A reliable online income lets you enjoy ongoing adventures, financially supporting yourself as you explore the globe. But for the would-be nomad who’s yet to hit the road, one crucial hurdle remains: finding a remote digital nomad job that pays.
The good news is that life in low-cost digital nomad hotspots like Bali and Chiang Mai (plus a myriad of other lesser-known destinations) doesn’t require a high-paying job. For a meager monthly salary of $1000USD or so, you can live a comfortable existence and explore exotic cultures as you go.
Even among the most common digital nomad jobs- that’s certainly attainable. Entry-level remote workers can enjoy cool co-working spaces and trendy cafes throughout South East Asia and other low-cost cities. With a little patience and perseverance, you too could join the fray.
In this article, we’ll give you some tips on how to snag an entry-level remote job as a digital nomad. By starting from the bottom and working your way up through these roles, you’ll earn enough funding to start (and sustain) your digital nomad adventure.
Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) is the career path of choice for many budding young nomads for two simple reasons: it’s easy to get your foot in the door and pays well from the get-go. While other entry-level positions—copywriting, translations, etc.—require you to develop a decent portfolio before the money starts coming in, teaching English sees you earn a substantial sum right off the bat.
Best of all, the prerequisites for the position are astonishingly low. If you’re a native English speaker, there’s a Chinese ESL institute out there that’ll hire you tomorrow for a decent wage. Should you have a fancy college degree or an official TEFL certificate, a better company will hire you straight away and bump up your pay grade.
Teaching English is a great entry-level job for digital nomads because it doesn’t require years of work experience to land the job, and it relies on a skill that you naturally have.
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Depending on your qualifications (college degree / TEFL), you can expect to earn anywhere from $15-25 per hour on your first day—that’s stacks more than you’ll get from other entry-level positions right off the bat.
On the downside, many teachers find the work gets tiresome after a while. You’ll also need to stick to a strict schedule (don’t you dare miss a class) and have reliable access to high-speed internet and a quiet workspace—easier said than done in some places.
Worst of all, the pay grade tops out at about $25-30 p/h, and you’ll struggle to suffer through more than four hours of class a day (burnout is real).
It’s a fantastic way to sample the digital nomad lifestyle but it’s not the ideal long-term career path.
Translating is a viable way to crack into the digital nomad life, but it comes with one obvious caveat: you need to be at least bilingual (duh). However, what’s not so obvious is your second language proficiency doesn’t need to be all that high.
Translators typically translate from a second language (the source language) into their native language (the target language). As it’s relatively easy to comprehend the content of a text, you don’t need to be 100% fluent in your second language. Reading comprehension becomes even less challenging once you learn to master tools like Google Translate and Word Reference.
While you should speak your second language well—say, upper-intermediate or above—you needn’t master it to a C2 level. What you do need, however, is strong writing skills in your target language. Expressing yourself eloquently in the written word is far more challenging than reading, after all.
If you find yourself to be multilingual- either as a result of your upbringing or maybe plain ‘ol hard work- then translating is an excellent entry-level job for a digital nomad lifestyle. If you are only translating documents or audio, then you don’t need to participate in meetings or phone calls, enabling you to work a flexible schedule.
Translator jobs are most prevalent in the freelancer ecosystem, so checking out websites like Freelancer or Upwork is your best bet in finding those gigs.
Translator Pay Rate
The drawback is you’ll earn an absolute pittance until you’ve developed your skills and built up a respectable portfolio.
Start by offering ultra-cheap translations on freelancing websites to practice the art and earn favorable reviews. An absolute rookie would struggle to command rates above two cents per word, which works out to be $5-10 per hour or so (we did say a pittance).
But you won’t be stuck on the bottom rung of the ladder for long. With time, you’ll become faster, more articulate, and more accurate in your work, leading to high paying clients and a respectable hourly rate. Should you stick with it and specialize in a technical field—medicine, science, engineering, etc.—you could end up making big bucks in a few short years.
Like translating, copywriting doesn’t require any technical skills. You don’t need a college degree or a certificate from those dubious online freelance writing courses (trust me, don’t even bother).
What you do need are decent writing skills in your native language. Even a skerrick of natural talent will do; the lion’s share of your penman prowess will develop with practice over time.
If you want to kick start a career as a remote copywriter, you need to write all the time. Pretty much every day. Create a free WordPress blog and pump out content on any topic you like. Once you’ve got a few pieces you’re proud of, pop them into a portfolio and use them to apply for gigs on freelancing sites.
Copywriting is an ideal entry-level digital nomad job because there is not much back-and-forth communication required to get the work done, so you can work whenever you like as long as you meet any required deadlines.
