Don’t Make These Common Mistakes for Remote Workers

Tyler Abbott
May 23, 2023
bullet5 min read

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When you picture the life of a remote worker or digital nomad, you probably imagine someone with a laptop working on the beach, or on a cruise deck, or on a mountain top, or somewhere in the desert.

It's not impossible to make these dreams a reality, but you'll need to avoid common pitfalls to pull it off.

We've got six suggestions to help prevent you from starting your remote work or digital nomad experience on the wrong foot.

Secure a remote job first

This may seem obvious, but ff you don’t have a solid remote gig, you probably won’t stay a digital nomad for very long.

We all love the fantasy of storming out of the office forever and hitting the road, but the reality is that you will still have bills to pay.

If you're going full digital nomad, you’ll need a steady income to afford gas for your car, wireless data to connect your devices to the internet, and maybe even a generator to keep everything up and running. Digital nomadism is doable (even on a budget), but you’ll want to land a remote job first.

Remote work may not be as common as it was during the pandemic, which means you aren't likely to find something overnight. The most common jobs for remote workers usually revolve around some combination of social media and technology, and these aren’t typically entry-level jobs. That's something to bear in mind for job-seekers.

If you want to go remote with your current job, you’ll likely need a decent amount of experience and cache with a company before you can get the green light to take your work on the road. 

In either case, you will want to have your job on lockdown before going remote. 

And if you're wondering where to go to work remotely, you'll want to check out our report on the best cities for working remotely. It's a great resource for folks who are looking for that remote work life.

And for the truly adventurous, the world can be your remote-work oyster. We have mini guides on prepping to work remotely in Ireland and Mexico.

Don’t mistake remote work with a vacation

Stop and ask yourself the question:

"Do I really want to drop everything and live the digital nomad lifestyle, or do I just really need a vacation?"

It's the work equivalent of "Am I really mad or just hungry?"

Try taking a road trip before deciding anything and see if some time away refreshes your batteries. Many remote workers and digital nomads start out with the mentality of only working a few hours a day and spending the rest of their time hiking, swimming, and exploring.

But in order to keep the paychecks coming, you’ll likely need to spend hours in front of a computer getting your work done.

I recently read about a full-time digital nomad trying out New York City for a few months. As glamorous as that sounds, she spends 10+ hours a day working out of a tiny apartment in order to afford the touristy attractions on the weekends. Fast-forward a few months and now she’s burnt out and looking to buy a home and settle down. Keep in mind this is a person who worked remotely for years and had a reliable job.

We all love the idea of remote work being more like a semi-permanent vacation, but you’ll likely still need to work 8+ hours a day.

As long as you understand remote work will still be work going into it, you’ll have an easier time striking a work/life balance.

Create a comfortable working situation

If you’re going to spend hours of your day working, you’ll want to make yourself feel comfortable.

Don’t assume you can work out of the back of your sedan for hours a day, or you can just hang out at McDonalds and Starbucks all day to mooch off the free Wi-Fi. You deserve better! Set up a comfortable work environment where you can get things done without feeling miserable.

The easiest way to find a comfortable working solution on the road is just to rent an Airbnb with a desk setup. If you’re living the van life, set aside a corner as a mini-office where you can comfortably work from a laptop without hurting your back or neck. 

If you're working remotely from your own home, you should create the workspace of your dreams. 

But you will also need to figure out the best way to turn off from work when you're living with your office. 

Take advantage of discounts on Airbnbs and other lodging

If you decide to stay at an Airbnb, make sure you book a place that will give you a discount for staying over a month.

Check out this awesome Airbnb in Spain that discounted $270 off the bill for my month-long stay. 

Screenshot of a discount on Airbnb's checkout page

As a rule of thumb, book all of your Airbnb stays for at least a month to qualify for the best discounts. You can bounce from Airbnb to Airbnb every month for a cheaper rate than rent in a big city with the included discount.

Pro tip! Check for internet speeds before booking an Airbnb

Airbnb hosts can now make internet speeds public by running a test and posting the results to their listing.

Look for listings that include an internet speed with at least a consistent 50 Mbps, or else you’ll struggle streaming Zoom meetings and staying connected to the internet.

If you don’t see any information about the data speeds, take a look at the Airbnb reviews for the unit to see what other folks experienced.

Let your coworkers and clients know you’re remote

If your clients and coworkers (and your boss, of course) know your situation, they won’t be surprised if you’re slow to respond to Slack messages due to time differences, or can’t get a reliable enough connection for a Zoom meeting. Relationship management for remote workers takes extra care because you don't have the benefit of in-person or in-office interactions.

It’s smart to set a status in Slack (or whatever communication platform you use) to remind people where you’re at.

For Slack, you can set a status by clicking your picture in the top-right corner and selecting Update your status.

Here's how I set my Slack when I was working remotely from Spain.

Screenshot of slack status settings

Now when your coworkers go to send you a message, they’ll see what time zone you’re in, and whether or not you can respond quickly.

Get a reliable cell phone plan with hotspot data

Your cell phone plan arguably matters more than anything else when it comes to remote work, especially for full digital nomads who are working on the road.

If you have a cell phone plan that hooks you up with reliable coverage and plenty of hotspot data, you can basically work from anywhere in the country. Check out our roundup of international cell plans if you're thinking global.

As far as coverage goes, Verizon currently covers about 70% of the country with 4G LTE coverage, with AT&T not far behind, covering 68% of the country. Check out coverage maps for each carrier and compare them with where you plan traveling. For example, if you plan on hitting up the regions like Utah, Nevada, and Idaho, Verizon will offer better coverage than any other carrier for those areas.

This Boost Mobile plan gets you 30 GB of high-speed mobile hotspot data every month. That means you can stream about 30 hours of content on YouTube (or 30 hours of Zoom) with your hotspot before running out of data for the month.

Satellite internet can also work

You can also use satellite internet instead of mobile hotspot data. Satellite internet doesn’t offer the fastest data speeds, but you can get internet access just about anywhere. Check out our picks for the best satellite internet providers:

Download speeds
Data cap
Viasat Internet$69.99-$299.99*12-100 MbpsUnlimited
HughesNet Internet$49.99-$149.9915-50 Mbps200 Mbps
Starlink$120-$50040-220 MbpsUnlimited
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Offer available to new qualifying customers. One-time standard installation fee may be due at checkout. Minimum 24-month service term required. Equipment lease fee is $12.99/mo. Taxes apply. Service is not available in all areas. Offer may be changed or withdrawn at any time.
Service plans require a 24-month commitment. Pricing not available in all areas.
Plus hardware, shipping & handling fees, and tax. Fully refundable. Depending on location, some orders may take 6 months or more to fulfill.
Compare the best satellite internet options in your area.

Final thoughts for remote workers and digital nomads

If you go into your remote work or digital nomad adventure with the right mindset (it isn’t a vacation all the time), and prepared logistically (cell phone plan with hotspot data), you will absolutely have a wonderful experience.

There’s nothing quite like signing off work for the day and exploring a city full-well knowing that you don’t have to cram everything in a few days.