So, you’ve decided to embrace the freedom of remote work and see the world, but there’s just one little problem: you’ve got no experience and your pockets are emptier than a deserted beach on a rainy day. No worries! We’ve all been there, and the good news is that you don’t need a trust fund or a fancy resume to kickstart your digital nomad journey.
In this post, we’re going to share some super helpful tips that’ll have you globetrotting and working from anywhere in no time, even if you’re starting from scratch and living on a shoestring budget. Let’s get right into it.
Developing In-Demand Skills
Identify skills that can be learned online
You can learn just about anything online these days, from juggling flaming torches to speaking Dothraki. But let’s focus on the skills that’ll actually pay the bills, shall we? After all, you don’t want to spend months mastering something only to find out the market for it is non-existent.
The sweet spot here is finding something that both you and the market value – that way, you’ll not only earn a living, but you’ll also enjoy doing it! So a little self-awareness of your natural temperament and interests goes a long way here.
Here are 10 skills that are currently in high demand:
- Web development: Build the digital playgrounds of the future!
- Graphic design: Unleash your inner Picasso in the digital realm.
- Content writing: Craft words that sing, persuade, and inform.
- Social media management: Curate, nurture and grow online communities.
- Digital marketing: Help businesses find customers online.
- Video editing: Create visual stories that captivate and inspire.
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Guide websites to the top of Google and other search engines.
- Data analysis: Unravel the mysteries hidden in numbers and patterns.
- Virtual assistance: Be the wizard behind the curtain, keeping things running smoothly.
- Online tutoring: Share your knowledge and empower others, one lesson at a time.
If you’re looking for something that is less tech-y, head on over to my post about non-specialized jobs. Just remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so be patient with yourself, practice, and watch your newfound talents blossom!
Build a portfolio to showcase your skills
So you’ve honed your skills and you’re ready to conquer the remote work world. But wait! Before you dive into the job market, you need a killer portfolio that showcases your newfound talents. Think of your portfolio as the digital equivalent of a shiny, decked-out shop window, enticing potential clients to step inside and do business with you.
You may be wondering where to build this fabulous portfolio of yours. Worry not, my friend, for we’ve got you covered with a few free (yes, free!) options to get you started:
- Behance: Perfect for creative types, this Adobe-owned platform is a mecca for showcasing your graphic design, photography, or illustration skills.
- GitHub: If you’re a developer, GitHub is your go-to choice. Host and share your coding projects, collaborate with others, and show off your web development prowess.
- LinkedIn: Don’t underestimate the power of a well-crafted LinkedIn profile! Jazz up your page with examples of your work, and watch those job offers roll in.
- WordPress: Customize your very own website to showcase your talents, from content writing to video editing. It’s like your own little corner of the internet, dedicated to celebrating your awesomeness!
Note that if you’re just starting out, you might have to roll up your sleeves and do some work for free to build up your new portfolio. Think of it as an investment in your future success. Plus, you’ll gain valuable experience and possibly even acquire some rave reviews from your happy “clients.”
Finding Remote Work Opportunities for Beginners
Use remote job boards and websites
8 years ago, I had this friend – let’s call her Jane – who had a knack for design. She wasn’t a seasoned pro, nor did she have any formal education in the field. But she did have a keen interest, a good eye, and a willingness to learn. One day, she decided to turn her passion into something more and took her first steps into the world of design.
Back then, she found Fiverr, a platform where you could offer your services for just five dollars per gig. With a dose of courage and determination, Jane began designing logos for clients all around the world. To her surprise, she was able to make a living off of her humble Fiverr beginnings.
As her skills developed and her client base grew, Jane decided to expand her horizons. She brought on a junior designer to help with her Fiverr gigs and began focusing on bigger, more ambitious projects. Eventually, she built a successful high-end design agency, a far cry from her modest start on Fiverr.
Upwork and Freelancer are two popular sites where you can find a wide range of remote work opportunities across various industries. For a more focused search, check out remote job boards like Remote.co and We Work Remotely, which cater specifically to the digital nomad community.
Acing remote job interviews
For someone just starting out, a remote job interview can be nerve-wracking. So here are a few tips to make things just that little bit easier for you.
First things first, let’s talk about honesty. There’s a certain charm in being genuine and transparent about where you’re at in your career journey. Are you just starting out? Don’t be shy! Embrace the newbie status, because we’ve all been there, and believe it or not, the right manager will appreciate your honesty. Besides, nobody likes a fibber, especially when it comes to remote work. So, wear your beginner’s badge with pride and let your sincerity shine through.
Now, let’s move on to the art of connection. You see, people tend to remember how others make them feel, rather than the nitty-gritty details of the conversation. So, focus on forging a sincere connection with your interviewer. Be engaging, ask thoughtful questions, and actively listen to their responses. This will not only show them that you’re genuinely interested in the position, but also that you’re the kind of person they’d want on their team.
