I’ve been doing the digital nomad, remote work lifestyle thing for many years. As the concept has only grown in popularity since when I started, I thought I would share a few hard won tips to help you be a successful, happy and productive remote worker.
If you’re looking for a little adventure, to live abroad perhaps and to just overall improve your current lifestyle these remote work tips to help you make the most of your situation. From setting up a proper work station to establishing good communication with your team, I got you covered.
So regardless if you’re aim is to be self employed and working for yourself or you work for a fantastic company that is fine with you being remote, here are my best tips for remote working.
1. Invest in a good quality webcam and microphone
Yes your laptop comes with a built in webcam and microphone but these integrated devices are pretty average and not intended for professional use. You’ll want to purchase an upgrade to improve your video and audio quality.
So investing in a premium webcam and microphone will make the difference for video calls, creating videos and doing voice over work if need be. Conversations become more clear, allowing both parties to have better clarity during the call. These two devices literally help you look and sound more professional.
Logitech Brio – Best webcam for remote work
The Brio is the best webcam I’ve used thus far. Most webcams can record up to 30 FPS at 1080P which is quite good, but the Brio allows for 4k video recording an up to 60 FPS. So your video quality is sharp, smooth and high quality.
You could this webcam for online interviews, Zoom calls and it’s even good enough to record talking head YouTube videos. It does have a decent microphone built in that is slightly better than what your laptop has, but you’re still going to want a dedicated USB microphone.
For the price, this webcam is a massive upgrade compare to your built in, integrated microphone on your laptop. It’s plug and play and just works.
Shure MV7 – Best microphone for remote work
As a YouTuber and top rated Fiverr seller the Shure MV7 is by far the best USB microphone on the market. If you need the absolute best USB mic money can buy, get this. It has deep rich audio, good bass and treble. In addition is also does a fine job of not picking up too much background noise.
When paired with free recording software like OBS that has a noise canceling feature, the audio sounds flawless. Best of of all this microphone comes with multiple types of connections. A traditional USB wire, a more modern USB-C wire and it can connect to an audio interface using an XLR connection.
The only caveat with this mic is that you will need to source your own stand for it as this is not included. The microphone itself can stand upright on it’s own handle, but you’ll want a stand.
2. Get a high quality pair of noise canceling headphones
Unless you’re doing something like customer support or online teaching, where you need a headset with an attached mic, you’ll instead want to get a quality pair of noise canceling headset to block out noises at cafes and co-working spaces.
I’ve used quite a few different pairs over the years and there is really only one pair I keep coming back to. But I’ll share with you the pair that most people like for noise canceling, remote work headsets.
Marshal Major – My go to headphones
If you ever catch me abroad in a co-working space or cafe you can easily spot me wearing these outstanding headphones. They are “over the ear” so they are not large and goofy looking like a lot of noise canceling headphones or gaming headphones.
Marshall Major is known for audio quality and these headphones also don’t disappoint in this regard too. They sound great, have a minimalist design and don’t take up a lot of space in your bag and it comes with a wired connection for your laptop which I prefer.
But if you want to connect these headphones via Bluetooth to your phone or laptop you can totally do that too. The only slight issue I have is that after about two years of use, the leather starts chafe and fall off. So you will need to buy a new pair every few years.
Apple AirPod Max – Best headphones overall
Apple is at it again with creating a best in class product in an overly saturated market. The AirPod Max headphones have it all for the remote working, digital nomad. Great build quality, stylish, excellent sound, you can also hear your voice clearly when talking but they somehow block out ambient noise. This is called “transparency” mode and it’s weird to explain until you experience it.
These headphones come with their own case and can pair with any device via Bluetooth or you can plug the AirPod Max directly into your laptop. Regardless, you’ll be seriously impressed with these headphones. My only issue is that they are not my style, I do prefer the way the Marshall look and in the included case they take up a lot of room in your backpack.
Finally, like all Apple products they are not cheap. Expect to pay a premium for quality. But if you’re a serious remote worker, you need good gear.
Sony WH-1000XM5 – Superior noise canceling
These Sony headphones are stylish, charge fast and sound great. They have multiple speakers built in and sound pretty similar to the AirPod Max headphones. The sound difference is that these produce a bit more base naturally and have a more full, rich sound.
Also, the noise canceling is simply superior on these. If the best in class noise canceling feature is what you need, then you won’t find anything better than the Sony 1000X headphones. Next, these have four beamforming microphones that capture precise sound with advanced audio signal processing and allow for clear hands free calling.
Finally these headphones have 30 hours of battery life for noise canceling and fast charging where you can plug these in for 5 minutes and get a few hours of usage. They also come with added features like speak to chat and quick attention mode so you can pivot from listening to music to talking.
3. Set and adhere to a strict schedule
Sticking to a strict schedule can help you become more productive, organized, and efficient in your everyday life. This is even more essential if you’re self employed and you create your own deadlines. I typically work Monday-Thursday for 10 hours and then scale it back the Friday and Saturday. Sunday I don’t work. I also take mini vacations whenever I want which means I’ll travel somewhere for a few days.
A structured schedule allows you to stay on top of tasks and work smarter rather than harder. With a simple plan laid ahead, it’s easier to maximize concentration and minimize distractions while you work on tasks. This way, you won’t be overwhelmed or feel like your falling behind on tasks. You’ll be able to have ample time for both work and play as needed.
