With technology making it possible to work from anywhere in the world many of us fantasise about traveling or moving to dream locations while funding a livelihood from our laptop.
It’s a lifestyle generally associated with travel writing or high-paid IT and executive positions.
With the growth in outsourcing and virtual work, however, digital nomads (those who use telecommunications technology to combine working remotely with a more mobile lifestyle) are increasingly likely to be average Australians employed in sales, admin, customer service, tourism, education and small internet-based businesses.
According to Christina Schultz, Communications Specialist at Upwork, the world’s largest online work platform, the fastest-growing categories of online work include sales, marketing and graphic design work.
Customer service, administration and writing and translation services are also flourishing.
Per capita, Australia is the world’s biggest supplier of online freelance workers, says Schultz.
Globally, remote work is on the increase with Upwork reporting over US$1 billion in work conducted annually via its platform.
Inspired by his ex-girlfriend – an online translator whose job allowed her to travel the world – 33-year-old Sydney-based Daniel Battaglia decided to start his own web-based business.
“In 2011, after coming back from South America and Europe, I went to visit a friend in Paddington, inner city of Sydney and could not find any parking,” Mr Battaglia recounts.
“I saw an empty driveway and thought, wouldn’t it be great to park there! That’s how Parking Made Easy was started!”
The innovative start-up, which offers a marketplace for people to rent and sell parking spaces including driveways and home garages, enabled Mr Battaglia to travel for eight months in the US and Europe whilst keeping the cash flowing in.
“I previously spent a lot of time automating and systemising it [the business website] ensuring it was not difficult to run,” he revealed.
“I travelled only to big cities where I was sure there would be good internet access. Every city has Wi-Fi which can be accessed from co-working spaces, cafes, internet kiosks and prepaid mobile connections.”
Did the single 33-year old get lonely? “You meet and stay in touch with people online and there’s always new people to meet as a traveler,” Mr Battaglia says.
While working from exotic locations tends to get all the attention, the possibilities for digital nomads include short holidays, visiting family or regular long weekends.
And roaming the globe while working online isn’t exclusive to single people. Just ask 43-year-old Sandra Galvan, a married full-time virtual assistant and parent to sons aged 6 and 12.
In 2015, Ms Galvan, who is based in the Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria, took her family – and her job – with her to Spain for four weeks.
“I must say it had its challenges,” Ms Galvan recalls. “But it worked, and then when I got home I was invited to a girl’s trip to Bali for a week – which I couldn’t pass on. I took my virtual world with me.”
“Once you have your phone and Wi-Fi sorted, dealing with jetlag and time zones is the next challenge to overcome,” she says, adding, “It’s always worth the challenges.”
Like Mr Battaglia, Ms Galvan found co-working spaces invaluable. “The co-working office space movement worldwide is a brilliant network of people, ideas and access to IT. So much better than working in café’s or bars and drinking copious amounts of coffee.”
For those interested in virtual work, online freelancer platforms, employment recruitment sites, industry networking sites and approaching employers directly offer ways to find opportunities.
Is life better for Mr Battaglia and Ms Galvan since they swapped a traditional physical office for a more nomadic life online?
“The website is still a startup so it doesn’t pay as much as my old job in banking and finance,” Mr Battaglia concludes. “But the independence and freedom is priceless! Work and travel is great and I highly recommend it.”
Ms Galvan agrees, revealing she’s earning more money than ever. “The opportunity to work and play is wonderful.”