What You Can Really Expect As a Freelancer When You Travel and Work

One of the wonderful things about freelancing is that a freelancing job is mobile. It doesn’t matter where you happen to be when you work, as long as you meet your deadlines and produce high quality work.

This flexibility of location has led to a new breed of freelancer–the location independent professional. These are freelancers who combine a love for travel with their freelancing careers.

But, becoming a location independent professional may not be as easy as it seems. In this post, I’ll share some areas to look out for if you plan to work and travel. I’m also inviting any location independent professionals to chime in with their own experiences and advice.

Combining Travel and Work

The first thing you need to consider is whether you will be traveling as a lifestyle of just taking an occasional trip. Obviously, if you just take a trip every now and then your task will be easier. You probably have a home base where you have a full office set up. You may be able to make do with minimal equipment during your short trips.

However, if traveling is your long-term lifestyle, you have different concerns. Here are some things you will need:

  • The right equipment. As a mobile professional, you will need the right tools for the job. While a tablet or smart phone might be all that you need to do work on a short trip, as a long-term traveler you need more. You will probably need a high-powered laptop. Look for something that is also lightweight so that it is easier to move.
  • An internet connection. WiFi has become much more widespread over the past few years with free locations in restaurants, most hotels, and even at roadside rest stops. Like any other freelancer, you need the internet to do business. One of your first tasks when you arrive at a new location will be to get connected as quickly as possible.
  • A smart phone. While you may not be able to do a large project on your smart phone, it is still an incredibly useful tool that can keep you connected to clients while you are on the road. You can also use it to check email or even your social media accounts.
  • Virus protection software. As a traveling freelancer, you need to have top-notch internet security. Make sure that your passwords are secure and your virus software is updated. You may even want to invest in a personal firewall.
  • A web presence. A web presence is important to all freelancers, but it is especially important to the mobile freelancer. Make sure that you have a website, email, and a strong social media presence. Remember, you may not always be able to network locally, so online networking will be very important.

Even with the right tools, you may face additional challenges as a location independent professional that an ordinary freelancer doesn’t face.

Things for Traveling Freelancers to Be Wary About

Here are some of the challenges that mobile freelancers have to overcome:

  1. Spotty or slow internet. While WiFi is widely available, not all WiFi is created equal. Many free connections are slow. And even though the internet seems to be everywhere, keep in mind that there are still locations where you will have trouble connecting. If you are going to be in the wilderness (such as in the middle of a national park) or in a country without a well-developed infrastructure, you may not be able to find a connection.
  2. Legal concerns. Location-independent professionals may also face legal concerns. If you do not have a “permanent” address, what laws apply to your business? Where should you pay your taxes? To overcome this, many mobile freelancers pick a home base even if they know that they will not spend much time there. Check with your own attorney to discover what is right for you.
  3. Paper files and other storage. As a traveling freelancer, the last thing you want to do is lug around a lot of paper files. While a metal filing cabinet may be practical in a stationary home office, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for a freelancer on the go. An alternative is to try to eliminate as much paper as you can by saving files to the cloud-based apps or apps that provide online storage.
  4. Distractions and discipline. A traveling freelancer may face more distractions than a home-based freelancer. For one thing, you have less control over your environment. While you may be able to keep the noise down at home, in a hotel you may find yourself stuck with noisy neighbors or a room next to the elevator. It takes self-discipline to keep working in less than ideal surroundings.
  5. Time management. As a traveling freelancer, you want to see the locations that you visit–that’s the whole point of traveling. As a long-term traveler, however, you also need to get work done so that you can afford to live. The best way to accomplish both goals is to schedule both work and free time. You may find that as a mobile freelancer you prefer to work fewer hours a day than you did at home. (Take this into consideration when setting your rate.)

More Resources for Traveling Freelancers

Are you ready to learn more about mobile freelancing? Here are some more great articles and websites:

  • Location Independent. A whole website devoted to location-independence from those who have been there. You’ll find a number of articles that deal specifically with issues and concerns that location independent professionals face.
  • Thrilling Heroics. Despite the unusual name, this blog is filled with tips and ideas for traveling and working. Of course, you’ll find other information here too, but there are whole categories devoted to “Digital Nomads” and “Location Independence.”
  • 10 Digital Nomads to Learn From at Corbett Barr. This blogger has tapped some well-known online personalities for their traveling tips in this post about digital nomads. Not only is the information helpful, it’s encouraging to hear from those who live a location-free lifestyle.
  • Becoming a Digital Nomad: Options for Working Remotely from Anywhere at almostfearless.com. This article is about the traveling lifestyle from someone who has done it successfully. In fact, the authors of this blog have actually created a documentary on the topic.

Your Turn

Do you live the location-independent lifestyle? Are you a digital nomad?

If so, I’d love to hear from you. Add your own tips and resources in the comments below.

Image by Kossy@FINEDAYS


  1. says

    Hey Laura, great article.

    I just wanted to add something about being “location independent” from a tax perspective. In many cases, you can’t simply choose where you want to be a tax resident. If you’re in the US, each state has a different set of rules to determine residency. Like professional sports players must file state tax returns in each state they work/play in reporting the income earned in each state, freelancers may run into problems with multiple states expecting taxes from them if it’s unclear where they are actually residents. Some states, like California, have really “sticky” residency requirements, meaning that if you *ever* think about returning to California after leaving for several years, the state may request back tax returns.

