How to Become a Digital Nomad and Make Six Figures

Writing Revolt Blog Post Author IconBy Jorden Makelle
how to become a digital nomad

Well, you guys… I FINALLY did it.

In March of 2019, my husband and I got rid of all our shit, packed what little we own into my car, and officially left Dallas to start our journey into digital nomad life.

The day we left Dallas!

This is a dream I’ve had for so, SO long.

Like… before I ever even started my business, I knew one day I wanted to travel full-time.

I saw people share full-time RVing photos on Instagram.

I read about these so-called “digital nomads” who lived on the beach in some beautiful tropical location, and I knew:

I wanted digital nomad life for myself one day too.

It seemed so out of reach for me at first though.

As a college dropout, someone who did not come from money, and a kid who was never around entrepreneurs/travelers, I know it was going to take some hard fucking work to get to where I wanted to be.

But I was ready to put in the work.

In today’s blog post, I’m going to share a very vulnerable look into my story/background and how I started my digital nomad life.

And then I’ll break down exactly how I make money so you can learn how to become a digital nomad with NO experience (which is how I started out growing my business!).

In 2015, I got fired from my shitty full-time job.

And yeah, I moped around for a bit at first (vegan ice cream + shitty reality TV can get you through even the worst of times!).

But pretty quickly, I decided to stop moping and instead use the awful situation as an opportunity to do what I always wanted to do – start a full-time freelance writing business and, eventually, travel full-time.

I set up a professional writing portfolio website for my business.

I pitched my ass off.

And by month four, I had my first $5,000 month as a full-time freelance writer.

That’s about DOUBLE what I had been making at my previous full-time job.

Now, I’ve gotta admit, if I’d have been single at that moment in time AND if I didn’t also have a fur-child who I love more than just about anything in the whole world, I proooobably would’ve booked a one-way ticket to Bali right then and there.

But I knew with 100% certainty I was going to end up marrying my now-husband.

(He was my boyfriend at the time, and we were living together, and let me tell you… that man has stuck by my side through some TOUGH SHIT.)

And I knew there was no way in hell I could leave my dogs with someone else or get rid of them.

My majestic and beautiful fur children.

So I decided to play the long game and be patient, because:

  1. I had no interest in the typical domestic life and settling down in one place because of a marriage or anything else.
  2. …But I also had no interest in leaving my now-husband and my precious fur-child to travel full-time.

See, I wanted it all – full-time travel WITHOUT giving up time spent with the ones I love the most. And I wasn’t going to settle for anything less than that.

But I knew that “having it all” would complicate things.

It might take me longer to get exactly what I wanted since I wasn’t willing to settle.

Questions rushed into my head, like:

  • Where/how can I travel that won’t put too much stress on my relationship and fur baby?
  • Can I even travel overseas with a dog? How would that work?
  • Am I going to be the sole source of income, or will my husband get a remote job? If I need to be the sole source of income, how much money do I need to make?

The list could go on and on.

But it could all be summed up by one thought:

“How in the HELL is this actually going to work?!?!”

Since I didn’t have a clear answer in my mind yet, I decided to focus all my attention on something else I’m incredibly passionate about:

My business.

I was discovering that, as much as I enjoyed writing for clients, I LOVED helping other freelancers start their online business journey even more.

It felt like so much more of a positive impact to help people escape their 9-to-5 jobs and do what they wanted to do instead!

I casually did this for a while, but it didn’t take long for me to realize… I wanted to help freelancers on a bigger scale and make even more of a positive impact.

So, I started actively marketing this blog in early 2016 (which was called Writing Revolt at the time!), a little a year after I got fired from my full-time job and started freelancing.

You can read more about my online business journey over the past 3 years right here, but long story short:

With a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, this blog quickly grew into an amazing community in a way I never could’ve predicted.

Not only was I able to make a positive impact on others by helping them start freelance writing – I also achieved more financial stability than I even imagined was possible for myself.

In early 2018, I knew it was time to start making big moves toward traveling full-time.

So, I started making plans.

I streamlined my revenue sources.

I got serious about “getting my shit together” mentally.

(I had a mental breakdown/depressive episode in early 2018 – a death in the family + history of anxiety and depression will do that to you. This was one of the most, if not THE MOST, challenging times in my life, but I made it through and I’m so, so glad I did. Click here to watch my YouTube video where I share a VERY vulnerable look into my mental health journey/depression/anxiety.)

And…

I bought an RV.

My first home purchase. #JustMillennialThings

Holy shit, y’all. I still can’t believe I did this!

