I’ve spent the past year working as a ‘digital nomad’ – this means doing all of my work online so that I can work from any part of the world that has a good internet connection.
This style of working is quite well-established in the tech industry, but it is a newer way for Dietitians to work.
So this post summarises my experience of the digital nomad lifestyle and way of working, and includes practical tips I’ve picked up along the way.
*It’s important to mention that I’m no expert in business or digital working. So please don’t base any big decisions solely on this post – speak to a business advisor, career advisor, lawyer and/or accountant as needed.*
My Experience of Digital Working
Overall I loved the digital nomad lifestyle. I felt really lucky to have had the opportunity to travel for extended periods, while still flexing my dietetic muscle (and without burning through all of my savings!).
But it isn’t all lounging beside the pool on your laptop, there are various pros and cons to consider.
- The freedom to travel or live wherever you like.
- You can travel without taking time off work – this is good for extended travel as you are still earning some money, provides ongoing CPD and avoids gaps of time in your CV.
- Usually includes freelance work – so you have control over your working hours and the type of work you do.
- Broaden skill set – e.g. business and IT skills.
- Opportunity to work in up-and-coming areas, like working with entrepreneurs and startups.
- You can meet other digital nomads at co-working spaces and meet-ups.
- I found that living and working in another country gave a good insight to local daily life.
- It can be tiring trying to juggle work and travel.
- Freelance work (and income) can be less reliable than traditional jobs.
- Not everybody enjoys the admin and technical side of running a business and working online.
- It can be much harder to ‘switch off’ from work, because your work follows you everywhere you go (if you have an internet connection).
- Some people prefer the daily routine of a traditional job, and the comfort of having a permanent home.
- A different experience than full time travel – less of a party vibe (or maybe I’m just getting old!)
Online Work for Dietitians
This can take various forms, and may include a mixture of work such as:
- Writing blogs and articles about nutrition.
- Nutritional consultations with clients via webchat.
- Nutritional consultancy work for brands and companies.
- Running webinars, online groups and courses.
- Meal planning and recipe analysis.
- Media and PR work related to nutrition.
- Social media work – such as sponsored posts and affiliate work (always make sure this is in line with guidelines from your professional body, the Advertising Standards Authority and the Internet Advertising Bureau of course).
There are different ways of setting-up an online business. I started to do some freelance work on the side while I was still working in a hospital, before going fully freelance. Then when I made the switch to full-time freelance work I gave myself a month to get setup in my home country before I went travelling. But some people decide to jump straight in.
There are a number of online courses which offer advice and support, but I can’t personally vouch for any of these.
Some people also seek advice from business or career advisors.
Make Sure to Get Appropriate Insurance:
Working online provides the opportunity to work with individuals and companies from different parts of the world.
This can be fantastic, but always make sure that your professional indemnity insurance covers you for working with specific countries. For example at the time of writing this post, BDA insurance didn’t cover work carried out for companies based in the US, Canada or the Cayman Islands.
If in doubt you should contact your professional body or insurance provider. And if looking for a new insurance provider, it can be useful to speak to your national body of insurance brokers, or to ask other freelance dietitians for advice. If you are seeing clients face to face, you might also need to consider public liability insurance.
It is important to make sure that you comply with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as well. For example, in the UK, health professionals who store or access health records need to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
If you are travelling, it is also important to get suitable travel insurance. I found google and online comparisons sites useful for finding backpacker’s insurance.
Gadget insurance is also a plus, but there were often so many loopholes with this that I couldn’t find insurance that applied to me (gadgets had to be purchased within a certain time-frame etc).
Sources of support and information include:
- Regulatory bodies such as the HCPC in the UK or CORU in Ireland.
- Your professional body (like the BDA in the UK, or INDI in Ireland).
- Relevant professional guidelines, those that apply to the UK and Ireland include:
- Freelance dietitian groups which you are a member of – such as: the BDA Freelance Group and SENSE in the UK, or SEDI in Ireland.
- Social media groups, like the following facebook groups:
- Reaching out to other dietitians via email or social media.
- Mailing lists and podcasts – like Glowing Potential.
Where to Find Work
This will vary a lot depending on your area of work (and I’m still figuring this out!), but it may include:
- Having a profile on sites such as: the UK Freelance Dietitians and Nutritionist Resource in the UK, and INDI Find a Dietitian in Ireland.
- Some UK dietitians choose to register as a provider for private health insurance companies as well, with the option of conducting online consultations (I haven’t done this so I can’t provide further information).
- Establishing a social media presence – people may directly contact you if they like your content, and you might see online job opportunities advertised as well.
- It can also be worth checking sites like NHS Jobs, NHSJobs.com, NHD Dietetic Jobs, BDA Jobs, INDI Jobs, Indeed, and the Facebook Irish Nutrition Jobs page just in case there are any remote opportunities.
- Word of mouth, networking and keeping an eye on the facebook groups listed above.
- Contacting magazines, websites or companies that you would like to work with.
