Working from a laptop on a beach: the entrepreneurial dream. Straight out of a Corona commercial, this picture often represents the ultimate freedom in business.
Yet most location-independent entrepreneurs will tell you that it doesn’t really work that way. First off, it’s way too hot at the beach to put your Macbook through that. Add water and sand, and you’ve got yourself a disaster waiting to happen. I hope you brought an extra laptop!
In all seriousness, this isn’t what being a digital nomad really looks like. Most entrepreneurs find a cafe or coworking space (with power, wifi and AC!) to get their work done -- and keep clients happy -- before heading to the beach or out sightseeing. Priorities definitely have to be set and kept to live this lifestyle.
While most entrepreneurs who’ve taken on the digital nomad lifestyle know this, their clients might not. Problems can arise when clients think that you are lounging on a beach, 24/7.
I learned this the hard way on a recent trip to South East Asia with Hacker Paradise, when a client thought I would be abandoning her for four months while on an extended holiday. Far from the truth, I learned a few things about how to keep clients happy while traveling:
1. Explain that you are not on vacation
Start by making it very clear to your clients that you are not simply taking an extended vacay. Assure them that this is just remote work, which you are likely already doing anyway.
What most clients care about is knowing that the work is going to get done on time, so reassure them that this remains your number one priority.
If they are still weary of your work ethic on the road, you can try a few things:
- Share your goals/reasons for being location independent. It may give them a better understanding of your choice to work from anywhere.
- Tell them about the spaces you plan to work in so they know you really are prioritizing work and you’ve planned ahead.
- Traveling with other entrepreneurs? Share that information, too. It makes it clear that everyone will be working, not just partying or getting Thai massages.
Most clients will actually be really excited for you and your adventures, so don’t fret about this conversation too much.
2. Set your schedule, but be flexible
Be as firm as possible with your schedule: build a routine you can stick to, and put important work deadlines in your calendar, along with any travel days or activities. This way you can see everything in one place and work backwards from your deadlines to make sure you can get enough work time in to get it done.
That being said, always schedule more time than you think you need. Delayed flights. Last minute trips to see a temple with friends. Power outage. Seven hours at the immigration office to renew your visa. Things come up and you have to be flexible and roll with the punches when you’re traveling.
A good schedule for me was to work from about 9am - after my morning run on the beach - until 1 or 2 in the afternoon. After 2pm, I could go for a swim or go sightseeing for a while and not worry about work because it was already done! Then if I wanted to look at work again before or after dinner, I could.
There will be days when you are going on a day-long trek, or traveling to a new location, and on those days you can expect to not do any work. Use your other activity-free days to make up that lost time if you need to.
This flexibility allows you to satisfy client commitments while still enjoying yourself and your freedom.
3. Make scheduling meetings easy
To avoid back and forth emails, or worse - missed meetings - solve the time zone confusion with an app like YouCanBook.me.
A 12-15 hour time difference makes for awkward meeting times. YouCanBook.me allows you to set your available times so that your clients can go in and book something that works for both of you. No questions and no back and forth emails. It also automatically converts the time zone to wherever you are so no Google searches are required.
If you can, try to set aside one day a week or month, depending on your client needs, where you will wake up extra early or stay up extra late for meetings. It might put a damper on the day, but at least it’s not every day and the structure will make your clients happy.
Get the work done
The best way to keep clients happy while you’re exploring the world is to get the work done. Keep your schedule flexible, be transparent, and work when it’s best for you. Finding your balance might take time, but you’ll get into a groove soon enough.
And don’t forget to enjoy yourself and go on adventures. That is, after all, why you chose this crazy life.