How People Earn Money While Living the Digital Nomad Life

How People Earn Money While Living the Digital Nomad Life

How People Earn Money While Living the Digital Nomad Life

If you already have a job that allows you to work remotely, you’re 80% of the way to living the digital nomad life. For the rest of us, we’ve got to get a bit creative.  Remember, if Natasha and I, previously a bartender and a cook, can make this work, anyone can. It’s not like cooking and bartending seamlessly translate into the digital nomad lifestyle. 

That’s not to say it won’t take a bit of trial and error. It can be tough going in the beginning. At least it was for us. We figured it out, though, and we’ve been living the nomadic life full-time since 2013. Now, our goal is to help others do the same.

Before we get started… I want to give you fair warning. The following isn’t just a list of instructions of how to make money while living the digital nomad lifestyle. Too many different people have too many different skill sets to make this a detailed step-by-step guide. Instead, you’ll get info that aims to get you inspired to get the creative juices flowing.

Remember, living the lifestyle you want isn’t entirely out of reach regardless of your current financial status. It IS possible to break out of the 9-5 box and live a more fulfilling digital nomad lifestyle. And, we’re here to help.

A Quick Look at Different Ways to Fund a Nomadic Lifestyle

Natasha, Living The Digital Nomad Life

Again, I’m not here to give you step-by-step advice on how you can get on the road tomorrow. What I will do is tell you a little about how we got started and what we’re up to now. Then, I’ll touch on what other nomads are doing to finance their nomad life in hopes to inspire you to do the same.

After eleven years on the road, we’ve met our fair share of digital nomads and full-time travelers. Hundreds of them, I’m sure. While we all share a love for travel and being on the road, we all have very different ways of paying for it.

While on the road, there are a couple of ways to fund your travels:

  • Offline work
  • & Online work

While we chose to go the digital nomad route by working online, plenty of people fund this lifestyle without ever opening a laptop. We’re primarily digital nomads, but we’ve also done our fair share of offline work.

What’s worked best for us is instead of having one primary source of income, we have many smaller income streams. Derived both from online and offline work. This is how we suggest living as a digital nomad. That way, if one income stream goes dry, you have a few others to keep you going.

That may sound like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. Especially when compared to living life back in the States. Even in our most hectic times, we never worked more than 20 hours a week. And that was before we knew what we were doing.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the various online and offline sources of income we, and our personal friends, have done to pay for our travels.

Offline Work to Fund a Nomadic Life

Paul, Living the Digital Nomad Life

Working offline overseas presents some challenges. Most countries have very strict rules for foreigners working without a legal work permit. It happens, though. More often than most people realize. Below are some of the ways we and people we’ve run into on the road fund a nomadic life. 

This is not an exhaustive list. We just want to show you that living overseas is possible even if you’re not working online. And we’ve met dozens and dozens of people who are doing so. Even if you don’t see a skill that you have, you can still take these ideas and use them to apply the skills you do have.

House & Pet Sitting

Us pet sitting while living the digital nomad life
us pet sitting for free lodging.

This is a huge one for digital nomads. While this gig rarely pays a living wage, it’s a great way to see the world and not pay a dime for lodging. We started house- and pet-sitting in 2015, when money was very tight. If it weren’t for this free lodging, we would never have been able to continue our nomad life.

Fast forward to 2023, and we’re still house- and pet-sitting, off and on, to save money and live in some amazing locations for free. In the past two years, we’ve lived in swanky high-rise buildings in Mexico City, secluded beachfront Caribbean homes, and cool apartments in the hills overlooking the Pacific.

Personal Training 

Natasha and I are way too lazy for this side hustle. But we’ve met more than a few people who are passionate about working out, and they’re able to make a living while doing so. While some of our friends are personal trainers online, they supplement that income with this skill offline.

One of our friends in Playa del Carmen put up a post in a Facebook expat group offering a free month’s worth of personal training to the first ten expats who replied. Within a couple of months, he had a steady stream of paying clients. By the end of the year, he was doing two group classes a day, seven days a week.

By working a couple of hours a day, doing something he’s already passionate about, he’s living out his best life in the Caribbean.