If you’re interested in blogging or developing a social media presence as part of promoting your services, then check out my posts about:
- Become a Dietetic Blogger – Part 1: Getting Started
- Become a Dietetic Blogger – Part 2: Getting Technical
- Become a Dietetic Blogger – Part 3: Final Tips
- Thinking of Becoming a Nutrition Blogger? Part 3: Striking the balance between professionalism & staying true to your personality (guest post for the simple nutrition blog)
Maintaining CPD (Continuous Professional Development)
I would recommend keeping an online CPD log. There are some apps available for this, but you can also use a simple spreadsheet which includes details about the CPD activity (including the date and number of CPD points obtained). Also make sure to save a copy of your supporting evidence.
Online CPD activities include:
- Reading and/or writing blog posts and nutrition articles.
- Writing social media summaries about nutritional topics or studies.
- Online CPD resources such as: CNPD and NHD CPD eArticles.
- Reading journals and nutritional research. The facebook #RDJC Nutrition and Dietetics Journal Club is great for this.
- Twitter chats like: @RDUKchat and @NutriWebinar
- Typing reflective logs.
- Attending webinars.
- Listening to and reflecting on nutrition-based podcasts. Some of my favourites are:
- Skype conversations with other dietitians to reflect on work and nutritional research etc.
- Web consultations to maintain dietetic skills (and reflections on these).
Depending on your contacts and where you are travelling to, you might also be able to:
- Attend dietetic conferences.
- Meet-up with other dietitians.
- Shadow in a dietetic department or hospital.
Online resources for staying up to date includes:
- Online versions of CN Magazine, NHD Magazine and Dietetics Today.
- Practice-based evidence nutrition (PEN) website.
- Examine Research Digest (ERD).
- Research databases and search engines like: PubMed and Google Scholar.
- Journal websites such as: the British Medical Journal, the Cochrane Library and the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics (JHND).
- News debunking sites like: NHS Choices Behind the Headlines and BNF Nutrition in the News.
- Mailing lists and newsletters can provide useful updates such as those from: NICE, Examine and Dietitian’s Connection and of course Dietetically Speaking!
- News websites, social media and blogs. Here is a list of My Favourite Nutritional Bloggers and Reliable Websites for Nutritional Information.
Digital Nomad Tips
- You will need to pay tax and set up your business in your country of primary residence – seek support from a lawyer or financial advisor if needed.
- Make sure to research the country you choose to work in before you go, to ensure you are legally allowed to work remotely there (from a tax perspective – as a there may be specific restrictions on this).
- Get a local sim – this is so useful for using translation, map and taxi apps – and also when you are without WiFi and need to do some work or check emails.
- Do your travel research to make sure you are prepared in terms of safety, vaccinations, sunscreen, insect repellant etc.
- Try to pack light if you are moving around (this is NOT a strength of mine unfortunately!).
- It can be difficult to maintain good work habits while travelling, so I found it useful to try to:
- Establish daily routines and work times.
- Stay organised using checklists.
- Time-block my work day (e.g. work for 30 minutes, take a 10 minute break which includes a short walk and repeat).
- Staying active by trying to walk to work and standing at least once per hour.
- Prioritise your posture – to help with this I used a laptop stand and a separate keyboard, and tried to find a decent chair when I could.
Useful websites and apps (other brands are available, but there are the ones I used):
- Search engines like Google are always invaluable for researching where to go and finding co-working spaces etc. I also found Google Maps and Google Translate to be essential in most countries.
- NomadList.com is a great resource when you are trying to choose a location to visit – it ranks hundreds of cities based on things like: cost of living, internet speed etc.
- For finding accommodation I mainly used: airbnb, booking.com, Agoda and recommendations from friends.
- For finding co-working spaces: CoWorker, PlacesToWork and CoWorkingEurope.net
- For organisation and checklists: Trello, Google Calendar and Wunderlist
- Withdrawing money internationally: Revolut and Monzo. Paypal can also be useful for transferring money if working with or for companies which are based in different countries.
- I found cloud storage to be so handy when working and travelling – always make sure you are storing sensitive data in line with legal and professional guidelines (including the GDPR).
- There are different options for storing patient notes online – I like Nutrium* because it covers all of the steps related to a patient consultation in one place (including patient notes, monitoring, recipe and meal plan creation etc.), and the mobile app provides a secure and handy platform to communicate with your client. For more information about this, here is a review I wrote about Nutrium – and for a 25% discount for this software you can follow this link and use the code: DIETETICALLYSPEAKING
For more information and tips about digital nomad life, check out this post that my boyfriend wrote about our experience of working and travelling.
I really enjoyed the experience of working as a dietetic digital nomad, and I hope this will be become a more common career option for dietitians.
There are pros and cons to consider, and a lot of research to do before embarking on big change like this.
So I hope you find some of this information useful. But as I mentioned at the start, this is a summary of my experience rather than an expert guide, so seek support and guidance from the relevant professionals as needed.
*This is an affiliate link – which means if you click on this and decide to subscribe to Nutrium, I will make a commission from Nutrium at no extra cost to you. No other links in those post are affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for more information.