Top 5 Tips for Working Freelance When Traveling
I have been working and travelling as a freelancer for the past 15 months and I love it! My “offices” have ranged from a coffee table next to the beach to my lap on a very small aeroplane. I am trying to encourage more people to get started in online freelancing as the opportunities for travel are amazing. You can read more about my experiences travelling and freelancing at no9to5.co. Being able to work anywhere is really cool but it does have its own challenges. Here are some of my top tips to make your life easier while you are travelling.
Find a good co working space
Cafes, hostels and restaurants all offer free wifi these days but there are a number of downsides:
- They can be noisy - can you concentrate over the clinking of plates and people chatting about how lame Emma’s new boyfriend is?
- They can be uncomfortable - most establishments like this expect a certain rate of churn, they don’t want people staying there all day. Cafe chairs are only comfortable for a while. After a couple of hours you’ll have a numb bum. Trust me.
- They can be expensive - buying coffees and cookies all day so you can stay there adds up. It’s not good for your waistline either!
As remote work becomes more and more popular, coworking spaces are springing up like mushrooms (or even Muchrooms, a coworking space near me!) These are an absolute godsend to the freelancer on the road.
I’m writing this article from a coworking space in Bangkok. They have nice desks with comfortable chairs. There are sofas and beanbags if you want a change of scenery. All this for the very reasonable price of $4.50 USD for a day pass… including a nice coffee!
I bet you can find a coworking space near you when travelling. Take a look on Google or the coworking wiki and you won’t be disappointed. You’ll probably meet some cool people too.
Be honest & communicative with your clients
Your clients probably don’t mind if you are travelling around but it’s a good idea to keep them informed. Let them know where you are and what you’re doing. That way, if your bus breaks down or your flight is delayed and you miss a Skype call your client will not be taken completely by surprise. This has happened to me and my clients have been very forgiving because I let them know in advance that it was a possibility.
Communicate with your clients, early and often
Also, my clients love hearing about where I am and what I’m doing. This has led to conversations that foster our relationship. It’s never a bad idea to share with your clients; a trusting relationship is a long lasting one. Zapier has great articles about communication for remote teams. As humans we rely on a large range of non-verbal signals and remote working removes all of these. Whenever I wonder whether to tell my client something or not, I tend to err on the side of overcommunication. You should never assume your client knows what you’re doing or thinking.
Get good kit
This kind of ties in to the last point. We live in a very connected world these days and I haven’t visited anywhere in the last 2 years that didn’t have wifi. Actually, we climbed Mount Krakatoa in Indonesia… there was no wifi there but that’s the exception that proves the rule!
Despite this, while you can get wifi just about everywhere, we don’t yet live in a world where isolated beaches and small islands have solid, stable broadband. Bring on the days of global wifi!!! I have worked in places where power supplies & wifi connections can vanish at a moment’s notice. At times like these, having a local SIM card for your phone with a data connection can let you get an email to your client and keep them informed. Depending on what you are doing, you may even be able to finish your work from your phone.
You should get yourself a good mobile power pack too. This is a good investment while travelling anyway as it can be extremely helpful on long bus / plane / train journies. I know from personal experience that when the power goes out in your beachside hut you’ll be glad you have your powerpack.
While travelling, my girlfriend and I have snuck in an hour’s work in the back of buses, in airport waiting rooms, and in hotel lobbies. This is one of the great things about online freelancing - being able to work whenever and wherever.
However, all of these places can be incredibly noisy. As someone who can get distracted by a shiny object in the distance, the noise of people talking and eating, and engines & car horns can absolutely kill my ability to work.
I used to have some standard in-ear headphones but these let in all kinds of sound. You don’t have to invest in top of the line noise-cancelling cans but get some that at least block ambient noise. These might be over ear phones or, like I have, in ear ones with a body that fills up your ear and helps block out noise. The sound quality is a lot better than basic equipment too so you can rock out to your favourite tunes while you’re working! They’re practical AND you look cool; win-win!
Have a routine and be punctual
Two points here, working remotely is great but it doesn’t mean that you can do whatever you want… you still need to work. I love the ability to work whenever and wherever but I still need to have a routine of some kind. This helps clients know what to expect and gives me the stability to actually knuckle down and get stuff done. Sorry if that’s killed the illusion of my wild and crazy rock and roll lifestyle!
The second point is about punctuality. My father always said there are only 2 times: on time and late. You lose trust quickly as a remote worker, out of sight, out of mind and all that. As a result, if you say you will be on Skype at 10:30 and you’re not there your client will have no idea what is happening. I have been on the receiving end of this and it is very frustrating. I’m not saying that the unexpected won’t happen… it’s for exactly this reason that you should endeavour to be as punctual as possible. If you’re on time 99% of the time then you will accumulate good will for the odd occasion when life gets in your way.
I love freelance work. 2 years ago I was commuting 1 and a half hours every day in the British rain. Now I can travel the world and experience new things while earning money at the same time. I hope that my top tips will help you to do the same.
By Ben Wroe
Ben is a passionate fan of online freelancing. He lives in Bangkok with his girlfriend Agi. Together they run no9to5.co and offer coaching services to help people take advantage of online freelancing to get away from the usual office lifestyle.
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