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You’ll earn a pittance for your earliest gigs (3-5 cents per word is standard for a rookie) or may even feel the need to work for free at first. But with hard work and a little hustle, you’ll weave your way into well-paying roles, especially once you learn to master a niche.
And speaking of hustle, making money as a copywriter doesn’t have much to do with how well you write. It’s more about how well you sell yourself. Keep upping your rates and applying for higher-paying gigs—undervaluing your services is a sure-fire way to stagnate (the same applies to all freelance professions).
Best of all, even though copywriting could be considered an entry-level position, it doesn’t destine you to a life of poverty. The top copywriters make a mint, whether they’re on a steady salary or freelance.
While translation and copywriting require strong writing skills, transcription is more about how fast and accurate you are on the keyboard. The role involves listening to an audio file and typing out the words you hear, often with strict formatting requirements to adhere to.
Attention to detail is paramount in the field, as typos and misunderstandings will see clients lose faith in your work. You also need to bang out words at breakneck speeds to be profitable—this isn’t a good job for anyone who struggles with RSI.
If you’ve got a respectable WPM (word per minute) typing speed and have the patience for such work, start by advertising your services on the big freelance websites. As always, you’ll earn next to nothing at first but get the chance to charge extra as you progress.
Doing transcriptions is yet another entry-level digital nomad-friendly endeavor. Since the job has straightforward deliverables, it doesn’t require complex collaboration with others. As a result, it provides you with flexibility to work when you want.
Transcriptionist Pay Rate
Because the job is super strenuous and repetitious; few people stick with it long-term. Nonetheless, it’s a super-easy way to step into the remote working world, and it shouldn’t take too long to reach a rate of $20 per hour or so. Specialist transcriptions, such as medical work for hospitals, can see you command much more.
As the workforce moves ever closer to the remote realm, virtual assistants are replacing the traditional in-house secretary. And for the would-be digital nomad, the good news is you don’t need a well-stocked resume to get your foot in the door.
Many low-paying employers will take on staff with zero qualifications or experience, but you’ll need strong communication and organizational skills to make it in the role.
So what does the position involve? It’s usually a bunch of menial tasks your boss doesn’t have time for—think booking flights, basic admin, internal communication, and online research. Later, you may be given more complex assignments, at which point it’s probably time to raise your rates.
Being a virtual assistant is a bit more involved than the other entry-level digital nomad jobs because it requires more responsive communication. While it’s completely feasible to work as a VA and embark on digital nomad adventures, you’ll want to be extra careful to ensure that you always have a stable internet connection and can hop online when your assistance is needed.
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Veteran virtual assistants make much more money than newcomers. But if you base yourself in a low-cost destination, then an entry-level position should be enough to cover the bills. The exact rate varies—expect anywhere between $10 and $20 per hour if you’re starting out.
On the downside, you’ll need to live in a similar time zone to your employer and be available at their beck and call (during office hours, anyway). You might also have to compete against English-speaking applicants from developing countries like the Philippines—and they’ll always beat you on price.
If you’re a people person, then a customer service role could be a viable remote job for you.
The position involves dealing with customers, so you need excellent verbal communication skills and a knack for deescalating complaints. If you don’t have the gift of the gab, some customer service positions work exclusively on email and live chat.
Most employers don’t insist on any formal qualifications. And while experience helps, it’s possible to land a position without any. Should you already have relevant expertise—i.e., an IT background in a tech company—you should find it relatively easy to land a role.
As an entry-level digital nomad job, this one is less convenient than the aforementioned. The employer will dictate your working hours, and you’ll have to stick to them without exception. If the job is a VoIP-based position (rather than text-based chat support), you need fast, reliable internet and a quiet workspace at all times.
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Last and least—it’s the least lucrative and interesting job; hence we’re putting it last—is data entry. Online data entry positions abound, both freelance and full time. The position requires exceptional attention to detail and the ability to perform repetitive tasks.
So what can you expect? You’ll be manually copying data from one platform to another. For hours and hours on end. As far as entry-level digital nomad jobs go, this one isn’t a bad choice for those who enjoy working solo, and don’t want to be bothered by colleagues or customers.
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The big downside to data entry isn’t the fact it’s boring, but that the pay is universally low. Because the job doesn’t require expertise or strong English skills, it’s dominated by third-world workers who get paid a pittance (sad but true). The pay rate is expected to be around $13 to $18 USD.
Nonetheless, lucrative data entry positions for native English speakers pop up occasionally, so it’s not worth writing off the prospect altogether.