This article will give you an introduction on how to earn money online to become a digital nomad in a short amount of time.
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There are many ways of earning money online. However, the majority of the time you’re required to have an already established audience or be willing to put in years of hard and consistent work before you can earn enough to live off (even in a cheap country).
Blogging and social media influencing are perfect examples of that. You cannot make money with affiliate marketing or display ads unless you have a platform with a lot of traffic. And that takes years to build!
So how to earn money online to become a digital nomad in a short amount of time?
You can do one of the following:
- Sell Digital Items on a Marketplace
- Sell Print on Demand Items
- Work Virtually as an Assistant/ Freelancer in Various Fields
- Teaching Online
- Start a Business
Don’t get the wrong idea, blogging is a great way to earn money in the long term. I would definitely recommend blogging to sustain your digital nomad life and earn money a little more passively. But to get started with a digital nomad life right away, these are the best ways to do it:
Selling Digital Items
This is my favorite way to earn money online because it is quite passive and the income keeps increasing over time. As long as your products are still in demand, and you keep adding more and more new items to your shop, your sales will continue to go up.
I recommend everyone try to create a little digital item side hustle due to the fact that you can earn money when you’re not actively working. Imagine that you have a medical emergency and can’t work (and earn money) for a while. But your rent and bills are still due. Having a digital item side hustle that continues to earn you money even while you’re undergoing medical treatments could be a life-saver!
It is easy to enter this market and start selling your products. But there is a lot of competition, and you cannot price your items too highly. While you can expect to earn consistent income, don’t expect anything sizeable until you have at least 100 products in your shop. I would recommend you maximize your earnings by listing the same product to as many different platforms you can find.
You will have to check (some of) these platforms regularly and offer customer service as needed. Therefore this job isn’t entirely passive. However, customer service takes significantly less time than actually creating the products.
Types of digital items you can create and sell:
- digital journals
- printable planners
- printable art work
- pictures and videos
- templates (for Canva, Excel, PowerPoint, Keynote, etc.)
Platforms you could use to sell digital items:
- Creative Market
- Design Bundles
- Creative Fabrica
- Alamy Stock Photo
You may also sell your digital files on your own website. But as with blogging, traffic might be a problem. These marketplaces already have an established audience looking and willing to buy right away. This allows you to start making sales from the beginning, something you won’t achieve by selling on your own site.
Tip: If you’re unsure what kind of products to create and sell, go to Etsy.com and search printable.
Selling Print on Demand (POD) Items
As the name implies, with print on demand an item is manufactured after the customer buys it. This option may be just as passive as selling digital items, or it may require a bit more work on your behalf.
There are platforms like Redbubble and Society6 where you upload an illustration/ picture to be printed on apparel or accessories. Once a customer buys an item the website deals with manufacturing and shipping the item, as well as returns and exchanges. You get a royalty only if the customer keeps the item. These royalties tend to be quite small and are typically paid more than a month after the sale.
Since it is incredibly easy to join these platforms. there is a lot of competition so don’t expect to make a lot of money until you have hundreds of designs. It is also very time consuming to upload designs and then have to scale and position each design for individual items.
Another way to sell POD is through integrating a company like Printful through your own Etsy shop. Every time you make a sale you have to arrange for Printful to manufacture and ship that item to the customers. This option would allow you to earn considerably more money, but you’d have to work daily. While you can schedule to work around your day job (or travelling), it’s still a very active form of work.
A less known print on demand alternative is through Amazon’s KDP platform. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) allows you to self-publish books directly on Amazon. These books can be both physical and digital in nature, for reading and for filling out (aka journals and planners). This is my most preferred option because once you’ve created a product, the royalties are fully passive. I still earn money today for journals I created years ago. Amazon is responsible to manufacturing, shipping, and offering customer service, as well as sending my royalties directly to my bank account. Once I publish a journal, there’s absolutely nothing else I need to do.
Print on demand is a nice way of earning income as a digital nomad because you are dealing with digital files only, while the customers receive physical products.
Types of POD items you can create and sell:
- physical journals & planners
- books and ebooks
- t-shirts and apparel
- stationery and accessories
- art prints
Platforms you could use to sell POD items:
- Creative Market
- Merch by Amazon
- Fine Art America
Working as a Virtual Assistant/ Freelancer
Regardless if you are looking for extra work to save money for travelling, or are looking for work to do remotely becoming a virtual assistant/ freelancer is a great strategy. Both jobs are active ways of earning income, meaning you only earn money when you are actually working. Similar to a traditional job. However, unlike a traditional jobs, freelancing does not offer any sickness benefits. Thus if anything unexpected comes up and you can’t work, then you’re not earning anything. An upside, however, is that these jobs pay significantly higher that the previous options mentioned above.
