22 Feb Remote Worker Or Digital Nomad…What’s The Difference?
Remote work has been around for a long time. It is also known as telecommuting or work from home jobs. Some people call themselves remote workers and others call themselves digital nomads. What’s the difference?
These are the official definitions from the Dictionary of Jon (that’s me).
Remote worker: Someone who has a regular 9-to-5 type job that is normally performed by someone who sits in an office all day. The remote worker is doing the exact same job as an office worker, but from a remote location. A remote worker could be in a different city, state or country from the home office and the other employees.
Remote workers are usually compensated the same way as the people who go to the office every day. That includes salary, health insurance, 401(k) and other perks.
Remote work (aka telecommuting) is pretty straightforward. Digital nomads, on the other hand, are a bit different.
Digital nomad: Someone who is working on some sort of online product or service that requires nothing more than a laptop, wifi connection and the grit and determination of the nomad. They tend to congregate in inexpensive locations so their bank account balances last longer than they would in a major US city. Some popular digital nomad destinations are Bali, Thailand, Berlin and various places in Central and South America.
Digital nomads have a reputation for doing the least amount of work possible that will still allow them to maintain their Instagram-worthy lifestyles. It’s all about the ‘grams!
For a long time, it was in fashion for startups to describe their humble beginnings as “two guys built the first version of ___ in their parents’ garage.”
That’s fine and dandy, but why are you yahoos in the garage when the dining room would be perfectly suitable places to build your things? You don’t need a dark and dirty lab space to put together a website.
Apple, the most valuable company in the world, started in a garage in Palo Alto. Perhaps new companies like to draw that connection because they believe they are the next Apple. Confidence is important, so kudos to them!
Back over here in reality, I understand that your company is probably NOT the next Apple.
Working a 9-5 job in an office and doing part-time remote work at night is a great way earn some extra cash. The part-time work could be for a company that is in a different time zone/country OR for a company that doesn’t need time sensitive work from you. Copywriting, SEO work and data entry are simple examples of work that is not usually time sensitive and could be completed in the “off hours.”
How do I find remote work?
There are two categories of remote jobs that are relevant here:
Jobs that are designed and advertised as “remote jobs.”
Jobs that start as regular 9-5 office jobs and become remote jobs over time.
There are some job boards dedicated to remote workers, such as Remote OK and WeWorkRemotely. Those are great places to start. There are also an increasing number of traditional job boards that now include filters for “remote work okay” or “remote only” positions. AngelList does a great job with this and they are focused on jobs from tech companies. (Tech companies are more likely to be comfortable with remote workers in the first place).
The more elegant way to find remote work is to negotiate with your current employer. This is easiest if you have a positive existing relationship with the employer and they are familiar with your work ethic. There needs to be an element of trust before you can politely say that you’d prefer to work at home in your pajamas instead of schlepping to the office every day with all the other peasants. (Don’t phrase it like that, though.)
The general idea here is that you will have the same work responsibilities EXCEPT for your physical attendance at the office. And you’d better be sure you deliver MORE than what you delivered in the office during your first few months with the new remote work arrangement. Improved work results will help you prove your point and make your boss comfortable/richer from your efforts.
WARNING: There are many managers in the world who do NOT like the idea of their employees working remotely. It’s best to feel out the situation before proposing your remote work idea. There are some very good reasons to have all the employees working in the same office space, but productivity is not one of them. Offices are full of distractions and, “Hey, got a minute?” interruptions. Be careful how your frame your remote work proposal.
How do I become a digital nomad?
Easy. Buy a laptop, a backpack and plane ticket. Voila! You’re a digital nomad.
I’m only half-kidding.
Digital nomad communities are interesting places. You can find some official groups on Facebook if you’re curious. Most of the time, the discussions revolve around minimizing expenses and issues with visas and international banking. There are very few discussions about creating lasting businesses by providing a great product or service.
The “businesses” being built by the digital nomad communities are what Tim Ferriss called a muse in his book The Four Hour Work Week. The objective is to build something simple that generates cash with minimal effort and investment of capital.
Drop shipping websites are popular for this type of work because of the purely digital presence. They require no inventory to manage, no store front, no employees, etc. Drop shipping websites are also easy and fast to build. Many different products can be tested in a short period of time.
As technology advances, the options for remote work will continue to flourish. Companies and workers can both benefit from the flexibility and advantages of remote work. Exciting times, that’s for sure!