While digital nomadism is a tempting idea, one doesn’t simply wake up one day and become one. To begin with, country hopping may prove expensive — that’s why the most obvious piece of advice is to not attempt this lifestyle before amassing considerable savings.
A great many digital nomads choose to relocate to a country with acceptable costs of living, plenty of digital nomad jobs available, and preferably with lower taxes as well. Researching expat taxes is a must, and early on, so let’s say that these two tips come first.
Since these are, more or less, universal topics for every digital nomad that are easily looked up online, let’s move on to more substantial tips.
Working as an Expat
Working as an expat is a thrilling prospect but there are, actually, diverse options for different people. Again, much depends on initial savings as there are many factors to deal with when relocating, many of which are unforeseeable.
The most important tip for new expats is to connect with the local expat community ASAP as these people can provide helpful information on topics big and small (e.g., the best markets, the cheapest taxi service, preferential bookkeeping services, etc.).
Moving abroad starts with a rather boring prospect: gathering the necessary documentation. Paperwork is not the most pleasant of tasks and neither is it enjoyable.
Nevertheless, it must be done as discovering that you’re missing a crucial document once you’re already abroad is even more cumbersome.
Different people have different prospects but what every digital nomad needs depends on the target country’s legislation and is by no means optional.
Hence, the documents every digital nomad is certain to need include a valid passport (with or without a visa), birth certificate, marriage certificate (if applicable), international health insurance card, social security documents, international driving license (if you’re planning to use a car abroad), and academic records (if you’re planning to apply for local jobs).
Make copies of all of these documents and leave them with a family member back home, just in case.
U.S. Expat Taxes
U.S. citizens have to pay annual income tax returns in the U.S. no matter where they may be residing in the following cases:
- If they lived in the state for any duration during the tax year
- If their immediate family lives in the state while you’re abroad
- If they have a permanent place of residence in the state
- If they keep your voting rights, ID card, or driver’s license in the state
As for the income state tax, you’ll need to pay them if you’re earning income in the state. This includes pension income, retirement income, and other government benefits.
There are only seven states that don’t levy state income taxes: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington State and Wyoming.
We’ll not expand on expat taxes of the country of residence for the reasons mentioned above.
Is the Gig Economy Reliable?
The gig economy is traditionally observed as an endless source of income, happiness and freedom… but only by people who aren’t depending on it exclusively.
While it’s true that everyone may find a remote job, jobs that pay well are still reserved for the skilled.
Of late, there’s also a rising trend to employ experts from developing countries as they expect lower salaries so you may want to consider another option: finding a remote work position in the States and then moving abroad.
Finding Freelancer Work
It’s absolutely legit to change your priorities and perspectives on the go. Finding freelancer work is always an option like writing taglines, but you should aim your efforts at one larger goal: building a list of returning clients.
In this way, you’ll always be able to find an extra gig when you need additional money, so start looking for reliable clients early on, before relocating.
Freelancing is also suitable for country hoppers who are not in a rush to return to the States but aren’t ready (or don’t desire) to become digital nomads.
Keep in mind that the budget for a digital nomad is a goal that takes time to be reached, so starting small is also fine.
Living as an expat is another story entirely, so many people visit a couple of countries they’re considering as their base of operations before relocating.
Be Resourceful and Tech-Savvy
Neither freelancers nor digital nomads can choose to be narrow-minded when it comes to new tech and soft skills lest they be unsuccessful.
What’s important to always keep in mind when the gig economy is concerned is that the entire world is its marketplace. Those lagging behind can hardly hope to snatch good gigs, so keep an eye on trends as well.
Presently trending apps include Asana, Slack, Trello, Zoom and Skype.
Finding Your Way Around
As already mentioned, connecting with the local expat community is a great start. New digital nomads should make every attempt to familiarize themselves with their new homes.
Set the basics as soon as you arrive. This basically refers to daily necessities, such as finding cheap stores, grocery shops, researching commuting options, learning where, when, and how to pay the bills, learning where, when, and how to pay taxes, and so on.
Consider Getting a Health Insurance Policy
This is one of the biggest conundrums for digital nomads as different countries have different rules. Some countries offering digital nomad visas have included health insurance to the tax package while others offer lower taxes but don’t cover health insurance.
Either way, you’ll have to brainstorm ideas and compare all options before picking the best solution here. Keep in mind that many insurance companies are coming up with flexible policies suitable for digital nomads. Don’t expect them to be cheap, though.
So many tips yet they’re all just the tip of the iceberg! You didn’t expect relocating to be an easy task, did you?
Basically, it’s essential to draft a customized checklist and follow through. Make sure to include all of the above and be one step ahead where applicable. E.g., you may connect with the expat community online before arriving and gather intel ahead of time.
Overall, be resourceful and creative and you’ll be just fine.