Has anybody done this? Is it viable? If so, what was it like (how much did you make and what was the daily workload), and would you recommend it? Thanks!
The digital nomad freelancer lifestyle is fine, but one of the things you need to pull it off is a steady base of consulting clients already available, preferably with long term project needs, who are ok with your remote schedule.
If you go the ad-hoc elance route you'll be competing with 10/hr workers who speak English as well as you in countries with much lower CoL who do this for a living while you're scrambling to deal with flight tickets, airbnb fees and wifi drama in foreign countries. Never mind the problems of getting compensated in a timely fashion.
The second time I took an extended working vacation, I had four clients with semi-steady requirements and actually had to turn down work so I could spend as much time on the beach as possible. Way less stressful than hustling for elance/odesk jobs on a daily basis.
TLDR; first you get the clients, then you start the travel. ditch elance and use craigslist / your personal network, the lead quality will be much higher.
I was also considering taking on one big project (maybe 1-3 months full-time), and then traveling without work.
What about trying to make money doing your own thing while traveling? I was thinking about starting a slice of life podcast series where I interview people I meet, and kickstarting the entire project. Or making a photo book of all the places I go. I'd imagine that these kind of projects would be much more effective to execute/promote if you get fellow (remote) travelers on board. Heard of any good ideas like this?
I'm not the only one who thinks like this. Maybe there are more who think otherwise, but I would not bet on it.
Remember - you're not allowed to work in many of these places on tourist visas...
I'd recommend aligning yourself with a half-dozen dev shops. (They may call themselves "Full Service Marketing" firms, or "Agencies" or whatever.) Just look for some shops that are getting consistent clients. Reach out and tell them you're capable of XYZ; many will be willing to farm work out to you if you're good and reliable. They typically don't care where you're physically located....just that you can hit a deadline.
There's very little downside to them bringing you on (the more programmers in their arsenal, the larger they can scale their client base), so your chances are pretty good at landing a gig. But, as each agency is typically "Feast and Famine" (big project followed by lull) you'll want to balance out the highs and lows by aligning yourself with several shops, and always keeping multiple incoming streams. This last part is crucial, always assume that any given shop may screw you over at any moment, keep your income diversified.
I lived this way for several years, and it was a blast.
The one's that check those 3 boxes, we keep on our speed-dial.
Have lots of clients, rotate around them they each inevitably lull.
As someone here already mention, travelling is meant for you get out of your comfort zone and to experience life in a different forum. I would suggest that you save as hard as you can before starting your travels. Once you have started, starting looking for jobs that you wouldn't normally do. You would not believe how much you will change once you have experienced it.
I did that with my wife for about 9mths. We sold everything we had, and travel along the east coast of Australia. We did jobs like vegetable harvesting of cucumbers and pumpkins, labouring at the construction sites, caring for the elderly, caught our own fish for food on a daily basis, slept on the side of roads in our caravan while moving on from town to town. We met many folks that we would have not met in our regular lives. It gives us a different perspective on life. This 9mths was life changing.
I think this was the case with me because I am a full time remote employee. If you can figure out some contracts which take up 3-4 hours per day, and you can sustain yourself comfortably with that much money, you can do this. But you have to be sure you have a nice safety net. Getting stuck abroad with no money is not fun.
Traveling is fundamentally about meeting new people and getting outside of your comfort zone while experiencing a new culture. If you haven't done long-term travel before and particularly if you're staying in hostels, there will always be things to do and new people to meet. You're having the time of your life -- the last thing you will want to do is pick up your laptop and start coding.
Also, it depends on your destination(s) and your connections along the way.
If you don't mind traveling cheap and light to cheap countries and live off a traveling bag on student dorms and the like, you'll be ok.
It was a really nice experience for me but it was more of a working vacation and by the end of the second year I was already tired of the working part: uncomfortable hours, environment and gigs. I was glad I finally got back home, earning the good bucks on a regular schedule again.
P.S: The "wifi drama" is true, and no better way to express it.
I've been living the "digital nomad" lifestyle for the last year, but TBH I was really lucky to land a full-time remote role with a Bay Area startup.
I was freelancing for the first few months though - I found it was really stressful trying to travel & find projects at the same time. When you arrive at a new location, it's difficult to sit in a hostel foyer coding when all you want to do is explore.
It's definitely possible to do, but just be aware of how much self-discipline you have. You can make this easier by staying in one place for longer periods, so that you don't have to feel like you're missing out if you stay in working all day. As a positive, I've actually been able to save a lot of money, even whilst travelling, just by living in cities with lower cost of living. I'm planning my next move to Hoi An, Vietnam right now. This link might be useful: https://nomadlist.io/
Also, I wouldn't recommend Elance et all for freelancing. Assuming you have some experience, I think you'd be a lot better off trying to find long-term, remote gigs. Here are some places for remote jobs:
http://workinstartups.com/job-board (filter by 'Anywhere')
If you can find a good client relationship I would fully recommend it; however, I think it would be pretty rough doing it scrounging on E-lance. It would put a good strain on the joy that is traveling.