In the years before the pandemic, a growing number of people were leaving the traditional workforce to embrace the gig economy. The effect was nothing short of stunning. In just a single decade – from 2010 to 2020 – at least six million people made the switch.
Many did this for the opportunity to control their professional and economic destiny. Others wished to break out of their office jobs so they could travel and experience life in different parts of the globe. No matter the reason, it was becoming clear that the era of the freelancer had begun.
Then, the coronavirus pandemic began and forced millions of workers to embrace remote working arrangements. All at once, countless office-dwellers got a taste of a work-life unmoored from their desks and cubicles. Now that things are returning to normal, it’s a safe bet that plenty of those people won’t want to go back to the pre-pandemic status quo. They will instead become the foundation of yet another wave of freelance workers embracing a nomadic work style.
Since the path, they’re choosing is one many have already traveled to; they won’t have to figure everything out on their own. They can choose to start any of a variety of nomad businesses to generate their income. To help, here are 12 nomad business ideas and the tools required to do them.
This article covers 12 nomad business ideas
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- Web Developer
- Graphic Designer
- Distance Learning Teacher
- Freelance Writing
- Affiliate Marketer
- SEO Specialist
- Travel Photographer
- Management Consulting
- Medical Coder
- Virtual Assistant
- Dropshipping or eCommerce
- Bookkeeper or Accountant
1. Web developer
If you’re reading this right now, take a moment to look at the elements of the page surrounding this article. Every link, every image, and every drop-down menu you see is the result of the careful work of a team of web developers. In fact, every page you’ve ever seen on the internet is, too. As you may have guessed, all of that adds up to a ton of work – and demand – for web developers.
After that, all you need to become a nomad web developer is a decent laptop, a stable internet connection, and the will to build a portfolio of work that will lure in a steady stream of clients. A great place to start is to advertise your skills on a site like Upwork. Your business may start slowly, but you’ll soon have a nice clientele base that you can call on.
2. Graphic designer
Just like web developers, graphic designers are in high demand. They create all of the stunning visuals you see on websites, television, magazines, and more.
They’re also the creative force that the marketing and entertainment industries rely on. Even gaming companies employ graphic designers to craft user interfaces, ranging from simple UI structures to complex ones. For that reason, there’s always plenty of work to go around for talented graphic designers.
To get started as a nomad graphic designer, you’ll first need to have a creative bent. After that, you’ll find that there aren’t many more prerequisites. You’ll need a decent to high-end computer (or laptop), and most graphic designers will also have a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud that makes up the majority of their software toolkit.
If you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to take some graphic design courses to learn the basics. Generally, potential clients are more likely to judge you by your portfolio than by your academic background. Volunteering with one of the many worthy charities or nonprofits out there is a great way to start your portfolio. A great portfolio will allow you to start a career as a true nomad graphic designer in no time.
3. Distance learning teacher
For some time now, the online learning industry has been growing at a furious pace, and the pandemic has been adding fuel to the fire, owing to the massive rapid expansion of remote study options in schools around the world. There’s a good chance that a sizable number of parents and students who experienced remote learning for the first time in the past year will want to continue utilizing it for some or all of their educational needs.
That means there’s a tremendous need for qualified distance learning teachers that won’t go away soon. Since teaching online allows you to work from anywhere in the world, it is a great option for people looking to start a nomad business. Before you can get started, you’ll need to meet a few requirements.
Although online teachers generally don’t need any special certifications, most online learning companies will require that their teachers have at least a bachelor’s degree in the subject they specialize in. There’s plenty of room for upward growth, too, since you can earn an education master’s degree online and have the option of teaching for almost any university around the world.
4. Freelance writing
If you have a decent mastery of your native language (or of any language, for that matter), a freelance writing nomad business might be right up your alley. It’s also one of the simplest nomad businesses you can start. All you really have to do is decide on where you’d like to focus your efforts so you can find a niche that will provide reliable work for you.
Your niche can consist of a topic you’re especially interested in, or that you’re well-versed in because of a previous career. You can also choose a specialty that you don’t have experience with if you’re willing to do some research along the way. Once you choose a niche, you’ll be able to hone and market your skills to the right audience.
