Working from the road sounds pretty dreamy, no? It promises freedom to plan your day around conditions, minimize expenses, and justify an absurd amount of time chasing what you love (read: waves/snow), and spending more time with your friends and family.
It’s professional development, okay?
Over the past year, I fell into copy writing and branding work, which turned into my ticket to avoiding an office. What started as a way to make extra income and afford a weekly jar of sauerkraut and evolve professionally while exploring some beautiful countries transformed into an almost full-time freelance/remote working gig.
But working remotely ain’t always pretty. I’ve taken calls at 3 a.m. while roaming Indonesia, Skyped while crewing a yacht in Greece, and ran my business out of my Subaru Forester in New Zealand. Fact: For the first month, I set up a white sheet in front of my car to make it seem like an office, when in fact, I was just camping.
Point is, I’ve picked up a few tricks that have helped me along the way to find clients, fake it til’ I make it, and (kind of) have a justifiable career. I refuse to use the term “digital nomad” to describe what I do. I think it’s pompous and detracts from the professionalism and skill required to run your own business. So in the interest of encouraging others to jump on the bandwagon that is combining work and play, I’ve put together a list of key insights that have kept me employed and sane over the past year.
The internet is incredible. There is so much knowledge and opportunity available if you use it to your advantage. From developing new skill sets, to attending classes, to forming meaningful relationships through social media platforms, setting a few hours aside a week to learn new skills will make you a more desirable candidate. If you’re in the lower economic bracket, there’s usually an option to audit courses. That means you can take a course for free without being graded on assignments. You won’t be getting a certification at the end of it all, but you will be gaining a new skill. My own favorite resources include Skillshare and Udemy.
Find Peace With the Internet
If you know where to look, you’ll find fulfilling work left and right. Remote and freelance work has drastically risen in popularity over the last few years with diverse range of job search platforms like Upwork, WorkingNotWorking, Malakye, The Dots, and LinkedIn.
The trick to scoring jobs via these platforms is to create a strategic internet presence for yourself. Build that website, create those profiles, and have some photos taken that make you look presentable and like someone a company would want to work with (and pay). Encourage potential clients to jump on a skype call with you and form a personal relationship that is often lacking in the world of remote work. They’ll appreciate putting a face to the name.
Invest in a Portable Wi-Fi Modem
I hate being the person who shows up at an establishment and immediately asks for the Wi-Fi. Avoid looking like a social media-obsessed lunatic by investing in a petite portable Wi-Fi modem. You can get them for under $150 and load up on data from a sim card. Wherever you are — unless it’s one of the most remote corners of the world — you should be able to access the internet. A handheld Wi-Fi modem is a total game changer, which saves money by limiting the number of cafes you visit, doesn’t keep you confined to working indoors, and offers more freedom to choose where you physically work.
Find Peace with Routines
You have be organized and somewhat serious to pull all this off. Setting boundaries is key to getting projects done, establishing yourself as a reputable freelancer, and maintaining business for the long run. I love using tools like Asana, Freedcamp, Slack, and Bonsai Invoices. Find what works for you and stick with it. For me, that’s working early in the morning and late at night so I can maximize the daylight hours, get inspired, and move my body.
Surround Yourself with Good People
A common lament from freelancers is that working from a laptop can get lonely, especially when it seems like everyone is always on vacation. Recently, I pulled out the laptop to finish a writing project, only to get bombarded with comments about disconnecting and enjoying my trip. Chill.
Find good people and good communities that inspire you, encourage your craft, and that you can ideally collaborate with. Most of the time, people are interested in learning how you leverage traveling and working, which is the perfect opportunity to swoop them up and make them your buds. I just wrapped up a week at Sundesk Coworking in Taghazout, Morocco, which was a nice chance to put my head down in an office space surrounded by other computer fiends. Working remotely is growing in popularity, so when you establish yourself in a town for a while, you’re sure to find others hustling on their laptops as well.
Bask in Your Company
That beautiful man logging his life away? He’s your next client. And (hopefully) future husband. It turns out most people are utterly charmed when they learn you can offer services that they may need while you’re sharing a wave. Isn’t that nice? Use the welcoming world of outdoor recreation to your advantage and score some new clients and friends while sharing party waves. Trust me, people like you way more when they meet you doing something they love. So don’t be shy. Network without shame and own the fact that you’re always thinking about work.
Leverage Your Skills
Let’s bring it back to the good old days of exchanging skills for goods, no? Whether that’s redoing a hostel’s social media, helping a local restaurant build a website in exchange for food, or house sitting, there are heaps of ways to gain goods in exchange for your work. Minimize costs and maximize benefits by making connections and offering cheap or pro- bono work here and there if the trade-off seems ideal. And remember that house sitting is another absolute game changer.
I once house sit-hopped in Raglan for three months. Living in a car and tent is fun, but have you ever lived five minutes from a legendary point break, with access to a huge garden and trampoline? It’s absolute bliss. Keen on pursuing more house-sitting jobs, I recently signed up for Trusted House Sitters. They have a steep fee, but I’ve already scored a free week in London in exchange for walking a pug.
Buy Travel Insurance
This one is obvious. Invest a bit of money to feel secure when you’re working abroad. Safety Wing is a popular travel insurance for freelancers because it covers the basics for a reasonable price. If you’re traveling with gear, World Nomads has policies that graciously cover lost and damaged goods.
Depending on where you’re spending time, take a power pack for your phone and spare charger for your computer. It’s a burden, but if your electronics stop working, you’re screwed. You’ll also want to bring at least one hard drive, depending on your work of choice. There’s nothing worse than a computer (and that huge project you’ve been working on for weeks) dying.
Invest in Alternative Charging
Dead set on avoiding society for a while? More power to you. Invest in a solar charger and avoid breathing humans. Goal Zero is my go-to for robust technology that will keep me connected.
The fact that working remotely has normalized is incredible. Don’t let that power and opportunity go to waste. The ability to combine something you’re good at with a life that makes you happy is such a gift. Say yes to all the fun things, pull all-nighters if you have to, and develop a robust work ethic to keep you going.
Editor’s Note: Kat Guerrero is a creative consultant currently working on an e-book on the freelancing lifestyle.