Getting Started as a Digital Nomad

This is week 1 of starting out as a digital nomad. I’m not going to glorify it at all, just telling it like it is…

Two weeks ago I finished working for Southern Cross University as their Website Officer. It was a good job, working with a great little team. But some personal circumstances meant I had to leave.

Digital nomad desk #1
Digital nomad desk #1

Making the switch from full-time work to freelancing

There was no planned migration from full-time to freelance. I just did it.

The key thing for me is that I have an established skill base:

  • Expert HTML and CSS, novice at a few other front-end languages
  • User Interface design
  • User Experience design
  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • WordPress
  • Analytics
  • Plus other random skills related to the web

On top of this, for the last few years I’ve had a web design business on the side – Alpha Bear Interactive – which had been good pocket money, working on it a few hours a week. I have a few projects in the works already, and am able to source new clients through this business.

The money situation

While I do have some savings to keep me going, and some projects in process that will pay well soon, I’m definitely not in a secure financial position. I have a car loan that needs regular payments. I’m committed to a trip to Thailand early in 2017 for a friend’s wedding.

I’m not stressed about money. But I know these early days are critical. That’s what is motivating me, do the hard yards now, it will pay off soon.


It feels like I’m starting from nothing all over again. I have 10+ years experience in web design and development related work, yet it took me 3 days of constant effort to land even the simplest of tasks.

This has been the biggest challenge for me so far. My skills, experience and portfolio on my Upwork profile¬†show I’m an expert, but I’ve barely landed a job, let alone had anyone visit my profile. Landing the first job on these kinds of sites is difficult. But I’m optimistic, knowing that it only takes a handful of reviews, even on tiny jobs, to get the work flowing.

Goals and future plans

My biggest goal is to never return to office work. Sitting 9-5 doing unfulfilling work was literally killing me.

The freedom that freelancing brings is already making me happier than I’ve been in years. I’m not working in some glamorous location (as you can see in the photo of my desk above). But I do have enough to get by, and the future is bright.

My secondary goal (obviously essential to my first goal) is cash flow. Get enough steady work coming in so that I’m back to the level I was at while working full time (able to save, put money into superannuation and holidays).

Once the cash flow is sorted, I’m going to start experimenting with different ideas – projects that I’m passionate about, that can also make me money. Have been playing with some ideas around my photography, and my Japan travel blog.

Thinking of becoming a digital nomad, or you are one?

If you’re thinking of making the switch to freelance, or have already been doing it, and somehow stumble on this article, I’d love to hear about your experience.

2 thoughts on “Getting Started as a Digital Nomad”

  1. I did a mini nomad life for 3 years in Thailand. My partner and I are T-minus 3 months and counting for our own nomadic adventure together. Can’t wait to escape expensive Sydney to work and travel while saving money. The numbers add up when you pack up and leave, go for it!

Leave a comment