If you’ve been working online for any amount of time, you’ve probably come up against some of the most common challenges of the “digital nomad” lifestyle.
Finding Wi-Fi can be a pain. Staying productive in paradise without a boss requires crazy amounts of discipline. Setting boundaries and managing your own projects isn’t easy. And time zone differences with international clients?
Don’t get me started.
Once I logged onto Skype at 3:00 AM to video chat with a client on the other side of the world. I had to wake up at 2 to do my hair, clean my desk (and any space that’d be on video), and drink some water so my voice didn’t sound groggy.
Anyway, as you can see, working remotely comes with a whole set of challenges you don’t encounter in the corporate world (in addition to a bunch of challenges you do find there—fun!).
Luckily, working online is becoming increasingly popular, and we have apps for just about every conundrum.
Whether you’re aspiring to escape the office or have already broken free, this list of digital nomad apps will prime you for productivity and efficiency.
We’re using everything on this list, and we’ll keep adding to it as we find new gems to share.
What it is: Trello is a project management tool that uses digital “boards” and “cards” to organize your tasks.
Think of it as a digital Scrum board. Scrum is a popular project management technique where you move a task into different columns on a board as the status of the task changes (ie: from “to-do” to “in progress” and finally, “complete”).
Trello kicks that concept up a notch by giving you an infinite number of boards and cards to get organized with.
This tool is effective because it gives you a visual snapshot of the tasks before you. You can add images, files, and embed Google docs directly into your cards.
You can also invite team members (or a VA if you have one) to your boards so they can move cards and organize tasks in real-time.
Basically, it becomes visually stimulating organizational heaven.
Who it’s for: Visual learners, hands up! This system is very effective for those who benefit from seeing projects laid out visually on screen.
Pay a few bucks a month for Trello Gold and you can fully customize the platform to your brand, making it even more aesthetically pleasing.
It’s also good for those who have teams and/or complex projects that need to be laid out clearly so everyone is on the same page.
What it is: Asana is another project management tool that follows a more traditional format, but has more features than Trello.
I started using Asana when I joined a contributing team for a local news site and quickly saw the benefits of using it with a larger group of people and a wider range of tasks and projects.
It’s easy to view and claim tasks, assign things to team members, and engage in conversations right inside the project window.
It has time-tracking plugins that would allow you to track your team’s progress, as well as keep track of your own productivity. It’s visually smooth and relatively customizable.
Who it’s for: As opposed to Trello, Asana is more text-oriented. If you like the traditional to-do list structure, you’ll dig this. It’s also excellent for those with larger teams.
We both agree that as we grow the DJO team, we’ll be using this platform a lot more. Right now we have high-level tasks organized in Asana and we use it to check things off during our weekly and monthly meetings.
What it is: InVision is a visual platform that allows you to design screens for an app, website, or presentation without coding anything.
Imagine mapping out your site with functional buttons, menus, and modules so that you can convey your entire concept with drag and drop capabilities.
It also allows you to collaborate with a team, add labels, tags, and comments to just about everything. When I first used it, the seamless functionality alone got my wheels turning on prototyping opportunities.
Like Asana, I first used InVision when I was invited to a larger team’s account to interact. It puts an insane amount of creative potential in your hands—and it’s free!
I suggest signing up for a tutorial webinar if you’re into learning more, so you can see how many cool functions it has.
Who it’s for: If you’ve ever wanted to package up a fully responsive idea for an app or a website without coding it, this is for you.
It’s especially useful if you offer a bit of consulting with your copy or content writing.
For example, I often suggest visual edits to a client’s website to complement new copy, and it’s easier to show them within this framework than try to explain it verbally.
What it is: Slack is a team communication app that allows you to stay in touch with collaborators.
It has both group and private chat modes, as well as image and file sharing functionality and the ability to tag people, which sends them a push notification.
The idea is, rather than sending a ton of emails, keep your back-and-forth correspondence in Slack and you’ll get more done.
Slack comes in desktop, mobile, and web versions, so it’s ideal for digital nomads and remote workers, who may need to access the platform on the go.
Update: In 2018, Slack created a feature that allows you to connect Asana and Slack. This lets you turn Slack conversations into trackable tasks without leaving the app. Learn more here.
Who it’s for: This app is perfect for teams and communities. If you want to stay in touch with a team—or a client’s team—you can get everyone set up in a few simple clicks.
You can also use Slack to allow your a community to have a real-time chat around a specific topic.
For example, if you have a Facebook group, you might give them the option to join a Slack Channel to have more intimate conversations.
5. Google Calendar
What it is: You’re probably familiar with Google Calendar already. If not, you should be!
