Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a work area. Perhaps you saw a room divided into cubicles, an open plan space, maybe a co-working office. Or perhaps – if you plan on joining the growing global ranks of digital nomads – you saw a tropical paradise and a laptop.
Digital Nomads are professionals who choose to work in location-independent roles and explore the world at the same time, rather than permanently basing themselves in one location. They spend at least a few months of the year abroad, change their destinations frequently (usually every few weeks but can stay up to 6 months), and earn a living while working online.
They can work when and where they want.
Low-cost destinations such as South-East Asia and South America are highly popular amongst digital nomads who can continue to earn ‘Western’ salary levels whilst enjoying much lower costs of living. Indeed, a recent survey by U.S based FlexJobs agency found that 18% of these digital nomad professionals reported making more than $100,000 per year, while 22% make between $50,000 and $99,999 (compared to the average US worker who earns roughly $46,600 per year). Some 38% of respondents said they feel less financially stressed as a digital nomad, while 34% said they experience no difference in stress from when they worked a traditional job, according to the report.
A GROWING TREND
One thing that unites digital nomads as their name implies, is their reliance on technology. They can work when and where they want thanks to the internet and a proliferation of cloud-based tools. Their toolbox may include online and video chat services, content creation tools, cloud-based storage and online services such as Airbnb and Google’s ITA Matrix flight-finding program.
The growth of supportive services, such as coworking spaces, online talent marketplaces and job sites, digital nomad tour services and online information sites such as Nomad List, which offers data including the cost of living in various locales, along with abundance of low-cost airlines, have helped the trend grow. And the trend shows no signs of slowing down, with more people valuing their lifestyle and companies offering increased flexibility to attract and retain workers. Aging Baby Boomers will continue to ‘unretire’ and work past the traditional retirement age. Millennials will continue to flock to this lifestyle, inspired by the opportunity to pursue their travel interests while working. And older Gen Xs are reaching the stage where traveling while working is becoming more viable.
Moreover, the future looks bright: 5G appears to be just around the corner and with virtual reality applications like Facebook Spaces entering the market, we may even see 3D versions of our bosses out on the beach in Thailand with us.
The 9-to-5 work week is still a staple, and convincing a manager that you are doing your work when you are 5000 kilometres away is near enough impossible in most cases. Therefore, for the most part, digital nomads start out as freelancers working in positions that companies are more comfortable to outsource. But even they have obstacles to overcome:
Time zones: sales calls, catch ups and general meetings mostly have to be conducted during the normal 9-5 work day, regardless of where the independently-located worker is. When that’s San Francisco to Melbourne the nomad will have to be creative with their sleep schedule.
Proof of work: digital nomad jobs tend to be results-oriented, rather than measured on time-spent in an office. While most managers are fine with this, it can be difficult for digital nomads to establish themselves as reliable and trustworthy resources for a company. Providing portfolios of work, references and testimonials often help in the sales stage.
Finding clients: Digital nomads, being remote, are not forced to dip into a geographically-limited client pool. However, they do need to have strategies to source clients – whether that be on platforms like Upwork, where they will have to compete with thousands of other skilled workers, or through Facebook jobs boards like Social Media Jobs.
Using technology and tools: Every company is different and expects its staff to work using specific systems, whether they are remote or office-based. Once this hurdle is jumped, digital nomads have to find platforms that work for their own workflows.
Where to work: While working from the beach sounds appealing, sun flare on a laptop screen is blinding and sand gets everywhere. Most digital nomads opt to work in co-working spaces or air-conditioned cafés with good WiFi.
Where to live: Now, this is tricky for travelling workers. While hotels are convenient, budgets don’t often stretch to 365 days of hotel accommodation. And hostels don’t always provide the comfort, security or amenities needed for a professional. There is a new trend – co-living – which is meeting digital nomads in the middle.
GIBRALTAR RESIDENCY FOR DIGITAL NOMADS
A common challenge faced by digital nomads is disconnecting their tax residency from their home country. Tax authorities often continue and demand payment on income generated while working abroad. Gibraltar, which has a territorial tax regime and taxes companies and people on the basis of income accrued and derived from Gibraltar, could potentially be a favourable jurisdiction for some of those digital nomads, who would establish tax residency in Gibraltar, yet continue to work and travel around the world. For this to flourish, local banks and Government departments need to embrace this growing trend of digital nomads