Don’t forget to inject a little humor into the mix. After all, laughter is the best medicine, and a well-timed joke or witty remark can help diffuse tension, lighten the mood, and create a memorable experience for both you and your interviewer. Just be sure to strike the right balance – a remote job interview is no stand-up comedy gig, but a touch of humor can go a long way in showcasing your personality and making a lasting impression.
Networking and Building Connections as a Broke Digital Nomad
The value of networking
Ah, networking – the essential ingredient for a successful digital nomad career, particularly for those of us with limited resources. Networking is often the key to unlocking job opportunities that never make it to the public eye. Many positions are filled through personal connections rather than formal advertisements, making your network an invaluable resource in your career journey.
Take it from someone who’s been there – in my 30s, I now receive most of my work through my network. But building this web of connections didn’t happen overnight. It took years of attending events, forming relationships, and proving my trustworthiness to those in my industry.
The good news is that many networking events are free, making them accessible even to those just starting out. While paid events can offer valuable experiences, I wouldn’t recommend shelling out your hard-earned cash for them when you’re still finding your footing. Instead, focus on attending free events, workshops, or even virtual meetups where you can connect with like-minded individuals and professionals in your field.
To make the most of these networking opportunities, remember to be genuine, open, and engaged. Ask thoughtful questions, listen actively, and follow up with the connections you make. Over time, you’ll build a strong network of people who trust you and are willing to pass along job opportunities that align with your skills and interests.
Leveraging social media, online communities, and local events is a fantastic way to network and find opportunities as a digital nomad. So let’s explore some ways to connect with fellow nomads and expand your professional circle.
For starters, local events are a treasure trove of networking possibilities. Take, for example, the ever-popular monthly Chiang Mai Digital Nomad Coffee Club in Thailand. This informal gathering brings together digital nomads and remote workers to share experiences, exchange ideas, and make connections in the picturesque city of Chiang Mai.
Additionally, consider attending free nomad conferences like the annual Nomad Summit. It’s an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded individuals, learn from experienced remote workers, and even find potential collaborators – all without breaking the bank!
When it comes to social media, platforms like Facebook offer a wealth of digital nomad communities ripe for networking. For instance, the Medellin Digital Nomads Facebook group connects remote workers living in or visiting Medellin, Colombia, allowing them to share tips, ask questions, and organize meetups.
Speaking of meetups, don’t underestimate the power of Meetup.com for connecting with others in your field. This platform offers countless groups and events tailored to various interests, making it an ideal resource for meeting people when you’re just starting out. Fun fact: I actually found a co-founder for a project through Meetup.com 10 years ago!
Cost-Effective Tools and Gear for Digital Nomads
Find budget-friendly gadgets
As a budding digital nomad with limited financial resources, you might be thinking, “I must need the latest and greatest tech gadgets to be successful, right? I can’t possibly make it on a shoestring budget!” The truth is, you can absolutely rock the digital nomad lifestyle without breaking the bank on fancy gadgets. Let’s explore some budget-friendly options that’ll keep you connected and productive, while still leaving some cash for that extra street food treat you’ve been eyeing.
You don’t need a top-of-the-line MacBook or Surface Pro to get the job done – trust me, I’ve seen people crank out masterpieces on devices that predate the dinosaurs (okay, maybe not that old). Do your research and find a device that balances performance, battery life, and cost. There are plenty of budget-friendly laptops out there, like the Acer Aspire 5, ASUS VivoBook 15, or the Lenovo Tab M10. And hey, don’t forget the goldmine that is the second-hand market! Websites like eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace can be your best friends for scoring sweet deals on pre-loved devices.
While the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy might be tempting (who doesn’t love a shiny new toy?), you can still stay connected and organized with a mid-range champion like the Google Pixel 4a or the Samsung Galaxy A52. These underdogs offer solid performance and decent cameras at a fraction of the cost of their high-end siblings. Plus, when you’re living the digital nomad life, you’ll want a phone that won’t give you heart palpitations every time it slips out of your hand. And again, don’t be shy about scouring the second-hand market for gently used gems!
Finally, let’s chat about the unsung heroes of your digital nomad toolkit: the mouse and keyboard. You might be tempted to skimp on these peripherals, but remember, you’ll be using them for hours on end (Netflix binges, anyone?). Thankfully, there are reasonably-priced heroes like the Logitech K380 keyboard (I have this keyboard, and it’s absolutely fantastic for people that are on the move often.) and the Anker Ergonomic Mouse that won’t leave your wallet (or your wrists) crying out in pain. Keep an eye out for sales and discounts on well-reviewed products – because who doesn’t love a good bargain hunt?
Research low-cost travel gear
Alright, aspiring digital nomads, it’s time to talk travel gear – because let’s face it, you can’t embark on this epic adventure without the essentials. But there’s no need to splurge on designer luggage or fancy-pants accessories. With a little research, you can score some seriously sweet deals on low-cost travel gear that’ll have you globe-trotting in style.
Your trusty backpack will be your home away from home, carrying everything from your beloved tech gadgets to that lucky pair of socks you can’t live without. But here’s the kicker – you don’t need to break the bank to find a durable, functional, and downright fabulous backpack. Look for sales, read reviews, and don’t be afraid to venture beyond the usual big-name brands. There’s a world of hidden gems out there just waiting to be discovered (and strapped to your back!).
