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Thanks to the pandemic, digital nomad jobs are becoming more popular than ever.
Remote work is skyrocketing.
Maybe you’ve realized your role can be done completely from home. Or maybe you lost your job and were forced to find ways to earn money online while quarantined.
Either way, the thought has probably crossed your mind…
“If I can earn money from my laptop at home, what’s stopping me from earning it from a laptop on a beach in Thailand?”
Perhaps nothing is stopping you. In that case, adios!
But, maybe you haven’t quite figured out what type of digital nomad jobs are best for you.
If that’s the case, this guide is for you.
We’re going to look at 10 top-paying digital nomad jobs where you can support yourself from anywhere in the world with a laptop and an internet connection.
But before we dig into the digital nomad jobs, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what a digital nomad actually is. Because as it turns out, not everyone agrees.
What is a digital nomad?
The literal definition would be something like:
Digital: Someone who earns their living digitally (e.g., from their laptop).
Nomad: Someone who moves around with no permanent home.
But I think it encompasses more than that.
Digital nomads come in many shapes and sizes:
- They could be full-time travelers moving quickly from place to place.
- They could have a home base where they return occasionally to recharge (that’s me!).
- They could have several “bases” throughout the world where they set up shop to work.
- They could have a permanent home, go on a lot of trips, and take work with them.
There’s truly a digital nomad lifestyle for everyone. The common factor is having the ability to earn money from anywhere and not being tied to one place.
That said, while definitions vary, one thing’s for sure—as a digital nomad, your computer is your financial lifeline, so you’ll want to make sure you invest in the best laptop for digital nomads that fits in your budget.
Now, without further ado, here are 10 digital nomad jobs that earn surprisingly well.
Digital nomad jobs that make bank
1. Graphic designer
Graphic designers use technology to create visual communications. You can work as a remote employee or start your own freelancing business—both of which can be taken on the road. There are MANY things you can specialize in as a graphic designer:
- Product and package designs
- Social media ads
Or you can be a generalist and do it all!
How to get started as a graphic designer
Starting your own graphic design business you can take on the road is pretty straightforward. Once you’ve built up some skills, your first goal should be to land your first few clients.
The easiest way to do that is to tap into your network to see if anyone needs help (or knows of someone who does).
Wait until you have your first few paid gigs under your belt before thinking of potential business names or making a fancy portfolio website.
You want to validate your business idea BEFORE spending weeks figuring out all the tiny details. Otherwise, you risk fizzling out and wasting time. This advice goes for most digital nomad jobs on this list.
Earning potential for graphic designers
The average salary for graphic designers in the U.S. is $75,436. As a freelancer, you have the potential to earn much more (or much less) than this depending on your skills and ability to market yourself.
Copywriting is an often-misunderstood term. A copywriter writes content that is designed to convert or persuade people to act.
That could be:
- Sales pages
- Email autoresponders
- Direct mail flyers
- White papers
- Case studies
- Blog posts
- Video sales letters
- And much more
The key is that these pieces of content are directly tied to a measurable outcome (sales, opt-ins, clicks, etc).
How to get started as a copywriter
Familiarize yourself with the basics of copywriting and persuasion by reading classic books like:
- Influence by Robert Cialdini
- The Boron Letter by Gary Halbert
- The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman
From there, copy some successful sales ads out by hand to help internalize the techniques. You can hunt down these ads yourself or have them spoonfed to you with courses like Copyhour.
Finally, take everything you’ve learned, choose a product laying around your house, and write some emails trying to sell it.
If that goes well, reach out to your network to try and drum up your first gigs.
Chances are high that you “know somebody who knows somebody” who would benefit from your copywriting. At this point, don’t worry about the money. Your goal is to gain experience, get some results and testimonials, and move up the ladder from there.
If you get paid in the process, awesome! If not, that’s ok too.
Earning potential for copywriters
There is a LOT of scammy info littering the internet about how easy it is to become a 6-figure copywriter while barely working. This is straight up baloney and is meant to tug at your greed glands.
The average salary for a copywriter is $51,706. Yes, it is possible to earn over six-figures as a freelancer, but it is far from easy. And it certainly doesn’t happen overnight.
3. Content writer
A content writer is similar to a copywriter, except the writing they do isn’t necessarily tied to a conversion or sale. The most popular form of content writing is writing articles and blog posts for different companies.
It’s typically easier to get your foot in the door with this kind of work than it is with copywriting projects.
While blog posts are the most common content writing projects, there are many other opportunities out there if you’re willing to hunt for them.
I actually got my start as a freelancer writing show notes for a podcast. After proving myself with the show notes, I was trusted with social media and blog posts. From there, I moved on to bigger and better things.