(…Wait, yeah I can, because we’re talking about the same person who impulsively moved to Dallas with no job and no money in 2012 and then a few years later took a massive risk by starting freelance writing with almost no savings and barely any hope of succeeding. Lol yeah, that checks out. #Impulsive)

My husband and I started meticulously planning out how we were going to get started living the full-time RV life.

We had decided we were going to work together on my business, and we had weekly meetings to get the process started.

We even had a date set to leave Dallas.

We were going to buy a tow vehicle in October 2018 and leave Dallas in December 2018 – that way, we could spend the holidays with family. It was all on the calendar.

…But sometimes, what you plan isn’t what the universe has in store for you.

In late September of 2018, I went to my dermatologist for a routine check-up.

Since I had a melanoma in situ in 2015 (basically Stage 0 skin cancer), these check-ups are something I do several times per year.

So, at this particular check-up I had to get one mole on my leg biopsied, but honestly, I didn’t think much of it.

I was too focused on my business, traveling, etc.

(Plus, I’ve had loads of biopsies in the past few years. I’m kind of desensitized to it.)

…So it was quite a shock when my dermatologist called me to let me know that the mole came back as a Stage 1 Melanoma.

Let me tell you, I was HORRIFIED.

Don’t get me wrong – I was also incredibly grateful.

Stage One skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.

But still: cancer. The C Word.

After a whirlwind of doctor’s appointments, I decided this health issue was a sign that traveling wasn’t what we were supposed to be doing at that point in time.

(Interestingly enough, my husband tore his calf muscle and could barely walk around the same time I had my melanoma removed! Seriously, this was like the universe screaming “NO, YOU DON’T HAVE THE PLAN RIGHT YET. NOT LETTING YOU TRAVEL UNTIL YOU DO.”)

Our health was our main focus for several months.

I decided we needed to stay put in Dallas until I had my 3-month oncology check-up and dermatology follow-up, which happened in January 2019.

And at that point, I felt ready to take action and figure out the whole digital nomad life thing.

After my husband and I talked more, we decided that AirBNB-ing as opposed to RVing would be a better fit for us – at least at first.

With all the health issues (both mental and physical) among other things, 2018 was a HELL of a year for us both. We had been through SO much stress, and didn’t think it was the right time for the added stress of trying to figure out how to live in an RV + work together.

Staying in AirBNBs would be a much less stressful way to ease into the digital nomad life – for us and our fur children.

Was it going to be way more expensive?

Definitely.

But to me, it was also going to be worth it.

I mean, this wasn’t just a random thing… this was my dream!

And I’m the kind of person who’s cheap as hell when it comes to things I don’t care much about (like cars – I make six figures but still drive a busted ass 2007 Mitsubishi!) but will spend extravagantly on things I’m passionate about (books, gadgets, and travel).

At about 4 years into running a business and working my ass off, I knew I was at the point where I could afford it and just needed to fucking go for it.

At this point, it was February 2019, and I was ready to make moves.

So, in true Sagittarius/ENTP style, I impulsively booked our first AirBNB:

A cute cottage in a remote Oregon Coast town.

 

Our home for a month. Just a few blocks from the beach!

How were we going to get there?

  • Would we fly or drive?
  • Would we even like the town?

I didn’t have all the answers.

But I knew that I just needed to fucking book something to force myself to figure out all of the details later.

…And figure out the details, I did!

We had moved out of our actual apartment and downsized on February 28th – and moved into an AirBNB in Dallas as a temporary transition into living in AirBNBs.

We decided we were going to drive to the Oregon coast from Dallas and make several stops along the way to break up the trip.

Sadly, I got the flu that month, so we had to put our trip off by about a week…

But FINALLY, in late March of 2019, we officially started our digital nomad life and became full-time travelers.

Here’s what our route looked like:

  • Dallas -> Amarillo
  • Amarillo -> Santa Fe
  • Santa Fe -> Moab
  • Moab -> Salt Lake City
  • Salt Lake City -> Boise
  • Boise – > Portland
  • Portland -> Oregon Coast

Some big-ass rocks at Arches National Park. Yes, that ant-looking thing in the bottom right corner is ME.

(You can see photo updates from my travels on my Instagram. That’s where I’m most active online, so head over there now and gimme a follow!)

HOLY SHIT, that’s a lot of driving.

On that first big chunk of the road trip, we had some high highs (like seeing Arches National Park in Utah and staying in AirBNBs with some AMAZING scenic views) and some low lows (like a loud, ant-infested AirBNB, INSANE allergies, and getting stuck getting my car serviced in the middle of nowhere for 5 hours).

But I wouldn’t trade the experience for ANYTHING.