Yoga Instructor

things to do in playa escondido - beach yoga

This is basically the same as offering personal training offline, but teaching yoga is way more prevalent. There are hundreds of hotels, resorts, gyms, and spas in any tourist town. And nearly every one of them offers yoga.

The number of people we’ve met who travel the world doing nothing but offering offline yoga classes is amazing. Again, they’re able to live a nomadic lifestyle, doing something they love. They may not be getting rich, but that’s not their goal.

In addition to getting paid to teach yoga classes, many of these instructors are also living for free at resorts that would otherwise cost $100s of dollars a night.

Cooking

Our poolside pop-up restaurant

This is one that Natasha and I have personally had pretty good success with. We both come from restaurant backgrounds and are very handy in the kitchen. Not only has this put a decent amount of cash in our pockets as we travel, but it’s also enabled us to live for free in places we would have never been able to afford. We’ve:

  • Worked as personal chefs for wealthy expats.
  • Opened numerous pop-up restaurants cooking food we know Americans crave, but can’t find.
  • Done kitchen consulting for high-end resorts (and living for free on the resort while doing so).

Even if cooking isn’t your thing, you most likely have a skill set that you can use overseas to finance your travels.

Bartending

Paul & Natasha guest bartending

This is similar to the cooking gigs we’ve done. Natasha, as well as numerous other people we’ve met, has bartended for both tips and lodging. Sometimes in some pretty high-end resorts. We’ve also met many people who bartend while following the tourist high seasons worldwide.

When it’s tourist season in the Caribbean, you can find them slinging drinks while living for free in beach-front resorts. When the beach season slows, they move on to another bartending gig in a ski resort somewhere. Some of these people have been traveling for years, doing nothing but bartending in trendy tourist destinations.

Crafting

I know it sounds hard to believe, but we’ve met dozens of nomads making a decent living, just creating crafts they sell to tourists. This could be anything from jewelry to paintings or clothing to bedazzled ink pens. 

As Natasha and I are drafting this ebook, we’re taking all of our notes in a notebook that a traveling nomad in San Cristobal, Mexico, made out of recycled paper. That’s basically all she does. She runs an in-person class on paper and notebook making, then sells the notebooks to tourists. She’s been traveling and doing so for years and is loving life.

Any Offline Skill you Have can Help you Live the Nomad Life

This is just a quick rundown on some of the offline side hustles we and people we’ve met are doing to fund their travels. Anyone can do this. No matter what your skills are, you can most likely use them to fund a nomad life and travel full-time.

Online Work to Fund a Nomadic Life

Us working on our roof in Antigua Guatemala
Us working on our roof in Antigua Guatemala

While it’s possible to travel nonstop, working strictly offline, most people living the nomad life do so working online. We’ve met a few people on our travels that have a typical 9-5 job online that they work as they travel. 

The vast majority of the digital nomads we know work for themselves online. This isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds. Like offline work, any skill you have can most likely be used online to fund a digital nomad lifestyle.

Below we’ll get into a few online jobs we’ve done and a few that our friends do to fund their travels. These are jobs that basically anyone can do.

Teaching English

This is probably one of the more popular online jobs that digital nomads have. Hundreds of organizations hire native English speakers to teach English to adults and children. Some of these jobs don’t require any experience. Or even a degree.

If you’re contemplating living the digital nomad lifestyle but have no idea what you’re going to do online, this could be a good start. The pay for beginners isn’t that great, but if you’re living somewhere inexpensive on your travels, like Mexico or SE Asia, the pay is more than enough to live a good life.

Drop Shipping

Natasha and I have had more than a couple of drop shipping websites. Some took off, and others didn’t. If a drop shipping website failed, it hardly mattered because these sites can be created for almost no money at all.

So, what is drop shipping, exactly? Basically, it’s selling goods online from an inventory someone else is holding. You can dropship:

  • printed t-shirts, 
  • baseball caps, 
  • dog toys, 
  • makeup, 
  • car accessories, etc.

Anything you think people may buy from your website can be drop-shipped from someone else’s inventory.

Coding

Don’t know a damn thing about coding? Neither did a buddy of mine a year ago. Now he’s a freelance coder and teaches coding online. He was tired of working in customer service and took a six-week online coding boot camp. Now he’s happy and making bank, all while traveling the world as a full-time digital nomad. 

