What Are The Easiest Skills To Develop To Become A Digital Nomad?


If we had a dollar for every time that this question is asked on a digital nomad forum, we’d be moderately wealthy. Sadly, we wouldn’t be rich because the “digital nomad scene” still isn’t as big as many imagine it to be.

It’s probably prudent to start with this disclaimer. The easiest skills to develop to become a digital nomad are also those which attract the lowest rewards, generally speaking (there is always an exception but don’t base your life choices on the hopes of being that exception).

That means you should either view these skills as a stepping stone to something else or, and this is probably a better plan, you should learn something that’s not as easy and therefore has less competition for pay.

A woman learning new skills on her laptop.

5 Easy Skills To Learn To Become A Digital Nomad And Why They All Suck A Bit

 

So, let’s take a look at 5 skills that are easy to learn (very easy in most cases) and why they suck before we look at the one easy to learn skill that is worth learning but almost no digital nomads will learn (which is part of the reason it’s worth learning, of course).

Low-End Graphic Design For Digital Nomads

 

The typical graphic designer's workstation.

If you can get a handle on a single aspect of design, you can make money at it. Create logos, touch up photos, draw vector graphics? Then Fiverr is always looking for talent to work 120 hours a week in order to make enough money to pay the bills in Karachi (which is according to many charts, the cheapest place to live in the world).

This is not to say that a highly skilled graphic designer with a pocket full of industry contacts can’t make good money; they can.

It’s to say that if your training is 10 YouTube videos on how to Photoshop… that’s pretty easy, you can work as a graphic designer, but the pay is terrible.

I won’t pretend I could do it. I lack the artistic skills to even crank out text logos… but millions (possibly billions) can become a low paid graphic designer with barely any effort.

Stock Photography For Digital Nomads

 

A woman takes a photo with a Canon camera in the middle of the street.

Oh boy. Please read this before sending me your angry notes about how much skill is involved in photography.

It is true that top-notch professional photographers require huge amounts of skill and substantial investment in equipment and that their pay, whilst not always amazing, will reflect this.

It is also true that any muppet with a DSLR can break into the world of stock photography tomorrow morning.

All you need is some half-decent photos and an account with any of the stock photography brokers online – you can sign up for free with these any time that you like.

The downsides? Photographer is one of the least mobile jobs there is. Sure, there are a small handful of travel photographers and landscape photographer who might be able to digital nomad, but most photographers need a studio if they want to earn decent money.

For stock photographers, a ridiculously competitive game with ever diminishing rewards, a studio is essential to earn decently. Carrying a studio on the road with you is going to work out expensive, risky and impractical.

I love taking photos, but I’d hate to be a professional photographer even if I was brilliant at it (and I am far from brilliant at it), it’s a hard and highly competitive profession.

But you might be able to eke out the bare minimum if you grab your camera and upload every shot to a stock library.

Survey Completion For Digital Nomads

 

An image of a survey being taken.

Yes, it’s true. We’ve encountered the occasional mad person who is trying to make their entire living doing manual input jobs on sites like Mechanical Turk.

We know that “survey completer” is always listed on those “you’re broke, here’s how to turn it around” websites but the truth is – nobody can make a decent living out of surveys.

In fact, we’d estimate you’d need to put in 80-100 hours a week to earn enough to hit our bare minimum income requirement of roughly $550 a month in South East Asia.

Sure, it’s easy to get this work but you will never even have time to learn another skill if you choose this as your digital nomad future. We can’t think of anything more depressing than this “easy to learn skill”.

Writing For Digital Nomads

 

A typewriter, the original nomad's writing device.

Can spell? Got grammar (or at least, it’s not so bad you can’t tell your “their” from “there”)? Then you’re in.

Yes, my own noble profession has almost no bars to entry whatsoever. There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of people out there churning out lifeless, barely literate prose to be dumped on the Internet where the chances of it ever being read are about 0. Maybe less than 0.

