The rapid increase in the number of people seeking temporary and remote work opportunities, combined with greater appreciation for the role of digital assets like bitcoin, has led to the creation of a new kind of freelance lifestyle: the crypto nomad.
Armed with little more than a laptop and some basic understanding of crypto, these knowledge workers can earn a living from anywhere, for employers based anywhere. Without the constraints of conventional employment, crypto nomads can enjoy both a mobile lifestyle and the benefits of the fast-growing blockchain sector.
The Growth Of The Gig Economy
Even before the coronavirus pandemic pushed millions of people out of work, forcing them to rethink their employment patterns and priorities, there was a move towards remote work and freelancing. As the economy has opened back up, that trend has continued. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center shows that some 16% of Americans have earned money from online gig platforms at some point in their lives, including driving for ride-hailing apps and making deliveries of various kinds. Nine percent of US adults are active in the gig economy, or have been in the last year – with a third of those considering gig work to be their main source of income. The figures are highest for younger people, who tend to be more tech-savvy, and perhaps lack other opportunities.
While a large proportion of these jobs target low-income workers, the gig economy is polarised. Certain sectors offer disproportionately high-paying opportunities, particularly technology – again, where remote work was already popular and the tools to connect people were already embedded in organisations’ processes.
The blockchain industry is one example of the technology sector that has shown startling growth during the pandemic, with more job vacancies than experienced workers available to fill them. Plus, blockchain has provided its own ways of organising work and moving money around the planet, avoiding the centralised systems used by regular freelance platforms. As a result, blockchain and crypto have proven the ideal tools to power the gig economy.
Gig Work And Crypto: The Perfect Match
Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology have the potential to revolutionise employment in several critical ways. Crypto enables users to send and receive money no matter where employers and workers are in the world, quickly, efficiently and securely. That’s particularly important for the large proportion of the world who are unbanked – including over 7 million US households.
Meanwhile, blockchain-based freelancer platforms have enabled fair, open, transparent recruitment, with task-based payments and protections for both parties. It doesn’t matter where you are, or who you are: if you are the best person for the job, you can land the opportunity and know you will be paid promptly.
Fuelled by the growth of the gig economy and awareness of the numerous benefits to getting paid in digital assets, more and more people have been seeking work in the world of freelancing for crypto. The competitive blockchain sector itself has provided many opportunities, but in other cases blockchain is just the means of arranging work and settling payment. Even then, rates of pay can be higher than in the conventional freelance world, partly because decentralised platforms don’t need to charge the same fees as services run by companies that answer to their shareholders.
These crypto nomads are the updated version of the first generation of digital nomads, who have been around since the late 1990s, when the internet made it possible to work on the move, seeing the world while maintaining stable enough employment to pay your way indefinitely. Like digital nomads, crypto nomads have ditched the 9-5 routine and fixed existence. For many people, crypto is just a way of accessing new work opportunities, whether they stay at home or travel. But for others, crypto enables them to go a step further, accessing some of the very best and highest-paying opportunities in the world, or even setting up their own businesses in crypto-friendly jurisdictions.
Why Work In The Crypto Gig Economy?
There are many good reasons to work in crypto. Blockchain and DeFi are at the bleeding edge of fintech, and whatever you end up doing it’s likely to be interesting, challenging, and varied. The sector has developed hugely over the past two years, but is still in its relative infancy. Moreover, the nature of blockchain means there are lots of grassroots projects, so there’s the choice of going for something with an indie or start-up vibe, or more of a corporate position if that’s what you prefer – and everything in between.
Unlike many industries at the moment, crypto is a growth area, and there are more than enough jobs to go around if you have the right experience or background. The explosion of the crypto jobs market means that employers are prepared to hire people who show aptitude and drive, even if they don’t (yet) have exactly the right skills. If that’s the case for you, expect a steep learning curve but a rewarding career.
What’s more, cryptocurrency jobs salaries tend to be significantly above the average for comparable roles in other sectors, often by 15-20% or more. The top developer positions can pay upwards of $250,000, and there are often attractive perks too, in the form of token bonuses and options. In fact, if you have the right combination of experience and skills, you can pretty much write your own job description and pay cheque.
But it’s not all about the money. Blockchain’s impact is technological, social, and political, and has the potential to improve life for millions of people by offering more efficient, open, transparent financial services. As well as being meaningful work, it’s global by nature, and remote work is normal – so whether you want to log in from home or on your travels around the world, it’s all the same. There’s a good chance that many of the people you’ll be working with are in the same boat, and will appreciate your desire to leave behind the daily grind and find different working patterns.
How To Get Started As A Crypto Nomad
If you’re already involved in the blockchain sector and are familiar with cryptocurrencies, you’re already well on the way to becoming a crypto nomad. If you’re not, then there are a few steps you’ll need to take to get started.
- Set up a secure laptop and a reliable internet connection. It should be obvious, but make sure you have everything you need to stay online safely. You’ll probably be using public wifi spaces quite a bit, so install a VPN to protect your device and data – especially since you’re dealing with crypto. If wifi isn’t available, you should be able to use your smartphone as a backup connection to the internet, but research different plans to make sure you have enough data at the right price for your needs.
- Familiarise yourself with crypto. While it’s not strictly necessary, knowing a little about how cryptocurrency works will help you avoid some of the worst pitfalls, and keep your hard-earned crypto safe. Start by learning about private keys and wallets, and finding out about the most popular cryptos, since you’ll probably be getting paid in these.
- Sign up for a trustworthy crypto exchange. You’ll be using an exchange regularly to swap between cryptos, and move money into and out of the fiat system. A secure exchange that enables you to cash out your earnings to your local currency is absolutely vital. TimeX is regulated by AUSTRAC, Australia’s financial intelligence agency, meaning it’s fully compliant and maintains best security practices. This makes it not only a good way to exchange funds, but also the ideal place to hold crypto if you prefer not to use an external wallet for one reason or another.
- You might also want to research crypto debit cards as a way of spending crypto directly. These are cards that allow you to deposit a balance to them in crypto, which you can then spend anywhere Visa or Mastercard is accepted.
- Find a job! There are lots of ways of going about this. You can look for a regular job that pays in crypto, pick up freelance work in the gig economy for crypto using a platform like LaborX, or go down the rabbit hole and apply for a full-time role in the DeFi industry. If you’re after a crypto job with a conventional firm, LinkedIn is a good place to start, but you can also search company websites directly (most big crypto companies are actively hiring), or get involved at a grassroots level through community Discords and Telegram groups, and find work that way.
That’s it – you’re good to go! Don’t forget to put some crypto aside for a rainy day – whether that’s your pension or an emergency fund for getting back home in a hurry if you ever need to.