He went from sitting in an office 10 hours a day listening to people complain about credit card payments to working 20 hours a week, coding websites for various clients; usually from a beachside cafe somewhere in the Mediterranean.

Virtual Assistant

Slaving away in an office 60 hours a week and wanting to travel more? You most likely have a skill set for which someone would pay good money. A lot more than your company is paying, with a fraction of the hours.

Whether you do data processing, HR work, IT work, updating employee handbooks, or any other office work, all of these skills are marketable online. Thousands of small business owners are looking frantically for someone with office skills to take some of the work off their hands.

And all of this work can be done remotely from a ski lodge in Europe or a beach chair in the Caribbean.

Writing

Paul working one of his entry level remote jobs
Paul writing for clients while sitting on the beach

This is the niche Natasha and I have decided we’d focus on. We started out very small in 2015/2016, making almost no money. We each created an account on Fiverr and wrote anything you could imagine for around a penny a word.

At that time in our travels, we were living on the beach in Nicaragua, house-sitting, and working in a surf resort. While we made almost no money writing online, we really didn’t need to. We had free lodging, and we were making a lot in tips at the resort.

Over time, though, as we honed our writing skills, our rates went up. So much so that we were able to bring on junior writers. At first one, then three, and now nearly ten. We still write ourselves for some of our first online clients. For the new clients, we have junior writers to handle the work for us.

Affiliate Marketing

This is also where we have focused our attention since it aligns so well with our writing business. Basically, affiliate marketing is just recommending products and getting a percentage of the sale if someone purchases them.

We have numerous affiliate websites (blogs), one in the travel niche, one in the pet niche, and another in the digital marketing niche. We research products, test them, and then write about them. If someone decides to buy based on our recommendation, we get paid.

The best part about affiliate marketing is once the content is written, it’s online and generating commissions forever. We’re still making money off of blogs we wrote years ago.

Almost Any Skill you Have, you can Market Online

If you’re getting paid for any kind of office work, you can transition that into online work to fund a digital nomad life. You don’t need to be trapped in an office 60 hours a week, 50 weeks a year. Take the skills you already have, and put them to use for your benefit instead of your company’s.

Ready to Start Living Your Digital Nomad Life?

chilling on the beach in Nicaragua

Well, if you already have an online job or a skill set you can market on or offline, you’re ready to go. If you’re not quite sure yet if you have a marketable skill or how to market the skills you have, everything can be found online.

Learning a New Skill Set

If you are dead set on becoming a digital nomad but are afraid you have no marketable skill set… just learn one. Do you think Natasha and I knew anything about SEO content writing, affiliate marketing, website building, or running an online business while we were working 70-80 hours a week in the restaurant industry?

If we had, we wouldn’t have been working 70-80 hours a week in the restaurant industry. We learned all of these skills online, mostly for free. Instead of spending hours on Facebook or TikTok, we spent that time on YouTube and other free websites, learning these skills.

Not sure what SEO content writing is, or how to do it? There’s a course on YouTube for that. Want to learn the best ways to build an affiliate website to develop passive income? There’s also a free YouTube course for that. 

Any skill you’d like to start learning to begin your nomadic life can be found online – usually for free.

Making Money from Your New or Existing Skill Set

So you spent 20 hours this month on YouTube learning what SEO content writing is. Now what? Whether it’s writing, coding, or being a virtual assistant, you still need to find clients. You may as well start on one of the many online gig platforms, such as Fiverr or UpWork.

This is how we started and how many of the digital nomads we know started. Many are still using one of those platforms. While you’re getting experience and new clients on one of these platforms, build yourself a website and market your services there.

Get Started on Your Digital Nomad Lifestyle, Today

Very few people will be lucky enough to decide they want to live a digital nomad life and be able to just pack up and leave. It’s going to take some planning. If you’re serious about the nomadic lifestyle, though, you should get started today.

Start figuring out if you have a skill set you can market online or off. If you don’t, you can easily and cheaply learn one online. You may not be able to market that skill overnight, but if you start today, you’re one day closer to living the life you really want.

One Reply to “How People Earn Money While Living the Digital Nomad Life”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *