Starting a Digital Nomad business
The barriers to entry for international travel and starting a business are all but gone, and digital nomads are at the forefront of combining these two areas to create successful enterprises that can operate from anywhere in the world.
Whether it's running a dropshipping business from Bali, developing a successful software application from Rio De Janeiro or selling digital products from Seoul, there's vast opportunity for those with ideas, vision and an entrepreneurial spirit.
Of course, it's not all new horizons and worldwide customers — running a digital nomad business can be a big challenge. That's why we put together this guide to give you all the information you need to start a digital nomad business and enter the world of the adventuring entrepreneur.
Digital Nomad business formation guide
In this guide, we'll explore everything you need to do to work remotely through your own digital nomad business.
Understanding the world of the digital nomad
Information on taxes and finances for your digital nomad business
Key digital nomad statistics
Hiring remote employees
Questions you should ask to see if you're ready to start a digital nomad business
Checking off marketing and administration tasks
The best legal structure for your new organization
Resources for your digital nomad business
The various rules and regulations you will need to follow
And much more
By the time you've read through our complete digital nomad business guide, you will have all the information you need to set up and manage a thriving venture. Let's get into it.
What is a Digital Nomad?
So, what is a digital nomad business? There are lots of definitions, but we think a digital nomad business is one where you can run the business from anywhere in the world with an internet connection, sometimes even when you're on the road.
For example, a digital nomad business might be:
In fact, the only requirement to being a digital nomad is the ability to work remotely from anywhere. That means developers, creatives, sellers, marketers, freelance writers, gig providers and more can all be digital nomads. The idea of the "gig economy"and the digital nomad go hand-in-hand.
Key Stats about the Digital Nomad Life
So, what are the stats and background information on digital nomads and how these changes in business will impact the way we work? Glad you asked...
Questions to Ask Before Becoming a Digital Nomad
Is Digital Nomad Entrepreneurship For You?
Being a digital nomad has big risks and big rewards. On the risk side you have to deal with a large amount of uncertainty in terms of cash flow, projects, clients and more. On the reward side, you get to work from anywhere, succeed entirely on your own merits and have the satisfaction of creating a business that helps others be successful.
What Are the Main Skills, Expertise and Experience to be a Successful Digital Nomad Entrepreneur?
If you want to be successful as a digital nomad, here are the main skills you need to have:
Jobs You Can Do From Anywhere
If you want to be a digital nomad, the most important question you need to ask is what type of business you can successfully run remotely. If you already have professional skills like coding and development, design, writing, video production or photography, these are all perfect candidates for turning your skill into a digital nomad business and traveling the world while working.
If you don't have a skill like that, you will need to find a type of business you can run from any location. Those types of businesses are not likely to be service-driven, as you would have to learn to carry out the service at the same time as starting up a business — not an easy task.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ideas for those types of businesses — selling online through marketplaces like Amazon or eBay, creating information products, affiliate marketing, blogging, social media marketing and more.
If you're stuck for inspiration, here's a list of more than 500 ideas for a digital nomad business.
There are also plenty of marketplaces where you can offer freelance services as a digital nomad — some of the most popular are UpWork, Freelancer, Fiverr, 99 Designs and Toptal. Big gig economy marketplaces like Airbnb, Uber, Lyft and TaskRabbit can also provide plenty of opportunities. Just because you are offering services through another business marketplace doesn't mean you're not a business in your own right.
Finally, becoming a digital nomad comes with its own set of challenges. You must be extremely focused and very flexible, roll with internet delays and be comfortable with living and working in an isolating environment.
You can also find additional guidance in understanding if a digital nomad business is right for you. In this blog post, we'll help you analyze if your digital nomad business idea is a good one, conduct market research and build a business plan.
Starting Your Digital Nomad Business
Now you have all the background information for your digital nomad business, it's time to make it into a reality. That starts by choosing the right structure or "legal entity" for your business. In the US, there are four main business structures. They are:
Setting up a Business Entity as a Digital Nomad
As a digital nomad, you will have some unique circumstances for how you're going to set up your business. To start with, we recommend an LLC — the combination of a low administrative overhead and liability protection is great for your peace-of-mind. Secondly, you will probably want to take advantage of our Registered Agent service - it means there will always be someone available to receive official documents, even if you're out of the country.
Registered Agent service
Use Incfile’s Registered Agent service so that there’s always someone available to receive official documents, even if you're out of the country
Next, you have more choice than most entrepreneurs on which state to form your LLC in. If you're going to be in your home state and running your LLC from there for any period, that's the best place to base it. If not, you can choose to form your LLC almost anywhere. In those cases, forming it in a business-friendly state like Delaware could be a great idea.
Finally, think about the addresses you're going to use in the U.S. for your company. Could you use a parent or relative's house? Do you want to receive documents other than official legal documents (that would go to your registered agent) there? Answering these questions ahead of time will make setting up your digital nomad business much easier.
Taxes when Working Remotely
Living and working outside the U.S. does not exempt you from having to pay U.S. taxes.
There may be extra filing requirements if you hold more than $10,000 in a non-U.S. bank or investment account.
If you are out of the U.S. for 330 days a year, you may be able to get tax relief on some or all of your earnings. This includes the "Foreign Earned Income Exclusion," which lets Americans who live abroad exclude the first $100,000 or so that they earn from U.S. tax liability.
Foreign housing may also be deductible in certain circumstances.
Check with the government in the country where you're earning money to see what your tax filing and liability is going to be there and hire a local accountant
For more information on the advantages and disadvantages of different types of businesses, please see our in-depth guide.
We’ve got a complete guide to everything you need to do to set up an LLC, and we can start one for your consulting business today. LLC formation does vary from state to state, but we’ve got you covered, wherever you are.