How to get started as a content writer
There’s a million-and-a-half different strategies for finding remote writing jobs. What worked for me (after the podcast) was to write up some samples, create a simple portfolio in Google Docs, then send cold emails to digital marketing agencies in my city.
After landing a few agency gigs, I used my experience to find companies to work with directly.
If I had to start over from scratch, I would use the exact same strategy (except I’d probably try to move up the ladder faster instead of getting comfortable with low-paying work).
Earning potential for content writers
The salary range for content writers is ridiculous. Some writers charge $20 an article, while others can demand $1000. It all comes down to your writing skills, and more importantly, your ability (and willingness) to market yourself and constantly search for bigger and better clients.
Usually, desperation is what keeps content writers at the bottom of the barrel.
If you need a gig to survive, you’ll accept almost anything. Every time you say yes to a low-paying job, you’re saying no to time spent looking for a better one. Even better, signing up for a gig finding service like SolidGigs will save you the time looking and allow you to keep writing.
If you’re in the position to be picky with gigs you choose (i.e. you have savings or another job), you’ll grow faster.
4. Agency owner
Once you start working as a freelance writer or designer, you’ll quickly realize that your income will eventually be capped by the number of billable hours you can cram into each day.
And what’s the point of being a digital nomad if you never have time to go exploring?
Creating an agency (also known as a drop servicing business) is a logical solution. You land high-paying clients, then you outsource the work to your team.
It sounds simple in theory, but setting up the system can be trickier than you think.
As an agency owner, your job shifts from practicing your craft (copywriting, designing, etc) to managing people. If you love your craft, you’ll want to keep this in mind.
How to start an agency
The most natural way to start an agency is with a gradual shift:
Freelancer with too much work
Freelancer who outsources some of work
Agency owner who outsources all work
You can try to start an agency from scratch and hire a team from the get-go. But unless you’re an absolute sales beast and can land clients on-demand, this would be the more difficult route.
It’s also helpful to spend some time in the trenches. That way, if your team lets you down, you can pick up the slack.
Earning potential for an agency owner
As an agency owner, your income is only limited by the number of clients you can land. The more you land (and the higher your mark-up), the more you make.
Keep in mind that the bigger you grow, the more people you’ll have to manage (unless you’re earning enough to hire someone to manage them for you).
It’s also worth noting that the type of service you choose will determine how easy it is to grow your income. For example, landing 10 clients who each pay a $500/month retainer for SEO services requires much less effort than landing 10 new clients every single month for a one-off service.
5. Software engineer
A software engineer is one of the quintessential digital nomad jobs. They pop open their laptop wherever they fancy, crank out some code, and get paid bucket loads of cash to do it.
Unlike freelance writing (or even graphic design), the barrier to entry is quite high. That means less competition, and—if you’re good at what you do—essentially unlimited work.
If that weren’t enough, if a software engineer sees an opportunity for a business idea while traveling the world (which, speaking from experience, happens A LOT), they have the know-how to whip up an application and create a new revenue stream out of thin air.
Case in point:
I once met an expat in a small, remote beach town in the Dominican Republic. He realized there were many hotels on the beach, but no convenient way for guests to order delivery food from restaurants in town. Most guests didn’t speak Spanish, and most restaurants only spoke Spanish.
So, he created an app. (UberEats hasn’t made it there yet—and probably never will).
Now he gets a cut of every delivery order going to these hotel guests, which is basically every guest.
How to get started as a software engineer
A software engineer is one of the best digital nomad jobs out there. The only downside? It’s tough to break into.
You either have to have a degree in Computer Science, go through a rigorous coding “bootcamp”, or have the motivation and self-discipline to teach yourself.
But if you’re willing to put in the work, you’re almost guaranteed to have a cushy digital nomad lifestyle.
The cool thing about software engineers is that you can be a digital nomad as both a freelancer or a remote worker for a company. There are plenty of freelance coding jobs to be had.
As an employee, you’ll have a steady paycheck, but you lose some flexibility. As a freelancer, you have complete control over your time and income, but you’re also responsible for finding your own clients.
Earning potential for a software engineer
The average salary for an entry-level software engineer in the U.S. is $69,646. Once you gain some experience, you can easily blast past the 6-figure mark.
Freelance software engineers who know how to market themselves can make even more.
When most people think of consultants, they think of legal consultants, marketing consultants, and business consultants.
All of these could be great (and well-paid) digital nomad careers, but the options don’t end there.
A consultant is anyone who earns money by sharing their expertise. That expertise can be anything people are willing to pay for. It might be easier to think of it as a coach.
