What Differs Digital Nomad, Freelancer, and Downshifter

What is the difference between a digital nomad and a freelancer? Is digital nomad and downshifting the same thing? Is remote work the same as freelancing, and do all remote workers automatically become nomads? Let’s get to the bottom of it!

what is the difference between digital nomad, freelancer, remote workers, and downshifter

Digital nomadism, as with any other movement, has its theoretical share. With tons of stories published online, the only thing people know for sure is that all those stories are different.

It’s easy to get confused if you’re new to the topic. What is the difference between a digital nomad and a freelancer? Is digital nomad and downshifting the same thing? Is remote work the same as freelancing, and do all remote workers automatically become nomads?

Worry not — Digital Barbaros is here to separate the concepts of a digital nomad, freelancer, remote worker, and downshifter. Please, take your seats — the lesson begins!

Digital Nomadism: mobile lifestyle

Digital nomad definition hides in a mobile and active lifestyle. Being a digital nomad means working with digital tools and not being tied to a particular workplace. You can read more on the meaning of digital nomads in our article “Digital Nomad Frequently Asked Questions.”

A digital nomad is a broad lifestyle category. One can be a freelancer, an employed remote worker, an entrepreneur, or a business owner. If your job doesn’t depend on your location and you like to travel around your town, state, country, or world in general — you are a nomad.

The nomad lifestyle is about living life in balance and action while still being on the job. In its basic theory, nomadism doesn’t require giving up comfort. On the contrary, nomads tend to adapt during their travels and maintain the comfort level they're used to.

Remote work: employed and office-independent

For the past two-three years, remote work has significantly grown in popularity. This was the result of the COVID-19 pandemic and work-from-home practice. So we’ll be categorizing remote work as one of the work formats.

Remote workers are employees of a specific company who are not limited to a workspace of the office. They can reside in another country or live in the same city as the employer's headquarters. In any case, they don’t have to be present at a particular place every day of the week.

Many remote workers choose to become digital nomads — they prefer to travel or move around the city rather than stay at home. However, some companies are not taking long-term trips kindly due to security reasons or tax policies.

Remote workers are often confused with freelancers. But there’s a significant difference we’re going to talk about right now.

Freelancing: self-employed and free to move

Now, a freelancer is a person who is hired to work for different companies on particular tasks. The core difference between a freelancer and a remote worker is their status. Freelancers, however close they are to the company, are not officially employed as the company’s staff.

There are many options for an interaction between a freelancer and a client. Some freelancers have long-term clients who technically think of their freelancers as part of the team. Some prefer to deal with lots of come-and-go clients using special platforms for freelance jobs like Upwork or Fiverr.

However, usually freelancers work on a contract or project basis. Freelance work means you rather act as an outsource labor. In the case of the remote worker, the company can technically forbid its employee to work from another country. For a freelancer, it doesn’t matter where you work from.

Freelancing, same as remote work, is a category for work format rather than a lifestyle. Being quite location-independent, freelancers often become digital nomads as well. Some also choose a more extreme path of downshifting — now, hold that thought.

Downshifting: simplicity over comfort

Downshifting definition lies in quite a different field. This term gets mixed up with the nomad lifestyle and freelancing, but in fact, has little to do with both of them.

As a lifestyle, downshifting is defined as reducing one’s standard of living to a simpler one. Let’s look at an example: you are a suit living in an expensive flat in the center of New York, working long hours, and living a big city life with its earn-and-spend cycle. Then one day you move to Goa to pursue a yoga master's path, live in a small bungalow next to the sea, and enjoy an easy simple life. This would be an example of downshifting.

In classic terms, downshifting meaning is closer to anti-consumerism theories and ecological awareness. Downshifters choose to willingly simplify their life and give up the benefits of comfort in favor of simplicity.

In more general terms, downshifting includes a cheaper lifestyle with less conventional means of comfort. Work-wise, downshifters prefer part-time or freelancing. Same as digital nomadism, downshifting is rather categorized as a lifestyle.

How Is It All Related

Probably the best way to describe how all four of the concepts are connected would be this:

how a digital nomad, freelancer, remote worker, and downshifter are connected

  • Freelancers and remote workers can become digital nomads but digital nomads are not limited to them. There are also entrepreneurs, business owners, investors, and many others
  • Freelancers can become downshifters but don’t necessarily have to if they don’t want to give up the comfort
  • Remote workers may become downshifters but are less likely to because a full-time job is contradicting the downshifting idea
  • Remote workers and freelancers are both remote work formats but have the difference in the legal status of relations between client/employer and freelancer/employee
  • Digital nomads and downshifters don’t interlace, because nomads tend to maintain their comfort level while downshifters willingly give it up

Of course, all the definitions aren’t that strict, and you’re not limited in choosing to explore all the options. However, if you’re just starting your way of a mobile lifestyle and traveling, this might help you get a clearer idea of what you personally want.

If you already made up your mind about work and travel in comfort, book your room at Barbaros Hut! Meet other nomads, balance out work and off hours, and enjoy the collaborative atmosphere and equipped work zone on the oceanside!