A Remote Worker or Digital Nomad?

Source: Rasmus Jurkatam

Source: Rasmus Jurkatam

What’s the difference between a remote worker and a digital nomad?

One of the few silver linings of the pandemic years is that remote work is here to stay. In fact, 85% of managers agree that having remote workers will become the new normal. So does that mean remote workers will be location independent, traveling the world and clocking in at any time? Well, not exactly. There are some differences between digital nomads and remote workers. Knowing those differences might help you figure out which lifestyle is right for you. This guide will explain the pros and cons of each and how they relate to the Estonian e-residency program.

Who is a digital nomad?

Digital nomads are (or think they are!) modern-day Joanne Kygers and Ernest Hemingways. They pick up their life and set it down where and whenever they like. They’ve simply swapped a battered notebook and typewriter for a powerful 13-inch laptop.

If you are a digital nomad, you do not have a fixed address. You earn money online while traveling. You do not follow a nine-to-five routine because no one demands you do. You have the freedom to explore and have adventures and fit in work when you need to.

e-Resident entrepreneur Bertrand perfectly captures this attitude in this interview about his e-residency journey: “They don’t know what to make of it when I do a video conference from the beach.”

Digital nomad careers

Most digital nomads are freelancers in the tech and creative industries. For example, software developer, social media manager, and graphic designer are popular location-independent careers. Except for those who need to work in a European timezone while in Chiang Mai, Thailand, most digital nomads can work any time they like.

How would you like to work on a hammock in Costa Rica or while munching on a cardamon bun in Stockholm? One of the biggest advantages of being a digital nomad is working from anywhere. If you have the travel bug, you can satiate your wanderlust while bankrolling your adventures at the same time.

Pros of the digital nomad life

Freelancing can be more unstable than being an employee for another company. Plus, you have the added instability of not having a consistent working environment. If your Airbnb’s WiFi goes down, you might have no choice but to work in a noisy hotel lobby. Being in a different timezone and away from your family and friends can be isolating, too.

Cons of being a digital nomad

Who is a remote worker?

As a remote worker, you likely need to work traditional office hours. Some employers may also dictate where you live, too. Yet because of the pandemic, we are seeing remote workers demand more freedom over where they are able to live and work.

Remote workers might not have as much location independence as digital nomads. They might be able to work where they want to an extent, but they might not have total freedom. It all comes down to corporate policies or individual management teams.

Careers offering remote work

Most types of remote work include any career that is computer-based. This includes the jobs we mentioned above in addition to more time-dependent roles like customer service, virtual assisting, human resources, and operations management. When the pandemic caused many physical offices to close, we saw a boom in the types of professions that could be carried out from home, including traditional in-person jobs such as teaching and nursing. Thanks to the advancement in video calls and other online team productivity apps, much of what can be done in-person can also be done online. It all comes down to company demands.

As a remote worker, you get the stability (and benefits!) of regular employment, but you're able to work from places outside of the office. This could be your home, a cafe, or a co-working space. Say goodbye to commuting and eating sad office lunches at your desk. And no one will know if you go to work in your pajamas.

Pros for remote workers

Many companies want their remote workers to live in a certain city or country for tax reasons. Your employers might not even like you going on a working vacation. Plus, you still need to attend virtual meetings and work regular office hours as set by your company. If you're used to working in an office, you might start to feel bored and isolated without colleagues for company.

Cons of being a remote worker

What do remote workers and digital nomads have in common?

You know how all bourbons are whiskeys, but not all whiskeys are bourbons? All digital nomads are remote workers, but not all remote workers are digital nomads. But it is possible for both to be location independent.

Location independent is an umbrella term describing any worker or entrepreneur who can earn an income without being tied to a physical place, meaning they most often work online. If you are location independent, you do not have to live or work in any specific city or country to make money. If you look at it this way, location independence covers digital nomads, traveling entrepreneurs, and remote workers.

e-Residency is perfect for location independent entrepreneurs wanting to start and run an EU-based business remotely. As e-residency is not a residency permit that allows you to move to Estonia, you could say it's designed exactly for location independent companies — register in Estonia but run the business from Bali!

Making the move towards location-independent work

Being able to choose where you live and work is exciting, perhaps even a dream-come-true. Any business that works paperless can be done remotely. If you register your online company in Estonia, you could become an e-resident and gain access to the entire EU. e-Residency supports location-independent lifestyles. With your digital ID card in your pocket, you can carry your business around the world.

What do you need to make it happen?

If you can fulfill your work obligations with a laptop and internet connection, then you can be a digital nomad or a remote worker. It comes down to a question of personality: either you need a close connection to a fixed home, or you're happiest when you're on the go.

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