1. How and why did you choose to go nomadic?
I started freelancing in Stockholm seven years ago when I was still at University. Building a business by offering social media and digital communication consultancy, I was often working from some café or from home when not meeting with clients. When my husband was offered a job in Tokyo three years ago, I was able to renegotiate the setup with some of my clients and start working for them remotely. Once in Japan, I also started working for a Japanese startup, and become a travel and tech writer for different Swedish publications.
I love the ability to travel and see the world, to be part of new communities but still have close ties to Sweden. I also think it helps me become even better at my job as a communications consultant – since I learn how better to communicate from different perspectives every day through the people I meet. We are now based in London, which makes it even easier seeing as I’m pretty much in the same time zone as most of my clients.
2. What was it like leaving your home country?
Taking the leap and moving to Japan was amazing, even though of course some days were easier than others. We started off living in a suburb to Tokyo, up north in Koshigaya in Saitama prefecture, with almost no other foreigners and everything in Japanese. Already the second week we started studying Japanese, which helped immensely in becoming part of the society. When we later moved into central Tokyo, it became even easier to feel at home. We decided to stay out of the expat areas of Tokyo and instead settled in Jimbocho, also known as book town.
Leaving Stockholm the hardest part was being so far away from friends and family. But Skype and other social media is great for keeping in contact with everyone at home. Of course, sometimes you also get the sudden urge for something Swedish as well (more often than not, salt liquorish), but then during the first month we made a trip to IKEA and feasted on meatballs, and after that all was good again.
3. What are your biggest struggles? Fears?
Sometimes it gets lonely working remotely. As a person I am very social, and I really love having actual face-to-face meetings with the people I work with. Grabbing a coffee and talking about things non-work related things as well. From London, it is easy to make occasional business trips to Stockholm, but from Tokyo it was of course further to travel. It is so important to quickly find a group of people to hang out with when you come to a new place. In Tokyo, I had the start-up people with whom I worked with twice a week at their office. Here in London I’ve met a group of incredible entrepreneurial women and tend to meet up at co-working spaces to work with them every other day.
4. How are you funding your lifestyle and what projects are you working on?
I’ve now been working as a digital communications consultant for seven years, and managed to build great relations with my clients so that I have a steady income every month. And it’s actually going better than ever. Right now I’m working on expanding my networked agency as well, and work together with other freelancers like graphic designers, video producers and developers. It makes it possible to take on more complex and bigger projects and campaigns for clients. And of course, for the team I work with, it doesn’t matter where we are geographically. I now have great people that I know and trust from both Sweden, Japan and the UK who I can engage in different projects.
I am also part of starting up a digital nomad community for Swedes: www.svenskanomader.se. Here we go more into detail about the questions Swedish nomads would be faced with – like tax related issues, residency, visas, rules for working in another country, etc. We also hope to connect different Swedes working remotely so that they can meet up wherever they are. And also to post remote working opportunities for Swedes looking to pursue this lifestyle.
5. What is the estimated monthly cost of living for one of your favorite locations? What lifestyle does that afford?
Living in Tokyo, the biggest cost is accommodation, which would land you somewhere around $1300 per month. That cost can of course be cut if you live with someone else, or if you look for a shared apartment. Other than that, eating out can be as cheap as $3 per meal if you like ramen and soba noodles. All in all, if you have $2000 a month you could live a pretty great life, affording to eat out and live somewhere central in Tokyo. But you could of course find arrangements for cheaper accommodation, eat less out, and get by at $1400 or less as well.
6. What is your top tip for someone who aspires to earn money online and travel?
You can start small and work your way up. Are you a freelancer already? Great, then try out working from a different city just a week or so to beginning with. Learn more about what you yourself need to stay focused and get the work done. Talk with your clients and ensure them that you will be available and deliver no matter where you are physically. It is easier to find your first working set ups when you are still in you home country, since face to face meetings can be an important part of starting of a working relationship. With that said though, I’ve started working with several clients without first meeting them as well – just handling all contact though phone and email.
If you are employed and love your job, talk with your manager about the ability to work remotely for some weeks or months each year. It is becoming all the more common for employers to allow this kind of set-up – in order to keep their employees motivated. And if not, try and find a company that would allow you to travel. Just asking the question might open up more doors than you think.