Travel and Freelancing
Freelancing and self-employment can both be very flexible. Many freelance jobs can be done from home without needing to see clients or customers face-to-face. All you really need is a computer and a mobile phone, and you could be working from anywhere.
That is precisely the point of this page. You could, indeed, be working from anywhere.
Freelancing can be combined with long-term travelling, as a way to give yourself an income and extend your trip. It can also be combined with living abroad, allowing you to move with a partner, or just live somewhere with a lower cost of living and have your money go further. This page explains some of the benefits and drawbacks, and suggests some important things to consider.
Working, Travelling and Living Abroad: Who is Involved?
The ‘digital nomad’ – freelancing while travelling
The ‘digital nomad’ is a professional traveller. Armed with a laptop and passport, they spend their lives ‘on the road’, moving from one place to another as the fancy takes them. Living out of a suitcase or backpack, they fund their travelling by writing or other freelance work. Their aim is to see the world, without losing contact with work or going bankrupt.
There is more about this type of work in our guest post on being a travelling freelancer.
The expat – living and working abroad
The second group of freelance travellers is those who have moved abroad to a particular place. They may have moved with a partner, or simply because the cost of living is lower or they wanted to live abroad, learn a new language and experience life somewhere else. They may well have been freelancing before their move, and they consider themselves freelancers who simply happen to live and work outside their original home country.
The big advantage of this approach is that your costs are lower. Your money goes further, and you can therefore either save more, enjoy it more, or win more work by undercutting freelancers from elsewhere with higher costs.
The ‘frequent flyer’ – regular holidays and breaks, but still in touch with clients
There is another group, who fits somewhere between the first two. The ‘frequent flyer’ has a home base, but also takes full advantage of the benefits of flexible and remote working. They spend time visiting new places, working while they are there. The main disadvantage of this approach is that you can find yourself visiting fabulous places—and then having to spend your time working, because few freelancers can afford to refuse work.
What To Consider
Before embarking on any of these courses of action, there are some things that you need to consider.
Is This Right For Me?
The first, and most important consideration: is this the right option for you? Not all of us are cut out for a nomadic lifestyle, or living far away from family and friends. Even with modern communications, it is still possible to feel a very long way away from home sometimes. Be honest with yourself about whether it is going to work, because building a freelance career is hard anyway and you do not need to make it harder for yourself.
TOP TIP! Set yourself a time limit
If you are not sure whether to try living abroad, or being a digital nomad, set yourself a time limit (say, 6 months). Try it for that period, and then decide if you want to carry on.
Getting the Right Equipment
It is true that you can work from anywhere with a laptop and phone. There are, however, important issues to consider, such as broadband access, staying in touch with customers, and charging your laptop and phone. It is worth considering how you plan to manage these, and whether you need any specialist equipment.
If you plan to travel in more remote areas, you will need to check for wi-fi and mobile phone signals. You may need to warn your clients in advance that you could be out of touch for periods of time.
Staying Productive—But NOT Losing Your Work–Life Balance
It is important to find a balance between sightseeing and working when you are a travelling freelancer of whatever type. You want to see as much as possible of each new country, but you also have to pay the bills.
It is no good spending all your time head-down over a laptop, with no chance to make friends, take in the culture, or enjoy your surroundings. Equally, if you spend all your time sitting in cafes chatting, you will soon run out of money.
Take time to consider how you plan to work—and make sure that you stick to it.
For example, you might decide that you will work for certain hours each day, or take one or two full days off each week to do other things. It is important to remember that you are in charge of your own life, so you can break your rules if you want to—but only if you want to, and not because a client is forcing you to work around the clock. That’s not why you went freelance, after all.
Also consider tips for managing your productivity while travelling. For example, having only carry-on luggage is a lot more efficient than having to check bags in. There is more about staying productive as a travelling freelancer in our guest post on this subject.
Keeping Your Work Safe
This is connected to getting the right equipment, but it is important enough for its own heading: you need to be able to back up your data in case your laptop is lost or stolen, or you have any other kind of disaster. Make sure that you fully research—and use—options like cloud storage, and how to keep your data safe. Your clients will not thank you, and are unlikely to be sympathetic, if you explain that you had actually finished the job, but your computer crashed and you lost a week’s work.
Back it up, wherever you are, and however late. You cannot afford not to do so.
Can You Actually Make Money from Travel?
For most people, freelancing is a way to fund travelling. Some, though, find ways to make their travel actually pay. For example, if you write a travel blog, you may be able to get sponsorship from brands that would like to feature. You may also be able to get commissions to write about particular places for magazines and websites. This is worth further consideration as it may give you another reason to travel and/or freelance as you do so.
Flexibility, fun and freedom
Travelling and freelancing is, for some people, the best of all worlds. It allows you to combine the flexibility and freedom of freelancing with the fun of travelling. Yes, you need to be organised, but most travellers do anyway. The best advice for anyone who thinks this sounds like the way forward for them is to try it, at least for a while.
We are more likely to regret things undone than tried and abandoned as not quite right for us.