One of the biggest perks of having a location-independent business is, as the name implies, having the freedom to travel with it. Last year was my first time testing this out. It came in a sudden flash: “I could work from anywhere in the world…so why don’t I?”
Inspired by that thought, I decided to travel around South America while working for clients in the U.S. I ended up traveling for almost five months, maintaining my business and clients because of the key preparation before I hit the road.
If you’re thinking about taking your business on the road, here are my top tips to prepare your location-independent business for travel:
1. Tell your clients far in advance
Many people worry what their clients will think when they say they’ll be traveling, especially internationally. While some of my clients were a bit uncomfortable with the idea at first, it ended up working out well for them and for me. First, give your clients a lot of lead time. Tell them at least one month in advance to give them time to warm up to the idea of you being so far away. Second, when you tell them, do not position it as a vacation (because it’s not; you’ll be working!). Here’s what to give them the details of:
- Where you’ll be
- How you’ll be contacted
- Hours you’ll be available
- How you plan to stay on top of their work, specifically
Expect a lot of questions, and be prepared to reassure them of your commitment to delivering high-quality work.
2. Choose the best ways to stay connected
For texting and data while traveling internationally, the best cell phone carrier out there is T-Mobile. Starting at $50/month, you get unlimited text messaging and data in 120+ countries, and calls are 20 cents per minute.
For calls, you are better off purchasing a Skype subscription (unlimited U.S. and Canada calls start at $2.99/month) plus a Skype Number (a 3-month subscription is $18). This will give you a dedicated phone number for clients to call.
Another option is to use Wi-Fi calling from your cell phone. Make sure your cell phone has this capability. You can connect to Wi-Fi and call people free of charge. A word of caution: I found Wi-Fi calling to be the least reliable, with shoddy audio quality. Stick with Skype if you can.
3. Prepare for mishaps (mostly, prepare to not have Internet)
What would you do if you couldn’t get online? Really think about this because Internet can be very unreliable, especially in certain foreign countries. (And you’d likely be surprised to find out which ones.) Don’t wait until the last minute to finish assignments for a client, as you never know when a bad Internet connection may strike. For me, whenever the Internet was down at my hostel in Peru, I had cafes I knew I could go to for reliable Wi-Fi. I’d walk there and finish my work.
You can also look into getting Wi-Fi extenders to try to catch that faint signal barely being picked up at your hostel. Or you can purchase mobile Wi-Fi hotspots to connect to while you’re on the road.
4. Hire an accountant
Taxes can become tricky, especially if you decide to take up residence in a foreign country. Make sure the accountant you hire is accustomed to working with location-independent businesses and solopreneurs. You’ll want to check that they have an easy and secure way to digitally receive receipts and other documents from you as you travel.
5. Buy travel insurance
This is essential any time you travel. It protects you in the event you need to cancel your trip because of an emergency, or if your laptop gets stolen. Take a careful look at your policy before selecting it, though. Many policies will not cover stolen equipment if it is an item used for business purposes (yes, that could mean the laptop you work from). So read the fine print and call the insurer before purchasing.
6. Get a mailbox and ensure you can get paid while traveling
There are a lot of options here:
- Have mail picked up by or forwarded to a friend or family member.
- Rent a P.O. box from the US Postal Service.
- Rent a mailbox. I rented a mailbox from The UPS Store. They can send text or email notifications when mail arrives, and authorize people to check mail for you.
- Use a virtual office. Companies like Regus can be your business presence in the U.S. while you are abroad. They can handle mail for you and even serve as receptionists to receive your business calls.
- Use travelingmailbox.com. Your mail can be sent to one of their centers, where they will scan the envelopes and upload the images to your online mailbox. From there, you can have them open your mail and scan it, forward it, or shred it.
If any of your clients are paying you by check, get them to switch to direct deposit or PayPal. Otherwise, you’ll need to get someone to check your mail and deposit any checks into your bank while you’re gone. Streamline payment to avoid extra steps.
7. Plan a work schedule and stick to it
Yes, we travel to escape routine, but without one, your business will suffer. Even if you’re at some exotic location with tons of sights to see and people to meet, set aside time for your business and stick to your schedule.
8. Learn to work across different time zones
Use an app like everytimezone.com or FIO to make sure you keep track of clients across different time zones. Be open to late-night or early-morning phone calls so the inconvenience doesn’t fall on your clients. (Remember: you can always power nap!)
9. Be transparent and keep communication flowing
The key to working remotely is keeping the lines of communication open and being transparent about the work you’re doing. Maybe that means you send your clients a monthly report of how you spent your time on their projects, Maybe you do a weekly check-in call. Or perhaps you send them relevant metrics every two weeks. Whatever you choose to do, be sure to show them that even though you are traveling, you are still accessible and still focused on the work you’re doing for them.
Packing up your life and business to hit the road is not always as romantic as some may make it sound, but if you follow these nine ways to prepare your location-independent business for travel, it’s definitely an adventure unlike any other.
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