If the idea of travelling long-term appeals to you, you're in luck. There's never been a better time in human history to make money independent of where you are in the world. The internet has made it so that more and more people are discovering ways of making money online from anywhere, and the lifestyle changes that this allows can be enormous.
But before you quit your job and pack a suitcase, you should be aware that it's not as easy as it sounds. Like anything on the internet, the facts about being a digital nomad are often obscured by half-truths, myths and downright scams. In this article, I'm going to try to show you what has worked for me, and what hasn't.
Also, be aware that any list like this has to be subjective. It's possible that I have skills that you don't, just as you will have skills that I don't. What worked for me maybe a dead-end for you, and you may find great success with something I failed at. The trick to being a digital nomad and making money online is to stay flexible in your approach to earning so that you don't miss an opportunity.
So, here we go:
This is an obvious one. After all, you're reading this article. One of the best ways I have found to support myself while travelling is through writing articles like this one. And it's not just articles like this, either. I also publish books on Amazon, through Kindle Direct Publishing, which allows me to get paid for writing ebooks such as how-to guides.
One of the nice things about this line of work is that you can write anywhere. You don't even necessarily need a computer; at least, not at first. You can get started with a piece of paper and a pen, though you will need to type up your work at some point.
Also, it's fun. If you're the type that enjoys writing, like me, this is about the best way imaginable to make a living. And you learn things. Researching articles can make you learn a lot that you otherwise might not have.
It might help to have a degree in English or some writing-related field, but it's not strictly necessary. The same applies to the writing experience. Great if you have some, but it's not always required.
Be aware, though, that the world is FULL of wannabe writers, and the market is extremely competitive. Finding jobs can be more work than doing them, and at least at first, the pay can be quite low. Also, you need to be able to write. You don't have to be Shakespeare, but a good command of language is required. Best, too, if that language is English, due to how widely it's spoken. That's where the money is.
Additionally, you need to be organized enough to meet deadlines, and flexible enough to change your writing to meet a client's needs. Writing for a living more often means creating content for other people's websites than it does crafting heartfelt poetry or prose to express yourself. Save that for your journal.
I wouldn't call this a job, exactly. It's more like a side hustle that can make you some extra money. But an extra $50-$100 USD per month is nothing to sneeze at, especially in the cheaper parts of the world. And this is probably the easiest way I've found to make money online.
Basically, companies will pay you to test their websites. You will be asked to navigate through a website and describe your experience as you do it. Tests usually take 15-20 minutes and pay $10 USD each. As long as you speak good English and have reliable internet, you can give this a try.
By far the best website for this is Usertesting.com. They have lots of tests, and they pay promptly and reliably. You won't make a living doing this, but it's an easy way to supplement your travels.
There are a million blogs and guides available on this topic, but the principles are simple enough. You find a product that's selling well on Amazon or other e-commerce sites. Then you find a supplier that creates that product, or a similar one. You set up a website and advertise, and when people purchase a product, you have the supplier ship it to the customer.
For a digital nomad, this is great. Since you never handle inventory, it doesn't matter where you are in the world. You just need to place the order and collect the payment.
There's no real limit to the money you can make this way. A quick Google search will turn up all kinds of success stories offering overnight millions. But it's not as simple as it sounds. Finding the right product and getting it in front of potential buyers is where this job gets difficult.
With that said, I have had some success making money this way from a very small initial investment in advertising. If you have some knowledge of Facebook and other social media advertising, this might be well worth pursuing.
This one is going to depend hugely on your individual talents and experience. But have a think about the jobs you've held in the past and what you have learned that other people might need. You might be surprised just how valuable some of your skills are and how easy you can make money online.
As a personal example, I used to run a pest control company before I began travelling. Cockroaches, rats, mice, ants – we dealt with them all. And in the course of running that company, I learned a lot about both pest biology and small business. I no longer work in the industry, but the skills I developed are in demand by other companies around the world, and I can charge these companies to consult with them on their businesses.
Think about what you know. For almost any skill you might have, there's someone out there who needs it. And the internet is the greatest tool ever developed for bringing people together.
Full disclosure: I've never actually done this, but my wife has, and it can be very lucrative. Many companies need someone who can take care of all kinds of tasks that need to be done, but for whatever reason, they don't want to hire someone local or full time. Sometimes, these jobs can involve answering the phone and acting as front-line customer service.
Other times, you might be an assistant to a busy executive, tasked with things like booking flights, data entry and organizational duties. If you already have experience in these kinds of roles, it may be quite easy for you to transition to something like this to earn online.
The downside to these jobs is that they can be, well, jobs. They often require you to be available at particular times, which can put a damper on your travel plans. Different time zones can mean you are up to working at strange hours of the night or morning to comply with the schedule of your employer. If you travel to a new country every week, this might not be the job for you.
What Doesn't Work
There are plenty of people online who say that paid surveys are a good way of making money online with very little effort. I haven't found that to be true at all. After all, your time is not free, and the time you spend on surveys could be spent better some other way. Plus, survey sites, even big ones, have a nasty habit of not paying you when it's time for you to collect. So you could spend months answering inane questions for nothing.
Yeah, I know. A lot of people make a lot of money on the markets every day. But this is not an entry-level position. If you go charging into the market trying to trade penny stocks without knowing what you're doing, the most likely outcome is that you will lose everything.
And be warned: those free test accounts some websites offer so you can practice before you invest real money? Scams! Lots of them tweak the results so that you'll succeed with pretend money and be more inclined to put in real money.
Bitcoin's not in the news the way it used to be, but it's still out there. And wherever there's money online, there are scammers. If someone comes to you and tells you that you can invest your money in some kind of cryptocurrency operation that will make you guaranteed profits, chances are that they are lying to you. I have mined cryptocurrency myself, and while it did make me money, that was back in the good old days of late 2017, when bitcoin was easier to mine and worth far more. Right now, I would stay far away.
So there you have it. My extremely subjective experiences of ways to make money online, and paths to avoid. Hopefully, it will help you waste less time than I did on your journey to location-independent income.