This easy-to-manage tool allows you to schedule tasks, appointments, deadlines, and reminders so you never lose track of your priorities. It’s also 100% free with a Google account.
From a collaborative standpoint, you can invite others to events and they can RSVP directly on the calendar page. You can even set event reminders to appear on your phone or be emailed to you a few days/hours in advance.
Real talk? I basically live inside this tool! It’s the place I spend the first twenty minutes of my day to organize my tasks.
I use Google Calendar’s labels and calendar filters to schedule things both professional and personal. In fact, if I don’t schedule it on Google Calendar, it will never get done.
Who’s it for: Virtually anyone who wants to get organized in an easy, streamlined way.
6. Google Drive
What it is: Google Drive is an online storage system and document creation tool. It’s also free with a Google account.
If Google Calendar organizes my life, Google Docs organizes my digital stuff!
The interface is clean and simple. All files, from personal to business, go on the Drive. It allows you to share documents and collaborate with teams in real time, host chats, add comments, and more.
Google Drive has its own native document formats, such as Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, that allow you to create presentations and working materials.
Shareable links allow you to share documents without granting full access, which is awesome for sharing progress with clients and linking from exterior sources.
Just a note: Be sure to back up your most crucial files elsewhere, too.
There are rare-but-horrifying tales of account owners getting hacked or locked out of their accounts, rendering them unable to access their most important files.
Who’s it for: Again, virtually anyone who wants to get organized in an easy, streamlined way. Just make sure you have a Google account.
Of all the to-do list apps out there, Any.Do is my personal favorite.
It’s in our digital nomad apps list because even jet-setting pros need a simple and effective way to go through their daily tasks.
I use the other apps in this list for project management, swipe files and meeting notes, so I don’t need anything too fancy for my to-do’s.
It’s perfect for adding one-liner items that you’re about to complete that day—or schedule to pop up later in the week.
With one extremely satisfying swipe of the finger, you cross off items and add them to the bottom of your list.
They don’t disappear completely until you X them out later (which prevents you from accidentally deleting something crucial).
And yes, you can pay a couple bucks a month to color-code it and make it pretty.
We all know that our most precious resource is time, but for some reason that doesn’t make it any easier to manage.
Now, try managing your time when you work entirely online and have to jump between tabs all day!
How do you find balance?
Rescue Time helps you calculate the amount of time we’re using on different tasks so we can adjust accordingly and, in many cases, get realistic about how much time we’re killing.
Knowledge is power, babes!
I’ve been using WeTransfer for years, and haven’t found a superior way to send big files (or batches of them) to clients on the go.
Aside from an incredibly smooth interface, it’s simple to upload, type in an email, and send up to 2 gigs for free. You get a message when your recipient downloads, and you’re good to go.
Paid versions are available, but I haven’t had a need to upgrade just yet.
10. XE Currency Converter
Digital nomads can get their location independence on from coffee shops and home offices, but the term usually comes with international travel goals.
If you’re doing business (or just having the time of your life) and busting out a rainbow of international bills, you should have an app that tells you what your money’s worth.
Enter XE Currency, the app that shows you live exchange rates and lets you calculate prices on any mobile device.
Just download it to your phone, and you’ll be ready to talk money around the world.
Everyone I know loves this app.
Even more crucial than a currency converter? An app that checks in with you each morning and tells you how much money you have.
During our global gallivanting this winter, I probably wouldn’t have gone broke if I didn’t get a sobering text at 9AM each morning letting me know where my account balances stood.
Even if I have the best intentions, I don’t always check my balances daily on my own (I’m a financial work in progress to say the least), so this app definitely kept me in check.
The second thing that makes it amazing (and it’s actual primary function)?
It tracks your spending habits and silently pulls small amounts of money from your account of choice, putting it away in a Digit savings account.
It’ll let you know how much you’ve saved monthly and you can transfer money back to your account at any time.
While traveling for two months I’d saved around $150 without even knowing it (and then ended up needing that money to change a flight, so it was awesome).
You can also interact with it like a human, and it may occasionally send you hysterical animated gifs.
12. Google Flights
Out of all of the digital nomad apps on this list, you’re probably wondering about our favorite way to globe trot.
True story: I don’t mess around with a ton of websites when I need a flight.
Google flights scans the web for you and literally gives you a price breakdown months in advance, showing you where you could save or lose money booking on certain days.
You’ll also get fun charts that show you average flight prices for the season and other helpful info.
I never thought flights would be stress free to book, but this tool keeps it simple and efficient.
Which apps are you using? Which tools are working for you? Let us know in the comments, and then head over to our Facebook group, Wi-Fi Writers Club, to share your experience with other remote writers like you!