Digital Nomad: Best Strategies for Making Money Online

To be a digital nomad you need an income, if you want the wanderlust to last. You can live and travel with a laptop as your office. But what’s the use of any office without an income stream?

Digital nomads enjoy freedom. You can work from anywhere. Usually your costs are lower than at home, as you live and work from far-flung places with better climate, nicer food, and a far more exotic lifestyle.

The key to being a digital nomad is always how to make money online. Even the nomads of old needed an income, as they crossed the Mongolian and Pashtun steppes to barter and trade.

Just think, most people spend two to four weeks a year away from home. Master money-making strategies and you can spend the whole year away from home as a digital nomad. And then the next year as well. So here are 14 strategies that can work for digital nomads in the 2020s (spoiler alert – none of them are blogging or affiliate websites).

Digital Nomad Money Making – First Consolidate Your Position

You probably get bombarded with social media adverts. They claim you can earn a million in four days without any experience or knowledge, other than a tin-pot course that costs $39 (discounted from $899). Ignore such hype. Do you want to get rich quick or do you want to be a digital nomad?

That course will tell you how to create a new course to sell to the same market. Ignore the pyramid scheme because you don’t need a million. You need a lifestyle and the first task is to consolidate what you have. Pay off your debts, especially any with high levels of interest. Sell your stuff and build a pot of money to start with.

Evaluate passive income streams you can continue from home, like rental income from your property. Most importantly, remove all your financial commitments at home. You can easily live for $1000 a month in Lombok, Indonesia, but not when your credit card interest payments run into three figures.

There Is No Holy Grail To Follow – Diversify Your Strategies

If you’re starting out, you’ll end up investing lots of time into something that delivers zero money. Hey, you may even invest most of your time into a project that goes absolutely nowhere. There is no holy grail to follow, no exact step by step that can transform you into a digital nomad with comfortable and consistent online income.

What works for you won’t work for somebody else. You will need to diversity and experiment. Don’t lose heart if one project fails. Remember, you can live a lot cheaper as a digital nomad than you can at home, so it’s not too big a jump to make (as long as you’re not expecting the millionaire lifestyle after one online course).

Digital Nomad Online Income Generation Strategies

1. Get a Remote Job In Your Existing Field

It’s easy to fly off with plans to be a marketing consultant or drop-shipping guru. But do you know anything about those topics? The easiest starting point is to take your career and existing experience online, by looking for a remote job.

Remote jobs are booming! Remote work grew almost 100% over the last decade. 16% of companies exclusively hire remote workers. Small companies are twice as likely to hire full-time remote workers. These figures will increase after the coronavirus pandemic. It’s cheaper for companies to hire remotely and they can access a wider talent pool.

Landing a full-time remote job is very similar to landing a full-time job anywhere. The employer is looking for skills, experience, and usually qualifications as well. That’s why you’ll be best suited searching for a remote job in your existing field. When a digital nomad lifestyle is your goal, don’t be afraid to step down the career ladder. Sure, it’s a hit to be paid less and have less responsibility, but not when you can work from anywhere.

To start applying for remote jobs and get hired remotely, take a look through all of the latest remote jobs on Search Remotely.

search remotely

2. Start Freelancing

34% of the US workforce already do freelance work and it’s getting easier to freelance, because everything is now online. Similar statistics are true in Europe and Asia. Freelancing and being a digital nomad is not the same thing, but a high proportion of nomads use freelancing as a means to support their lifestyle.

Freelancing as a digital nomad involves working for a number of different clients, on small projects and also larger long-term projects. It’s especially ideal for nomads because the volume of work fluctuates. So you can hunker down and store some cash when times are good. Then enjoy three weeks of vacation and travel further around the world when work is light.

Companies hiring freelancers also want specialists. It’s unlikely you’ll get a freelance gig as a social media marketing specialist, if you have no experience doing that job. However, companies want people they can trust. So if you land a gig based on your Instagram specialism, you may later be running the company’s entire digital marketing strategy.

Another benefit of freelancing is that you can start from home. You can test out platforms like Upwork and explore what’s realistic, before flying to Sri Lanka or Tbilisi in Georgia. Unlike a remote job, freelancing is something you can do while working on other income sources. It’s worth starting now, before you go into full nomad mode.

3. Up-Skill and Become a Consultant

Up-skilling is going to help you find both a remote job and freelance work. It can also help you turn into a well-paid consultant. And by consultant read specialist with a skill that few others understand. There are thousands of online courses that will help you up-skill, so don’t be tempted by courses claiming a copy and paste scheme to make your first million dollars in the next 32 seconds.

Search for courses on sites like Search Remotely, Coursera, Lynda, Udemy and Udacity, where the focus is on learning skills rather than old-world qualifications. Focus on future-proof skills, especially digital skills like data science, programming, online sales and marketing.

It’s actually relatively easy to blag some experience, approach a lot of potential clients, and land a consulting job. But if you can’t offer any practical advice or insightful strategy, you’ll only get a few hours of paid consulting work. Up-skill and you can use all the same course material to slowly train and up-skill your client, while getting paid.

4. Start a Podcast, Not a Blog

There are already more than 600 million blogs online. Over one third of all websites are blogs. Gone are the days where you can leave home, start a blog, and comfortably make a living. People really aren’t that interested and even if you start a fabulous award-winning blog, it’s still going to take years to generate decent income. So if you start a blog, be prepared to stick if out for the long term.

In contrast, there is only somewhere between 500,000 to 1 million podcasts. Over 100 million people listen to at least one podcast every week. They’re even easier to develop than blogs. Record the audio on your phone and use an app like Krisp to mute background noise. Stick to the trusted formula at first, around six to nine minutes per episode, with a teaser at the start to get your audience interested.

Generate a following, just like you must do with a blog. Then either ask for donations, sell sponsorship and ads, or create membership tiers. If you can reach 5000 downloads per episode you will generate good sponsorship income. For a blog you realistically need 100,000 page views to make $1000 in Adsense revenue, in a more competitive market.

5. Teach English or Another Language

The majority of language learning is now done online. To generate income as an online English teacher you need to be a native speaker. It helps to also have a TEFL qualification (usually takes 100 – 120 hours and can now be done online). Online English language companies are in desperate need for teachers, especially to teach Asian schoolchildren online (for example see TeachAway and Qkids).

The pay is around $10 – 20 per hour and how much you earn depends on how good you are. Most companies will give you a trial and your first few students. Retain those students and you can start earning pretty well. There’s also growing demand for teaching other languages, including Spanish, Mandarin and even German.

Okay, it may not seem like a perfect long-term career choice. But it’s an easy place to start generating income online, while you pursue other options that are harder to break into. Ten hours of English teaching a week can tick you over, as you do an online course or try to build your freelance work.

6. Virtual Tutoring

This is a little like online English teaching except you may know a little more about the topic. Tutoring has also gone online because it’s cheaper and easier for everyone involved. Mostly you’ll teach school-age students in a subject you know well, so the easiest way in is to teach what you studied at university. Unfortunately it’s hard to land this gig without a university degree.

7. Translate

A lot of websites will recommend you try copywriting to make money as a digital nomad. If you know two languages it’s easier to translate. And it’s better paid. An entry-level copywriter will earn $0.01 to $0.03 per word. For an entry-level translator it’s more like $0.04 to $0.06 per word and you don’t need the same level of creativity.

As with everything else on this list, the best long-term approach is to focus on a specialism. Millions of people can translate English to Spanish. But how about English to Spanish celebrity news? Or English to Spanish technology articles? If it goes well, invest in translation software as it will massively reduce the time you spend working.

9. Test Websites for Cash

Websites like User Testing will pay you $10 for testing a new app or site. Not huge amounts but a little here and there will help towards your goal of being a digital nomad.

10. Sell Your Photos

Selling photos to stock sites like Shutterstock, iStock or Getty Images is not going to make you rich. But chances are you will be taking photos as you travel anyway. And nobody other than your social networks are going to see those photos. Taking care in selecting and enhancing your photos is not a chore – it’s a chance to relive and preserve your travels. Upload them to stock sites and you may only make $100. Which is money for nothing really. And you may do immensely better than that.

11. Publish an Ebook

Before attempting this you do need to be good at writing. So if there, their and they’re are confusing skip to number 12. And you do need a subject matter that people are actually interested in. Devote the time and this can be a long-term income generator. Once the book is published you keep making money for every download.

12. Generate Lead Sales

Affiliate marketing has dropped down the list as a viable income stream. There’s too much competition and you need massive numbers and a marketing budget to get anywhere. Lead sales are an easier approach. Develop a website in a very specific niche, answering questions and providing advice about that niche (it can be anything from life insurance to World of Warcraft). Then sell the leads to an affiliate. Buyers will pay $20 and up for the lead and you can connect an interested customer to a product, without doing the hard sell.

13. Youtube and Instagram

Yes you can still do Youtube or Instagram to make money as a digital nomad, but people need to actually like you and your content. This is not a short-term strategy and it shouldn’t be your only hope. But don’t be discouraged. Start building your audience and refining your message now. Maybe somewhere down the road you can be a digital nomad, living purely off Youtube or Instagram. But not now. How-to videos are trending the most on Youtube.

14. Improve Your Coworking Space

This is a great way to improve your skills, test your specialisms, generate experience and save money. And any digital nomad can do it. As you become a digital nomad you’ll probably be working from coworking spaces. Most coworking spaces will happily provide you with a free desk, if you help to improve their space.

That may be marketing (including social media), improving the community, or business development. By getting involved you’ll meet more coworkers as well, increase your network, and find out about more freelance jobs or companies who need your skills.

There Are More Ways for Digital Nomads to Make Money

You’ve got a great idea and you’re convinced it will work. Go for it. Don’t tell us. Don’t tell the world. These 14 strategies can help you make money online and they are not exclusive. Start out with more than one and remember, you don’t need a huge income to make this work.

To be a digital nomad you can get started with very little. Making money online is just another part of your journey.