What is Digital Nomad vs Location Independent (+3 TIPS To Get Started)

You’ve probably seen all these Digital Nomads on social media, traveling around the world supposedly working from their laptops in a different city every week. No matter what, it’s like they’re always living the high life. 

Are they working? Are they on vacation? Are they secretly just drug smugglers? 

The fact is, there are millions of them. Maybe you’ve heard of some digital nomads living off of just $5 a day in Thailand, or you’ve seen them in coffee shops doing freelance jobs, or teaching English online. Maybe you yourself have wanted to become a digital nomad or location independent and you’re wondering is there a difference? 

Yes there is! Today we’re going to discuss the differences between digital nomad and location independent lifestyles, plus I’ll give you 3 powerful tips on how to get started on the path to living these lifestyles.  


Hi! I’m James Westin and I teach people how to create more freedom in their lives. Specifically Location Freedom. Location Freedom is the term I use to talk about both digital nomad or location independent lifestyles. 

I’ve personally been Location Independent for about 5 years now, working solely from my laptop and my phone. I was a so-called Digital Nomad for about a year, hopping around and living in over 15 cities for about a month each. Right now I live in Medellin, Colombia. I own two online businesses and I love helping people discover how they can develop the same freedom to live and work anywhere they want. Why? Because honestly, there was a ton of stuff I wish I knew when I was getting started that I had to figure out the hard way. 

That’s why I created this channel! To share what I’ve learned. 

So if you want to transition to working online, whether that’s finding the right remote job, or starting the right online business, then this channel is for you. Definitely subscribe and hit the notification bell to be notified when I post a new video every week.

So first question: Are “digital nomads” and “location independents” just buzzwords? What are we even talking about here? 

We’ll start with the term digital nomad. 

If you google the word “Nomad” it says something like: A person who travels from place to place to find fresh pasture for their animals and has no permanent home. 

Being nomadic has always been about traveling and working at the same time. It’s just in this day and age, digital nomads harness technology to earn a living instead of farm animals. 

So, when we talk about digital nomads, we’re talking about people who:

  1. Have no fixed living place, travel almost constant, while at the same time…
  2. Earns some or all of their money online

It’s crazy how many Digital Nomads there actually are nowadays and it’s a growing community. 

MBO Partners did a study on Digital Nomads in 2018. They found that 4.8 million people considered themselves digital nomads. That’s more than the population of Los Angeles! And they also found that there’s also 17 million people who aspire to be digital nomads soon. 

So when I was living as a digital nomad, I would typically spend 2-4 weeks in each city I visited, usually renting an airbnb or a hotel with a few friends. 

Before starting my journey, I moved out of my apartment in Florida. I sold or donated most of my belongings and then I booked a one way flight to my first stop: Vancouver, Canada. 

Let’s be clear, I was not on vacation. I was still working. I just didn’t have a “home” to go back to in between. Home was where I was staying until I moved on to the next place. I was light, nimble, and ready to seek out new pastures with just me and my bags!

You already know most digital nomads DO NOT make their money working in an office like in a traditional job. So how do you work online as a digital nomad?

Digital nomads make money in 1 or 2 ways: 

  1. They work completely online – teaching a language, doing a remote job, freelancing, or owning an online business or agency. AND they might also: 
  2. Supplement their income by finding a job in the location they are living. This depends on their skills and work history, but things like bartender, videographer, day-laborer, just odd jobs that require you to be somewhere and do something, but don’t require a huge commitment.  

When I became a Digital Nomad, I was working online just like I do now, but I always had my old bartending skills in my back pocket, if I ever needed it. 

My main business at the time was a real estate investing company. We would buy, renovate, and resell homes in Florida. Before going remote, my business partner and I spent several years building this business and our team on the ground locally. Eventually we got to the point where we could manage the business completely online. Our team was producing while we worked remotely. I no longer had to be the one personally checking out properties, I could delegate that to someone I trust. Those crucial steps allowed me to become a Digital Nomad. 

Let’s move on to location independence. 

What’s the difference between a Digital Nomad and someone who is Location Independent? 

Well, the difference really lies in Lifestyle Choice. 

Yes, these folks still make money online, and they’re unburdened by a job that ties them down to one place, but they may still choose to stay in one place because it works for them. They have the option to travel, but are not hopping from country to country. 

In some ways, location independent people are actually more free than digital nomads. Location independents can choose to travel or they can choose to go home. Digital nomads can never go home. They don’t have that choice. Or more precisely, digital nomads can never leave home, since technically home is where they are right now.

So, are you like I was when I was in my early 20’s? Back then I was just dreaming of seeing the world, exploring new cities , experiencing new cultures, and learning about myself. 

If so, then you are probably more of a Digital Nomad. You’d love to have the freedom to jump from place to place. RIght now, having a permanent home and lots of stuff is not that important to you. Having the ability to travel without any obligations or commitments is what really drives you. 

Or maybe you are more like how I am right now? You want to have a few home-bases around the world where you spend the majority of your time with a community of people you love. 

