Whether you’re in a co-working space for the first time or have used them for years, you’ve probably heard some of these terms. While it’s easy to confuse them or believe they’re all basically the same thing, the reality is a little more subtle. Each of these terms can mean a slightly (or very) different lifestyle and offers some insights into how that person works and thinks.
Digital Nomad, Freelancer, Location Independent, and Remote Worker:
What’s In A Term?
Someone using the term ‘Location Independent‘ or ‘Location Independent Entrepreneur‘ likely enjoys the freedom to work and live wherever they choose. They’re likely to travel a fair bit, but it’s critical to their work. It’s a newer term with an unfortunate acronym, but certainly, one that’s descriptive to the way some people live and work. It doesn’t tell you anything about what specifically they do as a business, which leads to a natural conversation starter.
The term ‘freelancer‘ doesn’t tell you much about the person. It’s a generic term that tells you how they prefer to work, but nothing about how they prefer to travel. That’s not a big deal but can indicate a great opportunity to connect with them on a deeper level. It’ll be worth asking what they do and how they like to work.
If someone calls themselves a ‘Remote Worker‘, it’s a great indication they have a stable job they do from home, their favorite coffee shop or the co-working space. Their job enables them to work where they like, but being a ‘remote worker’ doesn’t imply anything about how they travel (or even if they like to travel!). People often choose to become a remote worker to have a more flexible life, though remote work may still require them to come to an office for meetings or training.
Being a ‘Digital Nomad‘ is perhaps one of the most complex terms to understand how someone’s using it. On one level, it’s perhaps the trendiest and most common term, so someone using it might just use it because it’s the term others use. The term ‘digital nomad’ implies the person works digitally and lives nomadically. Because they travel frequently, they’re often good at making friends fast, discovering local resources quickly, and otherwise adapting to local cultures.
Another emerging type of digital nomad is a part-time digital nomad. They still work digitally and live nomadically — but only for a portion of the year. They’ll typically spend the rest of the year at their home base of choice. How exactly their schedule works may depend on their work needs, the weather, or the needs of their family. They’ll still use co-working spaces or their Airbnb’s to get work done, but they’ll return home for any number of reasons.
No matter what term you choose, my most recent book can help you understand — and become — a remote worker, digital nomad, or location-independent worker. I use the term ‘digital nomad’ throughout the book, since the goal of the book is to help people travel and work the way they choose.
Becoming A Digital Nomad
Whichever terms you hear in your co-working space, know that someone is sharing a fair bit about their perspective. Use that to get to know people better and make new friends.
Chris Backe (rhymes with ‘hockey’) is the author of Becoming a Digital Nomad, a step-by-step guidebook to testing and transitioning into the digital nomad lifestyle. He’s also a travel blogger, web developer, and game designer.