10 Questions to Niall Doherty

For Niall Doherty, being a digital nomad is about freedom.  As a freelance web designer and online business manager, Niall has achieved a notable level of success in the digital community and is now devoted to sharing his unique insight by teaching aspiring digital nomads to reach success in their own corporate and personal environments.  After six years of achieving success as a digital nomad, Niall now writes books, builds websites and acts as a mentor for people wishing to get started working for their businesses remotely. 

As of today, Niall has been to a total of 44 countries worldwide.  If that’s not impressive enough, you may be interested to know that he has reached 37 of those counties without ever using aviation as a mode of transport! 

So how does Niall do it? 

Admittedly, he says, being a digital nomad for the past six years hasn’t always been easy.  Like most careers, finding the balance between work and personal life is a constant challenge.  Luckily for Niall, he’s developed an effective routine that enables him to maintain a strong business foundation while continuing to grow his enterprise on the road – and he wants to show you how you can do the same!

Whether you’re interested in learning more about the digital nomad life or just wondering whether you can use this type of lifestyle to succeed in your own business, be sure to take part in Niall’s seminars at Coworking in the Sun!

Niall Doherty

  • Age: 34
  • Years as a DN: 6
  • Profession: Web developer
  • Nationality: Irish
  • Stay in touch: Facebook and YouTube
Digital Nomad Niall

Why did you decide to begin a nomadic life and what does it mean to you?

I was 28 years old and hadn’t traveled much at all, but knew it was something I wanted to do. I saw travel as a tremendous vehicle for personal growth. Self-employment, too.

And this was back in 2010 when location independence was just becoming a thing. I was reading blogs by a few of the OG digital nomads and thought to myself, “Hey, I should be able to do that, too! They have nothing I don’t have or can’t learn.”

As for what it means to me, it’s primarily about freedom. I like being able to do what I want, when I want, and feel like I’m in complete control of my destiny.

How do you earn an income now?

Half my business nowadays is freelance web design, which is how I’ve earned a living for most of the past six years.

Earlier this year I launched an online course called “3 Months → $1,000” (3M1K for short), which was a response to all the people who’ve said to me over the years, “I’d love to be able to travel like you do! How can I learn to work online as well?”

3M1K teaches aspiring digital nomads how to pick a skill to freelance online, then helps them develop that skill and find their first clients.

That business now provides half my income, and I find it very rewarding as I get to help people attain more freedom and take control of their lives.

Digital Nomad Niall in Rio

How many hours do you work at an average on a usual day?

If I’m in a solid routine, it’s about 6-8 hours per day, Monday to Friday, and I’ll usually put in a few hours on the weekend, too.

As I’m writing this it’s a Tuesday and I’ve been in Amsterdam since Friday, visiting friends and doing a big 19-kilometer obstacle course thingy. So I haven’t been doing much work the past few days 😛

Overall though, I definitely work more now than I did at my old job, and that’s by choice. I enjoy working on my business and usually have several personal projects on the go as well as client projects.

What is your approximate travel budget for a year? Any tips on how to lower it?

I don’t have a budget per se. I usually just decide on some cool things I’d like to do and adventures I’d like to have and then figure out how to afford them.

But I do track all my income and expenses, so I can tell you that last year (2015) I spent $2,600 on travel while visiting ten countries, and in 2014 I spent $6,645 on travel while also visiting ten countries. You can see all my monthly and annual income and expenses reports here, dating back to 2011.

As for tips on how to travel cheap, the most important thing is to know what’s important to you and what’s not. Then spend lavishly on the important things while skimping on the rest.

For example, I’m not much of a foodie, so I try and eat pretty cheap while I’m traveling. Unless it’s a special occasion, it doesn’t make sense for me to spend in excess of $15 on a single meal. I simply won’t appreciate it. I’d much rather spend $5 to $10 filling my belly and then put the money saved towards something I value more.

Like accommodation.

While I do occasionally stay in budget hostels, I’m quite happy to splash out for a nice hotel room every now and then. I remember staying in a hotel in Cartagena, Colombia for $35 a night, even though I could have stayed in a nice hostel nearby for about a third of that price.

But I wanted fast wifi and a quiet place to work, so a hotel was the better option, and I was happy to pay extra for it.

Digital Nomad Niall in front of a waterfall

What would you consider to be one of the best tools for becoming a digital nomad?

I’m definitely biased here since I have an online course of my own, but I would advise aspiring digital nomads to invest in solid online or in-person training.

You can learn everything for free online but you’ll waste a lot of time sorting the wheat from the chaff and trying to arrange the materials in a efficient manner.

You’re way better off spending a few hundred bucks on a well-reviewed course that has everything laid out neatly for you, or on a coach who has a track record of helping other people achieve the kind of lifestyle you’re aiming for.

Do you have any advice for those starting a digital nomad life?

Don’t hit the road too soon!

Trying to build your business while traveling is a real challenge. Stay in one place, get into a good routine, establish a strong foundation and get some consistent income flowing before you start globe trotting.

Running an established business while traveling is doable. Building a business while traveling… not so much.

How long have you been traveling and where have you been? Do you have a favourite place in the world?

I started traveling in 2011 and have been to 40 countries since, including 37 on a 44-month trip around the world without flying.

You can see the full list of those countries here, as well as a map of my route around the world.

DN Niall in a river

How do you manage the distance to family and friends? Do you miss having an established home and a wardrobe without weight limit?

While doing my no-fly trip I was away from friends and family a lot; too much, really. Nowadays I like to spend most of my time in Europe so it’s easy to get back to Ireland and see family and friends.

I text my mother every day and Skype with my parents once a week. I find if I don’t schedule things like that and set reminders, I get absent-minded and let important relationships go untended.

I do sometimes miss having an established home. I’d love to own an apartment in Amsterdam or Spain, live there for a few months each year and rent it out the rest of the time.

And yes, I do miss having a nice wardrobe. Living out of a backpack or a suitcase gets old after a while!

Could you imagine keeping up the digital nomad lifestyle for the rest of your life?

No. It’s not always easy, and certainly not as idyllic as some people like to believe and others like to portray, but I love the freedom it affords me and all the opportunities for adventure that come along.

I’m 34 years old now and will likely get serious about starting a family at age 37, so at that point I’ll probably slow down a little and establish more of a home base. But I’m sure travel will always be a big part of my life.

Are you a digital nomad with experience? Then you might want to read our blog post “Hey you, digital nomad! I want to offer you something