When trying to get any VA job is important that you have relevant experience to include in your portfolio. For example if you wish to work as a Pinterest VA, then is it important you have an active Pinterest account of your own that gets a lot of engagement, which you can use as a portfolio. Why would anyone hire you to manage their Pinterest account if you don’t even know how to use Pinterest? Therefore, it will take a little time gain some experience and build a portfolio before you can make a decent living.
Another benefit with virtual assistant/ freelance jobs is that you may choose to work consistently or sporadically. This puts you in charge if your time.
Types of virtual assistant work you could do:
- Pinterest VA
- Social Media Managing
- Writing Articles for Bloggers/ Magazines
- SEO Strategist
Platforms where you could find work:
- Facebook Groups
- Online Job Boards (such as Problogger)
Depending on which way you go about it, teaching online is somewhat similar to freelancing or selling digital items. It can be both active or semi-passive, but you will be required to be comfortable and speak clearly on camera. With the other jobs (including freelancing) you can choose to have anonymity, but not with teaching. For that reason I put this job in a separate category.
You can either teach actively in the form of group or one-on-one lessons such as teaching English via VPkid. Do note that some of these platforms require you have same relevant post-secondary education. But if you don’t have that, you could still find students on Facebook groups who are looking to improve their speaking and conversation skills.
On the other hand you could teach somewhat passively by creating different courses and uploading them to platforms like Skilshare or Udemy. Plan, film and edit these courses in advance. Once they’re live, you only have to log in to answer student questions. Therefore, this is not a passive source of income, but you have great time flexibility and answering questions takes significantly less time than creating courses.
You may have to invest into some filming gear and editing software. Learning to use these tools may also be a little challenging in the beginning. However, anyone can join these platforms and start uploading their courses. Since these platforms do a lot of marketing and have large numbers of students world-wide, you are likely to get some viewership.
Teaching online may be one of the most challenging jobs on this list, but you could easily make a full-time income on part-time hours.
Types of teaching work you could do:
- English and other languages
- Hobbies like photography or pottery
- Business marketing
- How to use a specific software
- Website and online store building
Platforms where you could teach:
- Facebook Groups (find individual people for one-on-one teaching)
Starting a Business
This last option has the potential to become the most lucrative of any job mentioned on this list.
Firstly you have to determine what kind of business you’d like to start. There are service-based businesses such as cleaning and construction, home and storage rental businesses, subscription businesses for software programs, and the classic product-based businesses.
Although it seems challenging, running a product-based business remotely is possible. You can easily create an online store using a platform like Shopify, then outsource the shipping for your product using a platform like Shipfusion. And if you wish to make things even more passive, you can also outsource social media management and brand building, bookkeeping, accounting, and everything else.
For a service-based business you need to hire the right people to run it while you’re on the road. You can also outsource almost all tasks and have a fairly passive income and time freedom.
Regardless of the type of business you intend to start, you will have to invest some money initially. You may also have to do the work yourself until you can find the right people to delegate tasks to.
That being said, starting a business has a big advantage other “jobs” do not. Unlike selling products (digital or physical) on marketplaces like Etsy, with your own business you also have the possibility to sell it later down the road. If you are successful, starting a business doesn’t only provide you with income, it is also an investment!
Types of businesses you could start:
- Renting out your home on Airbnb
- Creating a software and charging a subscription
- Storage rental
- Selling physical products
Platforms where you could use:
- Airbnb website
- Housing anywhere
- Your own website
For a step-by-step guide, this is my opinion:
I would recommend you choose a niche in either digital files or print on demand and create as many different products as possible. Have at least 100 different items that are selling regularly. This might take you a few months to reach if you’re also working a full-time job. Once you have enough savings and some consistent income from your digital/ POD business, you can move abroad. When you’re abroad you can supplement this income with active work as a virtual assistant/ freelancer. Once you save enough money consider starting a business.
Work your full-time job and save money for starting a business. Educate yourself and take the plunge into starting a business on the side of your “day job”. Build, grow the business and hire people to distribute the work. Once the business earns you enough income and work is passive enough, quit your job and go travel!
These have been my tips on how to earn money online to become a digital nomad in a short amount of time without having an already established audience. Do you have anything to add?