One of the best things about freelancing is the ability to work flexibly – even as you travel. It’s certainly one of the most-cited reasons why people envy freelancers; they tend to picture us cheerily flying off on a whim and sending our work emails from a charming yurt in Mongolia.
While travel can be a part of why freelancing is fantastic, it also poses its own challenges, especially if you’re working from a different time zone. I’ve often worked as a roaming freelancer (reporting remotely from three continents) and I’ve found that most clients are just fine with you travelling – as long as you cover three key bases.
This is the most important component to roaming wisely. Good, reliable tech is crucial to ensuring that you stay in the loop – and in your client’s good graces. Will you need an adaptor for electronics? Do you have the right cases and supplies to protect your equipment from careless handlers? Where will you get Internet access – and do you have a back-up plan in case your hotel/hostel/yurt’s service doesn’t work? Does your smartphone have service options in the area you’ll be traveling (those fees shoot up fast)?
Take some time before your trip to research; these are pretty common questions, and answers are often eminently findable on the Internet. A little outlay of cash beforehand almost always pays off.
As a freelance writer, my laptop goes with me almost everywhere; I use a smaller, lighter, but still dependable model for international travel. Before I leave, I back up every important file, just in case. I’ve never been sorry yet!
Before your trip, let your clients know IN WRITING where and when you’ll be gone – and how (and when) they can reach you. This can take the form of a simple, cheery email; putting it in writing ensures that you never run into miscommunication. Make sure you’re also clear about how your workflow will be affected, if it will be.
I like to send a formal alert email about a month in advance (if possible) and send a reminder just before I travel. Because I try very hard to be clear about how available I will (or will not) be, I haven’t every run into much resistance. In fact, clients are normally excited to hear about my trip!
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I’ve worked at 3 AM in India. I’ve taken phone calls at 8 PM in London. Were these hours particularly convenient when paired with jet lag? Ugh, nope.
Because as a roaming freelancer, I’m choosing to work while travelling (instead of taking a vacation) I often try to be even MORE flexible with clients than I normally am. I’ve turned in projects weeks early to avoid being out of town while they’re being reviewed. I’ve stayed in slightly nicer hotels in order to have reliable Wi-Fi. I’ve tried hard to follow the golden rule: to be as flexible with clients as I want them to be with me!
This brings me to my most important point: make sure that what you really WANT to do is travel while working – instead of taking a vacation. You don’t want to be missing out on much-needed adventures because you’re hunched over a laptop in some seedy Internet café, trying to get PowerPoint to load. Traveling while freelancing is pretty easy (and fun), but it’s not the same as taking a break. That being said, if you want to work, take advantage of that vaunted freelance freedom to work where (and when) you want to – it’s the Roaming Freelance Way!
Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.