Since April, we have been living in our van full-time and travelling, working remotely and living as ‘digital nomads’.
So many people have the dream of van life and remote working, so this blog post will explain exactly how you can become a digital nomad, and live location independent.
What is a digital nomad?
The term ‘digital nomad’ has become increasingly known over the past few years, with the digital nomad reddit now having over 1 million subscribers. But what is a digital nomad? A digital nomad is a modern take on the term ‘nomad’ – a person who has no fixed residence, and moves from place to place, living independent of any one location. The term digital nomad refers to the concept of someone earning a living from online work, which enables them work and travel wherever they like.
How do I become a digital nomad?
How do you generate an income as a digital nomad? This blog post will cover lots of different types of online work and remote work, so that whatever your skill set, you can become a digital nomad and work remotely with the mountains as your backdrop.
For more information about how to get campervan WiFi to enable you to work online wherever you want, check out our campervan WiFi blog post.
It’s worth noting that when working remotely you may legally require a digital nomad visa (vs. a tourist visa). Be sure to check for the latest legal guidance before you set off on your digital adventure!
Our remote working ‘office’ enables us to live as digital nomads
Digital nomad jobs
Digital nomad jobs usually fall into one of a few categories:
- Freelance work
- Online work
- Starting your own business
- Creative jobs
- Remote working
- Content creator
- Gig work
A freelance job means that you work for yourself rather than a specific company. This means that you are self-employed or a ‘contractor’, and often this means you have more freedom than a standard employee would have. Freelance work is very common among digital nomads.
The benefit of freelance work is that it’s super flexible, and you can often pick up freelance work online no matter what your skill set. Common online freelance jobs include:
- Digital marketing (social, paid marketing and SEO)
- Software development
- Design (graphic design, product design etc)
- Videography and photography
However, there are almost an endless amount of options when it comes to freelance work! There are translators, music producers, HR consultants…it’s worth a browse of one of the freelance websites to see just how many different options there are. Rates will vary massively dependent on what industry you’re in and how much experience you have.
If you’re interested in doing freelance work online, there are a number of websites you can use to find a job. You can post a listing advertising your skills, and also apply for jobs posted by others. If you’re interested, check out:
If you don’t fancy freelance work but you’re still excited by the idea of being a digital nomad, online work could be a good option. Online work typically tends to be on a zero hours contract, and you will take work as and when it is available. There are lots of different types of online part time work available, but a few include:
- Online tutor
- Teaching English online
- Website tester
If you’ve previously worked as a teacher, or you just love sharing your knowledge with others, working as an online tutor could be a great digital nomad job for you. Online tutors typically tutor GCSE or A Level students to prepare them for their exams. This usually means that work will be on an evening or a weekend. Usually online tutors will get regular students who they tutor, so this can be a good way to guarantee some income. Online tutors are typically paid around £15-30/hour, depending on your level of experience.
Teaching English online
Slightly different to tutoring, teaching English online is done via an online company such as Palfish. After doing a simple qualification online which only costs £20, you can get regular work teaching Chinese kids online. You don’t need any previous experience, and you can earn around £15/hour. If you’d like more information, Beth (sheisthelostgirl) has lots of useful tips and tricks for setting up with Palfish on her blog.
I had no degree or online skills but I decided to look into online work, and that’s when I stumbled upon teaching English online. It may not be my dream job, but it has kept me on the road and I love how flexible it is.
A website tester tests the functionality of a website or app. You will be set tasks that you will attempt to complete, and afterwards give your feedback on how easy or hard it was to complete the tasks. There are a few websites you can register for such as User Testing and Try My UI to become a remote website tester. User Testing pay $10 (around £7) per test, which will take around 20 minutes. This equates to £21/hour.
However, work can be fairly inconsistent and it can be tricky to earn enough to survive on purely from website testing, so it can be a good one to combine with another source of income.
If you’re a fast typist, transcription makes a great online working option. If you have a typing speed of over 65wpm, you may be able to pick up transcription work. You can do an online typing speed test to check how quickly you can type.
Transcription involves transcribing (typing out) audio files. From focus groups to business meetings, and even TV episodes, transcription work is super varied. It usually pays per hour of audio transcribed, so the faster you type, the more money you will make!
Companies such as Take Note have tests so you can practice before applying. Once you are accepted, you can work as many hours as you like. I did transcription work for Take Note throughout university and it was super easy to pick up as many hours as I wanted to. If you have a decent typing speed, you can make around £15/hour. I even used to transcribe episodes of 8 Out of 10 Cats! However, it’s worth noting that Take Note only allow you to complete work from within the UK, so if you plan on travelling abroad, this might not be suitable.
Starting your own business
An alternative option for those who are more entrepreneurally minded is to start your own business. Running your own businesses awards you ultimate flexibility, as you become your own boss. Obviously a lot of work is involved with starting your own business, but maybe you’ve always dreamt of doing something. Now is the time to give it a go – living in a van reduces your overheads significantly as you no longer need to pay rent or a mortgage, so what better time to take the plunge and get stuck in!
