By: Kelly Schuknecht
Remote work comes in a variety of different flavors:
the occasional telecommuter who works in a co-located office and works from home once in awhile,
the remote employee who works for a large company with several locations that allows some positions to work from home,
the freelancer who juggles multiple clients and works from anywhere with an internet connection,
the employee of a distributed company with co-workers spread out all over the globe,
and the list goes on.
Technology has opened up a world where clocking in from 9-5 is no longer the norm, and all varieties of remote workers are now taking full advantage of those benefits. The “cherry on top,” so to speak.
Digital nomad vs. remote employee
At first glance, a digital nomad and a remote worker might seem the same. Give them each a laptop and an internet connection, and work happens, whether it be on the beach, in a coffee shop or in a home office. So, is a digital nomad the same as a remote employee and vice versa? The short answer is: maybe, sometimes, kind of...
It all comes down to what we value, our lifestyle choices, and how we want to be labeled. A digital nomad uses wireless internet and technology to work wherever they live or travel. So does a remote worker. The main difference is that digital nomads place more emphasis on freedom and travel, while a remote employee might place more value on stability.
A digital nomad might be a freelancer, an entrepreneur, or a remote employee. They might run their own business or be employed by a company. A remote employee, on the other hand, is employed by a company. They might identify as a digital nomad, or they might not.
The pros and cons of each
Digital nomadism as a freelancer or entrepreneur comes with a number of perks. You can travel, choose your own hours, and hopefully even be selective with your clients. On the other hand, the work and income may not always be steady. If you’re doing freelance work for a company, you may feel like an outsider and not part of the team. Freelancers and entrepreneurs also don’t have employee benefits, such as health insurance, retirement, paid vacation, and sick time.
A remote employee may have the flexibility with their schedule to travel depending on the company they work for. They have a stable income, employee benefits, and a sense of connectedness within their company. If the company doesn’t allow for flexibility with their schedule, however, they may not be able to live a nomadic lifestyle. Plus there is some risk that comes with working in an environment where the culture is unhealthy or coworkers are unreliable.
The beauty of “free-range work”
Being a digital nomad versus being a remote employee ultimately comes down to how we see ourselves. The beauty of free-range work is that we don’t have to decide to be one or the other forever. One person might choose to freelance and live the digital nomad lifestyle for a few years and then land their dream job in a distributed company where they can continue traveling (or not) if that’s what they want to do. Another person might quit their day job and test the waters as a location independent entrepreneur, developing their own company, designing their life and career as they go.
It’s important to acknowledge here that freelancers can be susceptible to less than ideal conditions. The constant hustle of coming up with a steady clientele can be draining for some people, not to mention the harsh reality of dealing with clients who don’t pay. We at Yonder feel strongly that freelance workers, whether identifying as a digital nomad or not, don’t have to make concessions to working remotely.
We believe that anyone anywhere should be able to work remotely if that’s what they want to do. If you have the drive to work remotely, you have the ability to try all the different flavors of remote work to see what fits you and your lifestyle. Your “flavor of choice” may change and evolve over time. There’s a tremendous amount of freedom in simply knowing that with remote work you have the choice to design your career around what works for you. And when you get to choose what’s right for you, it can feel like eating a hot fudge sundae every day!
Resources for Digital Nomads and Remote Workers
Nomad City is a yearly event focusing on location independent entrepreneurs, remote work, and distributed companies. It’s a fantastic opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs and remote workers from around the globe.
Yonder offers a newsletter with weekly tips for remote workers, as well as a podcast where you can learn from remote team leaders. Yonder also offers a round table conference designed to bring together leaders of distributed companies to share and learn from one another.