It's been several months since I published a post. I must admit that my writing skills have become rusty. Last year, I had to think about what works and what doesn't for my digital nomad life so there were some things which I had to give up.
My first two and a half years as a digital nomad was a series of trial and error.
I also switched jobs more often than when I was doing the 9 to 5. I still maintained other sources of passive income and that made changing and testing jobs possible.
Like some digital nomad newbies, I followed the advice of seemingly successful ones who travel while teaching English or blogging, or both.
The trend has now changed though. During the pandemic, digital nomad gurus promote a more diversified skillset from social media management to building online businesses.
Closing Doors to Welcome Opportunities
They say that when you say goodbye to something, life will reward you with something new.
How can you get anything more if your glass is already full? It will just overflow and you won't really enjoy the excess.
Making space provides opportunity for something new to enter. And you have to be in the state of being that you want to attract.
But it's not all woo woo, just sitting and meditating, it also comes with inspired action. And that action can also mean quitting.
Last year I gave up my online English Teaching job and became less active blogging.
ESL Teaching for Filipino DN's
One of my sources of income when I started this digital nomad journey was teaching English online. A lot of digital nomads are ESL (English as Second Language) teachers but I later realized that this is only sustainable if you're a native speaker or if you are not Filipino.
Sadly, there are a lot of Filipino online ESL teachers who are willing to get paid less so ESL employers will rarely pay a fair rate to other Filipino teachers. They pay less regardless of the level of English. It's not based on the individual's skill.
In the platform where I used to teach, we were divided into 2 groups: Filipino teachers and the rest of the world. The only difference between these 2 groups is the rate of pay.
Filipinos get paid waaaay less regardless of the English proficiency level. The other group are not only native speakers, they are teachers from all over the world but they all get paid the same fair rate.
To give you an idea, the beginning rate for Filipino teachers is less than $3 per hour (it doesn't include the time you spend reviewing lesson materials before each class), while the rest of teachers gets above $10 entry rate. It increases as you teach more students but it will not go over $10 which is the entry rate of other nationalities.
I was paid lower than the corporate job I left which was painful, but I wanted the freedom. I saved travel funds from years of corporate work which made it possible for me to book flights but then I got to the point when I was spending more from my savings than my income.
As much as I enjoyed the job, it cannot support my lifestyle. Sure it can if you travel budget in Southeast Asian countries but my salary there can't even buy me my long haul flights which I had to take during this pandemic.
I knew that but it was difficult to give up because it was somehow stable - you are sure to get clients every month. Thankfully, I learned more about self-worth.
You get what you think you're worthy of.
Once I decided this ESL platform wasn't giving me my worth, I quit and I found more opportunities aligned to my newfound self-worth.
Blogging as a Remote Job
I also gave up some of my time blogging.
Unless you are a famous blogger, this is unlikely to be a practical source of income. I followed popular bloggers who recommend that you also become like them so you click their affiliate link to a crappy blog hosting. I know this because I used to be a subscriber of one (BlueHost - avoid this!).
I also earn affiliate income but I will never recommend a product I will never use.
There's also huge competition in blogging even if it's not as profitable as it used to be ten years ago.
I'm not saying that blogging is dead. I still get a decent passive income monthly (currently about $400 up monthly from my affiliate links - not bad for a very small blogger like me who hasn't posted anything in the past 6 months) but it's not enough if I want to travel to most countries and for now, with the current travel restrictions, we can't just choose destination based on cost.
Vlogging actually pays more per thousand views and you don't even need to pay for hosting in platforms like YouTube. But I just don't have the confidence to start one.
I have now considered blogging more as a hobby than an actual job. I enjoy it more that way than getting pressured that I need to hit thousands of views per day or that I need to grow a social media following where I really suck at.
I still get some passive income through it because I have some successful blog posts with affiliate links for products that people actually need.
My Own Expertise
After I quit, I had more time to search and think of jobs that actually pay.
Instead of searching for "top jobs for digital nomads", I went offline and reflected on my own interests and expertise.
If you have years of work experience, you can get paid more than starting out in one, especially if there's high competition in that entry level job.
Of course, there are jobs that are highly paid even if you're just starting out but most popular jobs pay minimum if you're at the entry level.
So back to what I did...
I went back to the job I quit 2+ years ago but this time as a freelancer and as a self-employed professional.
The pandemic has made it possible for traditional office jobs to go remote. I never thought I could do my Human Resources job outside an office.
Because of this, a lot of companies are willing to hire remote workers. However, I still do not want to go back to a 9 to 5 schedule. You'll be remote but being on a fixed schedule is difficult to manage as a nomad.
I use a number of platforms to look for clients such as Upwork and LinkedIn. This step requires a lot of work initially, but after you get your first clients you can work on retaining them and they even refer you to other clients they know.
HR is not a common freelance job so I targeted a certain market especially start ups. These smaller companies would most likely not have an in-house HR so they are more open to hiring an HR consultant on an as-need basis.
Another important thing I did was set my pay rate high for my projects and not an hourly rate. I am now working as an HR consultant and not as an HR staff so I get direct contracts from clients. I work with them rather than for them. I get to say how much I charge for a project and no one's tracking my time. The most important thing is I finish the project on the date we agreed on.
I still encounter clients who don't want to pay my asking rate saying "but there are other Filipinos whose rates are much lower than yours".
I politely decline and just move on to the next. I do not even live in the Philippines so they cannot reason that my cost of living is lower.
Premium clients will also treat you better as a business partner than those who want you to almost work for free (they treat you like a modern day slave).
Not One Way
If you have a job that is more in demand then it might be easier for you. For instance, a lot of high earning digital nomads work in tech.
If not, you can create one that people need. This may not be something in demand, but a job that has low competition can also mean high pay.
I realized that there is not one way to become a digital nomad. From time to time, I get messages asking what job is best to become a digital nomad.
It's a question I cannot answer because I do not know their skills or interests.
They can easily Google jobs for digital nomad jobs but they are more likely to get the most common jobs everyone's fighting over.
Others would learn a new skill just because it's a highly paid one. That can also work but make sure you also enjoy that new skill. What's the point of being a digital nomad if you are as stressed as your previous 9 to 5 job?
As for me, I quit my 9 to 5 to become a digital nomad because of the freedom. I decided I wanted to live my life in my terms. Work to live and travel, not live to work.