There are an estimated 21-33 million digital nomads in the USA alone, who are offering everything from consulting and branding services to website and social media support.
This is nothing. By 2035, there could be as many as 1 billion digital nomads.
Yet, the hazard of such a quickly growing segment of the labor force is that it can sometimes resemble the Wild Wild West: lots of digital nomads making claims on what they can do for your business, while clients receive fool’s gold until they better understand the considerations of hiring from the gig economy and the broader questions to ask when hiring a digital nomad.
If you head up a brand or a business and you’re looking to tap into the power, innovation and cost efficiency of the gig economy, there are four key factors you should take into consideration before hiring a digital nomad:
(1) What type of digital nomad do I actually want?
Most digital nomads fall into one of three categories – each with their own characteristics of how, when and where they work:
- The Freelancer: These digital nomads have usually worked for big corporations and have now chosen to determine their own location / life / work balance going forwards as a freelancer. They usually rely upon their own network, recruiters or websites such as Upwork, Fiverr, and PeoplePerHour to find clients.
- The Remote or Expatriate: Immersing oneself into the local culture is high on the agenda for remote or expat digital nomads. As a result, they tend to choose to stay in a single location for a more sustained period of time. This category of digital nomad often has more of a structure in terms of hours and availability, are often employed part- or full-time by one or multiple companies as a contractor. To find clients, they often look for interim roles and through recruitment platforms that specialise in interim and flexible talent such as Catalant (formerly Hourly Nerd) and TalMix.
- The Entrepreneur: Rather than going project-by-project focused on achieving a location / work / life balance, the entrepreneurs that are digital nomads usually have a bigger objective in mind. They have become a digital nomad to both maximise the financial return on their expertise as a contractor, and to locate themselves in the most productive location for them to build a real competing business in their field. Look out for the startups and high growth niche businesses taking on the big consultancies and online recruitment platforms, such as VSNRY. *
(2) Can you hack your digital lifestyle to benefit my business?
The best digital nomads have worked out how to optimise their lives to deliver the best value, innovation, and turnaround time for their clients. While they may travel and relocate around the world, the best digital nomads are available no matter where they are.
Hiring the right blend of digital nomads covering broad geography and time zones enables you to create be productive 24 / 7 / 365 — while your local staff sleep and take weekends off, a network of the right digital nomads can be focused on deliverables and deadlines no matter what time of day or day of the week.
I live in Hawaii, which is paradise by anyone’s definition. Yet, I wake up at 4am so I can start work in line with Midwest and East Coast U.S. clients. Once my morning has wrapped up, I take multiple breaks to exercise and relax. As a result, I work for an extremely efficient 12+ hours per day in the most productive, creative and nourished way possible.
The ability to focus, to take mental/physical/creative breaks throughout the day, and to create maximum output is my dream “work/life balance”.
While my clients can talk to me over breakfast, they can also expect to have something ready for them by the time they check their emails the following morning, because I’ve had the benefit of a time difference to work after they’ve gone home for the day.
(3) Have you used your International travel to work with a range of companies?
There’s a difference between doing an MBA and actually working with companies around the world in real-life.
Is your digital nomad adding an International lens to an otherwise narrow scope for your business?
Beyond time-zone efficiency, a digital nomad has the opportunity to expand their expertise internationally outside your company, industry, city, country, or even continent. Truly adept and highly qualified digital nomads use travel as a means to gain additional insights that can benefit any of the clients whom they work with.
From visiting countries to setting up a home, a digital nomad’s career and capabilities are enhanced by creating meaningful connections around the world. By seeing how companies work in parallel industries and even fostering relationships with key influencers, digital nomads can set YOUR company apart from anyone else.
4) Do you have a truly adept digital background?
Depending on the size of your company, it can be difficult for your in-house team to keep on top of and adapt quickly to the newest technologies. Because digital nomads rely upon technology to work globally, the best ones have identified the hacks to make digital not only for them, but also for their clients.
Finding a digital nomad with an Instagram account is absolutely not the answer you’re looking for.
Instead, you’re looking for a digital nomad with a deeper understanding of digital technology, to the extent that they can identify the right applications for your business, the most efficient way to communicate with you and which platforms will streamline your business operations going forwards. When found, a digital nomad with an adept digital background can become one of the most useful, unbiased resources your company can get their hands on when it comes to transitioning to the newest, most productive software, communication and technology platforms.
The next steps…
As with any new hire…be it a consultant, an agency, or a full-time employee…it’s up to you to do your due diligence for your specific business needs. Every digital nomad operates differently, but asking the right questions will enable you to unlock a huge amount of value above and beyond just completing the job.
The style of business relationship, location benefits, global insight and gaining a technological advantage over competition, are so important in today’s global economy that you’re missing out if you don’t enquire about these aspects when hiring your next digital nomad from the gig economy.
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