Spending the year travelling, working from a hammock on the beach, not having any limitations of space or time. We often find these attractive claims on social media and in the lives of other people. However, if we’re being honest, we know that our day-to-day is governed by strict conditions and working hours.
The exception? Self-employed people, who can choose that life thanks to the benefits of the digital era, which offers many more possibilities for independence and flexibility. Nowadays, the way that digital businesses operate means that they no longer need a physical headquarters, and that means that, with a good internet connection, a company can work anywhere in the world.
Having the entire planet (or anywhere with access to the internet) as their own office is one of the characteristics of so-called digital nomads. From their platforms, people like Chris The Freelancer and the journalist Anna Codrea-Rado give advice to those who also want to follow this lifestyle.
Chris The Freelancer suggests four steps to becoming a successful digital nomad: define your skills, sell your services or work remotely for a company, eliminate the barriers that take away your freedom, and choose where you want to work from.
Within native digital companies, self-employment is much more common and accepted, partly for the flexibility it offers. To carry out data analysis, manage a website’s content or monitor sales it is not necessary to be in an office. In fact, businesses also benefit from this trend, seen as they can save on office furniture, commercial rents, energy costs… It is also a more sustainable way of working, because it reduces the number of journeys made.
At present, the Spanish government offers facilities for the first two years in which a person is signed up to the special scheme for self-employed workers. During that period, personal income tax is kept at 7% and the first year’s fees at €50, increasing progressively in the second year. In other European countries the costs vary: in Portugal you do not have to pay a monthly amount, but you do have to allocate part of your annual income; and in the Netherlands people pay an annual fee of €50 and spend €100 on monthly insurance.
Although self-employed people in the digital environment work in an independent and flexible space, they must also be protected by a regulatory framework that offers them security. This is one of the main requests from the Spanish Association of the Digital Economy (Adigital), which recently submitted a proposal to reform the law that regulates the self-employed in order to give greater coverage and protection, especially in the innovation sector.
An in-depth study of the United States reveals how the country is adapting the freelance environment to this trend. The 2018 Upwork report states that there are more than 57 million self-employed, a labour force that has grown in the last five years, primarily thanks to technology, since 64% of respondents found their work online.
As a matter of fact, it is technology that makes it possible for digital nomads to exist. Through the use of tools like Skype, it is possible to attend a meeting without needing to be physically in the office. To maintain fluid communication with our customers or co-workers, and at the same time enjoy greater freedom of movement, there are platforms like Slack or Teams. The use of virtual calendars or organisers, such as Trello, allow all participants in a task to keep up-to-date.
Choosing your working environment and offering your skills to different companies are some of the advantages of being digitally self-employed. Today it’s more important how these tasks are performed rather than where. That’s why, if resources are managed efficiently, decentralisation does not have to be an obstacle.