Posts tagged "Nomads"

Nomadic Corporation - Bonds

What is a nomad-friendly corporation from contracting or binding point of view? In previous blog, we discussed why it is difficult for nomads to integrate into current system. Today I will try to share some practices that can be used to improve the nomad’s situation.

By digital nomads I mean a person delivering intellectual shipments which are location independent. The mentioned kind of enterprises are based mostly on intellectual kind of work that can be delivered through the internet. I draw my original assumptions of current state mostly from situation in European countries, it might differ in another parts of the world. If you have different experience, I would gladly hear from you in the comments below.


One of the barriers that most of the potential nomads might encounter is binding. There are two options: either become an employee or be part of a sub-contracting company, which means be also an employee in most of the cases. Work-around is employment agency, which means: be an employee as well. Corporations simply prefer to “buy man/days” from another company or to have in-house person than to temporarily hire external freelance workers. For various reasons, some of them relevant, others not.

Employment contracts are protected by law and are not very flexible. A company can not have an employee for a week or two, nor for a month, and then have another one. Well, there are ways around the law, but the company will be considered suspicious and not well-behaved. Employment contracts are mostly for six and more months, counting usually in years. Worker is tied to a position, has no freedom of projects nor co-workers. This is very strong and exclusive bond which goes against nomadic way of working.

Another issue of this long-term bond is that the employees are being paid either they work or they don’t. What a waste of company resources. Nomads are being paid for their shipments.

From nomad’s perspective, the ideal bonding will be temporary. It does not mean weak, just short-lived. In fact, nomad’s binding to the company might be even stronger than employee’s - nomads are more devoted to the work they are doing, using their skills at their best.

It has to be noted, that it should be distinguished between binding and relationship. Binding is formal connection based on mutual agreement - from requirements to delivered shipments. Relationship is long-lasting connection during which the company might want the nomad to help them again and during which the nomad cares about the company.

Enterprises should not limit freedom of nomads and should not ask for exclusivity. Reasonable business restrictions should apply though and should be part of nomad contract or at least good honour of conduct of a nomad. For example it would be disrespectful for a nomad to work for two competing enterprises and to transfer knowledge between them. It is naïve to think that contract can prevent that transfer. When breach is discovered, information has already leaked and business damage has been done. Nevertheless, reputation and code of conduct of nomads is another topic we will talk about later.

To sum it up:

  • nomads prefer temporary bindings
  • nomad can have multiple bindings with multiple shipment recipients
  • nomad is being paid for shipments
  • if a company wants to sustain a nomad for “just-in-case” moments, they might agree on “support fee”


Instead of job listing with positions and job descriptions, nomad-friendly company should list tasks and projects. The company should then poll pool of nomads, create the project binding and let the nomad be free again. It is kind of series of micro-tenders without unnecessary overhead.

There are several sites with general tasks, where anyone can submit a task and anyone can accomplish it. On one financial spectrum is amazon’s Mechanical turk, where rates are in cents, on the other side (for tasks accomplishable by individuals) is for example, Innocentive, where not only financial award is granted, but also patenting of the work. There plenty of sites for freelancers, mostly programmers, out there.

How the simplified process looks like:

  1. Company publishes requirement with public part of task description, deadline and budget
  2. Nomads observing the board would notice the task and would bid
  3. By company based rules, one of the bidding nomads will be assigned the task
  4. Nomad will deliver shipments
  5. Company will pay-off the nomad for the shipment

It might seem, considering how employee hunting works, that nothing would be finished with this kind of process because of lack of nomads. There is one assumption to make it work: high concentration of nomads. It is like within a living cell and synthesis of proteins. No protein is synthesised if there is low concentration of required amino-acids for the protein to be created. Despite being it issue nowadays, it will not be issue in the future, when nomadic kind of working will be wide-spread. Would you rather wait one week more for a skilled nomad, eager to work on it with all his energy, to catch the public requirement specification or would you rather have an internal, but mediocre, non-motivated employee, that can start working on it right now and will deliver crappy shipment with month worth of work fixing?

In the following image you can see employe bound to his position, immediately available, working on tasks regardless of his skills:

Nomads chose to work on something, because it is their domain, they are good at it. They need the money, but they have a choice for what they are going to get the money. Given many choices, they will chose they can show-off by doing, they will put all their potential into it and deliver high quality shipment.

Issues to be resolved

The system has it’s issues, nonetheless. Some of them are causes of current system setting and will fade out as the time goes by. The others might be tied to the business goals and might be tricky to handle. Just to name a few

Corporate confidentiality - reasons may vary, and this can be achieved with employees more easily. However, I think that this will become less issue in the future for two reasons: nomads will gain verifiable reputation and publicity about breach might impact they future contracts. Secondly, with open business models there will be less things to have confidential – adaptability and innovation is the key to survivability.

Knowledge – employees might have better knowledge of internal workings of the organisation. Each new project requires minimum training if any training at all. This might not be true with pseudo-random nomads coming and going which might impact overall organisation performance. We will discuss this in separate talk later.

