“You’re so lucky,” my friend said as we settled into our economy seats on the plane. “You get to write this whole trip off.”
Time stood still as I processed her statement. Here was someone who had never started a business, hustled for new clients, tracked down overdue payments and who had never given quarterly taxes a thought. Hardest of all was the realization that my buddy didn’t even know that travel expenses are still expenses.
I calmly explained to my BFF that working while traveling often costs much more than traveling for fun does. While tax deductions help, there’s still the burden of payables to consider.
“Are there any ways to make this work to your advantage?” she asked thoughtfully.
Bingo. There sure are. My friend listened intently as I rattled them off. If you’re a freelancer looking to make every travel dollar go further, listen up. Here’s a handful of tips to help you manage it all.
1. Limit Home Expenses
Your live-streaming video service is cool to use at home, but once you’ve checked into your Airbnb or hotel, use the on-site option. The same can be said for your cable, internet provider, grocery delivery service, land line and cleaning service. While you’re away, change your car’s insurance policy to parking-only coverage. Mentally comb through your other domestic expenses and cut or limit the ones that you won’t need while you’re away.
2. Secure Your Connections
Prevent a disastrous data breach by getting a virtual private network (VPN). Public Wi-Fi is simply part of the nomadic freelancer’s lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean you should render your client’s sensitive data vulnerable to inquiring eyes. Simply download a free VPN installer from the app store, and set it to auto-connect so that you never expose your browser cookies, usernames, passwords, email addresses, booking information, credit card accounts or routing numbers to the bad guys. If you’d like more information on choosing the best VPN for you, check out Dave Dean’s guest post on the wildly popular Nomadic Matt site. VPNs are free, and can save you much more than money.
3. Read Books for Free
Don’t bemoan the miles between you and your hometown library. Don’t even think about having a book delivered with two-day shipping when you can download and enjoy books for free from the library (even when you’re out of town). Simply log in using your library card and check out titles relevant to your business trip. For even more up-to-the-minute materials, check your library’s digital magazine and trade journal options online.
4. Practice Good Time Management Skills
Good time management practices start by understanding that you can’t do everything — so choose a few things to do, and do them well. I manage my time by forcing myself to do the two or three things that matter most to my business: hitting deadlines and blocking out time to spend with my kids. This means that some emails must wait. It also means that I can’t cold-pitch every prospective client that catches my eye. I know that I’m delivering what I’ve been contracted to produce, and I won’t have any familial regrets. That local stand-up comic show? I won’t go to it if I need to finish work, or video call my family from the quiet hotel room. Best of all, managing my time (or rather, myself) means that I’m being more productive and spending less cash when I travel for work.
5. Invest in Travel Insurance
Instead of looking at your travels through the lens of logic, perform a quick internet search for stories about travelers that didn’t purchase travel insurance. Then save yourself loads by spending (relatively) little on a freelancer-friendly policy. This way, you’ll prevent losing hundreds of dollars if your trip is unexpectedly canceled or delayed.
6. Hire Administrative Assistance
Managing your time wisely means removing some items from your to-do list — but that doesn’t mean they can’t be completed by someone else. Simple tasks like research, social media management, invoicing and website updates can be done by a virtual assistant or even your own remote employee. When you’re working while traveling, there’s a peace of mind that comes from knowing someone is maintaining your business momentum.
7. Familiarize Yourself With Ride-Sharing Options
Public transportation isn’t always easy to use when you’re in a foreign city, so you should be aware of all your choices. Familiarize yourself with the local ride-share tools and how they integrate with traditional public transportation methods. Yes, this takes time, but it’s better than finding out that you could’ve saved some money at the time.
Healthy choices seem easier to make from home. Why is that? Maybe it’s the restaurant food, the lack of a routine or the lonely hotel gym. Whatever the reason, do what you can to work around it. Download a personal trainer app to get a killer cardio session that doesn’t quit. Aaptive is a great example. The cardio app places real-life athletes in your ear with audio that pushes you to the next level. Accountability with other freelancers also helps. Simply commit to posting an honest salad-a-day photo to ensure you’re getting enough greens and encouraging other freelancers to do the same. Get plenty of sleep so that your brain and body are ready for productive meetings when you need to be “on” for clients.
Come to think of it, my friend was right after all. She was clueless about how freelance business expenses work, that’s clear, but she nailed the most important point: I consider myself lucky.