Elance Blog

How To Code On The Road

Here’s an article from the CareerFoundry team (sponsor of the upcoming Code & Surf Retreat).


Many forecasters have predicted 2015 as the year of the freelancer, with a recent study estimating that 53 million Americans are currently working freelance. The same study has tipped that 50% of the American workforce will be made up of freelancers by 2020. A large portion of that workforce will be digital nomads and those figures only refer to American trends. Looking back ten years, this is a huge contrast, considering that in 1995 it was an employee powered workforce with full and part time in-house staff making up 93% of the labour provision.

Globally the life of a digital nomad has become not only a more attractive lifestyle choice, but for many a more practical one. Digital nomads allow themselves choice of work location by leveraging technology to facilitate their activities. This lifestyle for many is more productive and cost effective, and at the same time provides a greater work/life balance.  

The Internet of course was the precursor for this shift in work behaviors. Although there was a slow build up to Wi-Fi through the late 1980’s and most of the 1990’s, by 1999 it had been standardized and brought to market by Apple, who released the first laptop with a Wi-Fi slo. Suddenly the ability to be connected made the need to be in a traditional office environment less vital. Global Internet access along with more efficient and inexpensive equipment has opened up the possibilities for freelancers who have been able to redesign their lives without the restrictions of a place they need to be from 9 to 5.

Of course the ability to do the work is only half the equation, the digital revolution has meant that the way we work has also changed. The online world requires a different skillset than we were previously equipped with and progress is moving faster than our ability to meet its need. Education reform is shifting towards STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math - as core subjects to meet the growing demand for skills that match the future needs of the workplace. However there is a skills gap in the current workforce that employers are scrambling to deal with.  A 2014 study found jobs in computing, mathematics and engineering made up 70% of the roles employers found difficult to fill. In addition, new graduates are leaving college to find they are missing specific required skills that the workforce is demanding. Online tech boot camps such as Codecademy, CareerFoundry and General Assembly have provided a comprehensive solution in these cases by offering intensive online training in areas where skills are most required. You’ll also find great courses at Elance University. Programming jobs are the most in demand and learning to code is becoming as important as learning to read and write.

This is all great news for those wanting to become digital nomads. Coding offers a flexible career that can be done anywhere, provided you have power, a laptop and Wi-Fi. However there is something of a misconception that digital nomads are the lucky few - sitting on a beach with a cocktail and a laptop. The lifestyle is more complex than this and in reality comes from the desire to be able to do the work required, from the location of their choice, at the time of their choosing. In some cases this may be a location that offers the most interesting and lucrative work opportunities. In other cases it means working for foreign clients on different time zones, allowing you to start your day on the beach with leisure time and enjoy a less than conventional work day - dictated by your customer’s working hours rather than those of your location.  

This approach for many makes for a much more balanced life. Day to day routines become less conventional and exposure to different cultures and networking opportunities provides inspiration and motivation to maintain that career choice. When free from the conventions of a 9 to 5 routine, people tend to me more productive and can more easily foster a positive approach to work.

This positive flexible approach tends to make freelancers and digital nomads more attractive to employers also as they offer a low risk solution to an urgent problem. Where previously employers had to invest significant time and resources into employing a new staff member, including résumé, reference and background checks, they are now embracing the more flexible approach that contracting a freelancer offers. Because the freelancer is by design a self-sufficient entity, it is a low risk move for a business to contract their services. If the work is not done to the standard required they just find another one. This in turn encourages freelancers to offer a higher quality of service to    establish a good reputation and build their business through recommendations.  If a client is happy with the freelancer an ideal situation is presented to both in that the company has a reliable supplier they can call on consistently and the freelancer can secure that most desired of assets – a stable and regular client.

Many freelancers are now in a position to negotiate permanent arrangements with clients so they have the consistency of regular work and can manage cash flow. This is particular appealing to digital nomads as they know in advance what their monthly schedule will look like so can more easily plan for location changes, travel and administration of their business. 

Working environments have changed considerably in recent decades and digital nomads are embracing trends more than most. With skills like programming, UX design and web development comes the freedom to choose not only the place they want to work from, but also the kind of work they want to do. It’s only a matter of time before nomad lifestyles become the norm and those in the office will look on with longing.


CareerFoundry, creator of this post, is excited to announce their first ever Code & Surf Retreat -- embracing the upward trend in freelancing and digital remote working by combining every digital nomad’s two passions: technology and the great outdoors. Students will work from a Santa Cruz beach house - just a stone’s throw from Silicon Valley - receiving in-person training in UX Design and Web Development from expert CF mentors-in-residence. Afternoons will be spent exploring this natural paradise through surfing, beach yoga, hiking and BBQs. To enter the raffle to win a place, go to the Code & Surf Retreat site and sign up!   


About the author:

Melinda Barlow is an Australian freelance writer and editor, based in Berlin. Melinda works with print and online media and has a natural curiosity that informs her work. She is passionate about travel and great content. She loves to write most about the world, its people and why we all do what we do.

Beach photo courtesy of Giorgio Montersino




true topic


Thanks for the great posts and information. I've been struggling as a freelancer and your site seems like a breath of fresh air. Hope I find some work on your platform !

I think a combination of two things will allow more people to work 'on the road' in the future.

First of, platforms like Elance that makes it possible to find clients no matter where you are in the world. I have a t-shirt from an event that says "Work is no longer a place" and that actually sums it up nicely.

Second of all, flight tickets are getting cheaper and cheaper ( http://www.rejsepriser.dk/ ), which means the world is just getting smaller and smaller. The smaller the world, the easier we move arond!