first published in Unbound Northwest
Perhaps you’ve heard the terms “location independent,” “remote worker,” and “digital nomad.”
Many entrepreneurs, freelancers, and employees have the freedom to live and work wherever they want provided they have cell service and access to an internet connection. There is a growing trend among this group to live integrated lives by taking their work with them when they travel and explore. For many, the distinction between work and life is almost impossible to define (lifestyle entrepreneurs). For others, what they do for a living and what they do to live is easier to see from the outside. Regardless, they all have itchy feet and an insatiable appetite for challenge and movement.
But, the terms used to describe them are not interchangeable.
Digital nomads are location independent, but you do not have to be a digital nomad to be location independent. And, to make things a bit more confusing, while digital nomads work remotely, remote workers aren’t necessarily digital nomads.
popular with location independent types and digital nomads
Being location independent means that a person is not tied to a specific area. People who are location independent may be remote workers or digital nomads, or they may literally move between jobs, taking seasonal work in different parts of the country.
This group is location independent because they can and do choose jobs based on their location preferences, and they take their homes with them or find lodging near those jobs. A hallmark of location independence is the choice not to maintain a “bricks and sticks” primary residence.
Remote workers are people whose work can be done remotely because the bulk of their interaction with clients or their employer is done over the phone and internet.
Remote workers are technically location independent but for the most part do not exercise that option. They work from traditional homes and maintain longitudinal and latitudinal positioning except when traveling for business or vacation.
writing retreat with a client and two other professional writers
A remote worker becomes a digital nomad when they choose to exercise the freedom they have to work from anywhere.
Digital nomads who travel the world often settle in a country for several months at a time, renting an apartment or room while they’re there. Other digital nomads live and travel in their vans, RVs, or motor homes and, therefore, primarily stick to North and South America. Some stay in one place for months at a time. Others move more frequently.
Recently, when I mentioned to one of my strategic partners that my husband and I had decided to sell our home and take the first step toward our dream of a life of travel and adventure, she said, “Oh wow. Well, I hope business picks up soon.”
M1: This myth is a cousin of the myth that being self-employed means being unemployed. It is the myth that downsizing and moving from a traditional home to one on wheels signals a decrease in income and stability.
One of the most common concerns digital nomads hear from people whose work experience is limited to commute-to-work type of jobs is about how they stay in contact with clients and grow their businesses.
M2: Living in a location that’s far removed from a client reduces the chances of developing and maintaining a strong, results-oriented relationship.
Myths #3 & #4
At some point, people working toward or living the location-independent lifestyle will hear something like Gee, it must be nice to be able to drop everything to run off and play whenever you want. Some of us have to work for a living. How can you possibly afford that?
Two myths stem from these questions and concerns. The first, myth #3, is also related to the parent myth of myth #1. Although in this case, the unemployment is more in line with what we think of as retirement—full-time play made possible by a pool of previously accumulated money or streams of passive income.
M3: “Location independent” and “digit nomad” is code for “on permanent vacation.”
M4: Living location independent lifestyle is expensive.
You will be forgiven if you’ve made some of these assumptions. I suspect anyone who’s ever taken up a wandering lifestyle and any of the labels associated with it have at some point thought the same things. But between these assumptions and living the dream of being location independent is the information necessary to make the mental shift required for successful wander-working and for addressing the concerns of loved ones, strategic partners, and clients.
DEBUNKING THE MYTHS
Myth #1: While it is true that adopting a mobile lifestyle requires a drastic reduction in stuff owned and often results in reducing expenses, it would be incorrect to assume that the motivation is based on fear or pressures brought on by a lack of income. Most people who adopt a location independent lifestyle aren’t running from something; they are running toward something.
Built into this lifestyle are huge opportunities for business owners and their clients. Lower overhead and more flexibility mean more time to work on the business and find ways to better serve clients. And many who adopt this lifestyle do so for its health benefits, and better health (mental, physical, and financial) results in higher levels of productivity and improved quality.
Myth #2: Many business owners have clients all over the world. The communication challenges faced by digital nomads are no more difficult to solve than those faced by people who stay put but do business with individuals and companies across the globe. The internet is brimming with communication hacks and how-tos supplied by experienced digital nomads.
Myth #3: Perhaps the most dangerous myth is this, that digital nomads and location-independent business owners play whenever they want. It’s the myth that if thought about too much can induce a full-on entrepreneurial anxiety attack. If clients, strategic partners, or prospective clients believe this, it can undermine their confidence in our ability to deliver high-quality goods and services. This is a myth every location independent business person must proactively debunk.
Whether working in an office or retail outlet, remotely for someone else, or in a business they built, the rules are the same: If we don’t work, we don’t get paid. This comes down to discipline, and the vast majority of entrepreneurs and remote workers who adopt a mobile lifestyle are driven, committed professionals. They’ve either worked diligently (and often for years) to create passive streams of income that supplement their billable work or they are doing the same amount of work they would be doing “at home.”
Myth #4: Vacations are expensive, but a mobile lifestyle need not cost any more than the going rate for housing and expenses related to its care and maintenance and often costs much less. The people for whom this lifestyle works are the ones whose lives are integrated, working and playing hard and within the scope of their needs and long-term goals.
Whether you find this lifestyle appealing or disconcerting, I hope this article empowers you to make the lifestyle changes that best suit you and your business and/or provides perspective if you are considering or find yourself working with someone who is location independent.
Photos by Cristen Iris, all rights reserved