How Do Digital Nomads Make Money? 3 Ways to Make Money Online and the Challenges Earning from Abroad

Lisa Goetz

The internet is bursting at the seams with online get-rich-quick schemes. You might think it will be easy to make money online while living abroad, but surviving solely from online earnings can be challenging.

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I especially “love” all these YouTube videos and courses that encourage people to “just” set up a travel blog, add affiliate links and voila, you’re making enough money to travel around in style. Sadly, this type of content is nothing more than clickbait.

Somewhere along the way, somebody, or a bunch of people at the same time, figured out that almost everybody needs money so how-to content about making money can be the ticket to endless streams of revenue.

People click to find out how they can access financial freedom even when it’s clear that the writer knows nothing more than how to make the scant few dollars they’ve been paid to write the article.

I’ve been traveling to various countries since 2011, so it’s safe to say that I know a little something about earning a living while abroad that your average paid-a-few-bucks-to-bang-out-an-article freelance writer doesn’t. So let’s explore the reality of making money online while beyond your borders.

Blogging

First of all, no matter where in the world you’re traveling, you need a decent chunk of money just to get off the ground. There’s plane tickets, accommodations — hotel or apartment — utilities, ground transportation, groceries, activities, tips, gifts, and so much more.

Since it can take up to a year for a blog that’s being maintained in earnest to start making money, obviously this won’t work to sustain anybody who needs to actively earn a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly income while traveling or starting a new life abroad.

How blogging might work: With planning, you might start a blog one to two years in advance of leaving your home country. To make money, you need to post regularly, daily or several times a week; this is what builds your traffic.

Your blog also needs to be in a niche, so that you’re not floating around in an ocean where the big fish gets all the traffic. You need to have cultivated relationships with advertisers, and your sending leads to them has to be a proven income generator.

YouTube/vlogging

Here again, you need to post interesting content that viewers love very regularly for at least one to two years before going abroad. You most definitely need to cultivate an audience of loyal followers who visit your channel every time you post a new video to help your ad revenue increase.

Freelance writing

This is the worst way to make money while traveling or living abroad, and this is what I’ve done to make money over the past six years. I wouldn’t recommend it, not even to my worst enemy — or maybe I would recommend it to my enemy — because low-paying content farms are volatile and work opportunities are sporadic. To make regular wages, I’ve had to work around the clock for very low pay and this often takes all the fun out of my traveling experiences.

When I first started traveling, I was writing and editing for a dreadful content farm. I made decent enough money, not riches, but enough for plane tickets, cheap accommodations, groceries, etc. That particular content farm closed up shop to the public in 2015, which left me completely without an income for a few months.

Eventually, I diversified to other content farms — a hideous concept if there ever was one — but each time it was the same thing — sporadic work, low pay, round-the-clock hours. Basically, writing and editing for content farms is a real joy sapper.

Key takeaway

Making money online while traveling is doable, but the bottom line is that you have to plan way in advance. If you lack an entrepreneurial spirit, opt for off-site stable employment instead of unstable freelancing. Start your blogs and other marketing efforts early, and start amassing clients on Fiverr and Upwork early, too.

Originally published on Medium.

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Lisa Goetz writes cryptocurrency news, analysis and opinion. A freelance journalist with 11 years of experience, Goetz's articles have been featured in USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and the Houston Chronicle.

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