Digital nomads have billions to spend. Entrepreneurs are cashing in.

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When Johannes Voelkner founded Nomad Cruise in 2015, his primary aim was to tackle loneliness. It was a problem he was well familiar with as a digital nomad; after five years on the road, he’d struggled always starting from scratch to meet people in new places.

Nomad Cruise is the first mobile conference for digital nomads. It combines skill-sharing, networking and celebration while travelling through breathtaking corners of the globe. And German-born Voelkner, 40, says it’s achieving his aim.

“Once we arrive at the new destination, many people end up travelling together, and we organize reunions in beautiful destinations to build and foster this community,” he says. Tickets for the company’s upcoming 12th sailing – a 10-day transatlantic crossing from Spain to Brazil in December – start at around €1,000 ($1,073; £860). To date, upwards of 2,500 remote professionals from more than 80 countries have joined Nomad Cruise for work and wanderlust.

Beyond solving a problem, Voelkner is making money. His revenue comes from negotiating deals with cruise companies and adding travel experiences and onboard programming for new and established remote workers. A record 600 participants are expected on the upcoming transatlantic cruise, and his revenue to date nears €2m ($2.13m; £1.72m).

There’s more to being a digital nomad than the images of coconut-toting workers sprawled on beaches with laptops. And a quiet network of businesses is tapping into the need for resources and logistics that make the lifestyle possible. They’re setting up nomads with virtual coworking spaces, events, mindset coaching and practical assistance to help them tackle the issues many nomads struggle with.

The virtual educators

Digital nomads are a big group – and they are spending money.

According to US-based consultancy MBO Partners’ 2023 Digital Nomads Report, 17.3 million US workers are currently digital nomads, and 24 million aspire to join them in the next two to three years. One 2023 survey estimates digital nomads contribute $787bn to the global economy annually.

As the popularity of this lifestyle rises, so do the opportunities for those who cater to them. SafetyWing, a fully distributed startup that provides travel health and medical insurance for remote workers says they made $24m last year. Selina, a global chain of nomad-friendly hostels and hotels with co-working facilities, opened 18 new locations in 2022. Its FY 2022 earning report indicated the company’s revenue jumped to $183.9m – growth of a staggering 98.3% from FY 2021.

Nomad Cruise founder Johannes Voelkner says his revenue to date nears €2m (Credit: Courtesy of Nomad Cruise)

Rowena Hennigan, a global expert in remote work and digital nomadism and an ambassador for Boundless Life, which provides education services for digital nomad families, says the market is only in its infancy, and there is extensive opportunity for many, many entrepreneurs.

“If you can cater and offer a service to a digital nomad by default, you also capture a related and bigger market, that is the remote workers who may travel time-to-time, the workcationers and the part-time or try-it-out nomads,” says Hennigan. “Essentially, any remote worker could try being a digital nomad, dipping their toes in the water of taking their work on the road.”

Finding fortune online

As digital nomads are scattered around the globe, social media provides an effective, centralised platform for reaching them as consumers.

Andrea Valeria, 35, runs a business helping digital nomads find remote positions. Valeria, a Panamanian remote job specialist, now living in Mexico City, focuses on beginners – a group she says is under-resourced or even forgotten.

“Back in 2015 when I landed my first remote job in HR, there weren’t any content creators talking about this, so I just had to figure it all out on my own,” she says. “I want to be the solution people can turn to when they want to get started and have no idea how to do it.”

Valeria, pictured at top, offers her more than 320,000 TikTok followers free resources, such as a no-cost remote job directory. Some of these followers convert to her paid tier. For $349 (£282), she provides a Remotify Your Resume service, which writes and rewrites CVs and cover letters for applicants to specifically highlight their remote-work capabilities. She also has a $597 online course, Land Your First Remote Job, which guides students through finding legitimate remote job listings and improving their online interviewing skills.

Valeria launched her first services in August 2019 and earned $30,000 by the end of the year. In 2020, she made her first $100,000, and has increased her revenue by 30% each subsequent year with her social media accounts as her primary traffic driver.

Meghann Reilly is a money and life coach, who charges $247 for 90-minute individual coaching sessions over Zoom (Credit: Courtesy of Meghann Reilly)

Similarly, money and life coach Meghann Reilly, 41, also uses social media to advertise her nomad-targeted services. “My clients are people with big dreams who want to figure out how to use their money to create everything they want in life,” she explains. “This is often people in the corporate world who aspire to travel more, start businesses and have more flexibility in their schedules.”

Now living in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, Reilly went from a $24,000 starting salary in New York City media to globetrotting and living off investments. Clients pay her $247 for 90-minute individual “dream life visualization and implementation” sessions over Zoom, which she says helps clients identify goals and shape their mindsets for success. She also runs group programs.

Hennigan says there are many types of people who travel while working, instead of travelling for work – and that creates a big market. “The cliched ‘nomad on the beach in Bali’ is only one persona in the community when in fact, the community is very diverse,” she notes. “They are not your classic, more formal business executive. They are a wider age range – all ages, in fact – stay longer in places and they have very different needs to what was previously understood about business travellers.”

Riches in the niches

Additionally, as people become nomadic, she says their requirements will evolve in complexity, which presents opportunities for particularly niche offerings. The location-independence coaching duo Bucketlist Bombshells have found a seven-figure market opportunity catering to women nomads specifically.

After meeting in a coffee shop in Playa del Carmen – a thriving digital nomad hub – California native Cassie Torrecillas and Canadian Shay Brown became fast friends. In 2015, when nomadism was “a very small underground subculture”, according to now 31-year-old Torrecillas, they set up a company together helping women start, grow and scale online businesses that enable them to work on the road. They help guide these nomads through setting up multiple income streams and sales funnels as well as financial forecasting.

The Bucketlist Bombshells found the digital nomad landscape in 2015 to be male-dominated, and thus tapped into a market that was underserved. “We didn’t feel that we ‘fit in’ or that the [existing] resources were marketed towards us,” says Brown, now 33.

Cassie Torrecillas and Shay Brown of Bucketlist Bombshells cater to women specifically (Credit: Courtesy of Bucketlist Bombshells)

Nomad-expert Hennigan, who also curates a community of women nomads on LinkedIn and Substack, says there are marked differences between male and female nomads: they tend to travel slower and are more connected to their needs and the communities they visit. “This additional level of self-awareness and conscious nomading also hints that these women are willing to spend more disposable nomad income proactively and with intention to avoid and prevent issues while nomading,” she says.

Torrecillas says a large part of Bucketlist Bombshells’ marketing efforts for the first five years revolved around education and “explaining to women how it’s possible to work remotely, what an online business even is and how it’s a strong alternative to a traditional 9-to-5 career”.

Their services proved even more essential when Covid-19 hit. With travel banned, they found a market opportunity to expand the business model they’d built for nomads, extending it to women remote workers in general. “April 2020 was our highest revenue month in business history, with the surge of demand for finding online work during the pandemic,” says Brown.

Alongside these clients, Bucketlist Bombshells are back catering to digital nomads, too, as borders have reopened. Since launching, the entrepreneurs have hosted in-person community gatherings in Indonesia, Portugal and Los Angeles, and taught more than 10,000 women inside their paid programs. They report they’ve made $1.6m in revenue since their 2015 beginning.

The pair anticipate increasing demand for companies like theirs now that remote work has normalised. “We’ve heard from many women who say they’ll never go back to the office,” says Torrecillas.

As more professionals break away from offices, Hennigan believes the market for digital nomads – both international and domestic – will continue to grow. And that’s good news for entrepreneurs ready to seize the opportunity and the big revenue that comes with it.

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