Life as a digital nomad is a rewarding mixture of work and travel - and an increasingly popular way to live. If all you need to earn money is a laptop and an internet connection, then why stick to the office? However idyllic this sounds, work is still work - so we’ve put together a few useful ideas about how to make the most of your time and grow your business as a self-employed traveller.
Staying on top of your game without colleagues to keep your spirits up can be difficult, especially when things aren’t going brilliantly. Joining an online community like NomadForum to chat to people in similar situations, should help you feel more connected to a network.
Remember why you started the travelling freelancing life in the first place - and do something you wouldn’t be able to do if you were plugged in 9-5. Work from a beach bar for the day, or take the morning off for a long hike and make the time up in the evening. If you’re not staying focused, try one of the many apps that are designed to help you manage your freelance workflows.
One of the main difficulties of freelance work is the wildly varying income you receive month to month. Stop thinking of your good months as being the “normal” ones, and take it on board that you will always have “famine” months against the feasts.
Take an honest look at last year’s earnings and divide by 12 to get your approximate monthly income, and budget appropriately. Also, as Benjamin Franklin so wisely pointed out, the only certainties in life are death and taxes, so make sure you put something aside as you earn. Your tax bill should definitely not be an annual shock to the system! Take a look at our article about running a bank account as a freelancer to get some more ideas.
Look at the smaller ways you can save money as well: You do not need to pay bank charges to move money between your UK and international accounts, for example. Register with a service like TransferWise and save on bank transfer fees. Invoicing clients from abroad? Request Money to save on fees plus get the real exchange rate. An online dashboard allows you to track your outstanding requests and get notified whenever you receive a payment.
Phrases like “you’ll get great exposure” or “it will be great experience” are red flags to any freelancer and it normally means that someone wants your expertise without being willing to part with their cash.
However, don’t ignore the possibility of occasional unpaid work - as long as what you get in return is something tangible. Maybe designing the new website for a co-working space in exchange for a few months of free desk space, for example. Which brings us to...
When you turn up in a new city and you’re planning on staying a while, don’t automatically make the nearest coffee shop your headquarters. Instead, get involved in the local freelancing scene - it’s the perfect chance to network and force some sociability into your nomadic life. Most sizeable cities will have thriving co-working spaces, and you might be able to rent a desk for a short period of time. Check out a site like Desks Near Me to see what's on offer.
Yes, you might be travelling the world, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still take some time to relax, reflect and not look at a computer screen for a week. Build that into your year as an important part of your self-care.
A holiday can involve moving to another place mentally as well as physically - have a side project on the go that you are completing for love rather than money, and spend a long weekend really getting your teeth into it.
If you're just starting out on the freelancing path, it can be difficult to know where on the scale to place your rates. You don’t want to price yourself out of the market, but on the other hand you need to do those boring things like eat and live. There are lots of articles like this one which deal specifically with how to set a reasonable rate - and of course chat to other freelancers to get their insight.
A happy client will recommend you to other clients, and get repeat work from you. An unhappy client will.. well you know. Communication is key here - you should never be difficult to get hold of during a project. Keep your client informed as you go along and don’t make them chase you for updates.
Give them options, but with your recommendations. Prepare for meetings. Repeat their expectations back to them so you are both on the same page. Circulate your notes after a Skype call. Never ever miss a deadline without communicating in advance - and then only if it is absolutely unavoidable. And finally, invoice on time - don’t expect to get paid within 24 hours if you've waited a month to ask for money.
If you’ve done #7 well, then this will happen automatically as word gets around, but don’t just rely on clients referring you off their own backs. Self-promotion is the name of the game when freelancing, so if a client is happy with your work ask them for a LinkedIn recommendation or a referral. Someone who is already happy with you is the easiest person to sell to!
If you can juggle the lifestyle, then freelancing is a great way of seeing the world. Life as a digital nomad can be one of the most satisfying lifestyles imaginable.