Even though I’m only a couple months into my full-time travel journey, I’ve already had SO many experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise, like:

  • Sandboarding near the coast
  • Arches National Park in Utah
  • ATVing on the Oregon Dunes

Driving my husband around the Oregon Dunes in an ATV. My REGULAR driving terrifies him soooooo let’s all just be glad he made it through this.

I’m SO grateful I took the risk and started my business in 2015 when I did.

If I hadn’t, I’d probably be sitting in some ugly ass cubicle right now instead of living 3 blocks from the beach!

(FRIENDS: Don’t wait to chase your dreams! As cheesy as it sounds, it’s a good rule to live by. Life is fucking short. Way too short to spend at a shitty job where you’re underpaid and overworked. You only get ONE LIFE! Make that shit COUNT.)

So, that’s my story!

Now, let’s talk about the business side of things and how YOU can start living the digital nomad lifestyle, even if you have no business and no clue how to get started.

How to Become a Digital Nomad With No Experience / How I Became a Six-figure Digital Nomad

Alright, in this section, we’re going to shift and take a more practical look at the 4 steps I took to become a six-figure digital nomad.

Note that you could stop at ANY of these steps and become a digital nomad.

You don’t HAVE to make six figures to start living the digital nomad lifestyle.

And you definitely don’t need to do all of the following things – this is just what I personally did over the span of about 4 years.

You could literally start freelance writing next month and, in 6 months, get a one-way ticket to Bali (or wherever!) if that works better for you!

Remember, you can go as fancy as spending $4K/mo on an AirBNB in California OR you can stay in a room in Thailand for a few hundred bucks a month – or anything in between!

Research where you want to go and the cost of living there, and then figure out what kind of business you want to start + how much you need to make to support your lifestyle.

Then… START!

Here’s how:

Step One: Freelance Writing

I had my first $5,000 month just four months after getting fired.

Most writers make the HUGE mistake of starting on Upwork or Fiverr… but then end up getting paid peanuts for months or even years and never building a business because, well…

They haven’t built a real business. They’re relying on a platform instead, when building an actual writing business independent of any platform is what they should do instead.

(And yes, you can do this with ZERO experience!)

The five-step process I used to do build a $5k/mo writing business in 4 months was:

  1. Started thinking like a business owner, not just a “writer”
  2. Picked a profitable niche
  3. Set up a professional freelance writer website (you NEED a site to get started – follow this in-depth tutorial to set up a writer website that sells, even if you have no experience!)
  4. Started pitching and cold emailing my ass off
  5. Used inbound marketing to attract clients to me

SIDE NOTE: if you want to learn how to make your first $1,000 freelance writing, click here to take my FREE class. it’s been enjoyed by over 6,000 writers, and when you sign up, you get instant access so you can start learning right away. 🙂

You can sign up for instant access to my free class right here to learn exactly how this process works + how to make your first $1,000 writing with NO experience.

Eventually, I made about $8,000 in a single month from freelance writing!

Is that enough for you to travel full-time?

Probably wayyyyyy more than enough, especially if you’re only supporting yourself and not living in a crazy expensive city or dealing with any other major bills.

So, freelance writing is an AMAZING way to start out in the online business world and it’s totally possible for you to live the digital nomad life as a freelance writer!

Stop right here if you want – no need to go to step two if freelance writing is what you want to do to support yourself while you travel.

You can become a freelance writer and start living the digital nomad lifestyle from there!

Step Two: Blogging to Teach Courses + Generate Affiliate Income

The good thing about courses + affiliate income is that these methods create semi-passive income. Now, no – it’s not totally passive, because it still involves some work like customer service, launches, etc.

But overall, courses and affiliate income have HUGELY decreased my workload and allowed me to have a ton more free time.

Plus, I get to help other writers, which I’m super passionate about!

One thing you need to know about courses + affiliate income:

You probably will not make a full-time doing this quickly.

(Which is why starting out by offering services, like freelance writing, is a great idea and typically a much faster path to a full-time income!)

I spent almost an entire YEAR marketing my blog (like, full-time dedication ON TOP of my already busy freelance writing client workload) before I had a month from courses/affiliate income that would be considered a “full-time income” month.

But let’s talk more specific numbers:

My first ever course launch, I made over $5,000!

And more importantly, I started seeing my students achieve AMAZING results.

More recently, after doing many launches and growing my audience and email list for years, I have had some really awesome five-figure launches.

(Yes, this has to do with my marketing, but it’s also because the product pretty much sells itself at this point. I have loads of testimonials and student success stories, and my students are seriously AWESOME.)

