Discover Where You Fit in: Digital Nomad vs. Freelancer
Our world is evolving too fast, rapidly adapting to the conditions and advances. Technology, with the subsidiary effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, has created new jobs, positions, and work modes.
The tools and software that the technology provides us have enabled many to work remotely and location independently. This opportunity has led to the emergence of digital nomads and freelancers, which are both remote workers. However, each category exhibits significant differences. Let’s discuss the characteristics that separate these two groups from each other completely, and try to establish which one you fit in.
Digital Nomad or Freelancer: What Is the Difference?
What Is a Freelancer?
Freelancers may be content writers, translators, or graphic designers. Simply put, they're project creators for clients or companies.
They typically work from home or other places located in their hometown. Freelancing usually doesn’t require work-related expenses other than the payment for a decent internet, of course.
What Is a Digital Nomad?
Digital nomads resemble freelancers in terms of location-independent work, positions, and duties. Digital nomads can be bloggers, photographers, or affiliate marketers. The main difference between a digital nomad and a freelancer is the nomad lifestyle involves constant traveling.
Digital Nomad and Freelancer: The Similarities
Digital nomads and freelancers share a few similarities because they both employ a model of remote work. Find below some properties these two groups share in common:
Both digital nomadism and freelancing require solid self-discipline. You’re in charge of your own time when you’re working remotely, which means you need to set a schedule and stick to it to get your tasks done in time and not overwork. Establishing a healthy work-life balance when remote working is not a piece of cake. Hence, both freelancers and digital nomads should employ an unshakeable discipline.
Setting your schedule is very important if you’re a digital nomad or a freelancer. However, both these work models are much more flexible than a regular 9 to 5 job at an office. You can work on your own terms and time as you like. All you need to do is establish a schedule that works for you.
Both digital nomads and freelancers work location independently, meaning they can work from wherever they want: their homes, co-working spaces, coffee shops, libraries, and so on.
What Separates a Digital Nomad From a Freelancer?
Although digital nomads and freelancers seem very similar from afar, there are many characteristics that separate the two from each other. Find below these differences that make digital nomadism and freelancing entirely different concepts:
The most significant difference between digital nomads and freelancers is, of course, the lifestyle. Digital nomads travel frequently; they spend most of the year abroad. Therefore, they don’t typically own houses. Instead, they rent flats or stay in hotels or Airbnb. They have excellent adaptation skills to various conditions, cultures, and environments.
Freelancers, on the other hand, usually work from home and maybe take workations when they feel like it. They are more settled down: they can own or rent a flat and stay in that same place for many years. Although they work remotely, they have less flexibility compared to digital nomads.
Freelancers who work remotely typically set up home offices with a desk, their own computer, and easy access to many homely comforts such as a private bathroom or tea and coffee. Freelancers can occasionally go out and work at a cafe or library, depending on their mood.
Digital nomads, on the other hand, work while traveling and hence, come across more challenges to find a decent workspace. They’re mostly required to adapt to the environment they’re currently in and set up a workspace accordingly. This could be a tiny table in an Airbnb, a dresser in a hotel room, or a shared desk at some coffee shop.
3. Working Online
Digital nomads always work online, whereas the case for freelancers is not necessarily so. While all the tasks of a digital nomad require a decent internet connection, freelancers can sometimes work offline. For instance, a graphic designer may work using only the relevant software which is already available on their device.
Freelancers have access to much better communication tools for staying in touch with clients. First of all, since they work from their home, they have a stable internet connection, which comes in very handy during a video call. Plus, they’re mostly in the same time zone as their clients, so it’s easier to synchronize for a phone call or instant messaging.
Digital nomads, however, may come across unstable internet connections or experience communication inefficiencies due to time zone differences. Furthermore, mobile carriers charge extreme amounts when you make international calls.
One of the differences that have great significance between digital nomads and freelancers is the access they have to stable WiFi.
As mentioned in the communication section, freelancers have constant access to stable internet since they work from the comfort of their own homes, whereas digital nomads can experience unreliable, slow internet quite often, depending on their location.
6. Access to Tools
Since digital nomads are constantly on the move, there are limitations to what they carry with them. Those who travel frequently usually learn and love to travel light because it’s hard to carry around, unpack, and pack excessive stuff when you continually change locations. Therefore, digital nomads take only the extremely essential tools with them and at times may miss some additional tools that’ll make a task easier for them. Freelancers, on the other hand, have rapid access to whatever tools they need in their own homes.
7. Landing Clients and Retention
Being a freelancer allows you to have regular clients and a referral network more easily compared to being a digital nomad. This is due to having more stable standards and being available in the same location for a long time.
Unfortunately, people often expect less consistency from digital nomads. Therefore, you have to work harder as a digital nomad to land jobs and maintain client retention.
8. Meeting Deadlines
Although both digital nomadism and freelancing require great self-discipline, excellent focus, and an iron will, not to get distracted from work, the task is a little harder for the digital nomad. This is obviously because the digital nomad is in a completely different part of the world which they’re excited to see and learn about. I mean, there are so many things to explore outside, and it’s a challenge to focus on work with such excitement and eagerness to go out and experience brand-new things. This urge, from time to time, may make it harder to meet deadlines for a digital nomad. However, the solution is quite simple: prepare a schedule and stick to that!
9. Time Zone Challenges
Time zone challenges may impact your communications with your clients. You may need to turn back to calls in the middle of the night and work during weird hours. Looking on the bright side, though, after a long night of work and a solid rest, you have most of the day to yourself to go out and explore!
The digital nomad life can get lonely, especially if you’re changing locations too often. When not socializing enough or spending time with loved ones, work life can get overwhelming and stress you out, which ruins the perfect digital nomad life experience.
Freelancers, though, are working based in their homes. Therefore, they always have the chance to meet up with their friends or families at the end of a workday.
A piece of advice for the digital nomads, get out more and interact with people: you need it for your well-being to stay intact.
Digital Nomad vs. Freelancer: The Wrap-Up
So, have you figured out where you stand yet? Are you a digital nomad or a freelancer? Or have you been trying to decide which one to become?
Transitioning from freelancing to digital nomadism is quite a challenge. It requires considerable preparation as well as adaptation. However, such beautiful gardens aren’t made by sitting in the shade. When you put your mind to it, it’s not a challenge you can’t overcome. You only need to make a couple of adjustments, and in no time, you’ll be living your best life in the Bahamas or the Swiss Alps, whatever place suits your liking!