There are two issues with writing for a living. The first is that without any guidance (and clients with 1 cent a word budgets have no expertise to guide you anyway), you will always be on the bottom rung of the writer’s world.

That means cranking out 5,000 words a day to earn $50 a day. 5,000 extremely boring words on topics that you do not give a shit about too.

The second is that even if you can get higher up the food chain somehow, the market is flooded with competent people. Rates are in a terminal decline. Look ahead 20-30 years and it is entirely possible that all writing will be done by AI. At which point, we’re all out of a job.

I don’t regret moving into writing for my work, but I did so after I’d established myself and with a fairly impressive CV, he says modestly, doing other things first. So, I had some expertise to sell on top of my writing skills.

Would I do it again if I’d had a crystal ball for the future? Probably not, I’d have spent more time honing my coding skills, instead.

Customer Service For Digital Nomads

 

In theory, customer service is something of a skill. In theory, you ought to get paid well for it. In reality, it’s an easy skill to learn, customers don’t get all that much service from most organizations nowadays (because customers won’t pay for it), automation has taken over much of the industry and there’s a ton of competition for jobs.

This means remote customer service work isn’t well paid. It also tends to require a few years’ experience, before people trust you to work by yourself.

So, if you want to do this – you probably already have the skills and are thinking,  “It can’t be worse than sitting in that ****ing contact center every day” and the good news is that you’re probably right.

It’s not a great career choice but it is an option that doesn’t completely suck either. The only note of caution is this – there will be fewer and fewer customer service jobs in the future, the skills required will get harder and sadly, pay will not increase because competition will become ever fiercer for these roles.

The One Easy To Learn Skill For Digital Nomads (That You Almost Certainly Won’t Bother To Learn) That Doesn’t Suck

 

If all this has left you a bit depressed, you’re really going to hate me now. That’s because there’s one skill that’s really easy to learn which will pay good money, which you almost certainly won’t want to learn despite your desire to become a digital nomad.

Drum roll, please….

Sales As A Digital Nomad

 

A market stall salesperson in Mexico not quite the same but almost the same.

Before I was a writer, I was a corporate trainer and before I was a corporate trainer, I was a salesperson.

My first training job was teaching other salespeople. (No surprises there, right?) So, I can tell you that anyone of any educational background, class, creed, etc. can learn to sell. I’ve taught hundreds of people to sell. I know this is a fact.

You can also learn to sell in less than a week. The principles aren’t very complicated.

Unfortunately, they also require a little courage. The reason that you almost certainly won’t become a digital nomad salesperson is that you’re afraid to sell or you believe it’s beneath you (which is just your fear hiding in a different disguise).

This is despite the fact that there is an endless shortage of salespeople out there, and the fact that running your own business requires you to learn to sell (and the better you sell, the better you get paid – this relationship between your efforts and your pay is much stronger than getting better at whatever you get paid to do too), and that it pays well.

One day, I’ll write a short book about how to sell as a digital nomad and then people can either buy it and ignore it or just ignore it. Because, in my experience, without a colossal (but metaphorical) kick up the bum, most people will never push themselves hard enough to put their sales skills into practice.

 

So, What Do We Recommend Doing?

 

If you don’t want to sell, then we’d recommend you spend a lot more time learning a profession and pick something that gets paid well. Coding is a popular choice. Data science is another. There are thousands of options out there.

Digital nomad life is always best when you have enough money to comfortably support a decent lifestyle and are able to put some cash into your bank account for a rainy day.

Sadly, there’s only one shortcut to hard, sustained work if you want success as a digital nomad and that’s learning to sell and, apparently, most people don’t want to do that.

 

Nicholas Barang

Nicholas Barang is a veteran digital nomad. In fact, he was probably "digital nomading" before it was called that. He believes that anyone can make a free and independent life if they want to. He wants to help those who commit to finding their own path. And to cut through the nonsense told about this "lifestyle" by those in search of a quick buck. If you want to reach him you can send him an e-mail at nicholasbarang@gmail.com or to nick at nomadtalk.net.

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