Digital Nomad – a career reality or just a transition in life

The trend is growing.

Digital Nomads – a term used to define people who are location independent, uses technology to perform their job. Digital Nomads work remotely, telecommuting rather than being physically present at a company’s headquarters or office according to the definition from Investopedia.

To connect with clients, they used tech-enabled applications such as Skype, Google Hangout to Zoom with cheap internet access.

Estimates by the MBO Partners State of Independence Research Brief last year found that 4.8 million Americans described themselves as Digital Nomads – 17 million aspire to the nomadic life. An online survey of 1,000 Singaporeans commissioned by money transfer service TransferWise in 2018 found that 69% of respondents want to work remotely to travel the world.

Among younger Singaporeans aged 15 to 34 – 74% want to do so.

Imagine sitting anywhere round the globe with a laptop on hand.

turned on macbook pro on brown table
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

A typical work day of a Digital Nomad
(source: The Sunday Times, Sunday, January 27, 2019)

“……work calls with my international staff team are always between 2 and 6pm Singapore time. That never changes where I am” said Ms. Ng, owner of digital design studio Melewi.

“….when I was in Slovenia, I worked in the dat until 3pm, so that I could dress up and go to a student festival in the evening” commented Ms. Nicole Tan, 28 who owns a marketing firm Pink Tangent.

Professions within a Digital Nomad

Generally, the tasks related are mainly tied to the media, marketing and information technology sectors. They can be one-off projects or recurring work. One can be a freelancer, be a business owner or work for a company on a contract/full-time basis.

Some of the Professions include:

– Website Designer
– Software Programmer
– Digital Marketer
– Marketing Consultant
– Copywriter
– Artist
– Blogger
– Travel Consultant
– Photographer

I managed to find more Digital Nomad work-related information here.

In terms of pay scale, a Flexi Jobs report highlights that a Digital Nomad earns an average of US$50,000 per annum which may not be completely verifiable.

Nonetheless, things may change. To find out more, there is a forum to help aspiring and current Digital Nomads. Check out this list for the best places to work as a Digital Nomad.

The Pros and Cons

While your colleagues and friends are clocking in 9am to 6pm, you are here sipping coffee in a far away land with a laptop on hand. Many envy from the surface. The boss’s cubicle is non-existent, there is no office politics. It’s only the environment and you.

Amazing or just a fishbowl?

Like all occupational interests, there are upsides and downsides. I have tabulated an-easy-to-read diagram below:

Source: Careergowhere.com

Digital Nomad - can you accept the terms

Managing Expectations

It’s sound greener on the other side – so I thought.

Let’s look at the criteria needed:

Time management – will I fall into the trap of being a bummer as days pass slowly?
Adaptability – am I a fuss-free person without demand, especially moving point-to-point
Missing family time – weddings, baby showers, ad-hoc gatherings – and you’ll not there
Next-of-kin – loved ones have to accept. Start a family, have kids? Logistically possible?
Gestation period – ability to not have a monthly income for at least 12 months?
Possess strict financial discipline – manage money well by cooking, stay in hostels etc.

Reality vs. Fantasy

I like the idea of travelling and working remotely to more than 20 countries, staying at one location for up to three days or even three months or more. The thought of the experiences just blow me away. Get a worldly view, self-discover and make full use of time. After my work is done, I can be in a café in Argentina, hiking on a fjord in Norway, jump into Blue Hole in Jamaica or support the underprivileged communities in Ethiopia.

The rewards of being a Digital Nomad is endless – have a “new office”, meet new people, witness life that you never once imagine.

adult backpacker blur camera
Photo by David Bartus on Pexels.com

Then again, I guess it depends on the stage of your career life & cultural beliefs.

Ask yourself if the above terms and expectation are acceptable within you.

Perhaps, if one is in the early to late 20s as a student, without financial and family commitments, this will be a lighter load and therefore, a possible reality for backpacking and living day-to-day with only yourself to manage.

If one is married with children, with housing loans to settle and bills to pay, it may be a challenge to pursue an overseas nomadic work-life balance.

If one has accumulated wealth through work and assets, through businesses sold and investments that provide visible cash flow, with children whom are grown up – living a nomadic career life with your loved ones (who also subscribed to this idea) can be a moment of discovery.

Culturally, we are living in an Asian society where values of family togetherness matter most, where a financial safety net for future retirement is a priority as cost of living increases with inflation. Maybe you are one who requires regular companionship!

Weigh the consequences between reality and fantasy.

What’s next? – food for thought

For a millennial, it sounds fun and exciting.

But one may not have the real-time work experiences yet.

Learning how to deal with people, work with people and to adopt a sense of maturity in managing things can be important milestones towards success. An early stage start-up is a great illustration. So, a workplace offers an easier platform to self-discover.

Developing skills to talent is another – people recognize for who you are. (unless you are a Genius!) Freshly out from school, one is given the chance to hone your craft and pick up the nuances of corporate work life.

Being a Digital Nomad in exchange of personal growth can be a huge sacrifice.

This drives me to a hypothetical conclusion that a Digital Nomad life may most likely up up be a transition in life.

It can be a mid-life career checkpoint. Quit my full-time job, take on assignments and find the inner satisfaction and life changing moment that gives meaning and purpose for the next 12 to 24 months.

Maybe, it can also be a permanent choice. Getting tired of the corporate lifestyle after 15 years of work – with savings and less commitment – hence take on paid project work with flexible time, travel worldwide to pursue things that are important in life.

Even though if one finds working in Singapore is too hectic, a decision to move towards a Digital Nomad needs more self-affirmation.

At least for me, I won’t take the great leap of faith yet. I may be open and courageous to look towards a short period of time to find out whether my career interest of a Digital Nomad is indeed what I think it is. The lines can be blurred between leisure and work.

No matter how I look at it, I have to evaluate the current stage of my career life journey first. There is no truth to it, only peeling off the layers slowly till I realize the critical aspects and the underlying pragmatism for life in Singapore.

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