In terms of tools, this is another nomad business with low barriers to entry. You’ll need a computer and a reliable internet connection, and word processing software you’re familiar with using. Then, you can complement it with tools like Grammarly and the Hemingway App (to proofread your work). As your writing portfolio grows, you might also wish to get familiar with Copyscape so you can make sure nobody’s using unauthorized copies of your work.
5. Affiliate marketer
For almost as long as people have sold products online, it’s been possible to earn a living by promoting those products in exchange for a cut of the resulting sales. It’s known as affiliate marketing, and it’s more common than you might imagine. Businesses of all kinds offer affiliate programs (including the one whose site you’re on right now). Many websites frequently use affiliate link placement as a key source of their revenue.
If you know how, you can start a nomad business as an affiliate marketer. In order to achieve it, you must learn SEO tactics as well as how to create effective and appealing websites. You won’t need much in the way of equipment – just an internet connection and an ordinary computer. You just have to figure out the best way to draw an audience to the sites you build.
Keep in mind that affiliate marketing can take many forms. You can create a blog about a topic you enjoy and seek out related affiliate programs to monetize it. Alternatively, you can build informational sites dedicated to specific products or industries to attract an interested audience. Note that the best affiliate marketing sites are useful and provide a lot of information. Those share a wealth of information on their subject matter, resulting in an influx of traffic to their partner sites. Think of starting your nomad affiliate marketing business on a topic you’re knowledgeable about or passionate about.
6. SEO specialist
If you haven’t noticed yet, many of the best nomad business opportunities revolve around the internet. Some involve content creation and some are more technical in nature. There’s another path that combines both of those aspects into a single role: that of an SEO specialist. It is their job to ensure that as many people as possible see the websites, content, graphics, and advertisements.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is the process of tailoring online content to achieve high placements on search engine results pages (and within other search-related results). It’s a job that’s part art and part science, and it’s at the center of a massive and thriving industry.
To become a part of it, aspiring SEO experts can take advantage of a variety of free learning opportunities online, and then equip themselves for the work. Some of the common tools used by SEO experts include Ahrefs and KWFinder for keyword research, and the Google Search Console for tracking page results.
In truth, there are more SEO-focused tools than one could name in the confines of a single article. Each SEO expert tends to favor their own mix of platforms to support their methodologies. However you do the work, though, it’s an excellent basis for a nomad business.
7. Travel photographer
You can emphasize the nomad aspect of your business by becoming a travel photographer. It’s a competitive field, to be sure. But it offers several viable paths to profitability for anyone willing to put in the work that extends well beyond taking pictures.
To start, a nomad travel photographer will need to set up a portfolio website and work to find a market niche to serve. It can be as simple as offering photography services for destination weddings or specializing in photographing tourist destinations for local tourism boards and travel businesses. To create some extra evergreen revenue, many nomad photographers sell their spare destination shots to stock photography websites.
To earn a living as a photographer, you will need to invest in some equipment and software. Most serious photographers rely on cameras that can run into the thousands of dollars, and compliment them with a suite of photo editing tools. While the cost to get started as a nomad travel photographer isn’t cheap, it’s a small price to pay for a career that can take you to every corner of the globe.
8. Management consulting
If there’s one thing countless businesses would love to have but either can’t find or can’t afford, it’s a management expert on staff to guide their operations. So many of them go looking for the next best thing in the form of outside consultants who can examine their operations from top to bottom and make recommendations on how to do things better. No matter where you go, there’s always demand for such services.
That makes it possible to start a nomad business as a management consultant if you have the right background to do it. For starters, you’ll want to have relevant management experience in the industries you plan to target. If you have the time and ability, you should also aim to earn an MBA to let potential clients know that you’re an expert in the field. You don’t need a related business undergraduate degree to get one – that’s a debunked MBA myth.
To do your best work, you’ll also want to invest in time tracking software and a general-purpose project management suite. Together, they’ll allow you to break down every aspect of how each client operates so you can find and fix issues harming their efficiency or output. In addition, you will start receiving many offers once you establish your reputation as an expert management consultant. You’ll be shocked how far and wide your name will spread among business networks – and that’s perfect for sustaining a nomad business.
