What do you picture when you think of a digital nomad lifestyle?
I’ll tell you what I imagine.
Sitting at a hand-carved wooden table, at a patio resting on a beach on the Pacific ocean, laptop open, feet in the sand, $2 beer in hand, ocean breeze in my hair, a subtle scent of salt in the air and the neighborhood watchdog keeping me company…
No, literally, a watchdog. A big mean one too.
This was my personal experience of the digital nomad lifestyle, when I spent a year living in Ecuador.
And I loved (almost) every minute of it.
I was able to pull this off because I built a web design business that gives me the true freedom I’ve always craved. I can work when I want, where I want.
This is a big reason why the digital nomad lifestyle is becoming increasingly popular.
Even if you don’t have an extreme goal of taking off to a foreign country, or globetrotting for years on end, being a digital nomad can give you some great opportunities to live a more comfortable life.
What if you didn’t have to live in a big bad city just to find suitable employment? Fighting with frustrating daily commutes, rising crime, and crying yourself to sleep thinking about how much you’re spending on your closet-in-the-sky they call a condo?
In fact, 70% of freelancers admit that they’d love to live outside of a big city for a change.
Are you one of them?
Want to become one of them?
OK then. Listen up.
What is a digital nomad?
Digital nomads are people who are location independent and use technology to perform their job. Digital nomads work remotely, telecommuting rather than being physically present at a company’s headquarters or office. The digital nomad lifestyle was made possible through a number of innovations, including cheap internet access, smartphones and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) to keep in contact with clients and employers.
Why has the digital nomad lifestyle become so popular?
The digital nomad lifestyle has been popularized for a number of reasons:
Employees love it
because they no longer have to endure grueling commutes to and from work every day, and have the additional freedom of choosing how and where they spend their time. With an additional 3-4 hours to spend every day, they suddenly find the time to live a healthier lifestyle through exercise, cooking home meals, hobbies and spending more time with the family.
Employers love it
because they don’t need to invest precious financial resources in building a centralized workspace. No expensive office space leases, and the additional expenses that come with that, means that money can instead be invested in growth departments like sales and marketing.
Young people love it
because they no longer have to conform to the traditional lifestyles of previous generations. (get married young to your high school sweetheart, buy a house in the suburbs, have kids, etc…) With the rising costs of a sedentary lifestyle (home ownership, car ownership, insurance, gas, etc…), and the plummeting costs of global travel (cheap flights, Airbnb, couch surfing, etc…) becoming a digital nomad is increasingly enticing.
Freelancers love it
because they no longer have to be stuck at home 24/7/365, and don’t have to endure the intense side-eye glares from the barista at your local cafe who’s wondering why they haven’t bought anything in the last 20 minutes. ????
How does web design fit into the digital nomad lifestyle?
In a word? Perfectly.
When evaluating which career or business will be best for your new life as a digital nomad, you should consider things like:
- barrier to entry
- startup costs
- growth opportunity
- supply and demand
I speak from experience when I say that web design meets all of this criteria. And then some.
Allow me to explain…
7 Reasons Why Web Design is Perfect for Digital Nomads
When I decided I wanted to build my own business, here’s what I wanted to get from it: (in order of importance)
- Freedom to control my own schedule
- True location-independence
- A creative outlet
After some intense research, it became clear that starting my own web design business would meet all of these criteria.
1) Web design is still in high demand
With the rapid rise of social media, and Google’s slow takeover of the search results with snippets, Maps and My Business, many people make the assumption that you no longer need to have your own website.
Just throw up some Google My Business and Facebook pages and call it a day.
While it is certainly important to have one of those pages for your small business (Facebook can take a hike), it doesn’t mean that it can replace having your own dedicated website.
Demand for web design has never been higher.
While the average growth rate for occupations in the U.S. sits at 5%, the web design industry is projected to grow by 13% from 2018 to 2028. Much faster than average.
How many other industries can guarantee that level of growth over the next decade?
Don’t believe the naysayers. Web design is here to stay.
2) Web design has never been easier to learn
You used to have to know how to code in order to become a web designer.
Now, that is far from the case.
The web design industry has been transformed by DIY, drag-and-drop page builders. Even traditional web design platforms, like WordPress with their Gutenberg update, have tried to simplify their design tools as much as possible.
While learning to code can still be very valuable for doing high-end custom work, or for snagging a job at an agency, it is no longer a must-have. Especially if you intend to freelance.
To learn web design fast, all you have to do is:
- Pick a web design tool
- Consume all of the content around that tool (via blogs and YouTube)
- Choose a web design niche
- Practice, practice, practice,
- Sell yourself as an expert of that tool/niche
It really is as simple as that.
I built my web design business without learning to write a single line of code.
And even if you prefer to learn how to code, there are tons of resources (both free and paid) to do just that. All you need is a good internet connection and a strong desire to learn.
Which means you can learn these skills from any location you’d like.
3) Starting your own web design business has never been simpler
Starting your own web design business is almost as simple as it is to develop the necessary web design skills.
There are a growing number of small business tools that make it so simple to freelance from anywhere in the world.
From business registration to payment processing to health insurance, the amount of products and services that are popping up specifically to cater to freelancers is amazing.
It’s just one of the reasons freelancing is on the rise. (or is it the other way around? ????)
I wrote about how you can start your own web design business, but here’s a rough outline for you:
- Ask yourself “why”?
