I want to be a digital nomad. How do I get started?

Mojito and laptop

Imagine if going to work tomorrow was as simple as turning your laptop on and getting started?

Ok, so you’ve decided the digital nomad lifestyle is for you. What comes next? shares insights to help you work out what you’re good at, and how you can get started finding your first few freelance clients.

The road to getting set up as a digital nomad will be easier for some than others.

If you already know your strengths and skills, you’re halfway there, particularly if you have some experience, examples of your work and a bit of a track record to shout about.

What if I don’t know what I’m good at?

If you genuinely don’t know where to begin, you’re going to need to do a bit of research and soul searching first. There are two ways of approaching this challenge. You can take a look at the market and see which opportunities sound like you, or you can take a good look at yourself and then try to find opportunities out in the marketplace that match.

Marianne Cantwell

Marianne Cantwell, free range human and inspiring human being

An excellent resource to help you get to know yourself better is a great little book called ‘ ’ by Marianne Cantwell (pictured). Her book totally changed my life and definitely gave me the inspiration and the confidence to pursue the digital nomad dream. Originally from Australia, Marianne  moved to London to launch her big career and a few years later she found herself completely disillusioned. There she was working at Disney, in a job that others would kill for, and she just didn’t feel satisfied. She set about freeing herself from the workplace ‘battery hen cage’ and this book is her toolkit to help others do the same. It’s a fun, inspiring read, but more than that – it’s really practical. 

Each chapter forces you to take a good hard look at yourself and do some homework. Questions like ‘what did you love doing when you were 10 years old?’ will help you unearth your passions. By the time you’re finished, you should have a plan in mind and you will have already tested the market to see if your plan will work. .

If you still can’t decide where your skills, passions and strengths lie, don’t worry – we’ll go into further detail with this in future articles.

What opportunities are out there?

Sometimes it is easier to look at the opportunities that already exist, and then just see which ones jump out at you.

There’s a whole host of freelancing sites out there these days, where you can pitch for work and build up a portfolio and profile. The stronger your track record, the more you can charge.

Here are some of the leading digital freelancing sites:

Take a look and see how many times you think to yourself ‘I could do that!’

You’ll soon realise that it’s a jungle out there. Which jobs should you focus on? How can you compete with other freelancers? We’ll look at tips for how to write a profile page, how to bid for work and how to calculate your freelance rates in future blogs.

Do people actually make a living from these sites?

In short – yes. But there’s a lot more to it than just trawling what’s on offer. These opportunities often act as a springboard to bigger projects.

It’s true that there are a lot of projects on these sites that are paying peanuts and expecting the earth. However, they can still be great places to start, particularly if you’re still honing your skills and building a portfolio. Take a few low paid gigs to get started, and then make sure you deliver top-notch work to those clients. Ask them to write you a glowing testimonial, and then make sure you put those words where everyone can see them.

For people with more experience under their belt, these sites can still be a worthwhile exercise. However, it’s important to know your worth, otherwise these sites can feel like a race to the bottom. Don’t waste your time with underpaid gigs – focus on those that are seeking quality over quantity. Just calculate a reasonable freelance rate for yourself and make use of the search functionality to screen out those poorly paid roles.

Ideally, what you’re looking for long-term are well-paid opportunities that offer recurring work. Freelance sites are just the start.

Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be publishing further articles in this series which will guide you through the process of becoming a digital nomad in Brazil – or anywhere else in the world for that matter!  We’ll also be hearing from successful digital nomads in Brazil who are already living the dream. As always, if you have any questions or comments, leave them below! You can also follow me on Twitter .

Making the move to Brazil soon? Need help formulating your plan? .

Read more: The Digital Nomad in Brazil Series

  • Hans Kolbeek

    Hi Christian (or any other freelancer reading this),

    Do you have any personal experience with these freelance platforms like UpWork? I’d love to know. I’ve registered an account but am yet to take a look at what their marketplace entails. Anyone who’s done any projects through UpWork?