Being a digital nomad : Hints & tips

There is no doubt, the location independent existence of being a digital nomad is very liberating, especially if you work in a digital agency. It’s not for all, some need the familiarity and structure of an office environment – this post is not for those.

This post is for those that choose the liberation of working where they want and when they want. We’ve been a location agnostic digital agency for a few years, and totally office-free for nearly 18 months. It has saved the company an estimated £250k and each employee has saved, on average, 300 hrs commuting and £3,000.

If you feel miserable commuting and working in a cubicle or living in a dull place because you need to be close to work then there is a solution. The Internet is revolutionising the definition of work, it no longer is a place you go to, it’s a thing you do. You can, and should, work from anywhere.

As a business we operate mainly in the UK, but our clients are spread-out; from London to Newcastle, Leeds to Bristol and all points in between. Whilst we maintain hot office locations in Yorkshire and London, most of our work is done out of the those offices. A 2 hour train journey from Leeds to London is an ideal time to get cracking on with some work – a flight from London to Dallas gives you 12 hrs of peace and quiet time to really catch up.

The term digital nomad is frequently overused and sometimes applied to people who travel and work (in that order) or those that simply work from home. Being a true digital nomad is the ability to do any element of your job anywhere in the world. This is what we do.

Ditching the confines of your office is great, but you need to replace or workaround at least some of the infrastructure that become absent. Here’s our 5 minute guide on what you need.

  • Devices. We’re a digital agency so we need quite a dollop of computing power. That equals laptop, tablet & phone. Useful if the tablet has a 3/4G connection and on a different network to your phone – its also the device you localise when you’re away from your home country by getting a local SIM card. Both should support tethering. Small tablet is probably better than a large one, ideally with a Bluetooth keyboard and a stand.

    Budget varies hugely, our current agency setup is a Mac Air, unlocked iPhone 5 and an iPad Mini 4G and that comes in at around £2,000 but expect at least a 2 year life so under a £100 a month. You could, optionally, contract both your phone and your tablet for less than £50 a month from the carriers.

  • Cloud. Cloud. Cloud. You need to live in it, don’t store local files, don’t run local applications – focus on using the browser as your primary work tool. This is harder than you think, but often costs less. Applications such as accounting, project management, email, content control, server management, banking, traffic, diary and calendar booking and support desks are all available online, in the cloud.
  • Power. Choose locations that have outlets, Starbucks famously, but mostly its easy to find – but do carry a power bar to charge your phone just in case, pref with an a short charging lead. Budget £25.
  • Streamed fun. All work and no play makes for a dull life. Plan your entertainment well and it will avoid cluttering your work devices. Use Netflix and/or Amazon Instant Stream (now free with Amazon Prime) for your viewing needs. Spotify for your music collection and genre-based radio. If you have BT broadband you might consider BT Sport, its free and has football to rival Sky.

    Budget about £15 a month.

  • Data. You’ll rely quite heavily on your data contract, despite the pervasive nature of Wi-Fi. Often, your 4G service will be measurably faster and reliable than freebie Wi-Fi zones. Try to use 2 different suppliers, gives you two bites at getting good performance. Unless you plan to stream a lot of video, 5gb a month should be plenty.

    Budget £40 a month.

  • Headphones. Good quality ones that have a microphone, and maybe noise cancelling. Carry a spare pair, too.

    Budgets vary, you can spend £10 but we don’t skimp, it’s too critical to your working environment. Bose stuff can cost close to £200.

  • Skype, or Google Hangouts. Works across the world, without complex and expensive call-routing.

    Budget a few pounds a month for a premium service and call costs

  • Travel light. All the equipment here easily fits in a messenger bag or backpack with enough space left over for an overnight set of clothes. If you’re carrying 10 kilos round on your shoulders you’ll soon notice it.

    Budget varies hugely. From a tenner to hundreds of pounds, depending on your need for labels!

  • Think sync. To simplify your nomadic life it easier if all your devices are in sync. For Apple devices that means iCloud. For files that’s DropBox. For browsing that Google Chrome (or Safari).

    Budget = free, mostly. Longer term you might want to think about your own storage/sync service and they are about £5 a month.

If you work in the digital space as a marketer or an agency then it’s highly you’ll be working this way in the next few years. Lots of companies, including IBM, WordPress have embraced it. It’s become the norm and the with the saving employers, employees and companies do make, it’s going to happen quicker than you think.

By Penny Driscoll