- Find your niche
- Build your brand
- Register your domain (I recommend Namecheap)
- Pick a web design tool (My personal fave is Elementor)
- Build your website
- Choose an invoicing platform (I love both FreshBooks and Invoice Ninja)
- Setup a credit card payment processor (Stripe is my BFF)
- Promote your business
- Find new clients
- Obsess over your customer experience
- Implement scaling and automation
- Offer additional services
You can legit do all of this within 24 hours.
From there, it’s all about finding ways to grow your business.
And the startup costs are incredibly low. You can easily get started for nearly free, then scale up and invest in more tools as your client base grows.
4) Web designers get paid well
Despite what some might say, web design jobs still pay quite well.
Indeed.com says that the average hourly wage for web designers in the U.S. is $22.23/hour, which equates to about $42,000 USD/year.
The beautiful thing about this, though, is that these tend to be entry-level web design jobs.
Once you’ve gained at least 3+ years of experience on the job, the average annual salary for a web designer increases to over $53,000 USD/year.
That, my friends, is a very healthy pay cheque to most people. (including myself!)
Now imagine this. Instead of spending that $53,000 in an absurdly expensive city like San Francisco, you took that cash to Thailand? Or Czech Republic? Or Ecuador?
With that kind of cash, you can live like a king in some of those countries.
5) Web design is an inspiring creative outlet
Craft is what we are expected to know, art is the unexpected use of our craft. – Ed Catmull (Founder of Pixar)
I believe we were created to create. To build things with our hands.
So many of us are stuck in soul-crushing jobs, staring out the window daydreaming about what life would look like without the cage we’ve voluntarily trapped ourselves in.
We feel like a cog in a machine. Each day grinds by at a snails pace while our mind slowly begins to numb itself into submission.
We then make the mistake of thinking that money will solve our problems. We tell ourselves that “If I just had X amount of cash I’d be set for life, and could spend my time doing whatever I want.”
But then we give zero thought as to what that might be.
What is becoming increasingly clear is that we all need some sort of creative outlet. Building something with your own hands gives you a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. It stimulates our brains.
Now imagine that you could inject this type of creativity into every aspect of your life, including your source of income.
No, you’re not going to be the next Picasso of web design, but that’s not the point.
Building websites is creative. It stimulates your mind. It encourages you to read more, learn more, and ask more questions. Then find answers to those questions through better study and research.
It helps you build healthy habits. And possibly even kick some of those bad ones.
And it gives you that wonderful feeling of accomplishment that can only come from creation.
6) Web design offers freedom and flexibility
As mentioned earlier, one of the other crucial aspects of a digital nomad lifestyle is having a source of income that gives you true control of your time and location.
While there are a lot of different industries and careers that are supportive of remote work, some are definitely more flexible than others.
Many companies simply don’t trust their employees to work independently. They’ll often require them to clock in and out each day, and sometimes even monitor their home computer activity with mandatory software.
It is extremely rare to find web design agencies that try to pull this kind of nonsense.
Web design agencies are made up almost entirely of creative workers, meaning creativity and individual freedoms are often encouraged and supported.
Working for a web design agency can be very challenging and rewarding.
If you choose to freelance instead, the freedoms are even greater. You’ll have full control of how you spend your time and money.
And with the myriads of different tools and platforms at your disposal, you’ll never be boxed into a corner and prevented from evolving your business.
For example, I started my web design business with Weebly because I didn’t have the skills and confidence to use WordPress at the time.
3 years later I made the decision to make the switch to WordPress and migrate all of my current clients over as well.
I wasn’t stuck with Weebly just because I had started with them. (even though they probably thought I was) And there was enough healthy competition in the industry that I had multiple other options to choose from.
At this stage of my business, I’m continuing to use WordPress + Elementor. But who knows what the future will bring?
Maybe I’ll be building websites for virtual reality holograms using nothing but the Squarespace implant in my brain…
7) You can create true passive income with web design
Starting and growing your own business that you can operate from anywhere in the world at the time of your choosing is pretty cool.
But passive income is where it’s really at.
With web design, there are a bunch of different ways you can build consistent and reliable passive income.
Here are 6 passive income ideas I’ve talked about in the past:
- Website hosting
- Reselling website hosting
- Lease a dedicated server
- Website maintenance
- Email hosting
- SEO/content marketing packages
There’s nothing better than knowing your bills will be covered at the end of the month regardless of whether or not you get new clients.
Added bonus: You’ll need to get into writing and video production if you really want to make a go of building passive income. More creative outlets!
Is web design right for your digital nomad goals?
You’ll need to do an evaluation of your own to determine whether web design is right for you.
Remember what we talked about earlier. When evaluating potential remote work opportunities, consider the following:
- barrier to entry
- startup costs
- growth opportunity
- supply and demand
Building a web design business ticked all of the boxes in this checklist for me.
But your lifestyle is guaranteed to be different from mine in some way. So keep this core criteria in mind, then do the research.
But, most importantly, don’t allow yourself to succumb to analysis paralysis. Do the proper due diligence, but then act on it. Nothing will happen until you start to make consistent action.
Some tools and resources to help you get started with your digital nomad web design lifestyle
Here’s some helpful tools I’ve used in my own digital nomad web design business:
- Invoice Ninja
- Adobe CC
(there are a number of house-sitting websites that I’m planning on trying at some point, but I don’t want to list them here until I do)