How to Keep Your Freelancing on Track While on the Road

If you’re like me, you don’t want to separate work and travel. As a freelancer, you don’t really have to either. As long as you can find an Internet connection, you can get your work done.

Recently, I took a trip and was also able to get some work done from my tablet. While the trip wasn’t a permanent switch to a location independent life, I learned quite a lot. In this post, I’ll share what I learned about working “on the road.”

Planning is Essential

The most important part of traveling and doing freelance work is the planning. Proper planning will help you to ensure that you have everything you need to get your work done. Here are some planning steps that I took:

  • Be sure to bring the right equipment. For taking short trips with a relaxed workload, bringing a tablet may work fine. For longer trips, you may wish to bring more of a workhorse such as a netbook or even a laptop computer.
  • Learn where the WiFi hotspots are. Knowing where to stop to find an Internet connection can be a huge timesaver. Deb Ng’s Kommein blog has a great list of places that offer free WiFi.
  • Notify key clients. If you’ll be unavailable for an extended period of time (such as when you are driving or flying), you can notify key clients of your travel plans. You may wish to give them an alternate way to contact you.
  • Make sure that you can access your workfiles. Tools like Dropbox and Google Docs allow you to access files online from nearly anywhere.
  • Don’t expect to work full-time during a vacation. If your trip is intended to be a vacation, for goodness sake, take at least some time off and relax. Getting the opportunity to relax is important for keeping your creativity fresh.
  • Discuss working with those who will travel with you. This is particularly important if you are traveling or visiting folks who don’t really know much about freelancing. Explain when you’ll be working and when you’ll be visiting.

Once you’ve done a little planning, you’re almost ready to travel. However, there are some additional factors that you should be aware of.

Beware of the Following

If you are a traveling freelancer, you do need to be careful. Be aware that, even with the best plans, things may not go exactly as you intended. Here are some obstacles that you may face:

  • Internet “hot” spots that aren’t so hot. Just because a place is supposed to have wireless Internet available, doesn’t mean it will be available when you get there. The connection may be down or they may have even discontinued the service.
  • Scope creep may ruin your vacation. If you schedule your time too tightly and your project requires more work than you realized, you may find yourself tied to your computer while everyone else is having fun.
  • Security problems. Not all public WiFi access is equally secure. There are also applications that unscrupulous people can use to spy on your activities and even to steal your personal information. Be sure your system has proper security precautions.
  • Some places are still unconnected. A few years ago, I visited Yellowstone National Park (which is absolutely beautiful, by the way). At the time, I discovered that there are many places in the park where you just can’t get a cell phone signal.

Naturally, you should never ever try to drive and access your computer equipment at the same time. Likewise, don’t leave your computer equipment unattended–even for a few minutes.

Also, don’t log into a secure site on a public computer and leave the site open. You don’t want to take the risk that someone else can access your information. Even a social media site like Facebook should be closed as soon as you are done using it.

Other Thoughts on Traveling and Working

Since the main purpose of my recent trip was other than working, I did scale my workload back. Working while traveling on this occasion was a convenience, not a permanent lifestyle change (yet) for me. Having a lighter load definitely took a lot of the pressure off of me.

I was pleasantly surprised at the number of connectivity options that a traveling freelancer now has available. Working in public spaces is becoming increasingly common. So, you don’t need to worry about lugging your tablet or laptop into a restaurant, hotel lounge, or other public space. Chances are, you won’t be the only one.

Likewise, hotels and other facilities are becoming used to hearing the question, “do you offer an Internet connection?” If you aren’t sure if there is a connection where you are going, don’t be afraid to ask.

Your Thoughts

It’s a great time to be freelancing! The expansion of Internet connectivity means that most freelancers will have many choices about where they perform work tasks. For some, this will mean fully embracing a location independent lifestyle. For others, it will mean that taking a trip no longer means taking a break from freelancing.

What tips can you add for combining traveling and working?

Image by Nicholas_T