This is the route we took. As we moved into our van, we both quit our full-time jobs and started our own business around van conversions. We spent the previous year writing our first book, The Van Conversion Bible, and we have plans to help self-build van converters with their electrical systems! We also sell campervan electrical components in our webshop. But obviously the possibilities are endless when it comes to starting your own business! Pretty much anything you can think of you could do.
The amount you can earn will vary wildly dependent on what you do. It may also take a few months to generate a steady stream of income as you grow your business. But it’s a very rewarding thing to do, and if done well, can allow you to live as a digital nomad for years to come.
Running our own business gives the flexibility to work wherever we fancy
For those who are more creative and prefer to not spend all of their time on a laptop, a job as a creator or a ‘maker’ might be for you. Whether you’re an artist or you make homeware, setting up an Etsy shop and selling your creations can be a great way to make some money whilst living on the road. One of our favourite creatives is This Cabin Van, who use their incredible weaving and whittling skills to make beautiful wooden spoons, coasters and bookmarks.
Earnings can vary massively, as they will be dependent on how long it takes you to make your product and how many you are able to sell each month. However, it’s perfectly possible to make a full-time living with a creative job if you’re able to generate enough traffic to your shop.
If you already have a job that you love, perhaps remote working is an option for you. If you have a job that can be done remotely, it could be worth a discussion with your boss to see if they’d be happy for you to do your job whilst on the road. Alternatively, you could look for a job at a company offering a a remote working role. Since the pandemic, a lot more employers are open to remote working as they have seen the benefit of having employees who work remotely.
These days there are lots of fully remote work companies, especially tech companies who have always been more forward thinking in allowing their employees to work from anywhere. Check out We Work Remotely’s list of 100 top remote work companies for some inspiration.
The downsides to remote working as a digital nomad is that usually this will involve working set hours, so you may not have the flexibility that comes with most of the other options.
Do you love spending your time creating videos for YouTube, or taking beautiful photographs for Instagram? If you can generate a decent following on certain social networks, you can earn money via adverts and sponsored partnerships.
But don’t expect to make a lot from YouTube ads – users typically report getting paid around £100 per 100,000 views, so you’ll need a lot of well performing videos to earn a lot!
If you have a large audience on Instagram or TikTok, you may be able to do paid collaborations with brands to generate income. We occasionally work with brands on partnerships like this, but we only ever work with brands that align with our values, and we usually try to space collaborations out so they don’t dilute our feed.
Photos from some previous brand collaborations we’ve done with Dometic and Passenger Clothing
The other thing we thought we’d mention here is affiliate marketing and on site ads. Affiliate marketing is when a company offers you a small commission for driving traffic to their website. Many companies offer this service, but some of the most popular affiliate programmes are Amazon Associates and eBay Partner Network. The more traffic you can drive to their website (and importantly sales, as this is what you will make a commission on), the more you will earn. Depending on the product type, the Amazon affiliate percentage can be anywhere from 1% to 10%, and the eBay affiliate percentage can vary from 1% to 4%.
On site ads involve you hosting ads for other products on your own website. This is usually done via Google Adsense or a company like Mediavine (note – Mediavine require you to have at least 50,000 sessions per month to sign up). Google Adsense pay for each person who clicks on an advert hosted on your website. They typically pay around 10p-20p per click. Click through rates are likely to be around or under 1%, which means that even if you have 50,000 monthly sessions, you’ll only earn around £50/month.
It’s also important to remember that too many ads can greatly detract from your website usability, and may stop users coming back to your site.
If you have a large audience or a popular website you may be able to make a fair amount using these techniques, but don’t expect this to be enough to survive on!
Although not strictly digital nomad work, we thought seasonal work was worth a mention, as many van lifers fund their travels this way. Typically seasonal work doesn’t require a vast amount of experience, and jobs can vary wildly. Common seasonal jobs include:
- Fruit picking
- Bar work
- Resort jobs (e.g. ski seasons)
The positives of seasonal work is that usually they are on a short-term contract, so you can pick something up in an area for 3-4 weeks, and then move onto another area and find something else. It also allows you to work for a few weeks at a time and then travel for a few weeks without working, which is preferred by some people to a constant online part-time job.
How much does it cost to become a digital nomad?
There are many different types of digital nomad. The magic of living as a digital nomad means you can live wherever you want in whatever way you want. So if you want to travel to lots of far flung countries, your living costs could get fairly high. But if you want to combine van life and life as a digital nomad, you’d be surprised at how low your living costs can be!
Living in a campervan means you immediately cut out your highest living cost – rent or a mortgage. You also won’t need to pay council tax, water bills, home insurance…the list goes on. We’ve found that since living in a van, we’ve cut our outgoings by 60%. Our only living costs are now food, vehicle insurance and fuel. This means that we only need to make 40% of what we previously earnt living in a house to save the same amount of money each month.