How do I become a digital nomad?
Working in the most beautiful places in the world, organising daily life at your own pace: digital nomadism sounds tempting. What does it take besides a good internet connection and the courage to venture into the unknown? Here are some tips for becoming a digital nomad.
The ideal job for working from anywhere
You don’t have to look too far. Basically any job that can be done online and digitally is suitable for a digital nomad lifestyle. If your employer agrees, you may even be able to do your current job wherever you are. Another possibility is to start your own business. What can you offer and what skills can you acquire? What do you like doing? Digital nomads can do a wide range of jobs. For example, you could start a consulting company or set up a small agency, launch an e-commerce business, write a blog or work as a freelancer. Freelancing platforms are the best way to get started, even if the payment for some of them is rather poor. Popular platforms include Upwork, Fiverr, freelancer.com, freelancer-schweiz.ch, and peopleperhour. You’ll also find jobs for digital nomads on relevant Facebook groups (see below). Get networking! Take advantage of the trend towards digital nomadism and visit platforms and events to get more information. Like-minded people can give you first-hand practical tips. This way, you’ll also make sure your daily professional life “on the road” isn’t lonely. Facebook groups like “Digital Nomads” or, for female nomads, “Digital Nomads Girls”, offer helpful information and networking options. The “Digitale Nomaden Schweiz” association is also a useful source of information.
Working from anywhere: what about tax?
The question of where and how digital nomads have to pay tax isn't an easy one to answer. The general rule is that you have to pay tax in the country where you work. However, there are grey areas. For example, if you de-register from Switzerland, enter a country on a tourist visa and work on digital projects there. If you start your own business, you have to pay tax in the country where your company is registered. To avoid unpleasant surprises such as additional payments, it’s best to find out in advance about your particular situation.
Health insurance for digital nomads
If you’re never abroad for longer than 12 months at a time and therefore remain registered in Switzerland, it may be worth taking out supplementary travel insurance, especially if you’re travelling to countries with expensive treatment costs, such as Japan, Canada, the USA and Australia. If you’re on the road for more than a year, you have to de-register in Switzerland. In this case, you’re no longer entitled to compulsory health insurance (basic insurance). Digital nomads have the option of taking out international health insurance with a specialist provider. In some cases, you can suspend your supplementary insurance for longer stays abroad of up to six years. After returning to Switzerland, your insurance can be reactivated without a health exam.
A proxy for every eventuality
If you’re travelling for a longer period of time, it’s a good idea to organise a proxy at your former place of residence. This could be a sibling, close friend or a parent. Granting a proxy power of attorney for the most important administrative matters, such as banking, taxes and mail, can save you a lot of trouble if, for example, your credit card is stolen and has to be replaced.
Allow enough time
A tight schedule causes stress. For example, if you have to complete a project even though you’d rather be out exploring the new location. Make sure you plan enough time in one place so you can work without time pressure and then go exploring in peace. If you know your project phases early on, it makes sense to arrange your travel plans accordingly.
Where to travel and where to live?
What does a destination have to offer in order to be suitable for work? On Nomadlist, digital nomad destinations are listed by different categories such as internet coverage, cost, safety and fun. If you want to stay longer in one place, Spot-a-Home or TrustedHousesitters offer some cost-effective options.
Use online tools – but not indiscriminately
If you don’t have a permanent job, you have to organise yourself so you don’t lose track of things. There are all sorts of digital aids for location-independent work – communication apps, time recording tools, productivity trackers. But too many tools can be a distraction. So, choose a few aids you think will be most useful. For example, the project management tool Trello, the time recording tool Toggl, Slack for communicating with project members, Skype as a replacement for a phone, and Todoist as a digital to-do list. Additionally, the Pocket app can be used to save online content so you can read it offline later.
Finding an internet connection
When you’re on the move, you’ll usually find wlan that is fit for work in your accommodation, in coffee shops or in co-working spaces, which are becoming ever more popular all over the world. In order to be more independent as a digital nomad, your mobile phone can be used as an external hotspot either with roaming (find out about the prices) or with a local SIM card. Mobile phones which can use two SIM cards at the same time are very handy. This way you can use your home numbers without any problems.
Secure surfing: set up VPN
If you want to do everything online, such as online banking or confidential emails, you need to think about security. A VPN connection allows you to surf securely while on the move. Free providers include “Tunnelblick” or “Tunnel Bear”, for example.
In the cloud: make regular backups
Make yourself independent of hardware. When travelling, your laptop can quickly get wet or your mobile phone can be stolen. It’s therefore essential that you back up your data in a cloud. For example, with Dropbox, Google Drive or, for Mac users, the iCloud.
Powered up: adapters and batteries
Digital nomads don’t need much, but electricity is essential. So you should always pack a travel adapter that is as universal as possible. It’s best to choose one that also has several USB ports. This way you save space and are prepared in case there’s only one socket. You’ll also appreciate a powerful and lightweight powerbank.