Digital Nomads: Coming to a Community Near You
Karolyn Hart / January 29, 2016
Digital Nomad. The first time I heard the term was two years ago when a sibling announced they were going to become one. What exactly are digital nomads? Well, according to the Instagram posts I follow – they are professionals, with no fixed address, working from the most lovely locations around the globe, and seem to have a healthy obsession with carefully crafted and designed lattes. From what I see, their obsession with local coffee is only matched by their maniacal pursuit of finding a stable Wi-Fi location. (Google digital nomad coffee and you will see what I mean about their love of coffee.)
Yes, you read that correctly. They have no fixed address and they are professionals.
The official Wikipedia and Reddit definition of a digital nomad is that they “are individuals who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner. Such workers typically work remotely—from home, coffee shops, public libraries, and even recreational vehicles—to accomplish tasks and goals that traditionally took place in a single, stationary workplace.”
Let’s get down to why this matters to the development of your community. In a presentation by Pieter Levels (maker of the Nomad List), he predicts that by 2035 there will be about one billion Digital Nomads roaming around this planet we call earth. It’s a fascinating read based on public data that shows a number of factors working together to fuel this massive change in how we work. For example, there is a correlation between a decrease in marriages, home ownership and a workforce powered by freelancers (currently about 30% of professionals are freelancers and that is number expected to increase to 50%).
What will this mean for business and for your community? Digital Nomads will become a target group that you will want to attract to your community. Unlike tourists who only stay for a week, this group tends to settle into a location for whatever length of time their visa will allow. During their stay they like to rent living space and when they are not working they are spending their money directly in your community. As Levels points out, “Digital Nomads have an affect on local income. They spend money, and the wealth goes up.”
Digital Nomads have a desire to really engage with and experience the community they temporarily call home. Become a haven for Digital Nomads and you can reap the gains of their desire to engage with your community. Do it well and you will create an army of ambassadors who will talk about your community as they continue their travels.
I asked a group of Digital Nomads what it would take for communities to attract and engage them. Here are their responses:
“There are three pain points. Living arrangements, visas and work space.
1. Visas: concierge services that help nomads obtain visas and understand what digital nomads are.
2. Work space: promoting co-working spaces and/or creating them. 24 hours is usually the best.
3. Living: Helping nomads procure living space. Rentals in the 1-3 month range.
If a city could provide this info and assist in it, they could attract Digital Nomads (DNs). Further, if a city had a dedicated concierge service for DNs that would be a huge draw. ‘We will help you find a place to live, work, secure visas, and even provide tourist information.'”
Jonathan Wagner, Co-founder 52stairs.com
“Being a Digital Nomad is less about working remotely and more about taking advantage of an opportunity to engage another culture and its people. We’re not all independently wealthy, so most of us have to carry on a living while operating overseas. Technology allows us to do this and the world has never been smaller in that regard.”
E.T. Cook, Lawyer, Developer and Entrepreneur
“Good infrastructure, so easy to get around to other areas to explore or work from. Some kind of active culture either cafe culture, startup scene, etc. Lots of free activities to get involved with to know the city and meet people. Reasonable cost of living and easy access to comfort and needed goods (food, gear, etc.)”
Mandy Moore, Ruby on Rails Developer
“My wife and I have lots of places we’d like to visit, but top of mind is internet quality. It doesn’t need to be super fast but it needs to be reliable. It can’t be dropping randomly throughout the day. Beyond that… I love rock climbing and she loves beaches, so we usually find a place that has one or the other. That’s taken us to some very small, out of the way, towns, or some very touristy places that we’d normally avoid (Tamarindo, Costa Rica is our current location. Really touristy, but decent internet and close to the beach).”
Josh Thompson, Customer Success at Litmus Works
“As a Digital Nomad, I travel alone and with just a few gadgets and dollars in my pocket. What’s most important to me (in order of priority) is, 1) internet connection, 2) ease of getting around, and 3) the community. #1 above is about staying connected with my work and the rest of the world, which is a huge prerequisite (as it allows me to continue my lifestyle of choice). #2 and #3 are about connecting with the world around me, and preventing stagnation. So, in the end it’s all about connection, both internally and externally.”
Srajan Bhagat, Customer Success for Recruiterbox
“It’s a lot more fun to get to know the local culture and get out of the Digital Nomad bubble. In some countries, it’s hard to meet people who want to engage with foreigners on a meaningful level (and I don’t blame them). But it’s always a better experience when you get to spend time with more open-hearted and friendly locals.”
Sarah Ball, Creative Entrepreneur for Satellite Eyes
Where to begin? You will want to start by seeing how your community is being reviewed by digital nomads at https://nomadlist.com/. Then work on creating an engagement strategy with your local businesses (landlords, restaurants, cafes, co-working spaces) to attract. Digital Nomads love mobile so incorporating mobile engagement is an affordable and easy way to help them learn more about your community. You don’t need to spend significant money to do this well and it can be easily included into your other community engagement activities.
Remember, doing this exercise doesn’t just benefit Digital Nomads, it also benefits those that call your community home. An engaged community is a thriving community.