People who are able to work remotely will often do so from their own home. Others take their option to be mobile to the extreme, traveling the world and living in different countries while they operate their business from their laptop. These travelling entrepreneurs are often referred to as ‘Digital Nomads’.
The digital nomad lifestyle is the ultimate goal for many people who like to travel and experience different cultures. It’s also appealing to ‘snowbirds’ who prefer to avoid Canada’s frigid winters by spending them in a warmer climate. When moving your business is as easy as picking up your laptop, why not do just that?
Internationally, the pandemic has inspired many countries to attract digital nomads with special Visas, in an attempt to offset tourism losses. Bali, Cayman Islands, Croatia, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Iceland… just about any kind of adventure you’re looking for can be had. Each country has their own list of Visa rules and requirements though, so be sure to do your research.
Many Canadians are also embracing the opportunity to tour our own country while running their online business. Atlantic provinces like New Brunswick, for example, are rebranding themselves as the ideal place to live for mobile workers. They can offer much lower prices for real estate, low crime rates, and a higher quality of life overall.
COVID-19 may be limiting travel right now, but that just gives you the opportunity to establish your business and begin generating revenue before you hit the road. You don’t want to set up in a foreign country only to find out you can’t earn enough money. Additionally, many countries have strict income minimums for the special Visas they grant for remote workers and contractors. It takes time to have your Visa approved, find a place to live and so on, so it’s a good idea to get the ball rolling ASAP.
What Kind of Digital Nomad Will You Be?
There’s an estimated 38 million people living the digital nomad lifestyle, according to the Toronto Sun. However, not all of them are entrepreneurs.
There are three main types of digital nomads:
- Entrepreneurs who are able to provide products or services online. They usually have a more structured online business than a self-employed freelancer.
- Freelancing encompasses many ways to earn an income as you move around the globe. Freelancers are self-employed individuals who may provide virtually any service that can be done online, from programming to graphics design.
- Those who have a job with a company that facilitates remote working often do so on the road. Specifically, employers that offer entirely remote positions and don’t care where or when the work gets done.
Any work that is normally contracted out is ideal for digital nomads. Watch one of those international house hunting shows and you’ll often find the hunters are able to work from anywhere, so they do! Website development, graphics design, programming and countless other online jobs are perfect for the mobile lifestyle.
Proven Online Businesses for Digital Nomads
I’ve worked with digital nomads for many years and hear from them on a regular basis through this site. The online businesses they choose to start are almost always one (or more) of those listed here.
These proven business ideas for digital nomads link to more detailed, free guides on our website. To begin, please review our Checklist: How to Start an Online Business in Canada.
1. Digital Information Products
Digital info products can compliment most niches and they’re popular with those who teach, consult or coach on a topic.
As time goes by, our knowledge on any given topic can build to expert levels. It could also be that our wisdom results in exceptional insights.
Create and sell information products such as courses, white papers, reports, or eBooks. There is a lot of work involved in product creation, but once that’s done you can earn revenue from the products repeatedly with little additional effort.
Learn More: How to Develop Your Own Digital Products
2. Virtual Assistant (VA)
Your experience and expertise will also serve you well if you offer your services online. Virtual assistants may do anything from marketing to secretarial tasks. Whatever skill you have that can be done remotely, is marketable under the ‘Virtual Assistant’ label. Tasks like collaborative design and accounting are easily accomplished thanks to “the cloud”, along with other online collaboration and file sharing tools.
Learn More: How to Become a Virtual Assistant (VA) in Canada
3. Drop Shipping
Drop Shipping (or dropshipping) is a way to get into online retail without worrying about inventory or shipping. You can still have the freedom to work from anywhere, because you don’t have to fill or ship orders.
Drop Shipping is the easiest, least expensive way to sell products online. You make arrangements with a wholesale supplier or manufacturer to sell their products directly. The customer price minus the wholesale cost equals your profit.
A popular spin-off of dropshipping is print-on-demand (POD), which works the same way except you offer custom products (such as t-shirts or mugs with your own design).
“Dropshipped goods: this is one of the most hands-off of ecommerce businesses, and ideal for new entrepreneurs who want to make a little extra travel money with minimal effort,” says Shopify Canada.
That said, you will need the ability to receive test products to verify quality and to ensure supplier reliability. You’ll also have to deal with customers, unless you hire a VA to do it for you. It’s the easiest way to earn with ecommerce when you’re on the move, but it isn’t the easiest business overall for this scenario.
Learn More: Drop Shipping / Wholesale for Canadian Sellers
4. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate programs allow you to advertise for a company and earn a percentage of the sales you generate for them. You’ll need a website and steady traffic to it. This will be your home base for everything from building a mailing list to social media promotion. Once you’ve established a following, both on your website and in newsletter subscribers, it will get easier to earn commissions.
Learn More: How to Start Affiliate Marketing in Canada
5. Web Translation
In Canada, there are plenty of websites, social media accounts and videos that need a French version of their content. If you speak both English and French, you can easily set up a basic website to promote your translation services. You can also offer digital content in French.
6. Freelance Writing
Speaking of writing, there is an insatiable demand for online content and it’s only going to grow. Virtually every company has a perpetual need for unique content & copy for their website and products. Talented, specialized freelance writers can earn serious money, depending on the demand and level of competition in their chosen niche.
Freelance Writing is ideal because you can choose to take on only as much work as you can handle. The same goes for other digital content, ranging from video to social media graphics.
Blogging can be a business model on its own or it can compliment another business. Revenue is usually generated through advertising (direct or affiliates) or information products.
In my experience, an overwhelming majority of people who become digital nomads are highly satisfied with the lifestyle, income and of course, FREEDOM.
“The vast majority of digital nomads—85%—report being highly satisfied with their work and lifestyle,” MBO Partners found in a recent study. “Half say they plan to continue down this path for at least the next two years, and 47% of traditional workers say they plan on trying out the nomad lifestyle at some point.”
It isn’t necessarily permanent. That’s not a problem because you can park your business wherever you want to live, for as long as you want to live there. You’ll still enjoy the freedom of being able to jet off when the urge strikes.
Please join us in the Online Business Canada Facebook group to discuss the digital nomad lifestyle further!
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Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.
Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.