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Being a Self-Employed Digital Nomad is a Real Job

digital nomad in IcelandI created 19 websites, wrote and published two blog posts, made good headway on a book, added a graphic to purchase my digital magazine on VJT, sent off some emails to advertising partners and other associates, and uploaded a video to Youtube.

It was a good day of work. I was sitting satisfied with myself when my wife came home from her job at a kindergarten.

“What did you do all day,” my wife began, “Sit around here in your underwear, watching breaking bad, and napping?”

A reply was useless.

People who have the day job mentality will not understand the shear effort it takes to be self-employed — especially when you work from home on a computer creating a product that is not physically tangible.

It seems as if because I work for myself — creating websites, writing for my blogs, and publishing my own magazine and books — my job is less real. Sure, I generally decide my work hours, my dress code (underwear, of course), mobile office location, and what I do each and every day, but this does not mean that I can just hang out relaxing all day or flip a switch and not bother showing up for work.

The self-employed have responsibilities too — often times even more, because if we slack off we know that the only person we’re going to hurt is ourselves. And who wants to do this?

As put by Sugarrae in the Cost of Entrepreneurship:

Beginning a new entrepreneurial venture means giving up your time now in order to have more time later. There is no five o’clock stop time in the beginning of a new venture. When you’re not in the office, you’re thinking of what you need to do when you’re in the office. When you’re at your kid’s football practice, you’re on your smartphone answering emails (but hey, at least you can attend the practice). Instead of watching Law and Order on the couch at night, you’re on your laptop creating proposals or budget projections. Going on vacation (or attending your kid sister’s wedding) becomes a nearly impossible task because leaving the office for four days for anything not business related is simply not an option.

If I were to take more than a few days off in a row my empire would start crumbling, and when I did get back to the grindstone there would be so much work that I would have to do a sting of hellish 15 hour days.

I know this because I tried it once. Last year I returned to the USA to visit my family.

“I don’t want you working,” my mother told me, “you’re on vacation.”

I would be there for a month, which seemed like an awful long vacation to me, but, as my last visit consisted of me working normal hours, I decided to give it a try.

I did not work on my projects for an entire month, and when I got back to them they were in ruin. Rankings on my site dropped dramatically, masses of readers — who have grown use to daily articles — disappeared and never returned, advertisers felt snubbed that I did not return their emails, partners began forgetting about me, and I found myself literally buried in work. It has been six months since I took that “vacation” and my enterprise has still not recovered.

When I tried to explain this to my family they just shrugged.

I work for myself, how serious can my job be? It’s not like I can be fired or anything.

This is the attitude of the day worker, where job is something you do for someone else in exchange for pay. As long as they keep you employed life is good.

But work is a full on passion for the self-employed entrepreneur or digital nomad. It has to be, otherwise there would be no way to get through the months or even years of working for virtually nothing, the long hours, the frustration, and the ever impending reality that all that you’ve invested into your project could be for nothing. It takes an almost obsessive amount of dedication, balls, and passion to get through the dip, round the corner, and find success in an independent digital venture. Most will fail, it is only the most tenacious who get there.

Perhaps they are right, I do not have a job, I have my work.

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Filed under: Digital Nomad

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 80 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3169 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Puketi Forest, New ZealandMap