If you know how to cook, become a cooking coach. If you know how to play the guitar, become a guitar coach. If you know about productivity, become a productivity coach.
You get the idea. The opportunities are endless.
How to get started as a consultant
Brainstorm knowledge you have that others would be willing to pay for.
If you’re not an expert in anything (which is hard to believe), learn something new! Five years ago, I didn’t even know what a digital nomad was. Now, I’m sought after by aspiring digital nomads who want my advice.
Once you choose your specialty, find ONE person to help. Get them results, ask for a testimonial and referrals, and grow from there.
Earning potential for a consultant
Consultants charge anywhere from $50 – $5,000 per hour. It all depends on your specialized knowledge, the value you can add to your clients’ lives, and the depth of your clients’ pocketbooks. Ideally, you’ll choose a market with vast resources and a pressing problem to solve.
After consulting with several clients, you may notice that many have similar problems. At this point, consultants can easily add another income stream by creating an online course for those who can’t afford 1-on-1 attention.
I’m a firm believer that all new digital nomads should start a blog—whether they intend to earn money from it or not. A blog is a playground for building your digital skills and showing them off to the world.
I landed one of my longest copywriting clients this way (among some fierce competition). Most applicants tell a potential client they have certain online skills. But if you have a blog, you can show them.
That said, blogging for money is a different story.
It’s certainly not the easiest route to riches, but if you enjoy writing and are willing to put in major work before reaping the results, it might be for you.
For the right person, it’s actually pretty fun. To me, blogging doesn’t feel like work. It’s like gardening. You tinker around with things, wait, see what works (and what doesn’t), and watch it grow.
How to get started as a blogger
The first step is choosing a niche for your blog. From there, you’ll want to have a monetization plan. How are other blogs in that niche making money? Ads? Course sales? Affiliate marketing? Physical product sales?
Lastly, set a target goal—say $1000 per month to start—and work backward to create a roadmap to get there.
This will almost always include some sort of content calendar and outreach plan.
Earning potential for bloggers
Most bloggers give up before earning anything. Like I said, it can be brutal putting in so many hours without seeing immediate results.
Those who power through can earn thousands to tens of thousands per month. A select few even earn over $100,000 per month (don’t hang your hopes on that though).
8. E-commerce store owner
As an e-commerce store owner, you sell physical products online and ship them to your customers. Your “store” can be on platforms like Amazon, your own Shopify site, or even your own blog.
The key to making this work as a digital nomad is setting everything up to function automatically. To avoid having to bring items to the post office and ship them yourself, you have two options:
- Store your inventory with a third-party shipping company
- Dropship your product directly from manufacturer to customer
Dropshipping was popular back in the day, but now it’s a tough model to succeed in. I would recommend Option #1.
How to get started as an e-commerce store owner
Before spending weeks designing a fancy e-commerce website and ordering thousands of inventory, do a small test run.
Order 20 of whatever you want to sell, and see how hard it is to sell them. Is it something people want? How is it unique from what’s already out there?
Don’t make my mistake and invest $10,000 without doing a test run—especially if you have no experience. Long story short, I unknowingly infringed on a copyright, and it was $10,000 I’ll never get back.
Earning potential for an e-commerce store owner
There is no cap to what you can earn. You’re only limited by the number of products you can sell and your profit margin.
9. Course Creator
Unlike an e-commerce store that earns money by selling physical products, course creators sell digital products.
The advantage of this is that profit margins can be much higher. With ecommerce physical products, each of your products might cost $10 to make, and then you mark it up to $20.
With digital products, you can essentially create a course for free (or use a paid platform), leaving you with nearly 100% of the profits.
This is a great digital nomad jobs option and a way to earn passive income. The tricky part is finding people to actually buy your course.
How to get started as a course creator
Choose an audience who spends money on online courses, then create a product that helps them solve a pressing problem they have.
Before you spend time creating the course, try to presell it.
This is easy if you have a big email list, a huge blog, or access to influencers. But if you don’t, you’ll have to hustle. Hit up Facebook groups, Reddit, and anywhere else your audience hangs out.
If you can convince 20 people to buy it, then create it.
Earning potential for a course creator
Similar to an ecommerce store, you are only limited by the number of courses you can sell. This all comes down to how well your course solves a pressing problem for a specific audience, and how well you can market it.
For the right type of digital nomad, YouTubing can be both fun AND extremely profitable.
And while making videos about travel may be the obvious choice, it’s not the only option (it may even “ruin” travel for you). You can build a channel around any topic people are interested in.
But like blogging, to make decent money, it requires a lot of heavy lifting upfront. You need 1000 subscribers to even apply for YouTube’s monetization program and put ads on your videos. That doesn’t happen overnight.
