How I Became A Digital Nomad + Remote Work Resources
A year ago, I wouldn't even have known that working remotely full time was even a thing that could be achieved. It seemed like one of those mystical things that only a rare few could do and then the rest of us would be subjected to sticking to an office and having to strategically plan our travels. But then I became aware of an entire community of people who make it their daily reality to work from wherever the hell they want to. These people are remote workers and they currently make up about a quarter of all employees, which is an insanely high number for the population. And it's projected that this number will get higher and higher as time goes on and more people wish to have flexibility in their lives.
After spending the past year wondering how I could make a digital nomad life my reality, I started to get a bit burnt out in the job search. There really only seemed to be two ways to go about it; work as a freelancer and pick up gigs to create enough income, or find a full-time position at a company that hires remote workers. Both seemed extremely intimidating. With one, you depend on getting consistent work to survive, and the other can be hard to be chosen from the hundreds of applications they receive. I decided I'd rather have a full-time position as it would lead to less stress and not wondering where the next paycheck would come from. However, this was turning out to not really work in my favor. Most remote jobs were for tech positions that I wasn't educated in, or they were for social media/marketing, but they paid very little an hour.
My search was starting to get me down. It was frustrating to apply for the few remote jobs out there that I fit the qualifications for. Most required much more years of experience than I have as a semi-recent college graduate or were for programming positions I definitely have no knowledge of. Eventually, I ended up getting my first phone interview request and I was so psyched. I prepped for the interview and thought I did really well. Sadly, I found out they weren't moving forward with me, so I was back to the beginning again of just applying. I figured maybe it would never end up happening for me. In the meantime, I applied to non-remote jobs in New York City.
But the universe is a tricky place and sometimes surprises you when you least expect it. I found a position for a remote weekend writing position with a pop culture news website and got bumped to the top of the pile because the editor and I had coincidently are alumni of the same college. I was psyched to get a chance to get paid to write about entertainment and get to do it from the comfort of my own home on the weekends. I thought this would be it and it would just be a nice way to make an extra income, but then all of a sudden the most incredible opportunity popped up for a remote social media position at a travel publication I adore. I thought there was no way in hell I'd stand out from the other applicants, but somehow I did, because I got offered the job.
Two remote jobs in my dream industries? How was this happening to me? Apparently good things happen to good people, but I don't claim to be a good person, just someone who hustles to make their dreams a reality. I had gone through so much prior to this (including getting interviews for some of my other dream companies, like Buzzfeed and Refinery29, only then to be passed over for another applicant), so I wasn't sure anything good would ever come, and I'd be stuck working in a job without the flexibility I craved or industries I wasn't passionate about.
So what's next? I've recently started both positions and I'm going to see how they go and how I can start to push my life to the place where I can work wherever I please. While my life is in New York City and that will be my main home base, I plan to make my life into a situation where I can leave NYC for extended of periods of time. With a normal job, it's unlikely that you can just take off for a month or so to go work from somewhere else, so I will truly enjoy this freedom. At first, I will try to go home to my parent's home in the Pacific Northwest and work from there and spend some quality time with my family. And at the end of the year, I'd like to be able to spend a bit of time in Europe and take my time experiencing parts of the continent I haven't been to yet, as well as getting in some much needed London time.
So how can you achieve this lifestyle? As you've read up until now, it wasn't easy. But I'm happy to share some of my resources for how I was searching for jobs. And that's what it comes down to, you have to be willing to put a lot of your time and effort into job searching. Whether it's perfecting your resume and cover letter or setting alerts for new jobs, it will consume a lot of your life. You also have to look at your life and even judge if you're a good fit for this style of work. Remote jobs take a lot of discipline, motivation, independence and good communication. If you crave being in an office or around people all day, it might not be the best choice. But if you're an introvert or don't mind not having your boss or team constantly with you, then you'll probably be fine. You also have to know what industry you're trying to get into. Most remote jobs fall into these four categories: tech (programming, UX, etc.), marketing (social media, digital, sales), customer service, or creative (graphic design, copywriting, etc.). If you're not already educated in these areas, you may want to gain a bit of experience first before even attempting to apply.
Since there's a limited amount of remote jobs and thousands of people trying to get them, you have to find a way to stand out. If you're not a designer or can't afford to pay someone to create something for you, sites like Canva have pre-made resume designs to help you get started. Employers are probably more likely to look at colorful or well-designed CV than a boring white and black one. You will definitely need an online portfolio to show off your web presence and skills. I use Squarespace, but there are many free options like Wordpress, Tumblr, Wix, Weebly and others that you can create with.
As for where to apply for positions? There are many sites out there completely dedicated to remote or flexible work, and the following are the ones I used in my search:
- Remote OK
- Remote Jobs
- We Work Remotely
- Working Nomads
- Authentic Jobs
- Remotely Awesome Jobs
- Remote Work Hub
- Online Writing Jobs
- MatadorU Marketplace
- Skip The Drive
- Work Different
I know there's a lot, but it's worth it to check all of them everyday, even on the weekends, to find something that fits your qualifications.
And that's basically what I did. I made my portfolio, resume and cover letter look attractive, applied for as many jobs as I could, waited patiently, and then finally something good happened. It takes some time and just a little bit of luck, so keep up with it even when it seems hard, and you too can become a remote worker and digital nomad. I'll let you know how my journey goes, and I'm excited to influence others to join the lifestyle as well, because once you go flexible, you never go back. Good luck!