The dictionary defines a nomad as “a member of a people that travel from place to place to find fresh pasture for its animals and has no permanent home.” Nomads have existed for thousands of years, usually riding around in deserts throughout Africa or parts of Asia. You probably learned about nomads in your middle school social studies class.
Nowadays, however, the word is taking an entirely different meaning. Search “nomad” on Google Images, and you’re going to find a few pictures of the modern nomad, or as many people like to call it: the digital nomad.
What is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad is someone who can work their jobs from just about anywhere in the world. Basic supplies usually include a working computer and a solid internet connection. Of course, there may be some more specific tools, software, or items needed, but more or less that’s about all digital nomads require.
Digital nomads are those who wish to continue traveling around the world. But, traveling requires money and with their current job, they can travel and work at the same time.
What do digital nomads do?
Just about any job that can be solely with a computer and the internet. Many writers, editors, customer service representatives, teachers, virtual assistants, and ecommerce workers make up the vast majority of digital nomads.
Some also combine their online work with local work in order to make ends meet, but it’s really up to you.
Those sound interesting, but why is starting an online store in the title?
Ecommerce is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. In fact, at the current projections one out of every five retail purchases will be made on an ecommerce site by 2021-2022.
In terms of jumping into a business, you’re more likely to experience more success if you’re starting an online store.
You can also combine your other skills into making an effective online store. If you feel you’re a good writer, then you can write the copy for your own store. For those with customer experience backgrounds, you can oversee how you’ll respond to customer inquiries and doubts over time. You could put your marketing skills to the test and offer great promotions.
So it’s a growing business, how do I start?
Rapid growth means you’re also going to be facing plenty of competition. Ecommerce being a big moneymaker and successful business idea is a secret no longer.
Your first step is going to be research, lots and lots of research. Chances are you’re not flush with cash, meaning you won’t be competing with big name brands like Amazon. You’re going to have to find your niche.
When looking for your niche, you want to go deep instead of wide. You want to be as specific as possible in thinking about who your target audience is going to be and what solution you’re going to provide them.
Unless you’re providing guaranteed winning lottery tickets, not everyone is going to want to use your business. Think of the following areas when targeting an audience:
Even though it may seem like a lot, this is going to help you develop your brand and marketing strategies later on. You’ll find there’s a big difference in marketing to a 17 year old high school junior girl than a 34 year old married man with four kids.
How do I choose a niche?
Throw a dart at a board! Just kidding.
When looking for a niche, it might be tempting to pick one that has little to no competition. We’ve all heard those stories where someone comes up with a brilliant business idea and everyone else is smacking their foreheads saying, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Look, that could happen to you, but don’t get your hopes up.
You’re going to want to find a market that is somewhat competitive. Why? Because that shows that a market for that niche actually exists. But, you won’t want to find one that’s too overcrowded, or else you’ll be lost to the wasteside.
But before you think about products, you want to think about who you’re selling to. A couple questions up, we talked about your target audience. Hopefully, you’ve gotten your target profile all figured out and everything squared away.
That is going to heavily influence your target audience and online brand. You want to connect with your target audience and build your website around that idea.
Choosing your domain name is just part of it as the whole experience should be tailored to your target audience and what would attract them to your website.
This is not something that you come up with overnight, and it may take weeks or more likely months of planning, research, and checking out the competition. Just remember once you have your early target profile set, it’s going to be much easier to follow through with the rest of the steps.
If I make an ecommerce store, am I going to have to store those items in my apartment? Seems like a pain.
Yes, that would be a huge pain. Not only would you be paying tons in extra baggage fees while traveling, but you might have to sleep on top of boxes and suitcases.
The most popular ecommerce option for digital nomads is dropshipping. Dropshipping is acting as a middleman between the consumer and the manufacturer. You, as the store, do not keep the products with you. In fact, it’s highly likely you may never physically touch a product.
A customer will place an order from you, you will purchase the item from a wholesaler or manufacturer, then take care of the shipping and delivery process.
Dropshipping has a number of benefits as well. You won’t need as much capital to get started, you’ll have much more flexibility, and you have a wide selection of products to choose from.
OK, I have my ideas. Should I go ahead and start?
Nothing is stopping you from carrying out the research and planning stages, but when it comes to being official, that’s a tedious but necessary process.
Depending on where you set up your business, you’re going to have to register it in the country you’re in. Many ecommerce store owners choose to start and register their business in their home country, as you’re more familiar and acquainted to laws and tax implications.
If you decide to register it in another country, you’ll want to do as much legal research as possible and consider hiring an immigration lawyer.
Where you register your business will also determine what kind of licenses you need and any other special documentation. That could mean more permits, tax forms to fill out, and much more.
If all of this seems over your head, there’s no shame in reaching out to an accountant or lawyer to help guide you through the difficult parts. You’d hate to be six months into your business to realize you filed a tax form incorrectly and now you’re facing heavy penalties.
That’s all without mentioning visas and immigration rules that can vary country by country.
Are some countries better than others for my digital nomad adventure?
The short answer is: yes, definitely. You might have the perfect idea of becoming a digital nomad in Europe, walking the streets of the beautiful cities and visiting priceless works of art.
That’s great and all, but the majority of European countries (especially Western ones) are quite strict with their immigration policies and the type of visa you’ll need to be able to live and work there. Some countries, like Norway, are very closed off to working immigrants and you’ll have a hard time securing a long-term visa.
Other countries, like Spain and Italy, are easier to secure visas from but still require tons of paperwork and up to six months of waiting for approval.
Many digital nomads flock to Southeast Asia, because of the low cost of living and ease to obtain a visa. Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia are all great places to live and work.
Ian Boudreault, a Canadian who set out to become one of the most well-traveled people on the planet, came up with the following map in terms of best places for digital nomads:
Make sure you do plenty of research about your destination countries before you go. Overstaying a visa or visit could be a fine, expulsion or worse.