What does your perfect office look like? For digital nomads, the ideal workplace is on the road: a coworking space in a new and exciting city, a campervan looking out over the ocean, or the buzzing shared space of a youth hostel.
In our post-COVID and increasingly digital world, the opportunities to work on the road are greater than they’ve ever been before. In this article we’ll take a deep dive into the life of a digital nomad, including what it looks like in Australia.
DECLARATION: Please note that this blog article does not constitute legal advice. We encourage you to continue your research as regulations change often. You should consult the Australia Home Affairs website, an approved visa expert or certified tax agent for specific answers to your questions.
What is a digital nomad?
The term ‘digital nomad’ is a relatively new one. It describes a person who undertakes remote work facilitated by the internet and other digital technologies, which can be done from anywhere they have access to the web. These days, thanks to mobile data and technologies like satellite internet, that is literally everywhere.
This means that if your work can be done remotely, you have the opportunity to lead a nomadic professional life.
Digital nomads tend to be minimalists – perhaps more through necessity than choice – and should be prepared to work wherever and however they might need to: in coworking spaces, hostels, cafés, libraries or on transport, getting online using paid WiFi, complimentary WiFi, smartphone data or mobile hotspots.
Why is digital nomad life so popular right now?
There have been three main drivers behind the emergence of remote work in recent times:
- COVID: When COVID hit, offices around the globe emptied out, and all jobs that could be made remote were made remote. It turned out to be quite a few. When COVID waned and travel returned, people jumped at the chance to work on the road.
- Technology: All necessary digital nomad technologies, such as the internet, software, devices and more, continue to improve, making working on the road ever smoother and simpler.
- The gig economy: The rise of platforms like Fiverr and Upwork has seen an increasing number of people become their own bosses and enjoy the flexibility to work and travel.
If you’re up to the challenges of digital nomad life, the rewards are incredible: you can set your own hours, earn great money, and self-fund your exploration of the world.
What countries have a digital nomad-specific visa?
A digital nomad visa gives a person the right to reside and remotely work in a country for a period of time that extends beyond that offered through a standard tourist visa.
As of 2022, a little under 50 countries either currently offer or will soon offer some form of visa that can be used by digital nomads. These visas vary greatly in length, eligibility, conditions and even name, from the Cayman Islands’ Global Citizen Concierge Program to the Work From Bermuda Certificate.
Here are some of the countries currently offering a digital visa:
|Antigua & Barbuda|
Does an Australian digital nomad visa exist?
Unfortunately Australia does not have a visa that specifically targets digital nomads, though that’s not to say that the country won’t have one in the future. With an ever-growing population of digital nomads travelling the world, it’s likely that more and more countries will make it easier for professionals to work and travel, to get them spending their hard-earned money within the country’s borders.
Can I use a working holiday visa?
The closest Australia currently has to a digital nomad visa are the 417 Working Holiday and 462 Work and Holiday visas. These visas allow eligible individuals to enjoy a working holiday of a year or more Down Under.
There is another option however: a simple tourist visa.
Australian tourist visas are usually three months in length (though some can be extended to up to 12 months), so they are shorter than a working holiday visa. They are also subject to condition 8101, which states that the holder must not engage in work in Australia.
But the purpose of condition 8101 is to ensure that Australian jobs go to legal workers. As a digital nomad you’re not taking a job that would otherwise be given to an Australian. You are instead servicing your normal clients, who could reside anywhere across the world.
This being the case, working as a digital nomad in Australia should not breach condition 8101 of your tourist visa, as long as it is incidental to your travel plans. We also suggest that you declare your intention to work remotely on your visa application.
Digital Nomad life in Australia
At the time of writing, Nomad List has the following locations as the best places to live in Australia as a digital nomad.
How much does it cost to live in Australia?
Digital nomads tend to gravitate toward countries where the cost of living is low, as their earnings can go further. Australia’s developed economy means that living, working and travelling here is more expensive (see our backpacker budget guide) than a place like Southeast Asia. That said, thrifty and resourceful digital nomads are often experts at minimising costs while maximising fun.
While these figures can vary dramatically depending on your location in Australia and the lifestyle you lead, a monthly spend of AU$3000-$4000 is generally considered enough to allow a backpacker to live comfortably in Australia.
What are the tax implications?
Qualified Accountant, Craig Gorton (CGMA), says; “If you are performing digital work overseas and are concerned about which jurisdiction you need to pay tax as a working holiday maker, you’re not alone. Generally speaking, you will pay income tax in the country you are a tax resident. In practical terms, if your employer and destination of your income from this particular job is in another country, your tax liability falls within this tax jurisdiction.”
Is the digital nomad trend growing?
As of 2022 there are tens of millions of digital nomads travelling across the globe. This number has grown significantly over the last few years: in the US in 2018 there were fewer than five million self-described digital nomads, but just three years later that number had grown to over 15 million – a three-fold increase.
As mentioned at the top, a trio of factors have led to this precipitous rise. A wealth of technologies, from Zoom to satellite internet, have made remote work not just possible, but smooth and simple.
COVID forced many professionals to lean on technology and convert to remote work overnight. Then, as travel slowly returned, many people had the realisation that they could do their job from a tropical beach.
Finally, the ever-growing gig economy, facilitated by platforms like Fiverr and Upwork, has created a generation of remote workers who have the flexibility to service their clients from all corners of the globe.
What are the best career options to be a digital nomad?
What jobs are great to take on the road? The list seems to get longer and longer every year, and some jobs will require more qualifications, internet and computing power than others, but a few of the most popular options include:
- Marketing: Strategy, search engine optimisation (SEO), copywriting, graphic design.
- IT: Programming, coding, web/software development, cybersecurity, data analysis, UI/UX development, 3D modelling.
- Content creation: Blogging/ vlogging, social media influencing, freelance journalism.
- Education: Remote teaching, EFL/TEFL/language teaching, tutoring, online course creation.
- Other professional services: Trading, market research, consulting, coaching, language translation.
Networking help for digital nomads
The collaborative and global nature of modern work means that many digital nomads rely on a network of other professionals, often digital nomads themselves, to get tasks and projects done. But while leading a nomadic lifestyle grants you incredible freedom, it also tends to take you away from other professionals.
It’s for this reason that digital nomads often seek to network while on the road. There are a number of ways to do this, including:
- Online groups: Search Facebook and LinkedIn for ‘digital nomads [CITY]’. You might be surprised at how many groups come up!
- In-person events: Many cities offer professional networking events designed specifically for digital nomads. Search a platform like Meetup for events in your area.
- Coworking spaces: Perhaps the most organic way to meet fellow digital nomads is where they work: in coworking spaces. A quick Google of ‘coworking space [CITY]’ will serve up your local options.