In a not so distant past, I was also dreaming about becoming a digital nomad. Then I just fell into it and I have no choice now (for the time being), guess I’m getting pretty good at this?
Okay so here are the digital nomad beginner’s tips I wish someone would have shared with me as I googled and googled all my silly questions about becoming a digital nomad. I learned this all the very hard way.
Organization – Before you start
Productivity Apps – They are essential for keeping you organised and everything in order. I hardly ever used any apps and now that’s all I look for is an app to do X, Y, Z. They weren’t lying when they said there’s an app for everything (but you do have to find the good ones, luckily I have shared with you my list here in my article Must Have Apps for Digital Nomads | Your Digital Toolbox)
Calendar – I was never ever so organised in my life to keep an active calendar. I hardly even knew what day it is. Get a paper one and/or use iCal on your apple devices (find your windows equivalent). I have both, my paper calendar and ical effectively colour coded and synced to my devices.
File Organization – Create a folder system that works and learn how to name your files properly. Becoming a digital nomad, requires all types of organization. File your work in folders and in the appropriate place on your computer. Don’t have things floating on the desktop. Create a folder for each client, and a folder for each topic for instance:
Folder: Current Clients SubFolder: Client SubFolder: Client Graphics, Client Logos, Client Project X, Client Project Y, Client Project Z, Client Photos
Notebook – First thing I did when I knew I had a big design job coming was getting a real notebook. One thing when you’re on your way to becoming a digital nomad, you’ll realize you are working on your computer…a lot! and you sometimes want something real in your hands. It’s nice to actually write to-do lists and cross them off. I have a mini notebook that I have segmented into 5 different subjects (just as you would back in middle school!). One subject is just for my doodles and I’ve made myself a pact to doodle once a day.
20 – 20 – 20 Rule – One day, after 6 hours on the computer, my vision was completely blurred and I was dizzy. I quickly looked it up:
“Can I lose my 20/20 vision using the computer for too long?”
Of course you can. The rule is 20-20-20: work on the computer for 20 minutes, take a break from the screen for at least 20 seconds, and look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Track your time – Track. your. every. minute. You could be working for $5 an hour and you wouldn’t even know because when you’re working on the computer there is a different sense of time. There are many ways to do this. There are timer apps and even super invoice generator apps that include a timer which automatically adds your time to your invoice. Or simply keeping a sheet of paper where you write down when you start and stop. Keep an eye on the clock, whatever works.
Make a schedule – If you’re working on the road, you definitely need to set yourself a little bit of structure. Set yourself designated times to work. For instance, you work in the mornings or just at night. Try to keep it consistent each day, but you do set your own hours so you can take days off as you need.
Presenting yourself to clients
Online Portfolio – Set up an online portfolio on Behance.net.
PDF Portfolio – I actually haven’t done this yet but it’s on my list. Create a PDF Portfolio of 10-20 samples of your best work. When clients ask to see samples, send them this, refer them to your Behance or website.
Tip: If you don’t have anything to put in your portfolio, volunteer your time to do some projects.
Website – I created this website for many reasons but one of the benefits is that I know how to operate wordpress now. After designing this site and teaching myself wordpress ever so slowly over the course of a year, I know the ins and outs, I’ve researched the plugins, I know what SEO is and I’m at the point where I can create websites for other people. Pretty cool? It also works as a portfolio in its own.
Email Signature – Make yourself an email signature with this really simple and free email signature generator. Just use a nice headshot of yourself and keep it simple.
Business Cards – Doesn’t have to be fancy just get some. If you’re on the road you’ll meet many people and you will want to give them business cards. You can leave your business cards in cafes, restaurants, community boards, etc. This is how I have gotten many of my clients – through the actual business card. It really gave me a push towards becoming a digital nomad myself! Check out my DIY Stamp Business Card.
Testimonials – You should request your clients to give you 5 star reviews (if you’re working on a freelancing platform) or testimonials (which you can later put on your website or reference to future clients). I was working on a platform called Elance and it had this star rating and review system. After I completed a project, I asked for a 5 star review. Yes, I ask them to give me a 5 star review and they do it. All you have to do is write something along these lines:
“Thank you *Client* for the opportunity to work for you on this project. I pride myself in the 100% satisfaction of my clients and now that this project is nearing its completion, I’d like to take a moment to ensure you are satisfied with the quality of my work. If there is anything that you are not happy with, please let me know and I will fix it. It has been a pleasure working with you and I look forward to our fruitful relationship. If you are satisfied with my work, could you leave me a 5 star review(*or testimonial*)? This would go very far in ensuring I can obtain more work in the future.
Thank you again *Client* *Sign off*”
Set your Rates
Don’t Devalue your work – Because of some platforms like Fiverr which lowers graphic design work to the price of $5 and other outsourcing platforms where people can get graphic designers, coders, virtual assistants from India/Pakistan/Philippines for $7 an hour, there will be clients and many job postings that want you to work for a price you should not work at. You must stick to a fair wage which should not be lower in my opinion than $20 an hour. If you lower your wages it devalues the work for yourself and for all other freelancers.
Explain to your clients that you charge a higher wage because you are competent & skilled in your field and can provide them with efficient, great work (getting twice as much done than the outsourced workers).
Offer discounted work to earn trust and portfolio pieces – Despite what I wrote above about keeping to a standard, you can offer discounted work to clients to earn their trust. This especially goes for beginners. You may think it seems impossible to get any clients! Well, if you offer your talent for a discounted price and explicitly explain that you are offering your services at a discounted price because you are new to the field, than that is fine. But you must tell them something like “but if you choose to work with me in the future, I will have a price increase”.
Canva – I’d like to mention Canva which is a free design tool which makes designing easier than photoshop in some cases. If you’re a designer you probably already have the Adobe Creative Suite, but for those of you doing (or thinking about doing) social media, simple design, and some branding for clients, then Canva is a great tool. I actually use both. I like to play with Canva when I have no idea what a design should look like and it is meant to be a quick little graphic like a FB Post. The app works really well on the go much better than the Adobe Apps. And it’s super easy and fun!
(I mention more design tool apps and programs in my article Must Have Apps for Digital Nomads | Your Toolbox)
What do you think about my tips? Are you a digital nomad or thinking about freelancing on the road?