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Seven Tools Every Digital Nomad Needs

Joanna Heep

December 21, 2020

The nomadic lifestyle isn’t for everybody. Despite that, there aren’t too many people who don’t find the idea attractive in some way.

Think about it for a moment. If you weren’t tied to a desk or an office, if you could work from anywhere you are in the world, wouldn’t that conjure up a few fantasies? Those of us who have that natural wanderlust wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Embracing the Nomadic Lifestyle

With the roller-coaster of COVID restrictions we’ve all experienced in 2020, the digital nomad lifestyle has picked up a lot of steam. More people are taking that leap of faith, but many find that it’s not all wine and roses, especially when you’re just starting out. 

You need to be acutely organized, stay on top of your communication channels, and be ready to respond immediately. Good Wi-Fi is a must – otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for a level of stress that all the white-sand beaches in the world won’t melt away. 

Every grand scheme requires careful planning. Setting yourself up for success as a digital nomad is a matter of ensuring you have an environment that supports and optimizes productivity. Finding the right tools is a key ingredient to making it all work, and today we’re going to share some of our best suggestions.

Top Seven Digital Nomad Essentials

  1. Portable Wi-Fi. Depending on where you are in the world, you might not have reliable Wi-Fi. While that might be hard to believe in this day and age, you’d be surprised at some of the places you end up (even here at home) where connecting to the internet is still a challenge. When you bring your own Wi-Fi hotspot, you’re always assured of a connection. One of the best values in personal Wi-Fi is Skyroam. Purchase their hotspot hardware, sign up for a plan according to your needs (they have pay-as-you-go as well as monthly data plans), and you’re good to go. The Skyroam Solis X has a few other valuable features you’ll like, like a power bank, remote camera, speaker and microphone, and a voice-activated smart assistant. You can connect up to 10 devices on the same plan, so you’re covered for all your gear. 

  2. Solar Charger. Portable chargers might seem like a no-brainer, but when you’re sitting on the side of a mountain in Napa Valley or on the beach in Aruba, an outlet might not be handy. For all your mountainside connectivity woes, a portable solar USB charging station is the cure. BigBlue offers a three-port foldable 28W solar charger that’s compatible with most devices, laptops, and DSLR cameras included. It’s super portable, lightweight, and totally affordable at under $70 from Amazon. 

  3. Scheduling/Calendaring Apps. If you’re freelancing as a writer, web developer, graphic designer, or just about any gig-based job, you’re likely dealing with numerous clients, each of whom has their own issues, ideas, and ways they like to communicate. The busier you are, the more challenging it is to stay on top of every detail, but that’s how you rise to the top in the gig economy. Excel or Numbers spreadsheets are excellent, but if you want something a little more interactive, choosing the right app is a must. Here are a few of our faves:

    — Slack: if you’re part of a remote team, Slack helps you stay on top of projects, even if you’re working in different time zones. You can set up Slack groups for more than one company too. All conversations, tasks, events, meetings, and even video conference calls can be managed within the app. 

    — Evernote is an online organizer where you can create notebooks for various projects or ideas, clip articles and links from the web, and even scan in your passport and other important documents. If you lose something, all your files are stored in the cloud and can be accessed anytime. The basic plan is free, but the premium and business plans offer enhanced features, like team management, multiple users, offline access, and higher upload limits. 

    — Toggl is basically a time clock, but if you have multiple clients and get paid hourly, it’s a pretty nifty way to simplify tracking. You can set up companies, projects within companies, and output detailed reports to submit with your invoices. Toggl starts with a free plan, but $8 a month gets you premium planning features like recurring tasks, team assignments, and a few more bells and whistles. 

    — Trello is a collaborative tool that helps you track everything from the broad strokes right down to the tiniest details. It’s a handy to-do list and productivity tool that even lets you automate tasks based on rules you set. Start with the free version and move on up to a paid plan if you need additional features or customizations. 

    — Asana is another great app (our favorite) that’s as great for digital nomads as it is for remote teams. If you’re working with multiple teams with progressive deadlines, this is the way to get things done. Asana features include task automation, intuitive timelines, and goal-setting. It also integrates with other apps you already use, like Microsoft 365, Adobe Creative Cloud, Gmail, Outlook, Slack, and Zoom. Get your feet wet with a free plan and then upgrade to access more robust features, including portfolios, proofing, a client approval platform, and more. 

  4. A Good Backpack. When you’re on the move all the time, there’s nothing worse than schlepping a pile of gear without a handy way to do it. You want to keep it as compact and light as possible while still keeping your stuff safe, secure, and protected from the weather. The Kopack Slim Backpack is lightweight and secure. You can’t access your laptop unless you take it off. It’s made of anti-puncture, tear-resistant material, and you can secure the zipper on the outside compartment with your own lock. It’s got compartments for all of your stuff too, so you won’t have to root around looking for anything.

  5. Noise-Canceling Headphones are essential if you’re trying to work in noisy places. Bose QuietComfort headphones are Bluetooth-enabled, and they have a built-in microphone too. Apple AirPods are a little more discreet, and they have transparency mode if you want to hear what’s going on around you. 

  6. External Hard Drives are essential to back up your work – especially if you’re working with graphics or audio. Large files tend to take up a lot of hard drive space, and keep in mind you might want to work offline every now and then, so you’ll want to be able to access the files you need. Choose one that’s lightweight but rugged enough to take a beating. Ideally, you’ll want something that facilitates high-speed transfers, Thunderbolt, USB 3, etc. The LaCie Rugged SSD is made for filmmakers and delivers superior performance – plus, it’s waterproof, so that’s one less thing to worry about at the beach. 

  7. Virtual Mailbox. You can’t be 100 percent efficient on the road if you don’t have a virtual mailbox. Sure, you could get a friend, family member, or even a postal outlet to forward your mail. Still, when you’re unsure exactly where you’re going to be, that’s another complication you don’t want to have to stress on. Earth Class Mail’s Virtual Mailbox gives you a legal business address and ensures you get your mail as soon as it arrives. When mail comes, it’s scanned and sent to you as a pdf file. Plans start at $19 per month, and features like check deposits and third-party integrations are available if you need them.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a digital nomad, you know how essential it is to have the right tools at your disposal. Staying connected, organized, and stress-free are the keys to ongoing success. To learn more about Earth Class Mail or sign up for a virtual mailbox, compare our plans today.

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