12 hacks that every digital nomad needs to know

Written by Xolo
on October 16, 2017

Digital nomads make life look easy. They’re able to travel the world, while running their own businesses with little more than a laptop and phone. Think you can do that too? Well, you can if you have the right tools.

Here are twelve of the smartest solutions used by digital nomads to set up and run their location-independent businesses.

Hack 1: Acquire digital residency to become location independent

Digital nomads don’t need or want a fixed residency in any one place. That can make life tricky, especially when it comes to personal and business administration.

Where do you register your business? Where do you open a bank account? What currency do you trade in? How do you get paid? What legal framework will you use? How do you pay taxes?

Well, the small northern European nation of Estonia has a novel solution that is very popular with digital nomads.

The Estonians have developed the world’s most advanced digital infrastructure, yet there are only 1.3 million of them to use it. As a result, they now offer e-Residency so that you can base your business and finances there (inside the European Union) no matter where in the world you live and work.

It’s so useful that an increasing number of Brits are using Estonian
e-Residency to beat Brexit

You can apply for Estonian e-Residency here, then you’ll receive a secure digital signature, which makes it easy to manage everything online.

Hack 2: Build a high performing website at a low cost

Photo by Parker Byrd on Unsplash

There are few companies in the world today that don’t need a website. As a digital nomad, it’s definitely a good idea.

Not so long ago, building a website would have required either a large investment of money or good technical skills and a lot of time. Today however, you can keep costs low and build your own website using a range of providers.

Some of the best for digital nomads include Wix, Squarespace, Weebly and Shopify. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t still make money as a digital nomad by designing websites on these platforms for others.

Hack 3: Find a great domain name that ends with .co

Can’t find the right .com domain name for your new business? Try .co instead. It’s used by leading technology companies and innovative startups, yet there are still far more options available.

The funny thing about .co is that it was originally the domain name for Colombia. However, the country realised others around the world would want to use it too. In response, search engines like Google now ensure that it ranks globally instead of assuming that it’s a Colombian business.

For more advice on naming your company and finding the right web address, check out these 7 highly practical tips for choosing your company name as a digital nomad or freelancer.

Hack 4: Set up a limited liability company inside the EU

Photo by Pedro Gandra on Unsplash

Once you have Estonian e-Residency, you can set up a company there and run it from anywhere in the world.

Fortunately, an Estonian company is also an EU company. That means you’ll have easy access to the world’s largest single market, trade in a stable currency and benefit from the EU’s legal frameworks and protections. It’ll also reassure clients you work with both inside and outside of Europe.

The best recommendation for digital nomads is to set up a limited liability company because it offers you financial protection, a more professional image and simple taxes.

That can be daunting for many digital nomads, but Xolo provides a turn-key solution for you to set up a location independent company with a bank account. They handle incorporation, accounting, taxes and compliance.

Xolo specialises in microbusinesses. These are companies with one employee — you — so they can provide low cost business administration at the right scale for digital nomads. Read 9 reasons every digital nomad needs Xolo to find out more.

Hack 5: Find your clients globally

Now you have a location independent company it’s time to find some clients to hire you.

You can do that the traditional way by networking offline, but there are also growing online marketplaces where clients are already keen to hire digital nomads. These sites also give you a platform to showcase your work and build a reputation based on reviews from people you deliver work for.

Freelancer is the biggest site for freelancers to find work, although UpWork is also gaining popularity since it was created through the merger of oDesk and Elance.

If you’re looking to further your freelance career, check out Hubstaff Talent. Hubstaff Talent is a free resource where businesses and freelancers can connect — no markups and no fees. Once you create your profile, businesses will be able to search for you based on skill, experience, location or availability. Hubstaff Talent allows businesses to contact freelancers directly, so there’s no dealing with a third party or middleman in order to communicate. Freelancers can also apply for remote positions on the Hubstaff Talent Remote Job Board.

