Digital Nomadism in the news may have reached its apex, with an increasing amount of internet publications finding the “location-independent” life news-worthy. ‘How to Quit your Job and Move to Paradise!’ ‘Run a Successful Startup out of a Bamboo Hut!’ Living as a digital nomad, I often find acquaintances are at a loss as to how it works. The truth is, embarking on the uncertain fate of living out of a 30-litre backpack can be daunting. It requires grit. It requires ingenuity. It requires perpetually innovating your attitude, expenses, and not least, skills. The paradox is that a decision to launch into the digital nomad lifestyle can also be a part of its solution: how to make it work. A detail often glossed over.
The thriving community you become a part of, comprises an ecosystem chock-full of skills, lessons, and opportunities to tap into. So by the very virtue of leaving your cushy geographical comfort zone, your mission becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t have the existing skill-set to survive on the road, you’re in luck. That ecosystem created by digital nomads? It’s also your biggest asset as a freelancer or startup founder.
As a journalist working online, I am acutely aware that news angles, interviewing skills and #hashtag know-how is not enough in today’s rapidly innovating, social media hustling, environment. So I took a course in Digital Marketing offered by the co-working community I work from in Bali. The new knowledge has blasted me out of digital naivité and taught me how to have serious online game.
If you’re an online writer or anyone hoping to gain online traction (which is everyone), it’s no longer enough to expect your content to grow organically. You’re competing with growth marketers, digital strategists, people who build other people’s online audiences for a living while working on their own writing careers. Your online identity? It needs to be tight. Your value-adding content? It needs to be sexy, and constant. You need to execute a coherent brand strategy with informed strategies for every channel you expect to engage. You also need to understand your evolving audience; many are more digitally savvy than you are. (In 2015 millennials drove mobile and multi-platform usage in every market.) Did you know that more than half of all millennials now only browse the internet on a mobile? Among teenagers, it’s a whopping 91 percent.
Not rocket science
“The whole internet game has shifted radically in the last 24 months,” said Ric Shreves, author of Social Media Optimization for Dummies, on the first day of the course. More companies blog now than ever. Those that post at least 15 times a month draw five times more traffic to their site, on average, than their non-blogging counterparts. The quality of your content determines your ranking, which Google geeks have found countless ways of hacking. You should know these.
The good news is there are countless social media management tools, many of them free, that streamline all of these processes for you. The same goes for performance tracking tools. And, as one of my Digital Marketing cohorts quipped: “This isn’t rocket-science, it’s fun!” One week after completing the course, I had grown 1000+ Twitter followers on my mock account that didn’t exist ten days prior, without producing any original content. I also had 100 sign ups to a newsletter, promising content in the same vein as the material I was tweeting out. I had my morning maintenance routine down and was seeing the results of digital collateral.
If you don’t distribute your material, it becomes redundant. Learning the nuts and bolts of digital marketing, you will know to measure, monitor, and distribute content while building monster profiles and presence. Sitting down with a group of rookie digital nomads: entrepreneurs, social media managers, and freelancers, to learn tech in the tropics, was one of the best professional decisions I’ve made in the last 24 months. Turnpoint, the course provider, is a specialised destination education startup and the brainchild of the team behind Hubud – a barefoot, bamboo co-working space based in Bali’s cultural capital, Ubud. The team recognises that millennials today will change jobs an average of 15 to 20 times and that conventional education no longer measures up.
Who needs you?
While many digital nomads focus on growing their businesses and offerings, their digital marketing and distribution is often neglected. This is where a digital marketer can provide immense value. Some other skills you can turn into a part or full-time gig in a digital nomad community are: developing, writing, and graphic design.
If you want to build your location-independent skillset but flying to a tropical island is too far-fetched a reality, there are some excellent digital marketing MOOCs on platforms such as coursera.org. Many of these ask you to develop your projects, which you can use in your new portfolio.