Being able to escape from a previous employer with their office in a single location to a more flexible arrangement is the ideal scenario for those people who are stuck in a cubicle dreaming of being free. Next to being able to retire and move to wherever they want, being able to live location independently is really the next best thing.
If you are interested in freelancing, then it is important to build up contacts, clients and a portfolio of past work first. This process can take quite a few months or even up to a year depending on how many hours you can devote to building a new freelance career while still working a day job.
For freelancers who have already made the leap to working full-time as a freelancer and struck out on their own, they know that they have a whole host of new challenges to deal with. One of those challenges is how to fit travel and work in whilst still serving clients well and keeping sufficient income flowing in to meet your financial goals.
Different people have different travel objectives.
For some, being able to take long weekends away on city breaks or short mini-breaks is good enough. For others, they either wish to be able to work half the year whilst taking the other months off or they want to become completely location independent. Whether you want to stay in Jamaican hotels or Managua hotels you’ll have complete freedom to work where you’d like.
For those that work from a home office or rent an office locally and take short breaks, managing a freelance career is not half as difficult. It just requires letting your current clients know that you’re taking a few days off. Often it’s possible to finish projects ahead of your leaving date or pad extra time into your delivery estimates to take trips in the middle of lengthy projects.
Only specific careers can handle working some months and taking other months off completely. Someone like an artist who sells enough paintings may be able to afford to take time off. A film editor or cinematographer who works on film projects as they come up, able to pass on some and agree to others, could do so if they make enough money when they were working to cover them on their downtime.
However, for most freelancers who have regular clients, it isn’t possible to just disappear for six months. Most freelancers would like to find regular, repeat ordering clients, which prevents disappearing for months at a time. The clients would quickly find other suppliers if a freelancer disappeared and anyone in this situation would find it difficult to re-establish industry contacts when they got back to work.
Even as a location independent person, you’ll still have the question whether you’ll behave more like a travel blogger moving from city to city, country to country every few weeks or month, or to behave more like a resident of each country while you max-out your permitted duration of stay with the visa that you’re issued, before moving on to somewhere else.
Tools of the Trade
Setting up a home office is relatively easy. You can purchase a large desk, comfortable chair and all the other equipment that you need. If you decide to move abroad permanently, travel frequently or even need to stay in touch with clients while on short city-breaks abroad, then you need a portable set-up that is more thought out.
With these examples, I’m assuming that you are a knowledge worker like a web developer, web designer, social media consultant or freelancer writer who all need similar equipment to get the job done. If you’re an artist or have some other kind of professional, then you may need to consider adding or changing your list of tools.
Consider your type of profession. Do you have need to deal with time-zone differences between where you’ll be and your clients’ location? If so, how will you handle that? Do you need equipment to do your job which is too large or too heavy to travel with in a practical way? If so, how will you handle that?
A freelancer has to be able to do something that is portable if they wish to travel in any capacity. Shipping heavy items from destination to destination is cost-prohibitive. Most freelancers who travel need to travel light.
1. Laptop, Tablet or Smartphone. Depending on whether you are a programmer who needs a high-powered laptop or a travel blogger who moonlights as a freelance writer and spends most of the time on the tablet, your needs will differ. Despite improvements in interfaces for tablets, it’s still not the most practical of devices for getting serious work done. Do bear that in mind.
In terms of mobility and dealing with time-zones, unless you want to be tethered to your desk in the evenings, you’ll want to have some form of mobile computing in order to keep in touch with your clients, check for email, respond to Skype messages, etc.
2. Internet connection. How will you be connected where you are staying? Is it a Wi-Fi connection in a guesthouse or hotel room? Or will you have a 3G or 4G LTE SIM card plugged into a USB modem, tablet or smartphone?
It is a good idea to have a backup computing device and a backup Internet connection via a tablet and cellular connection for times when your main Internet line runs into trouble. Sometimes there are local power cuts just when you have a deadline, but the 3G cell tower is in a different street and is still operational.
At such times, you have the option to finish some work off or at least contact relevant clients to let them know that they’ll be a delay. You can also keep in touch via email and follow-up with people, even if you aren’t able to be productive at such times.
Electricity supplies and internet services when abroad are not anywhere near as reliable and consistent as they are back home, so it’s a good idea to have more redundancies if you rely on the internet for your business.
3. Desk and Comfortable Chair. These are often overlooked as some freelancers to try balance their laptop on their knees while sitting on the edge of a hotel room bed. To be productive, you need a work desk and a chair that will be comfortable to sit in. Many less expensive rental accommodations lack these extras as most tourists do not need them, so you may have to buy them even if you’re only staying 2-3 months.
4. Dropbox. Storing your crucial business and financial files in the cloud is essential if you want to protect from a hard drive failure or theft of your equipment while you’re out on the town.
Dropbox is the mostly commonly used cloud storage service, but certainly not the cheapest. CrashPlan+ is aimed more at corporate clients, but they also have personal plans which offer unlimited storage for less than $10 a month (in comparison, this gets you just 100GB of storage on Dropbox for roughly the same price).
With online storage, bear in mind that it relies on slow upload speeds to send data into the cloud and download speeds will also be largely dependent on your local internet connection. For countries like the USA and the UK, it’s easy to imagine backing up terabytes of data quickly and easily, but doing so while lying in a hammock near the beach in Cambodia on a rickety 1mbit Internet connection that keeps cutting out is not so easy. As such, it’s a good idea to have a separate slim external drive, as well as online storage.
5. Security software. Get the best anti-virus and malware scanners, and scan your system regularly. Beware of using internet cafés as they are a haven for keystroke malware and other nasties. Consider using LastPass or another password cloud manager to save your login access for web sites so that you don’t have to write your passwords down anywhere.
6. Network with Web sites, Social Media, Blogs, Forums, and more. Being freelance, especially if you are travelling around a lot and often out of contact, it’s important that you have online activity showing in various ways. In that way, you always seem to be busy and networking, rather than always moving and never seen.