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Tired of Living Alone? Bulgaria Is Building a Safe Haven for Digital Nomads

digital nomads talking to each other and socializing
Image credit: Helena Lopes via Pexels
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Balancing work and life has never been easy. One day you find yourself longing for consistency. And then an amazing opportunity comes up. The excitement takes over. There is a new adventure ahead. Somewhere else. Working remotely. Moving back and forth. Experiencing different cultures. Enjoying the flexibility and freedom to lose and find yourself again through the people you meet on the road. You never know what it feels like to be a digital nomad unless you experience it. 

Best part of it? You can go whenever. But today, we are taking you to Sofia. The capital of Bulgaria is full of life, riding on the wave of fast internet and international crowds. While Bulgaria is a EU country with beautiful nature, interesting culture, delicious cuisine and friendly people. Soon Sofia will be a home of the first of its kind co-living and working space for digital nomads. WorkNomads is set to open doors to Bulgaria digital nomads this Autumn. The Recursive sat down with the team behind the project to learn more about their ambitious goal to create a “nation without a country” – a global community for remote jobs, co-living, knowledge sharing and networking. 

“Our vision is to create a nation without a country…. through our nomadic
economy we’re anticipating the future way of living and working”,
said Katriеn Meire, Founder and Executive Director of WorkNomads.

What is WorkNomads?

WorkNomads is a global employer for digital nomads aiming to provide them with a holistic work-life balance, while at the same time offering a more flexible workforce for businesses. 

Their physical headquarters is located in Sofia in a former hotel. Currently under renovation, it will transform the building into the biggest co-living facility in Bulgaria – 120 rooms, co-working and event spaces, a restaurant, and a rooftop terrace. Upon visiting the place, some of the old rooms are already renovated, with some of the furniture from the previous state of the hotel – restored. This adds up to their sustainable activities, which will also be a big part of their brand image.

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a bedroom
A renovated room in the co-living space. Source: WorkNomads

The mixed-use building currently has close to 20 nomads. The team expects to attract close to 60 Bulgaria digital nomads by the last quarter of 2022. 

The idea was born in the beginning of 2021. Their first goal was to find like-minded people to join this social experiment, as Katrien puts it. They called it LAB Hotel because they want to study nomads and their behavior with this pilot project. By the end of October they closed the deal to purchase the hotel. 

The WN LAB Hotel’s structure gives digital nomads the opportunity  to cohabitate with like-minded people, while pursuing their career goals and exploring the country. 

A trend contributing to the flourishing of co-living spaces are the rising housing prices in Western Europe. For many young people, owning a home is a mirage. So, the WN Lab Hotel’s goal is to lure them with the idea of freedom of movement and flexibility instead. “To have spacious accommodation with outdoor space is simply unaffordable and almost non-existent in big cities, especially for young people”, Katriеn points out. 

And then the pandemic of COVID-19 forced many people, including digital nomads to work from home only. Many of them are craving human contact after 2 years of living alone, so that’s why the team of WorkNomads wanted to have all facilities onsite.

“Research shows that nomads see dinner and eating as a way to socialize so we have installed communal kitchens for them and will also have a full functioning restaurant onsite”, Katriеn adds. 
a common area for dining
Source: WorkNomads

The Business Model of WorkNomads

WorkNomads operates by hiring talents from all over the world, who then become WorkNomad’s employees in Bulgaria, and deploys their services to corporate clients who need specialists to work remotely on projects with or without a long-term commitment. The legal requirement is for employees to work at least 6 months remotely from Bulgaria, which they can do, if they wish, from WN Lab Hotel’s facilities. 

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“We’re giving our nomads a support framework within
which they have the freedom to choose how and where they want to live and
work. Our framework (employment from Bulgaria) gives them security,
convenience and thus more time to spend on the things they love to do”,
Katrien explains. 

WorkNomads specializes in hiring engineers, software engineers, digital marketers, content creators, and design and business development professionals. “It also provides nomads with flexible housing (without binding long term leases), work permits and visa paperwork,” Katrien lists the benefits. 

Source: WorkNomads

Why choose Bulgaria as a digital nomad

Some of Bulgaria’s advantages when it comes to attracting digital nomads, Katrien points out, are the low costs of living, the amazing nature with the possibility of hiking, skiing, and enjoying the lakes and seaside, the 4 seasons (which offer a lot of possibilities for outdoor activities). The local culture and love for food and wine are also worth exploring. And last, but not least the fact that it is a European country with a low personal and corporate income tax. 

However, on the downside, there’s administrative burden, lack of digitization in government and some banking services, and many bureaucratic requirements. Katrien also adds that Bulgaria lacks a general image and branding and people still don’t know much about the country. 

 Designing the nomad economy

“We are designing a new nomadic economy by hiring WorkNomads as employees
and deploying their know-how in contracted remote or projects-based jobs
within different businesses. This allows ultimate flexibility on both sides. We
value the strength and creativity that stems from providing the freedom to live and enjoy work, friendships and communities across borders”, 
Katrien highlighted.  
set-up of the room
Source: WorkNomads

The team of WorkNomads also believes that their target audience is not only existing Bulgaria digital nomads but also aspiring ones, who might not have all the answers yet.

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