When I first started freelancing, I tried to finalize and submit a project to a client while on a train from Scotland to England. I splurged for internet on the train, only to find it barely worked. Our train broke down, and I finished the project on a different train, where I sat on my suitcase next to the bathroom (there were no seats left). I hit “send” with my heart in my throat, and I promised myself I’d never do that again.
Since that first trip as a freelancer, I’ve learned a few tips for working on-the-go. Because 45 percent of professionals work remotely at some point — either from a home office or on the road — figuring out a system that minimizes difficulty is more important than ever. If you plan correctly, a small glitch, like bad internet or changing trains, won’t leave you in a panic.
1. Research in Advance
If you work remotely, think about everything you need to make the work easy. For most people, that’s strong internet service. Running your own business is stressful enough without worrying about a reliable signal for a Skype meeting (and honestly, when do you ever have a good connection for Skype?).
Before I work in a new city, I pick a hotel or apartment where I know I’ll have reliable internet. I also conduct some research of coffee shops with Wi-Fi. Using my Google Maps app, I drop pins for each freelancer-friendly coffee shop. That way, when I’m exploring, I know the closest, most reliable place I can duck into and get some work done.
2. Plan for Offline Time
Regardless of how well you plan, there’s always going to be offline time when you’re on the road. I plan to spend some time working offline ahead of time, be it on a flight, bus or ferry. I copy and paste research into a Word document and print out a few articles to edit. Doing so allows me to make progress when I have the time, rather than twiddling my thumbs over a long flight. I find I actually get more done during these breaks from the internet.
3. Meet Hard Deadlines Before Traveling
Writing is a deadline-driven business. To make sure I don’t miss any important deliverable dates while working on the road, I send any immediate work to clients before I leave. Planning and prioritizing ahead of time is the best practice for any freelance field. If I have deadlines while I’m working on the go, I give myself an extra day or two as a buffer. If there are any unexpected travel delays — or a fun opportunity I just can’t miss — I can adjust around them while still meeting my goals.
4. Put up an Away Message
When you’re traveling, give yourself the benefit of extra bandwidth to respond to queries and clients. I usually set up an away message for the days I’m en route. If I leave the country, I change my voice mail to include the dates I’ll be gone and ask people to send an email. By setting clear expectations with my clients, I make it easier for me to thrive on the road. Plus, it makes you seem more professional by communicating clearly.
5. Set up a Dedicated Time for Working
Working on the road isn’t fun if you’re stuck in your hotel room for 12 hours. You want to strike a balance between getting work done and enjoying a new place. Instead of tying myself to a nine-to-five schedule, I work in two-hour blocks. I usually get some writing done first thing in the morning, again after lunch and for another long stretch after dinner. Think about the schedule that works best for you — and don’t hesitate to give it a try on your next trip.
One of the joys of working as a freelancer is that you can be a digital nomad. Breaking the hold of one workplace and a set nine-to-five can free you up to enjoy your life and savor your work. By incorporating these tips for working on-the-go, you set yourself up for success on the road.