Questions for discussion

  • What companies you know working this way?
  • What other sites with this kind of task aggregation you know (there are plenty, mostly for programmers)?
  • What other professions you know, besides designers and programmers, can work this way?

Topics to be discussed later:

  • The importance of knowledge management in nomadic environment
  • Skill and project matching
Tags: nomads business

Hard times for nomads? Only for now

Do we have nomad-friendly economy? Are businesses nomad friendly? What about the law?

I will be talking about Nomads - a skilled professionals with location independent, mostly intellectual work that can be done using digital media and internet. As Ivana Sendecka wrote on her blog:

  • They master their art.
  • They totally love what they do.
  • They move from place to place according projects they work on.
  • They cannot stand routine, it kills their creative spirit.
  • They build real lasting relationships.

They do not fit into current economy, into current business models. There are just very few areas where nomads already work, such as designers, but even their situation is not ideally nomadic. Let’s have look why.


Even if someone decides to become a Digital Nomad today, he would become disenchanted by the nomadic idea very quickly. Why? Firstly: many businesses are not ready for this kind of relationships. Secondly: legislative is not ready, at least not in most of the European Union countries. There are several reasons (in no particular order):

  • company attitude: employee or nothing
  • larger companies prefer to hire from an agency or a larger consulting company (in fact working as HR agency as well in some cases)
  • requirements for certificates and accredited degrees
  • complicated bureaucratic process of being self-employed
  • law is written in hard-core legalese, not understandable by nomads

In some countries, such as Slovakia, if you look closely at the law, you realise that large corporations and employment is the only preferred way. The option of being self-employed or having an one-person LLC (s.r.o.) is so energy (time, money, resources, knowledge) expensive, that not too many people would do that nor even try that. Yeah, they say: “you can outsource”, but why should I waste the resources on something obviously irrelevant? I just want to start working, get me some money and state can collect my taxes. Right now.

With a little bit of empathy, you can understand the reasons of corporations. For example, larger agency can provide some kind of assurance over the temporary worker. However, the assurance is based on old non-transparent employment model based on CVs, or resumés if you like. Nomads have no CVs, they have verifiable online reputation - that is the assurance. Nomads have online show-case - that is their “certificate”.

Processes within corporations are another obstacle. I can understand the worries about “corporate confidentiality” a little bit. That is the reason, why we need transparent, verifiable, online reputation. Even in current situation if you hire someone and because of his leak your company will suffer business injuries, law suit would not help you.

"We do not have time to check reputation of all candidates." some HR agent might say. Well, then you say that you do not have time to find really skilled and competent worker.

Position vs. Projects

Employees apply for a position in a company and for a roles or two within that position. Then they work on several projects whether they like it or not. Nomads work on projects they chose and because of being it their choice which might add them to their reputation, they devote themselves fully to the work they do.

Corporate Confidentiality

Again, we hit the problem with corporate confidentiality. I was working for several years for Orange Slovakia, on multiple Data Warehouse and Analytical CRM projects, traveling around the Europe, talking to people from local Orange offices, attending and presenting at Orange Group forums. I had many ideas, created plenty of presentations. Only thing that remains of that is two or three lines in my resume or very few unverifiable bullets on LinkedIn. I think that I did great amount of artistic work there, but I can not tell anyone - it is confidential.

What I can do, is to abstract those ideas to the point that it will be very generic and try to invent other examples (numbers, services, entities, …). That would take me at least half the time it was necessary to create the original shipments. Even then I would be not sure, whether posting it on the internet would not put me into legal conflict or not.

I do not say that there should be not corporate confidentiality. It has it’s place. But I think that we went too far, and relying on closed business models is like security through obscurity. Even-though, thinking that employees do not bring their stuff from one employee to the other is like mother believing, that the porn magazine under the bed her son’s friend. And there are companies that will hire you just because you worked for the competition and can bring not only know how in your head…

Why not make it “legal”? Just be honestly open, have open business model and learn from each other openly. Let the nomads be proud of their work and make them gain some reputation. Sure, they should tweak it not to hurt the company.

In addition, opening your business a little is not only about helping the nomad to get some reputation, but also about getting feedback that you can benefit from.


I’ve described only few issues that Digital Nomads can meet in current economy. They are many more.

If you want your business be nomad ready, then you should know, that:

  • Nomads have no titles, nor certificates - they have portfolios, show-cases, source code repositories
  • Nomads have no limited CVs, they have unlimited skill-set, verifiable by their online footprints
  • Nomads do not want to waste energy on what is unrelated to their craft, art or business


  • do not expect CVs nor certificates
  • take time to verify reputation
  • be hones and open your business a little bit
  • fix your processes - be flexible
  • talk to state representatives or at least point to the legislation that is making hard for you to hire a nomad

Next nomadic post will be: Example of a nomad-friendly organisation.


  • What other legal, corporate or process issues the nomads might have? Can they be fixed? If yes, how?
  • What obstacles within corporations are for preventing hiring a nomad?
  • In what situations it is better to have an employee instead of a nomad (considering the Nomad constraint at the beginning of this blog post)?
Tags: nomads business