Freelancing is the passport to freedom for most of us here. For me, building this life of freedom started with an intense desire to travel and live abroad. I realized, if I built up a business that was location-independent, I could live and work from anywhere I wanted.
I’m writing this from our current home base in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Now I know not all of you may want to become a full time nomad like me. But what if you could take off for say, 3 months every year, and experience living in a different place? It could mean moving to a new country for a few months or even experiencing a new city in your own country.
Here’s how to set up your freelance business for portability.
Before You Leave: The Crucial Planning and Organization
Start planning ahead to get organized with your business while you’re still at home, so you don’t have to stress while you’re traveling.
LET YOUR CLIENTS KNOW
I believe in being completely upfront with my clients, especially because I am usually traveling overseas and there are time differences to think about.
Have an open chat with your clients and leave room for them to express doubt/ ask questions. Reassure them that you won’t be at your usual location but it won’t affect your work. Don’t focus on the travel (then it starts to sound like a holiday). Instead, explain you are simply looking for a change of scenery for your work environment. If you have clients you need to meet face-to-face, propose to trial a few meetings over Skype before you leave. Work out the time differences (if any) and set realistic expectations about when you will be available.
Some clients will be skeptical, others will be supportive. The key is assuring them that the quality of your work won’t be affected by you traveling.
SET UP SYSTEMS
This is the time to set up systems for your business that keep the ball rolling even if you have to go catch a 12 hour flight.
Identify your time-sucks (usually admin/online marketing tasks) and figure out how you can save time. Time to outsource may be?
Find and train a virtual assistant to manage tasks that don’t require your expertise. VAs can also be useful for covering tasks in different time zones if necessary. Set up and train clients to use workflow systems such as BaseCamp, Asana or Trello instead of emails. Start using scheduling tools (e.g. Buffer) to take care of your social media.
SET UP YOUR CLOUD
It’s crucial to have your business accessible in the cloud, just in case something goes wrong while you’re away from home.
Invest in an online backup solution
Use Google Drive/ Dropbox to upload all your important files and train clients to start using collaborative tools like Google Docs
I lost my hard drive after accidentally leaving it in a taxi. Luckily most of my work was on Google Drive! Don’t take the chance of not having your work backed up or not in a secure location.
While you’re doing all the boring (but necessary) stuff for your business, it’s also time to think about getting set up in your new “home”. Remember, you’re not going on a holiday so you need to look at your new location from a work-friendly point of view.
Plan to travel over the weekend to minimize interruption to your work.
Research internet availability and speeds in your location of choice. Remote beaches are great for holidays but not so great when you can barely get a 3G signal. Find out recommended areas and neighborhoods to live in. I recommend staying in an apartment over a hostel/hotel, especially if you’re staying for a few months. It’s less distracting and the Wi-Fi is usually more reliable. If you’re committing to an apartment before you arrive, get your host to test the internet in your apartment by using the Speed Test app.
Get travel insurance. Make sure it covers the areas you’re traveling to and also covers your gadgets.
Research coworking spaces and/or cafes in town. You need to have a productive place to work from. This is also a good backup to have just in case the Wi-Fi at your accommodation doesn’t work. Some sites I’ve found useful for travel and accommodation planning: Sky Scanner, AirBnB, Craigslist, Expat Blog, location-relevant expat Facebook groups and Nomad List.
Being A Good Freelancer On The Road
HIT THE GROUND RUNNING
Travel is exciting and it’s probably tempting to go sightseeing as soon as you arrive in a new place. But, I recommend using the first few days to get settled in to minimize downtime for your work.
- Find your apartment (if you haven’t pre-booked).
- Find your workspace (home/coworking space/ cafe/ other).
- Contact clients to let them know you’re back at work and available.
- Locate your nearest supermarket, gym, park, coffee shop, bar and anything else that’s important to make you feel settled in a place.
- Catch up on sleep! Travel can be tiring and you need to be well rested and healthy to keep working.
DEVELOP A ROUTINE
This is not a holiday. It might take a bit of getting used to but keep reminding yourself of that. Put work first. I don’t mean become a workaholic but don’t let your work suffer because you decided to go sightseeing.
Plan your work day. When and how much you work is up to you but you need to block out times for work otherwise it’s easy to get lost in holiday-mode. Make room for enjoyment and travel. You’re in a new place – take advantage of it. Go out and do fun things when you’re not working. Take short trips over the weekends. Immerse yourself in your new location and make the most of your slow travel experience.
Stay healthy. Don’t burn yourself out with too much work and/or too much travel. Trust me it happens! Figure out a routine that helps you balance work and travel and I promise you will fall in love with being location independent.
KEEP YOUR CLIENTS HAPPY
I have been traveling for two years now. My partner and I move to a new country every few months and our clients don’t complain.
Do the work. Meet deadlines. That’s all it takes to keep the client happy really. Be flexible and put clients first. Traveling is your choice so never let a client feel like they’re suffering because you’ve decided to set up on a Thai beach for the winter.
Is your business is ready to go location-independent? Do you have any more questions before you give freelancing + travel a shot? Tell me in the comments.
SOME MORE PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS
A few other practical things to consider before you pack up your business and hit the road:
- Do you need visas for your location of choice?
- How will you manage tax? (Especially if you plan to be away for long periods of time).
- Do you need to receive mail? Can you get it sent to a relative/friend’s place? Can you do away with it completely?
- Do you receive phone calls? Can you divert calls to Skype instead?
Let us know in the comments if you’ve been wanting to explore travel with your freelance business and what fears might be holding you back.