As you probably know, I have been living and working in Serbia for a while now. I don’t quite consider myself a real digital nomad because I don’t travel around with my laptop, but I do have the freedom to work where and when I want – which is something I share with true digital nomads.
What is a digital nomad?
I’m sure you’re familiar with the term ‘digital nomad’. For those of you who don’t know, digital nomads are people who use technology to make a living, often working remotely – this could be from anywhere in the world, as long as there’s a good internet connection.
Has living as a digital nomad been worth it, so far?
It is still uncertain to us whether we will stay in Serbia and for how long. Although we are having a great time here, it is possible that we will move back to the Netherlands or live close to Greek beaches in the future. Our digital nomad lifestyle has given us the freedom to live wherever we want and chase our dreams. And that is why I started my online business three years ago.
In this blog, I’ll tell you all about my personal digital nomad journey so far.
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Why I wanted to become a digital nomad
Let me first take you a little bit back in time. Before I started my own company, I worked in an administrative position at Childcare in Amsterdam. Before that, I worked as a mortgage adviser for ING. Actually, I’ve always had the feeling that I didn’t really fit into an office environment. Which is a considerable understatement. Call me ‘not social’, ‘highly sensitive’, label it if it makes you feel happier, but in truth, it doesn’t matter. It made me feel very unhappy and in the end, it led to a major depression/burnout after 10 years of office work.
I used to think to myself; is this really all that life has to offer? Constantly being bogged down by the same routine week after week, spending more time with colleagues than with family, and a boss who is always watching your every move. Some people may enjoy working under such conditions, but it always left me feeling unhappy.
On my way to freedom
For years, I knew that I wanted to become my own boss in order to finally be free, one day. Free to choose with whom I want to work, free to take a day off when things are not going well or when I just don’t feel like it. And, when I met my husband, the desire for the ‘digital nomad lifestyle’ was added to my lifelong wish.
We have family in The Netherlands and in Serbia. This means that there is one part of our family that misses us and our daughter, Ana Milena, dearly. We want to be able to raise her in both places and, if you are tied to an employer, that is simply not an option.
It is important to me that we are able to spend time in both of her home countries. So far, we have been able to do this and it has been really great. For the first two years of her life she lived in The Netherlands, and last year we moved to Serbia. I think it is really valuable that she feels at home in both countries.
These are, in a nutshell, the reasons why I wanted to become a digital nomad. Being able to work time- and place-independent was the ultimate dream for me. And today it is my reality.
How did I start as a digital nomad?
Three years ago, when I was six months pregnant and we had just returned from living in Greece and Serbia for six months, I took the leap and registered myself at the Chamber of Commerce. I just went for it, even though I really had no idea what exactly I wanted to do. What I did know is that I wanted to be there for Ana after she was born and that I didn’t want to go back to an office job.
I initially took on any freelance job that I came across. I worked for very low prices, doing things like translating and transcribing, as well as updating blogs for other bloggers. If it was something in the field of linguistics and didn’t require any special training, I would apply for it.
Most of the time, I sourced my assignments from freelancing platforms Upwork and Fiverr. The first thing I noticed was that there was a significant demand for SEO specialists. I didn’t have a clue what that meant, but it was apparently something that could earn you money while working online. So, I took a course in it and, in order to put my new skills into practice, I started my blog.
Is being a digital nomad worth it?
This has been my best choice ever! I could end this paragraph with this sentence because it basically covers everything you need to know. 😉
But let me elaborate further. Yes, my decision to start my own online business has been the best career move ever for me. That being said, the past few years have not been without their fair share of challenges. Starting your own business isn’t easy and you have to work very hard to get a place in the online world.
I have frequently contemplated quitting and giving up. Contrary to what you are often promised, success is not achieved within a few months and you will not earn thousands of dollars in such a short amount of time.
And yet, even though it has been a difficult journey, I am still grateful that I chose this path. I have developed so many business skills and personal skills over the past three years.
By now I know quite a bit about:
- Search engine optimization
- Affiliate marketing
- Social media marketing
And on top of that:
- I created a Pinterest course for bloggers in Dutch;
- I learned how to manage Pinterest accounts for other entrepreneurs;
- I am learning the Serbian language and culture;
- I’ve had wonderful new life experiences;
- I have been able to be there for Ana every day and experience all of her firsts;
- I have changed from someone who was afraid to show myself on social media to someone who dares to speak in front of the camera every now and then (it’s a slow process, but it still counts);
- I am free to go wherever I want.
From a financial standpoint, I am not where I want to be. However, I see growth. My family is happy and life is good. We’re on the right track, but being financially unstable is part of being a business owner as well. Some are able to earn a steady income way faster, and most others – like me – take longer to reach that goal. And that is completely okay.
All things considered, I would have to say that starting over in another country is the best learning experience I could have possibly given myself – even though it hasn’t been easy. It’s been 300,000 million % worth it (I’m not a mathematician, lol).
Tips for digital nomads to be
If you’re looking to live the digital nomad lifestyle and find a digital nomad job as well, here are some tips to get you started down the path of freedom.
Be disciplined and dedicated
If you’re willing to put in the hard work, then starting an online business can be a great way to earn some extra income. It’s important to be realistic though- you’re not going to be able to make a full-time income right away. It takes time, discipline, and dedication to make your business a success. Are you up for the challenge?
Prepare your children
If you’ve got kids, it’s important to make sure they’re prepared for the move too. It might seem daunting, but moving abroad with children is definitely doable. Just make sure you look into the childcare, schooling and healthcare rules and regulations in your destination country before you go. And it’s also crucial to help your kids mentally prepare for the big move. Get them excited about it and make it into an amazing adventure for them.
Explore your options
If you’re looking to start your own business, why not explore the options available on freelancing platforms like Fiverr and Upwork? You can get a feel for what sorts of jobs are out there and match them up with your existing skillset. Trying different jobs is a great way to narrow down what you’re passionate about and where your strengths lie. Plus, you might just have a ton of fun in the process!
Build a presence on social media
Build a presence for your business on social media and share content that will be of real use to your followers. Share tips, and how-to’s, talk about your own experiences and interact. This way you already build a network and an audience that will be of great use to you in the long run.
Go for it
If working abroad is your dream, take the plunge! Many people want to live and work abroad, but few actually do it. You don’t have to uproot your whole life in your home country right away. Maybe you could first plan some longer workations to see if you like it. But the most important thing is to take that first step! Go for it! Find a way!
You need to learn as much as you can about your chosen field. Get some training to improve your skills, both in business and in general, and follow accounts on social media that will teach you things like mindset, sales, productivity, or people who are already successful in what you want to do.
Ignore the naysayers
Don’t let the naysayers get to you – you can totally achieve what you set your mind to! Use their doubt as motivation to show them up in a few years.
For me, this path has brought me a lot of happiness, more than anything else. I am now at a point in my life where I really consider myself the happiest to date and it can only get better. The world is full of possibilities and is literally one big playground for you to play in. You just have to have the courage to utilize it.
I am so grateful that I can live my life like this and start my day every morning full of enthusiasm and with a big smile on my face, and I wish the same for you.
So to the question: is being a digital nomad worth it, my answer is full-heartedly YES!