9. Medical coder
In the United States, the healthcare industry accounts for one-sixth of the national economy, and health insurers play an outside role in it. That’s why managing the avalanche of documentation flowing between insurers and medical providers requires an army of qualified people to make sense of it all.
These people are called medical coders. Their job is to translate each patient’s treatment file into a universal language that insurers understand so they can reimburse doctors for the care they provide. You may be able to start a medical billing nomad business if you have an eye for detail. To get started, all you need is a certification in the medical specialty you wish to pursue. And then find a billing and coding firm that hires remote workers.
To do the work, you shouldn’t need anything more than a decent computer and a quiet place to work. Most medical coding providers will set up their workers with a HIPAA-compliant VPN on their computers. This is to safeguard patient data, as well as access to whatever software billing system they rely on. After that, you’re typically free to move around as you wish (but check with the people you work for before going overseas).
10. Virtual assistant
Busy professionals and small business owners tend to keep schedules that don’t leave much time for back-office work. They frequently rely on assistants to manage their appointments, return phone calls, and do all of the other necessary tasks they don’t have time for. Many turn to virtual assistants, who can perform all of that work from any remote location they choose.
To start a nomad business as a virtual assistant, you’ll need to first have some marketable skills. You should have a working knowledge of a word processing suite, formal letter and email writing skills, and an ability to organize schedules and information. There’s no real training involved, and your skill set will evolve based on the needs of your clients.
You will need a computer with a reliable internet connection, as well as a high-quality VoIP headset for your communications needs. On top of that, you will want to choose a calendar and file sharing platform you’re comfortable with to manage your clients’ data. You will also need to find strong antivirus software to protect your computer and your work from malware and malicious websites. As your nomad business grows, you may require more robust tools to round out your arsenal, but your choice of which to use comes down to what tasks your clients ask you to handle.
11. Dropshipping or eCommerce
Over the past two decades, eCommerce has all but taken over as the primary way that most people shop. Although it may seem that giant companies like Amazon have the market cornered, there’s still plenty of room for niche eCommerce sites to thrive. You can make that the focus of a great nomad business opportunity.
All you have to do to get started is research and identify a product niche that’s underserved online. Then look for suppliers that can help you become the go-to source for products in that niche. Ideally, you should look for partners that work on a dropshipping model. It will ensure that you won’t have to keep any inventory – freeing you up to travel as you please.
You will have to build and maintain a high-quality eCommerce site and work hard to promote it. Because dropshipping is a low-margin business, you’ll need to drive a high volume of sales to maintain your bottom line. Most people building nomad drop shipping businesses use a combination of Shopify and the Oberlo plugin to get started. You may also wish to explore building relationships with individual importers and exporters to find products consumers can’t get anywhere else.
12. Bookkeeper or accountant
If you’re the kind of person that excels at math and has no problem keeping detailed purchase records and running balances, a nomad business offering bookkeeping or accounting services could be a perfect fit. Even if you don’t have much experience, it’s not difficult to find work doing bookkeeping for small businesses.
You can gain most of the basic skills you’ll need to get started by taking any one of several online bookkeeping courses (some of which are free). From there you’ll need to get familiar with common small business accounting tools like QuickBooks, Xero, and FreshBooks. Since they all share common features and functions, it’s not too difficult to build a working understanding of all three.
To turn your skills into a nomad business, you’ll also want to choose a specific industry to specialize in. That way, you’ll become familiar with the common terminology and operations used in that industry so you can work more efficiently. If you already have a background in a particular industry from a previous career, that’s an excellent place to start.
Any one of these 12 nomad business ideas can help you to break free from your office and take control of your professional and financial future.
After over a year of being trapped at home amid a once-in-a-generation pandemic, it’s a path that countless people may find irresistible. If you follow it, you’ll be able to travel as often as you like and experience everything the world has to offer on your own terms.
It takes some hard work, of course, but the ends more than justify the means. Having true freedom is a great position to be in – no matter where you want to go and how long you’d like to stay.
Ivan Serrano is an enthusiastic writer who enjoys learning whatever he can about business development and growth hacking. He also enjoys sharing his knowledge of technology and how it can improve business communications on an international level.