But ads aren’t the only way to make money with YouTube. You can also use your channel to promote your products and services (or affiliate products).
How to get started as a YouTuber
Start making videos that help a certain group of people solve a specific problem. When starting, try to post (helpful) videos as much as humanly possible on a focused niche.
Earning potential for a YouTuber
Like blogging, most YouTube channels don’t earn anything. But YouTube is like pushing a snowball up a hill. Once you get it to the top, it takes off and grows by itself.
On average, monetized channels earn $3-$5 per 1000 views (depending on your audience). At first, it may seem like peanuts. But if you build up a giant channel and start hauling in millions of views per video, that’s good money.
So far, most of the digital nomad jobs we’ve covered are entrepreneurial in nature. You are the boss and are responsible for building your own business.
But there is an easier way.
Nowadays, remote work is more popular than ever. Businesses are realizing that remote employees not only lower their overhead, but they also tend to be more productive.
A remote job is best for digital nomads who want the stability of a “normal” job, but with the freedom to do it wherever they please.
This type of job is less flexible in terms of schedule, but if you’re a slow-moving nomad, that might not be a dealbreaker.
How to get started as a remote worker
The easiest way to start is to see if you can convince your current boss to let you work remotely. Thanks to the pandemic, this is easier than ever.
If that doesn’t work, hit up the job boards and set your filter to show only remote positions.
Earning potential for a remote worker
This depends on your job and experience. Your salary as a remote employee will typically be similar to the salary of an “in-person” employee. That means you can take full advantage of currency arbitrage.
That said, some remote companies intentionally look for remote workers who live in cheap countries so they don’t have to pay as much. This isn’t ideal long-term, but it’s not a bad place to start!
Pros and cons to the digital nomad lifestyle
As much as I love being a digital nomad, I will admit that it’s not for everyone.
Scroll through Instagram and you’ll see shot after shot of the glamorous lifestyle of nomads working in insanely beautiful locations…But that only shows part of the truth.
Yes, digital nomad life can be awesome. But it’s not as simple and carefree as some make it seem.
Here’s both the good AND the bad. Let’s start with the good (those are easy!)
While I wouldn’t call it complete freedom, it’s pretty darn close. Digital nomads—at least freelancers and entrepreneurs—get to be their own boss.
- You decide when you wake up.
- You decide when you start work.
- You decide if you need days off to explore (or extra hours of work to save money).
- And best of all, you decide what country you live in.
This one is huge. It’s more than just being able to wake up at the beach in Mexico or the mountains in Nepal. It also allows you to take advantage of currency arbitrage.
By choosing to live in countries with a weaker currency, the money you earn goes further (sometimes much further).
For example, my home base is in Colombia. I can take a taxi across the city for $4 or pay $10 to have my house deep-cleaned for 8 hours. For someone earning in USD, that is nothing. But for them, it’s normal.
I can’t get over how cool this is. It lets you either (1) work fewer hours and maintain the same lifestyle, or (2) work the same and live like royalty.
Not everything about having a digital nomad lifestyle is glamorous.
For one, if you’re moving around a lot, it is VERY difficult to maintain balance. Sometimes it feels like you’re half-assing everything. You can’t be 100% productive because you’re constantly changing locations (trip-planning is a whole job in itself). And you can’t enjoy each destination 100% because you’re always worried about finding wifi and finishing projects.
Slowing down your pace can help (assuming you can extend your visa), but you’ll still be faced with other issues. Like health care.
It doesn’t matter how much money you earn with your digital nomad job if you don’t protect yourself. Without digital nomad insurance, you’re one accident away from losing it all. (After getting covered for $15,000+ of medical expenses abroad—including two urgent surgeries—I’ll never leave home without it again).
That said, travel insurance usually only covers emergencies. So if you have a chronic condition or need a routine checkup, it can get complicated (or expensive).
Lastly, it can get lonely. Yes, you can make friends on the road and connect with expat communities in each city. But after a while, you’ll start to miss having that foundational circle of friends and family.
Which digital nomad jobs are best for you?
I’ve met quite a few digital nomads over my last 5 years traveling the world. Most of them have one thing in common…
They have multiple revenue streams and have tried several different paths.
If you want to become a digital nomad, but don’t know which route to choose, I’ve got good news: The digital nomad job you choose today isn’t set in stone.
There’s no wrong answer. Pick whatever looks the most interesting. See if you like it (and can actually earn from it). Then adapt from there.
Most of us never imagined we’d end up where we are today (I certainly didn’t!), and the journey is all part of the adventure.
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