Staying healthy is part of your schedule too
Also consider staying disciplined when following a daily routine helps to instill healthy habits for your physical fitness. Staying in shape, exercising three days a week minimum and eating well will all help fuel your body and keep you feeling great.
When all is said and done, setting a structured daily schedule ensures that all your commitments (both personal and professional) are met with remarkably less stress by removing that notion of “what should I be working on” mentality.
Plan out what you’ll be working on ahead of time
I create a task list of things that need to be done. Some people use Notion, Asana or Trello for project management. It really depends on your personal process but at a minimum you should create a task list so you know what needs to be done.
4. Check for fast wi-fi at your location
Remote does not mean you have to stay home all day. As a self employed expat I’ve lived in Vietnam, Mexico, South Korea and Thailand. One thing that is always the same is making sure you have access to reliable, fast wi-fi.
High-speed internet is essential for remote workers. I personally like and use Nomad List to get an idea of the internet speeds in a given city. Wi-fi today is not as big of an issue as it was years ago as most places have good wi-fi and most countries allow you to purchase some sim card that can also provide unlimited data.
That way, worst case scenario you can use your phone as a mobile hotspot for backup purposes when you’re somewhere that’s less than optimal. This happened to me a few times at True Coffee and Starbucks in Thailand.
5. Get a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) is quite important as a remote worker if you’re going to be connecting to various networks. VPNs allow you to connect securely to the internet, encrypting all of your online activity so that it cannot be intercepted by malicious third parties.
This added layer of security is especially important when travelling or accessing public Wi-Fi networks. You can use your VPN to browse the web safely from these locations, and access your sensitive accounts. Also, if you do end up abroad you’ll find a VPN helpful for watching geo-restricted content.
6. Travel slowly and consider living somewhere
When I was younger, I remember reading about Colin Wright and how he would live abroad in a country for 3-4 months and have his audience vote on where he would move next. Now, as someone who can actually do that (bounce around to a new place every few months), the idea of constantly moving is unappealing.
My advice would be to travel slowly and consider living somewhere then travel in country. You could live in Playa Del Carmen Mexico then visit Mexico City, Tulum or Oaxaca. You’ll be able to build positive, productive habits and properly experience the destination your in.
Long term you may find a spot in the world where you want to call home. For me, when I was in Saigon it felt like home and I would be totally fine with living there.
Also make sure to communicate effectively your time zone to your co-workers and company. A lot of new remote workers are hesitant to do this and would instead like to hide the fact that they are abroad somewhere from their boss and co-workers.
Honesty is the best policy. It’s good for your own peace of mind and you’ll be able to work more effectively knowing your decision to move abroad is accepted by your employer.
7. Long term visa and taxes
If you do decide to live abroad as a remote worker you’ll need to secure a long term visa for whatever country you want to stay in. Some countries are fairly generous with their visas. Vietnam used to offer a 1 year tourist visa to Americans. Mexico issues a 6 month tourist visa (though they are more strict now).
Before moving somewhere, look at your visa options. Most countries tend to issue a 3 month tourist visa which is sufficient for experiencing the country and seeing if it is for you. But if you decide you want to stay there, you’ll need to get a more secure, reliable long term visa.
Also be aware of the tax implications of living abroad. My best advice is to sit down with your accountant and ask how to best prepare because it really does vary on a case by case basis depending on where you go and for how long.
8. Connect with expats and locals
You’ll find that expats tend to be more fun, outgoing people than those in your home country. Just be friendly, hit up local bars, join Facebook groups for you country and attend social events. I made a lot of friends in Bangkok by going to Bitcoin meetups, finding out where people play soccer and meeting guy friend through dating girls.
It can be tough at first, but you’ll get the hang of it over time. Eventually, you’ll find that you have a nice group of international friends in different countries. I have friends in Thailand, Bali, Vietnam and Europe I can all message to meet up.
9. Log off your computer and be in the moment
If your a remote worker for a company then this is pretty easy to do as your schedule is dictated by someone else. But when you’re your own boss, it’s very easy to spend all your time working. Remember, you didn’t go abroad to somewhere beautiful and foreign to just sit in front of your computer all the time.
So make sure to log off and enjoy the moment. You could even do what I do and take mini vacations somewhere in country. Just pick a place you want to go and take a few days and go there. Even better if you have someone to travel with.
10. Figure out your workspace and working style
I personally love working at beautiful cafes with great coffee and wifi. Here I edit videos and write blog posts. At night is when I reply to emails because it’s less brain intensive from my apartment. I have other friends who swear by working in co-working spaces for the community aspect, the quite rooms and the structure of having a place where they go to work.
This takes time to figure out your working style and your workspace. But it’s important to know what you like and where you can be productive. I split my work between recording alone in my room and doing my UX work for Fiverr and then getting out into local places because I enjoy working at various locations.
It helps my productivity because I enjoy have location diversity. But for other people this may be less than optimal. It really depends on the person.
Flow state is when you’re fully engaged and focused on the task at hand. Having the right work space and working style helps you be in the proverbial zone. When in this state you’ll get work done fast and be highly productive. This is why you need learn how you best work as a remote worker and digital nomad.
Remote Working Tips – Final Words
So that’s it for my remote working tips for remote workers and digital nomads. I personally love living abroad and working online. It’s not without it’s challenges but once you have everything in place, you’ll quickly see how you can create a life you love for yourself.