There’s no getting around it, Brexit is the topic nobody has been able to escape over the last few months. And this isn’t going to change anytime soon – not after the fine people of Britain decided to vote in favour of putting a spanner in the works for everyone.
To be fair, my thoughts on Brexit were completely biased. I might be British but I spend basically no time in the country; my concerns were from a nomad’s perspective. Essentially, I couldn’t vote but I wanted us to stay in the EU. And now we know that isn’t going to happen, the question we’re all asking is how will this affect us?
If your money’s in pounds, unlucky for now
There were two reasons I didn’t want to Britain to leave the EU. First, most of my clients come from Britain and, second, all my money is in pounds. A recession could hurt my chances of getting work and a weaker pound means I’ve just taken a pay cut.
The economic effects we’re seeing now were so painfully obvious I fear for anyone who expected anything different. In a way, I’m lucky because half my earnings are in US dollars or Euro. So I’ve got a certain amount of protection I’m getting more pounds from those currencies now. So I could make a profit on what I save from those earnings once the pound recovers.
The good news is, as a nomad, you can do exactly the same. Target clients in the US and EU and you have some diversity to protect yourself against one currency declining.
The travel concerns
By definition, it’s pretty difficult to be a digital nomad without travelling. So if you’re a Brit who loves to nomad across Europe or an EU citizen with plans for the UK the UK, things could get trickier once we leave. This is pure speculation, though. We don’t know what terms will be agreed during the exit process and its possible free movement could remain intact.
I guess I’m lucky in this sense, too, as I’ve got British and Irish passports. So that’ll keep me as an EU citizen from a travel perspective and I recommend looking into this if you’re a British passport holder.
I’m eligible for an Irish passport because my dear mum is from Northern Ireland. It’s not even the same country and I wasn’t born there anyway. So check your passport options too if you can get your hands on another one. It’s a huge advantage to have two anyway.
What’s it like getting work?
I haven’t noticed any change in the ease/difficulty of getting work from British clients yet. It’s too early at this stage. My initial concern was a recession would make it more difficult. I started this gig during the last crisis and I noticed how much easier it was to get work after the economy picked up again.
That said, I think this might have something to do with the fact web and marketing services really kicked off around that time. Plus, I had a better portfolio by the time we were leaving the recession so I wonder if my fears are biased.
In fact, it could get easier to get work as a freelancer because we don’t require the commitment of hiring full-time staff. It’s the same as contractors and zero-hours contracts. These become more common during tough times so I think even a recession could be less damaging than I feared. We’ve also got other countries to target as well.
There is another danger, though. The sharp rise in freelancers during the last decade has been partly attributed to the last recession. So another one could mean more competition for work, depending on how you get it.
What about startups and innovation?
This is where we venture into the really unknown. Until we know the terms of Britain’s exit, it’s impossible to predict this one. In the European market is could mean less talent to work with, less funding options and potentially higher costs on some essentials. There’s also the question of scaling when trading with EU countries potentially gets more difficult.
That said, Brexit could lead to better deals with other markets. Many Asian countries are already asking for free trade deals with Britain and this could open new opportunities. So British nomads with startup plans outside the EU could well benefit from leaving. For many of us, it won’t matter either way.
In terms of innovation, Britain doesn’t in a strong position. We’re not exactly leading the way in technology or digital enterprises and going it alone would be a nervy jump. Then again, we might finally et the hang of innovation when we have no other choice. Or we could just get a bunch innovators from countries outside the EU and set up some of those trade deals. Either way is fine.
So, while Brexit is going to hit the UK economy hard, it’s not the end of the world for nomads. The truth is nobody knows how bad things will get for the economy before they get better. Likewise, nobody knows the terms under which we’ll be leaving. So we can only speculate over what the full impact will be. No need to get the pitchforks, though, I think we’ll be okay.