sometimes I'm even a little bit jealous of that. She started freelancing seven years ago and she built a strong network which she can still fall back on. Next to that she is one of the best writers around and she has the portfolio to prove that. But even for her it's harder now that she's not around to land jobs. I'm just extremely proud of her and happy that she doesn't mind being the provider now.

So if you want tot start traveling and be digital nomad don't make the mistakes I made. It takes the right preparation and a good amount of dedication. Just like most things in life. I didn't realise this enough before I set off, mostly because we made a rash decision and we didn't prepare at all, and now I pay for that by not having much money to spend. I hated this at first, but lately I start to appreciate it.

Also, I'm available for jobs. So if you are reading this and think I can help you with something (copywriting, sales training, video editing, whatever) please go to the contact form and let me know.

To all the people who (seem to) think I am the happiest person alive

To all the people who (seem to) think I am the happiest person alive