Wouldn’t you love to make money while traveling the world?
That’s exactly the lifestyle Nicole Fu set up for herself. With her remote career, Nicole works online from various corners of the globe.
As a successful — and self-taught — full stack marketer, Nicole partners with a variety of tech startups. At the same time, she’s visited over 30 countries and counting.
Learn what Nicole has to say about the benefits and challenges of this lifestyle, along with her advice for aspiring working nomads.
How Nicole became a digital nomad
Nicole was coming up on five years living in Montreal when she got the itch to travel. Fascinated by the idea of working from anywhere, she daydreamed about remote careers.
When her cash-crunched tech startup starting laying people off, she took it as a sign to make the leap. Nicole bought a one-way ticket to Singapore and started marketing for companies online.
Nicole is a full stack marketer, meaning she offers services in the sales, creative, and technical sides of marketing. She helps with social media, business development, copywriting, analytics, HTML, and CSS, among other areas.
Plus, Nicole took an Adobe PhotoShop course to learn graphic design. By expanding her skill set, she’s been able to stand out from the sea of marketers and secure steady work.
“For me, [developing my career] is about being bold and jumping in the deep end, which forces you to learn and grow,” Nicole says. In addition to marketing, she also writes about working remotely on her blog.
How ‘geo-arbitrage’ helped Nicole get started
Once Nicole moved her work online, she says “the pressure was on to build repeatable, scalable income.” She spent much of 2016 in Asia, taking advantage of geo-arbitrage to build up her savings.
Geo-arbitrage, a concept popularized by Tim Ferriss in “The 4-Hour Workweek,” involves taking advantage of the economic differences between two locations. Nicole was earning money in a strong currency and living somewhere where her money went far.
Because her cost of living was so low, Nicole was able to establish herself as a working nomad. Today, she’s back in Canada and preparing to spend the next year traveling and working around Europe.
Why she loves the digital nomad lifestyle
For Nicole, the ability to work from anywhere is all about freedom and flexibility. “I love not setting an alarm [and] setting my own schedule,” she says.
She might fit her day around a yoga class or meet up with friends mid-day for coffee. If she wants to work for half a day before visiting an art gallery, she’s able to do that, no matter the time. “Remote work gives you the ability to have great work-life balance,” she says.
Plus, she’s driven by an urge to see the world. “If you’re at a regular job with two to three weeks off a year,” Nicole says, “you’d only be able to visit one to two new cities a year.” For her, that limited vacation time wasn’t enough.
She prefers to travel slowly, spend a lot of time in one place, and immerse herself in the culture. By moving her work online, Nicole can stay in one place for however long she wants before moving on to the next country.
Challenges of working nomads
But working nomads also have their fair share of challenges. If you’re entirely reliant on the internet, a shaky connection could derail your day.
Finding good Wi-Fi has been one of the biggest challenges for Nicole as she travels. In Australia and Laos, she struggled to find hotels or cafes with reliable internet connections.
Once during a visit to Alcatraz, she had to take an important call from a client. They had trouble hearing each other over the wind and screaming kids in the background.
Besides finding work-friendly spaces, taking time off is also a challenge. “Because I’m my own boss, I’m always working,” says Nicole.
She doesn’t typically take vacations or sick days. Even though she gets the chance to explore the world, Nicole doesn’t ever feel “truly on vacation” as she would with a traditional job.
Keeping track of your finances is key
When constantly changing locations, your expenses will go up and down. To track her spending, Nicole relies on the money management app Mint.
Mint gives Nicole an overview of her finances by monitoring her credit cards and bank accounts. She can keep tabs on her income growth. Plus, she sets savings goals, whether for an emergency fund or a trip to Cuba.
Nicole also used the app Trail Wallet when traveling in Asia. Since a lot of her transactions were in cash, she manually inputted them into the app.
By keeping careful track of her income and expenses, Nicole was able to become her own boss. Plus, she could see exactly what steps she needed to grow her net worth.
Anyone can start working remotely
Remote careers are more popular than ever. In fact, over 43 percent of workers spend at least part of the week working remotely, according to a recent Gallup poll.
You don’t necessarily need to change your career to move it online either. “You can become location independent with whatever skills you currently have,” says Nicole.
Web development skills are in high demand, but they’re not the only ones that let you telecommute. Nicole recommends the website Clarity, where anyone from doctors to lawyers can offer their expertise and get paid by the minute.
Or you can share your knowledge in a certain area. “If you have a passion for gardening, painting, whatever it may be, you can create an online course on that subject matter, write an eBook, offer consulting sessions over Skype, [or] build a niche website,” Nicole says.
Finally, you can search for a telecommute job from a website like We Work Remotely or FlexJobs. Whether you work in education, human resources, or customer support, you can find opportunities for remote careers.
If you can balance your working hours as you travel, you can join the group of working nomads like Nicole. Even though her path may be unconventional, Nicole loves the freedom of working online. “I have this one life,” she says. “And it’s mine.”
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