You might be tempted to buy a fancy set of packing cubes or compression sacks to keep your belongings organized – but who says you can’t be resourceful? Look for affordable alternatives or even repurpose what you already have. Old shoeboxes, plastic bags, or even that drawstring bag you got as a freebie can work wonders for keeping your stuff neat and tidy. Plus, think of the fun stories you’ll have when people ask you how you managed to pack so efficiently!
It’s easy to get carried away with all the enticing gadgets out there – you know, the ones that promise to revolutionize your travel experience, but end up collecting dust in your closet. Instead, focus on the essentials like a sturdy, inexpensive water bottle, a compact and versatile travel towel, and a reliable power bank for those moments when your devices are gasping for juice. Trust me, your wallet will thank you!
Finally, don’t forget to research the best deals on other travel essentials, like toiletries and clothing. Scour the internet, browse local thrift stores, or even swap with fellow nomads to score some amazing deals on items that won’t break your budget. After all, who says you can’t be both thrifty and fashionable on your globetrotting adventures?
Finding Affordable Accommodation and Transportation
Alright, digital nomad-in-training, you’ve honed your skills, landed a job, geared up with budget-friendly tech, so now you’re ready to hit the road.
As a digital nomad, you’re not tied down to one location, so why not take advantage of that freedom and try some slow travel? By staying longer in one place, you’ll not only immerse yourself in the local culture but also score some sweet deals on accommodation. Many places offer discounted rates for weekly or monthly stays, so don’t be shy about negotiating a better price – you might just be surprised at the deals you can find.
Websites like Booking.com and Hostelworld offer a vast array of options, from budget hostels to cozy guesthouses. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can even try your hand at Couchsurfing, where you can stay with locals for free while getting an authentic taste of the local life.
Alternatively, house-sitting websites like TrustedHousesitters and Nomador can offer you free accommodation in exchange for taking care of someone’s home and pets. This option not only saves you money but also gives you the chance to live like a local and enjoy the comforts of a real home.
Lastly, while Airbnb might not always be the cheapest option for one-night stays, if you’re planning to stay in a location for an extended period, you might find some great long-term deals. Keep an eye out for those monthly discounts, and you could score yourself a comfortable and affordable home base for your digital nomad adventures. In that same vein, don’t forget to check out my post that compares Airbnb and hostels.
And don’t forget about the power of connections! As you expand your network of fellow digital nomads, you might find that people are more than happy to help you out with a place to stay. Reach out to your new friends and colleagues, and you might be surprised by the offers of a spare room or a cozy couch to crash on. For example, I recently got given an apartment by some Polish friends who were moving out of town and recommended me to their landlord.
Hacking transportation costs
So, you’ve conquered the art of finding budget-friendly accommodation, but now you’re probably wondering how to get from point A to point B without spending all your hard-earned cash. We’re here to share some hacks on how to make transportation costs practically vanish.
It might sound like something out of a novel, but hitchhiking is still alive and well in many parts of the world. Sure, it may not be the fastest or most luxurious way to travel, but it’s hard to beat the price of free. Just remember to stay safe and use your best judgment when accepting rides from strangers. Pro tip: a smile and a friendly attitude can go a long way in securing that ride!
If the idea of sticking out your thumb by the roadside isn’t quite your cup of tea, don’t fret. Ridesharing apps like BlaBlaCar and Poparide can connect you with drivers heading in the same direction, often at a fraction of the cost of public transportation. Plus, you might just make some new friends along the way!
Speaking of apps, let’s talk local taxi options. While Uber and Lyft might be your go-to choices back home, when you’re traveling abroad, you might find that local taxi services offer a surprisingly affordable alternative. For example, songthaews in Thailand or taxis in Serbia can be a real bargain if you know how to navigate the system. Just make sure to do your research and familiarize yourself with the local customs, as haggling might be expected in some places.
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of your own two feet (or a bike, if you prefer). Walking or biking around a new city not only saves you money but also allows you to truly experience your surroundings and discover hidden gems that you might have missed from the backseat of a car. Who knows, you might even stumble upon the world’s best street food or a breathtaking view that makes every step (or pedal) worth it!
And there you have it, folks! Who knew that with some determination, resourcefulness, and a pinch of creativity, you could be on your way to a life of adventure, all while keeping your wallet nice and full?
From mastering valuable skills to building a stunning portfolio that makes employers swoon, you’ve laid the groundwork for remote work success, and are ready to ride the waves of the digital nomad lifestyle.
Whether you’re zipping around in a songthaew in Thailand, connecting with fellow nomads at a free event in Medellin, or making a lasting impression on potential employers during remote interviews, you’ll be living proof that you can indeed become a digital nomad with no experience and no money.
Jared has worked remotely for 15 years in various marketing capacities, and has managed hundreds of marketing campaigns along the way. He has held freelance, agency, and in-house positions for companies large and small.