These permanent home bases give you a place to travel back and forth from. You own a little more than what you can fit in your 2 suitcases, and you still have the freedom to travel pretty much wherever, whenever.

So here’s how I look at it – because of the recent advances in technology, Location Independence is now a career path today. 

There are millions of people who are working remotely and making their income online right now. And really, all it requires is an understanding of how the online market works, and a certain set of skills to be successful. 

On the flip side, Location Dependence is also a career path. You can choose a career that requires you to be at an office, restaurant, gym, or wherever it may be. Most jobs are location dependent, from librarian, to bus driver, to head coach of the Toronto Raptors. And that’s okay too, as long as you’re doing what you want to be doing. 

Now if you think about it, all of this is pretty new. In the early 2000s, most people were using dial up internet to message their friends on AOL instant messenger. People were not working remotely. Sure you could email, but financial infrastructure to pay and get paid was still in its infancy. 

Now look at us today. Upwork, one of the biggest freelancer companies in the world just came out with a study showing that 57 million Americans are freelancers and work remotely. That’s 17% of the US population. And out of those 57 million people, 28% of them are full time freelancer. That’s about 16 million people making their full time income online as a freelancer. That’s almost four Los Angeles’s! And this doesn’t even  include people who have remote jobs working for companies or people who own businesses they manage remotely.

Here’s my point: We live in a new world today – a world where it is much easier than ever before to provide value to the market and make money online from anywhere. 

So what does this mean for you?

Well, if you are someone who favors experiences over possessions, freedom over tradition, and is interested in a Location Independent or Digital Nomad lifestyle, then I have a few valuable pieces of advice that will help you get started in the right direction on your journey: 

Tip Number 1:  

Decide if you’re in this short term or if you’re in for the long haul 

If you want to spend a year backpacking Europe, being a digital nomad, working in coffee shops, and just experiencing different places without too much concern for making money in the future, then there are a lot of different options to consider.

If, however, you’re at the point where you’re thinking more about being Location Independent as a long term lifestyle, and choosing a career path or business that will allow you to do that, and actually build a future, then there’s a whole different set of options and things to consider. 

Tip Number 2: 

All roads lead to roam. 

There are many paths to the same place. 

The number one thing I see stopping people from successfully making the transition to Location Independence is they don’t understand the marketplace they’re trying to enter.

Many people get sucked in by an ad, video, or someone flashing a Lamborghini or nice villa and selling a course on how to make a million dollars online by starting an ecommerce business, affiliate marketing, or joining an MLM company. 

Next thing they know, they’ve spent $2000 and 3 months of their life building an unsuccessful affiliate marketing business and now they’re out of money and still living at home. 

The people who produce these ads teach their particular path. The thing I never see anyone teaching is also the most fundamental key to the whole process: Each successful career path requires a different set of skills and resources. 

Remember Liam Neeson from the Taken movies? 

He’s not going to have much success building a multi-level marketing business with his particular set of skills. His long career rested on his ability to kick ass. 

So my advice would be to get familiar with the different ways to make money online and then match your skills and resources with the right path for you. 

Start with your own skills, research the different paths you can take, understand any new skills you need to learn, plus the time, the energy and the resources you’ll need to invest to be successful, and then – and only then – plan and execute. 

Here’s a tip: Where you are just starting out, in terms of time, money, resources, and skills, ask yourself: “why is this a good path for me?” Just because I found success in real estate does not mean that’s the right path for you. 

If you want some help with this, I’ll put a link in the description to my Free Blueprint: The 4 Paths to Location Freedom. In the blueprint I go over the only 4 ways to become Location Independent and how to choose a path and evaluate the skills that can provide lasting freedom in your life. 

Tip Number 3: 

Join a community and find a mentor.

We are talking about important things here. Your life, your career, your finances, your future. There are plenty of people who are already doing what you want to be doing right now, whether its being a freelance writer, starting an ecommerce business, or becoming an online coach, or whatever it is you end up doing. Maybe you’re not even sure yet. That’s okay too. 

One of the best things you can do is to surround yourself with people who see the value in Location Independence; people who can offer you their experience and wisdom. 

There are tons of communities on Facebook in the digital nomad and location independence space. I have a Facebook community that my team and I created called the Face Your Freedom Community. It’s a group of people just like you and me, all of us somewhere along the journey to Location Freedom. We all share tips and strategies to create a life of freedom. So if you want to check it out, I put a link in the description of this video. 

Thanks for watching! 

I hope that you  have a better understanding of the online market, how it works, and how to find your path to Location Freedom, whether you’re a digital nomad or location independent.

Don’t forget to check out the links and bonuses in the description below. I left you guys some cool free stuff in there. 

If you Liked this video and got something from it, don’t forget to hit it with a thumb ups so more people will see it. Also, don’t be shy – drop me a comment below if you’re leaning more towards “Digital Nomad” or “Location Independent” and why! 

I’m also coming out with a video next week all about How to Decide Where to Live where I talk about the most important things you need to consider when deciding which city you should call home. If that interests you, be sure to subscribe to my channel. 

I will see you guys next time! 

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