The Freelancer's Guide To Working Abroad Without Losing Your Mind
I always knew I wanted to do something that allowed me to be mostly location independent. After strategically marketing myself for destination work, a significant portion of my photography bookings each year are international (I love my ITL clients!!). These bookings require crazy amounts of organization and - let's be honest - lots of caffeine.
It's not just photographers who have the luxury of working from anywhere! Perhaps you want to be a blogger and have the freedom to travel. Or maybe you want to be a speaker at international conferences in your field of expertise! For brand development and web design projects, the coolest thing ever is I can get my work done from my couch at home or at a cafe in Paris! If you're self-employed, having the freedom to create your own schedule and work from anywhere was probably one of the draws of doing what you do.
However, if you're not careful, things can get pretty crazy when working abroad. So, by popular request, I'm sharing my best tips on how NOT to lose your mind when you're working while travelling.
BACK IT UP, BABY
The last thing you want to happen is for all of your work to disappear into the vast abyss of harddrive crashes. Back up everything important before you depart, and leave that external hard drive at home. Bring a second hard drive on your trip to back up any new content or files (in case your computer gets stolen - god forbid).
TREAT YOURSELF LIKE AN ATHLETE
Take care of your body, and make sure you're getting enough sleep that you're brain is going to function. Jet lag and changes in diet and schedule can really take a toll on your body. That being said, you should also not take any risks with your well-being while you're travelling. Your clients need you in one piece, so that means you have to make wise choices and maybe be more cautious than you would if you were travelling without responsibilities.
MAKE SURE COSTS ARE COVERED
If you're travelling for a client, you need to make sure what whatever you're charging them not only covers the costs for you to do your work, but also covers the costs for your travel (+ necessary profit to make a living). Do not, whatever you do, omit these costs or advertise that you have "no travel fees" because you will pay for it in the long run. Seriously. Just don't do it.
However, what you can do to land that destination client is include your travel fees in their quote, based on the research you conduct yourself. Be responsible for booking your own flights and hotel, and provide a quote for your services that don't show a cost breakdown of each little anticipated travel fee. No client wants to have to think about that stuff, so they will be more likely to want to work with you if you make it easy for them.
PREP YOUR TRAVEL COMPANION(S)
This past fall, I took a trip to France. During the trip, I had not one, not two, but THREE deadlines for client work during that time. I know... I'm crazy. But luckily, I did 95% of the work before I left for my trip, so I didn't have too much to finish up. However, I definitely spent a fair amount of time getting that last 5% done. On our bus ride to Normandy and train rides to and from the South of France, I was editing. I used hotel wifi to deliver client albums (more on this later), and tried my best to use my time efficiently so I didn't miss out on anything for the trip. However, since my boyfriend was with me, I took the time to explain to him (in advance) what he should expect from my work commitments on the trip. If I didn't do that, he'd probably think I was being a total asshole *just kidding*. Since I gave him a heads up, we were able to schedule my work into our trip and use the distraction-free travel time wisely! Luckily, we aren't big on night life while travelling, so I was able to get most of my last-minute work done after dinner.
SET UP AN AUTO-RESPONDER
Make sure you set up an email auto-responder that includes a concrete date when they should expect a reply from you. Without this, your auto-responder is basically saying "hey I don't really give a shit about you because I'm enjoying a margarita right now... don't bother me".
Note: being on vacation does not give you the right to ignore all emails and peace out (for more than a week). Set expectations with your communication and make sure you don't leave your existing clients hanging.
STRATEGIC INTERNET USE
LIFE LESSONS: don't ever, ever rely on hotel wifi being strong enough to upload lots of files in one sitting. I made this mistake only once, but it was the most frustrating night of my life. Give yourself ample back-up time if there's an unexpected interruption in your connection. Plan ahead and leave wiggle room. Your clients don't care that you're on vacation; a deadline is a deadline.
BOOK BUFFER TIME
Speaking of wiggle room, if you're booked for an event on Saturday, do not book your flight to arrive on Friday. Flights get delayed or cancelled all the time. Don't risk your client's experience or your income to chance. Usually, I'll arrive two-four days in advance of a booking, depending on the time difference. I always joke around and say that you should "assume that you're Murphy" (ie. Murphy's Law), and account for every possible thing that could go wrong.
KEEP YOUR EQUIPMENT/GEAR SAFE
Make sure you have a full list of your gear with serial numbers if possible. When you come back into your country of origin, you don't want to be accused of buying your expensive gear overseas. This list is also helpful when packing everything up when you're leaving each location.
IN CONCLUSION: COMPROMISE IS KEY
The reality of working from anywhere is you will probably have to compromise. Since compromising your client experience isn't ever an option, you will have to adapt your travel style or plans. However, if you plan wisely and set reasonable expectations for yourself in advance, then you will still be living the dream of on-location or location-independent work. If you find a decent rhythm, your trip won't suffer nor will your work!
Do you wish you could work abroad? Tell me your dreams (or tips for making it happen) in the comments below! <3
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Thanks for dropping by! I'm Caileigh and I create killer brand identities and offer coaching for creative entrepreneurs with gumption. When I'm not helping people build profitable businesses, I document love stories as a fine art film photographer.