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5 essential skills every digital nomad should have

  • Digital nomad skills
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Published last month

To master the lifestyle of a digital nomad and make the most of the freedom it offers, you might need to brush up some of your skills that may not have been so important in your nine-to-five. Once you have a good command of these essential skills, you will be in the best position to make the most of the different destinations you'll travel to.

The ability to self-motivate

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There are no rules! You can work away on your laptop while relaxing at the beach, or while in your pyjamas in bed. However, having the freedom to work when and where you like, can hurt your business. Since there is no sense of obligation that comes with working in a company (such as figures of authority and a team not to let down), you can easily find yourself slipping into permanent holiday mode with work taking a back seat – particularly if you find yourself in an idyllic destination!

Consequently, it is all the more important for digital nomads to self-motivate. Keep in mind the bigger picture – what do you want to achieve in your chosen career and when do you want to achieve it by? Set deadlines and keep them written down or listed somewhere. This will prevent you slacking off in the event you are feeling a bit lazy or down on your luck. You will need the mental fortitude to persevere when things are going extremely well and extremely badly, so give yourself some structure and goals (both small and large) to keep you going.

Keep organised and stay disciplined

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Sometimes it isn't being demotivated that finds you frequently napping and drinking cocktails by the beach instead of working. Sometimes it's just that it's so easy to take a step back from work ... and then another ... and then another, till you are spending more time behaving like a tourist on holiday than a location independent entrepreneur.

One of the appeals of being a digital nomad is of course that you aren't stuck in rigid structures, such as the hours you work and where you work from. If, one day, an opportunity to go exploring in your latest destination presents itself, then, by all means, seize the opportunity. Furthermore, if you're working with clients in different time zones, being a digital nomad allows you to work at a time that is convenient for all parties, rather than the standard nine to five.

The importance of organisation and discipline cannot be understated; it is fundamental to any digital nomad trying to run a successful business while exploring different countries. With the absence of a broader structure and a lot of temptation to set work to one side, you will need to set your own deadlines (and follow them), set rules for yourself, decide your working hours and, ultimately, ensure everything gets done. Some people prefer to work from home, while others choose a coworking space as their productive environment. Either way, if you set your alarm for 7 am to work on a project, stick to it!

Be flexible

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The main appeal of being a digital nomad is the opportunity to work from far-flung destinations, rather than being chained to a desk. However, this has its set of challenges that may not spring to mind to those who have a romanticised view of what travelling the world will be like.

Upon arriving in a new country, you may not find accommodation in the area of your choice, or there may not be internet available in your accommodation. Your travelling plans may go array due to cancellations or delays. You may find yourself somewhere, and discover it's not as amenable to digital nomads as you had first hoped, and working may require you to travel a fair distance. In any event, you will need to be flexible and have already accepted that some things will not go to plan, no matter how much you prep and plan. In fact, planning too far ahead may be a bad idea, as things can quickly change when you are frequently on the move.

You will also have to be ready to adapt to different cultures and different languages quite quickly. In some countries it may be custom for businesses to close early on certain days or not open at all, and, depending on the country, this information may not be readily available online. The way you behave or dress may have to change depending on the culture you choose to embrace. While these changes can be viewed negatively, you should see it as an opportunity to experience different cultures and lifestyles, and to pick up different aspects of these cultures along the way.

Have good communication skills

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A frequent feature on job-listings, good communication skills are a vital tool in life in general, let alone in a work context. Frequently moving to a new environment will require excellent communication skills as a starting point, to quickly and easily get on terms with your new surroundings. However, in a work context, you are unlikely to meet your clients in person, meaning that you will need to rely on communicating via other methods to convey your thoughts.

Written communication is a vital part of most jobs, whether you are globe-trotting or not, and it undoubtedly becomes all the more crucial when communication by phone, for example, may not be possible. Being able to write a well-articulated email with ease is certainly something that will help save time and ensure you are best-placed to conduct your business, be it as a freelance-writer or tech entrepreneur.

Sometimes speaking to someone face to face will be necessary or preferable to writing an email or ochatting online, which may require video calls. However, this isn't the same as chatting to your friend over Skype as you lounge in a bar sipping a cocktail. You will need to, for example, plan an appropriate place to conduct a video call – is there somewhere quiet and well-lit you can take such calls within your accommodation, or will you need to go elsewhere?

Networking is also important as a digital nomad, and good communication skills will help you meet and share ideas with other freelancers or entrepreneurs. Finding events and meet-ups with other like-minded people can be an excellent opportunity to both learn and help others to grow and develop new ideas.

Get to grips with personal branding

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Being aware of your brand is essential to any freelance worker or entrepreneur. However, it can make a big difference if you are a digital nomad and don't have the advantage of perhaps attending conferences or business-client networking events. Making the most of the social media can help you promote your business. For example, photographers can show off their latest photos and writers can promote their blogs. If you are running your own business, you need to consider your brand and the image you are portraying to potential employers.

Increasing your visibility online will be key to expanding your business and attracting new clients. Consider what you want your brand to be about and how you can best get this across. It may not be necessary to put yourself out there on every social media platform, but you can certainly select those that are most appropriate to what you are doing. A website may also be a good way to get your name out there, and knowledge of things such as SEO and basic web design may prove to be quite helpful.

Do you have any other essential skills or tips for digital nomads? Let us know in the comments below.

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