How to Become a U.S.-Based Digital Nomad

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Illustration for article titled How to Become a U.S.-Based Digital Nomad

Image: Dmytro Zinkevych (Shutterstock)

The pandemic has impacted many aspects of our lives—including how we work. Some 35.2% of employees worked remotely in May, compared to only 8.2% in April, which may be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective. But one positive aspect of remote work is the possibility of working from someplace else.

While traveling abroad is on hold, remote employees may have the chance to work virtually from anywhere within the country—or may even trade in a permanent address to become digital nomads. While the possible change of scenery may be appealing, there are a few things to consider before packing your bags.

Check with your employer

Before getting lost in short-term rental listings, talk to your employer about your plans. If you’re still a full-time W-2 employee, make sure the company (and your boss!) doesn’t have a problem with your travel arrangements.

While it may not impact the quality of your work, there are some other reasons why it could be a problem—like taxes, for example. Working from another state could establish your company’s presence there, which could trigger a requirement for state-level payroll tax registration or paying corporate income taxes, according to a CNBC report.

Consider your income taxes

Depending on where you set up your laptop, there could be personal tax implications, too. Some states may be looking to receive income taxes from you right away via state-level withholding, which will require you to file a non-resident tax return. But it depends on where you are working—and whether you exceed the state’s minimum income thresholds.

It’s possible you may even owe taxes in two states. Some places have a reciprocity agreement that allows you to work in both places, though, like New Jersey and Pennsylvania—so be sure to do your research.

Pick a new location

Once your employer signs off on your plan, you can start the fun part—picking a new city. While there are countless lists that cover the best big cities for remote work, you may also be considering smaller cities and towns.

A new report from Hire a Helper ranks the best remote towns by cost, amenities, wifi access, and outdoor conditions like air quality and green space. The top spot—Gatlinburg, Tennessee—is located just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Find a place to stay

Make a list of your must-haves for your new, temporary residence before you begin. Things like high-speed internet and furniture may be essential, whereas living alone, being near laundry facilities, and good public transportation may be merely nice-to-haves.

You can look for short-term rentals through websites like Airbnb, Craigslist, Truilia, Apartments.com, VRBO, and Sublet.com. (You should probably skip couch-surfing options during the pandemic.)

Decide what to do with your stuff

Whether you’re subletting your apartment or moving out, you will need a place to store your stuff while you are away. If you don’t have access to a friend or relatives’ basement, you may consider a short-term option, like a storage unit.

“Moveable storage containers are great because you don’t need to drive a huge moving truck and you may rent on a month-to-month basis,” says Mike Glanz, co-founder of HireAHelper and president of moving at Porch.com.

Glanz says you may need 50 square feet for a studio or up to 150 square feet for a 3-bedroom apartment. Here’s a good chart help you gauge how much storage space you may need.

Be flexible

One of the biggest lessons of 2020 is that things may change unexpectedly. Some travel plans may fall through, especially if you’re recasting yourself as a digital nomad and moving around a lot. But if you’re willing to be flexible, you could save money on an amazing last-minute listing or discover a new location you otherwise wouldn’t have explored.


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