As far as affiliate income, I used to make a few hundred bucks here and there, but these days, I usually make at least a few thousand dollars a month from my affiliate links.

In total, I now make six figures from courses and affiliate income.

Important to note:

Succeeding with courses and affiliate marketing often requires a LOT of patience and a LOT of learning/work.

It’s not an “overnight success” type of thing. It’s the long game.

And it also isn’t as simple as throwing some shitty affiliate links and courses out there and praying you get a sale.

You need a solid niche, you need to actually CARE about your readers and only promote things you stand behind 100%, and you need to learn marketing.

You also need a BLOG CONTENT STRATEGY and clear plan to hit six figures.

If you don’t have that plan yet, download my free “Profitable Blog Planner” right here.

Step Three: Streamlining My Sales Funnels and Processes

So, course launches are great and I still launch my courses a couple times a year, but one thing that changed my life and business COMPLETELY was creating and streamlining sales funnels.

A sales funnel, in the simplest terms, is the process a blog reader takes to go from reader to paying customer.

For me specifically, it involves a reader getting on my email list and then being sent a sequence of emails that eventually pitches them my paid product.

I make dozens of course sales passively every month as a result of my sales funnels, and I’ve also improved my sales funnels for my affiliate links so that they make me a few thousand (at least) dollars per month instead of a few hundred.

This has gone a long way in giving me the extra income I need to feel REALLY good about my business being the sole source of income for my husband and I while we travel.

While passive income isn’t necessary, it’s definitely helpful.

Step Four: Plan Your Travels, and Get Going!

This part is going to vary a LOT based on where you want to travel, how you want to travel, etc.

But REMEMBER:

You do NOT have to go through all 3 steps here if you don’t want to.

You could make a great living freelance writing and start traveling right away – no need to blog, create affiliate income, etc. if you don’t want to.

(By the way, if you want to learn how to make a full-time living writing online, start here by learning how to make your first $1,000 in the next 45 days or less!)

Like I’ve mentioned, I currently live in AirBNBs with my husband and our two dogs.

The backyard of one of our favorite ever AirBNBs on the Oregon Coast.

Quick tip for AirBNB-ing:

Longer stays are often cheaper, but you need to book month-long stays pretty far in advance in a lot of places (especially in the US!).

ALSO: READ THE REVIEWS and GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THEM!

The LAST thing you want to do is end up in some busted and crusted hellhole for a month with no way out.

Fortunately, by following these simple rules, our AirBNBing experienced have been overwhelmingly positive and I am SO glad that we decided to travel this way!

Click here to get $40 off your first AirBNB stay via my link!

(BTW, I get a commission from AirBNB if you use my link above or any AirBNB links in this post. Doesn’t cost you anything. Just saves you money and helps me out too! I appreciate the support SO, SO, much – helps me keep traveling!)

Other than that…

Know that your plan will never be perfect.

Just like I impulsively booked my first AirBNB a 30-hour drive away from where we were living – sometimes you just have to jump the fuck in and trust that things will come together.

If you keep putting it off, it’ll NEVER happen.

Take the first baby steps NOW!

How can you get a digital nomad job / start living the digital nomad lifestyle ASAP?

First, stop thinking in terms of “getting a digital nomad job” and start thinking in terms of starting an online business.

For real… you want to learn how to become a digital nomad? This is the first step and it’s SO DAMN IMPORTANT.

Thinking of what you’re doing as “starting an online business” instead of “getting a digital nomad job” is a HUGE mindset shift that will have a massive impact on everything from your confidence while negotiating with clients to the way you set your rates.

Now, as far as the practical steps, decide what you want to do.

If you want to try freelance writing or blogging (two of the BEST ways to make money while living the digital nomad lifestyle), here are two amazing free resources to help you get started:

…Oooh! I almost forgot – one more awesome money-saving link for you:

Click here to get an awesome domain + hosting discount for your blog and/or freelance writing portfolio website.

It’s normally $7.99 per month, but you get it for $2.95 per month using my link!

(You NEED hosting and a custom domain to start a blog or freelance writing business – so might as well get a steep discount on it!)

^SIDE NOTE! Above is my exclusive discount link for Bluehost, the company I recommend because I personally use them for my website. I get a commission when you use my link, but it doesn’t cost you anything extra to use! Just saves you money and helps me out too. I appreciate the support a TON! 🙂

To wrap up, I just want to say…

Thank YOU for being here.

Seriously.

Readers like YOU are the reason I get to live the digital nomad lifestyle with my husband and our two fur children, and I never ever take that for granted.

Here’s to never settling for less than what you’re capable of.

…Now, get out there and use the resources above to start your own digital nomad life journey!

– Jorden