Being able to travel and work from anywhere in the world are some of the advertised perks of being a freelancer. However, the reality of freelancing on-the-go is much more complicated. Many of these realities are highlighted by fellow freelancers Emily and Corey on their website and blog Where’s My Office Now?, and freelancers Jorge and Jessica Gonzalez on their website and blog Live Work Wander.
For starters, free WiFi isn’t always available. When it is, you’re usually dealing with a noisy and/or poorly lit environment where focusing on your work just isn’t going to happen. Even in a quiet and well-appointed Internet cafe, you are going to get some dirty looks if you spend eight hours there and only order coffee.
If you’re out in the boonies and think that your smartphone can become your hotspot, you’ll soon be paying for enough data to match your mortgage bill. Needing to accept and send large client files will soon cost you more money than their projects are worth.
So, how can you actually be a successful freelancer while on the road? Here are some tips.
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Go digital. You may have been able to brainstorm for writing ideas using your 9 foot pin board and stack of newspapers and magazines at home. Now that you’re on the road, you no longer have access to these items. The best way to replace your lost physical props is by finding comparable items online. To this end, there are free tools such as Asana, Evernote, Pocket and Dropbox. Other free freelancing resources are listed here.
Schedule your work and fun time. As a traveling freelancer, you want to take advantage of your travels and do some sightseeing. But if all you do is sightsee, you’ll soon be a very poor freelancer. Balance your work and fun times by setting and sticking to a schedule. Also, give yourself at least an extra hour of “buffer” time in the event that you can’t get a WiFi signal, you lose your computer’s power cord, etc.
Some freelancers work for several months in one geographic location until their project is complete. Then, they take a month or two “off” and travel into remote regions that don’t have reliable a WiFi signal. It’s one way to avoid missing client deadlines while still managing to enjoy the world.
Shop around for free WiFi spots. Keep track of the hotels, coffee shops, grocery stores and even campgrounds where you are able to catch and keep a good WiFi signal. If you find a place that has decent WiFi coverage and doesn’t charge you an arm and a leg for lodging/food, jot its name and location down for future reference. You can also find out which spots offer free WiFi via the online directory Wi-fi Free Hotspot; there are also apps for iOS and Android devices that do the same thing.
Alternately, you can set up your own personal hotspot with the right equipment and a little bit of tech know-how.
Back up your work. Don’t make the cardinal mistake of saving all your files to your hard drive…only to have your computer stolen. Or have all your files saved to the Cloud…with no access to the Internet.
Instead, create several copies of your work, keeping your files on a thumb drive, saved to Dropbox or some other storage service, and also backed up on your computer. This way, if your computer is destroyed, you can always walk over to the library and finish your work. Or, if you lose signal at your usual WiFi spot, you can always take your thumb drive with you to another java joint.
Invest in good travel gear. Freelancers on-the-go have learned to take advantage of travel routers to boost their WiFi signals, rugged smartphones that don’t crack when dropped, local and international SIM cards for data download, unlocked phones, and a host of battery chargers and adapters.
Connect with other traveling freelancers. No freelancer is an island. Via blogs, websites and forums, you can connect with other traveling freelancers, learn from their mistakes, and pick up valuable advice on what to do and not do while working on-the-road.
Where can you find these contacts and resources? Several websites and blogs are available, including the following:
Too Many Adapters– this website publishes traveler posts that review various technological devices that help amplify WiFi signals, create hotspots, etc. The site also provides a long list of apps that help freelancers be more productive.
Wand’rly Magazine– Here, you learn not only how to earn money while on the road, but also how to deal with the other nuances of the traveler lifestyle, including how to “roadschool” your kids, choose the appropriate travel vehicle, and what kind of health insurance you can purchase while on-the-go.
Freelancers Union– This website helps you address the challenges of being a freelancer, including negotiating with clients for higher pay and obtaining affordable health insurance. And speaking of which, the Freelancers Union even offers a health insurance plan for freelancers living in the New York area.
The world is your playground- so go!
As a freelancer, you have the unique opportunity to live just about anywhere in the world- provided you get a good WiFi signal, of course. Luckily, there are ways to achieve your goal without being stuck in your hotel room all day, or blowing off your clients in favor of the latest tourist attraction.