It’s a dream job, right? Having the freedom to travel the world, while continuing your career and receiving a regular pay check at the same time. Simply setting up your laptop at the nearest beach bar when you need to catch up on emails, or do a few hours’ work. The perfect lifestyle!
Well, what used to be a far-fetched dream is increasingly becoming a reality, with more and more freelancers turning ‘digital nomad’ so they can combine the best of both worlds. There are now over 10,000 freelancers on digital nomads, the social network dedicated to this new breed of worker - showing it could be easier than you think.
With a growing demand for flexible, affordable freelance talent, along with a wealth of technology and tools that make remote working easy and accessible, it’s now possible to do your job from pretty much anywhere. All you need is a laptop and a decent Wi-Fi connection and you’re away!
Sound tempting? Here’s some food for thought before you take the plunge:
• Remember, you will have to work sometimes For many people, travelling is the exact opposite of work and an antidote to the dreaded 9 to 5. You want to let-loose, pack every day full of site-seeing, partying and late nights, and not even think about work. Which is totally fair enough. But just remember that if you’re freelancing to fund your travels, you will have to resist temptation and stay sensible, at least some of the time. It can help to stick to a routine to make sure you know when you should be working and when you can relax and have fun. Otherwise, you may find the latter activities take over!
• Beach bars are generally not that comfortable It sounds idyllic, but have you actually tried to work at a beach bar? Great for a caipirinha, not so good for whipping your laptop out and making some Skype calls! You’re going to need something a bit more professional if you actually want to get some work done (and not spill caipirinha on your laptop!) Luckily, co-working hubs are now popping up all over the place, so it’s easier than ever to find a quiet spot with decent Wi-Fi, along with a few other fellow nomads, or local entrepreneurs. You can check out Places to Work which has listings for great locations all over the world.
• Getting in the time zone One snag to freelancing from far-flung locations is you’re likely to be living in a different time zone to your potential clients, which could affect the kind of work you can do. If you’re a copywriter for example, time zone shouldn’t matter so much, as you can get on with your work independently, without too much external input. But for those with a more reactive, client-facing or media relations role, dealing with different time zones can be a challenge. Travel west and you could be set for some early mornings; go east and you’ll be facing some late nights! Nothing is insurmountable of course, but you need to be realistic about how working in different time zones could affect your hours and productivity.
• The paperwork When thinking about freelancing abroad, lots of people’s immediate response is ‘but what about visa and tax issues?’ In fact, it’s actually pretty simple. If you’re just travelling, i.e. not moving to live long-term in another country, you can live and work quite happily with a normal tourist visa, while continuing to pay tax in your home country. It only becomes an issue if you become a resident of another country, when they may want to start claiming tax on some of your income, or if you spend less than 183 days per year in the UK. But most freelancers, particularly if they’re working through a UK-based limited company, will find sticking with that arrangement is the best option.
• Be realistic about workload, and remember, you can still take holidays! One of the biggest challenges for any freelancer is managing your workload effectively, but this is even more important when you’re on the move. You don’t want to overpromise then find yourself stretched and stressed, chained to your co-working desk when you should be enjoying the local sights and culture. So think realistically about how much of the week you want (and need) to be working and make sure you stick to it. And don’t be scared to give yourself a few days off once in a while. Otherwise you might remember your trip for the wrong reasons.
• Online (and offline) tools Make sure you’re all set up with the best online tools to make staying connected as seamless as possible. Do it right and your clients shouldn’t even be able to notice that you’re 5,000 miles away! Skype is obviously a godsend, enabling you to make calls with your laptop and even set yourself up with a local UK number, so clients can easily call you. If you also want a local postal address, you can organise a virtual office service, which will receive, scan and email your post for you back home. And of course, don’t forget The Work Crowd so you can keep up to date with and apply for all the latest projects while on the move!
The world is smaller than ever before and you’ll be amazed at what’s possible with a laptop and a dream. These days, many businesses are extremely open-minded about working with remote workers and ultimately don’t mind where you are - from Cornwall or Copacabana – so long as you deliver quality work. Just don’t ask about the weather back home!