There are days when I love my work running this blog and writing as a freelancer. Usually, I’m very glad that I am working for myself, making my own hours and don’t have a boss that I’m answerable to. But there are other days when I hate it and I think how much easier it would be if I were an employee and had a normal office job.
Simple things that I guess most people take for granted like knowing how much you’ll be paid every month, having familiar colleagues you see every day or not having to deal with tax returns seem like such luxuries to me. And sometimes the idea of not having these worries is definitely appealing.
Being a digital nomad freelancer, at least in my case, does not mean leisurely tapping away at my laptop for an hour or two in the morning on some beachfront café then switching it off for the rest of the day, going for a swim and being magically paid a generous monthly wage. It’s hard work, and it has a lot of downsides.
There are of course positives too, which I know are important to focus on. So here are the downsides of being a digital nomad freelancer, each with its own upside to balance things out!
You don’t get paid holiday
Working for yourself on a freelance or self-employed basis means that no one is going to pay you for the days you don’t work. The result, at least for me, is that I end up working at least a little more or less every day and find it hard to justify taking a day off completely.
The upside is, once you are organised enough and have enough of an income that you can take time off whenever you want. You are not constrained by a contractual number of work hours or allowed holiday days and if you want to take a day off to go see an exhibition, bake cakes, hang out with friends or do nothing at all, you can. At least as long as you can afford to.
You don’t have a regular income
Unless you work for say, your former company as a freelancer and have an agreement to do a set number of hours every week and get paid accordingly, you likely won’t have a regular income as a digital nomad freelancer. I certainly don’t. Some months it’s up, some it’s down and most of the time it’s pretty crappy, but then I’m definitely not a hustler. To me, the idea of having a regular amount coming into my account every month is somehow exotic and appealing right now!
The advantage of being a freelancer is that if you are a hustler, or are willing to work really really hard, you can potentially increase your income considerably by finding more work and to a large extent you are in control of how much you earn. As an employee, however, you’re tied to the contract you originally signed and limited by the company’s ability to offer you a rise or promotion in order to earn more money.
You don’t have a fixed workplace
Now, most digital nomads will tout this as the main advantage for working remotely: you don’t have to go to an office every day and work from the exact same spot all the time. Indeed, the flexibility of being a digital nomad freelancer means that you can work from wherever you are, but the major downside of this is just that: you can work from wherever you are.
This can make separating work from personal time difficult, along with the fact that if you are always changing locations, you may not always find the most conducive setting to work from or the most convenient or comfortable setup.
Try actually working for a couple of hours at your laptop while sitting in a hammock. You’ll probably get a sore neck from bending over to be able to read the screen and aching wrists from the weird angle you have to hold your arms at to be able to reach the keyboard properly.
You don’t get regular face to face interaction with colleagues or clients
Working remotely usually means that you are not in the same physical space as the people you are working with or for. If you are especially introverted and hate having to deal with people on a face to face basis, this is ideal, but if you crave even a little social interaction with people daily, then this can be somewhat isolating.
I have found that since I spend my days working from home with Zab (albeit in separate rooms), I am quite determined to organise social activities in the time when I’m not working, which makes me come across as much more extroverted than I used to be.
While I’m not necessarily saying that being friends with your colleagues and hanging out with them in your free time should be the goal of any kind of work, it can sometimes be nice to have that interaction each day without having to go out of your way to plan for it.
You’re on your own for all the paperwork
Bureaucracy can be such a time-suck when you’re a freelancer. Having to deal with invoicing and chasing up clients, submitting your own tax returns and keeping track of all your expenses is not something I relish doing. If you’re organised about it, though, it can become quite straightforward and you can indeed learn some new skills in the process.
These are just some of my current thoughts on what the main downsides of being a digital nomad freelancer are for me. I’m sure there are more, but at the same time I know that I am fortunate to be able to live like this and try not to take it for granted!
If you’re already doing it, what do you find is the main downside of working as a digital nomad freelancer, or why would you not want to do it? From the other side, what’s the main advantage to you and why wouldn’t you want to work for someone else or be tied to a specific location?
Want to know more about how we travel as digital nomads? Sign up for our monthly newsletter and receive our free ebook: “How We Travel as Gay, Vegan, Digital Nomads” packed with all our best tips and exclusive content you won’t find on the blog.