Hack 6: Show your clients how hard you work

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Time is money and it’s important that you keep track of both. You’ll want to ensure you’re charging your clients enough, but also reassuring them that they’re getting value for money. Time trackers are very valuable for this, although it can be tempting to work without one just to make life easier. That’s why you need a time tracker that’s so simple you actually
use it.

Toggl provides a simple time tracking system that’s very popular with digital nomads. It’s very powerful and has great features, like the ability to generate charts for your clients about how you spent your time.

Hack 7: Get paid across borders

Like you, your clients could also be anywhere in the world so you need to ensure you have an easy way to get paid no matter where you both are.

International bank payment fees can be expensive and cut into your income. You may not even know how much you’re really being charged either, as banks often hide their international payment fees in secret markups by presenting misleading exchange rates.

In addition, the complexity of paying your invoices through banks and changing currencies could put off some clients and lose you business. However, Wise lets you do it up to eight times cheaper than using your bank and it’s much simpler too.

You can now get a borderless account, which will let you hold money in 28 different currencies, and gives you local bank details for British pounds, euros, American dollars and Australian dollars. This means you can get paid locally in all these currencies, so money never crosses any borders, and you don’t lose out to any eye-watering fees.

Learn more from our Ultimate Guide to e-Residency and Borderless Business Banking — Your Options.

Hack 8: Collaborate with others

You may not be physically working alongside others, but digital nomads still work closely with clients and teams of fellow digital nomads. For that reason, it’s a good idea to have a task management tool you can use together.

Asana is the most popular. It’s a really simple way to create and delegate tasks so you can keep track of who’s delivering what and when.

It’s also free for teams with fewer than 15 people so digital nomads are unlikely to ever have to pay for it.

Hack 9: Ditch the office


As a digital nomad, you no longer have to commute to the same building at the same time each day. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons that office workers dream of being digital nomads.

The question now is where to work instead. You can go anywhere in the world, but there are some things you still need, like reliable wifi, working plugs and perhaps a good cup of coffee.

Whenever you arrive in a new city, you can check out WorkFrom to see which places offer the best environment to suit you. They’re all rated by digital nomads so make sure you add your own ratings after visiting to help others.

Hack 10: Ditch the other Office too

Microsoft Office doesn’t come cheap, but Google now offers an alternative collection of programmes that are free.

They’re available on Google Drive, which is linked to your Gmail account so you can access them anywhere at anytime. Instead of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, you’ll have Docs, Sheets and Slides.

In addition, Google Drive is designed for collaborative working. You can share the documents with your clients or colleagues so they can edit the same live document.

Don’t worry if they don’t use it though. Your clients can simply download a Microsoft Office version from the same link you send them, although many digital nomads report that their clients do increasingly prefer collaborating on Google Drive.

Also, it automatically saves everything so your days of losing unsaved work are over.

Hack 11: Keep in contact

Photo by paul itkin on Unsplash

There are now few places in the world where you can’t keep in constant communication. Even planes and subways are adding wifi. That’s not always a good thing, of course.

Managing an inbox can take up a lot of your valuable time though. There’s also now a huge number of ways that people can contact you, which can feel overwhelming.

That’s why many digital nomads use Slack. It’s a smart messaging platform designed to cut down emails and integrate all your existing communication channels. It means all your messages are in one place and you can keep track of what’s happening without the hassle that email creates.

Download Slack for your laptop and your phone. You can even check out a special area for digital nomads called #NomadList for more tips.

Hack 12: Fly away at the best price


Digital nomads love low cost flights, although unfortunately so does everyone else.

There’s a lot of disagreement over how to actually find them though. Some people say you should book as early as possible. Some say as late as possible. Some people will even advise you to delete cookies on your computer so the airlines don’t know how desperately you are searching for specific flights.

The truth is that none of this advice will help. Instead, log onto Skyscanner and you can usually find the best deals seven weeks in advance and on a Tuesday afternoon. It’s that simple.

It also helps to stay flexible. Instead of searching for specific dates and cities, select ‘whole month’ and ‘nearby airports’ then keep track of where the very best prices are.

Read Skyscanner’s 7 secrets of finding the best low cost flights.