    For freelancers who want to work internationally, even more complicated rules come into play. The internal laws of the country determine residency (in France, where I live, you are a resident if you live there for more than 183 days in a tax year and/or it’s the “center of your economic or family interests,’ and you have to have the proper visa for working as a freelancer). If you meet the conditions set forth in the country’s laws, you’re automatically taxed on your income in your country of residence, and then, if you’re a US citizen, you may be taxed again in the US. Tax treaties between most countries govern who gets to tax what income.

    Having worked in an international CPA’s office preparing tax returns for Americans abroad, it appears that many CPAs and tax prep firms in the US don’t have much experience dealing with international tax issues and have given not-so-great advice to some of our clients. For Americans thinking about living abroad, I strongly recommend going on to the US embassy’s website in the country you’re going to and consulting with a certified US tax professional from the embassy’s list in that country, even by phone or skype before leaving. Tax professionals abroad have experience working with all kinds of professionals in that country, and will help you be able to decipher tax and residency laws and stay legal.

    And if you want to come to France, look me up and I can help you out. :-)

  2. says

    Thanks Allison,

    Great tip. Thanks for such a detailed and informative comment.

    I didn’t mean to imply that a freelancer can pick where to pay taxes. Naturally, freelancers need to pay attention to the law. There’s far too much to go into in detail here (and I’m not an attorney–which is why I refer the reader to an attorney at the end of that paragraph). Of course, a CPA can also help. :) My main intent was to point out that finding a tax home can be tricky and complicated.

  3. says

    Hello Laura:

    Great article. I listened to the webinar with you and Carol Tice, so I know you give good advice. Here are some other things I’d suggest:

    1) good batteries for your computer. Even in popular tourist destinations, power supply can be intermittent. Better to finish your work on batteries then upload it to a client, than have to wait for the power to come back on and finish late.

    2) Cloud accounts. Store as much as possible in the cloud because neither you nor your computer will always arrive in one piece at your target destination.

    3) Learn some basic information about where you are going and USE COMMON SENSE. If I had a dime for every time a tourist or expat asked me “Why is it raining?”
    I could move to Biarritz!

  4. says

    Hi J. Delancy,

    Thanks for your kind words. :)

    Great additional tips. I especially like the common sense tip. Just because you’re in an exotic location doesn’t mean you can put good sense on the shelf…

  5. says

    About cloud storage and server: it is very important to have a strong one. You need to get access to it often and also back up what you create. Otherwise you will be in big problem

  6. says

    My husband and I usually travel for vacations, so especially in a foreign country we try not to bring our work with us. In our last trip I had an interview and I realized that it really did take some of the fun (and time) out of sightseeing.

    When we take local vacations we bring our laptops because we are in a relaxing environment where we can blend work and play. Our minds are clear and we just love surfing and writing and then taking time out to enjoy whatever place we are in if its in our country, the Philippines.

    Overseas, you feel like you want to take in everything and so we only bring work if we really have to, or if it is an assignment that is paid for.

  7. says

    Monisima–I’m definitely in favor of taking short work-free breaks, a week or two. But some freelancers wish to make travel a regular part of their life. Usually, this means they will need to work when they travel since they will be traveling for more than just a week or two.

  8. says

    Most of us carry mobile devices (with 3G enabled) to stay in touch at all times, in all weather. Personally when meeting clients, it’s good to make sure the phone and computer’s fully charged (eg. use a car charger to use along the way). Connection wise, we never trust the free wifi thing, we bring along a USB 3G stick modem to get wireless connectivity instead, its really handy and never lets you down in front of clients.

  9. says

    It is my goal to be able to travel while working before I reach my 30s. I am now in the process of preparing myself financially and technology-wise to fulfill my dream. Thanks for this post Laura, very helpful!

  10. says

    Great article Laura.

    My dream is to spend 9 months a year working freelance in the US and split the rest back in my native UK for school holidays and Christmas.

    I know it’s doable, once the US sorts its healthcare out, and informative, supportive articles like this are a great resource and comfort if I’m ever tempted to remain a wage-drone (or more accurately, a healthcare/benefits drone)

  11. says

    Because I started traveling, I invested in DropBox. It’s a great way to keep all your files available on your smart phone, lap top, and work computer. It’s a step-up from carrying a flash drive and praying it doesn’t fail!

  12. says

    Great article! I’ve been a location independent writer for five years now and one thing I have found to be indespensible is a VPN or virtual private network that allows you to have and IP address for the United States. Every country has websites they block and the last thing you need when you are writing and researching is to be blocked and not be able to reach your source website.
    I have experienced blockages in Malaysia, Belize, mainland China and Hong Kong and my VPN has saved me each time.

  13. says

    Another thing to mention is telling clients about your location. I have worked remotely a lot over the years, and I always make it clear to my clients where I am based before I start to work on a project. Even though they hardly ever mind, I think they have the right to know where their freelancers live before agreeing to hire them.

    Working remotely is becoming increasingly common, but that does not mean that clients are always comfortable with the idea of hiring someone on the other side of the world.

    Still, for anyone who wants to work in another country, they’ve never had it so good!


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