4 Tips for Running Your Freelance Business as a Digital Nomad
Want to travel the world or even just around the U.S.? Freelance work gives you the flexibility to do that, but you need to plan ahead accordingly.
As the world opens back up, many people have renewed their intentions to travel. Concurrently, the pandemic underscored how much easier it was to work from home than most professionals expected. So it's not surprising that businesses are adapting to become more travel-friendly.
In 2019, just over seven million Americans identified as digital nomads. That number exploded by 49% in 2020, according to research by MBO Partners. The general rise in workers idenitfying as freelancers, along with a growing number of people opting to leave their 9 to 5 to work for themselves is certainly contributing to the trend.
The expectation is there will be a surge of companies run by digital nomads over the next several months and into 2022, but being one of them requires taking some time to build the strategy for your freelance business.
Tip 1: Let potential clients know you're a digital nomad
One of the easiest things you can do is to share the fact that you're a digital nomad with your clients. Most clients will not be upset about this, and it's good to tell them up front in case they do need face-to-face meetings or have specific concerns about you traveling often.
When you inform them, let them know if this will affect them at all. You might not be available during certain business hours, seasons of the year or days of the week based on your travel schedule. If a client knows what to expect, they’ll be more likely to respect these boundaries or let you know right away if that’s a problem for them.
Many will be intrigued by the lifestyle you live and might even be excited about supporting it. But giving them a heads up well in advance allows them to consider this in their hiring process.
Tip 2: Don't work with clients who need lots of meetings
Many clients will say that they need meetings or people in specific time zones, weekly check-ins, daily chats or other things that can be very difficult for a digital nomad who is hopping time zones frequently. It's best to make sure that you work with clients who need minimal face-to-face (aka video) communication.
You can use a lot of other tools to keep in touch with your clients without losing all the benefits of that regular communication, so be prepared to offer options as backups if video meetings are completely off the table for you. Perhaps you can send quick text updates via WhatsApp or videos as weekly reports through Loom.
Tip 3: Have backup internet plans at all times
Life as a digital nomad means that you may not always be able to find that perfect Wi-Fi signal or you'll have a really slow upload speed when you're on a crunch to deliver something to a client.
Make sure you have backup plans. Print out lists of every place that offers free Wi-Fi even if you're just hanging out in their parking lot or stopping in to grab a quick coffee so you can upload and send something to a client.
Carrying along jetpacks or tethering from a phone are other options available to you, but it can be difficult when crossing country borders. It's much easier if you're planning to stay in the continental United States and will be able to leverage your existing phone plan by upgrading to unlimited data and taking advantage of the multitude of companies and restaurants that offer the free Wi-Fi.
Tip 4: Have a great marketing presence and auto-responders online
There's a good chance that a client might reach out to you during a time when you're not online. The more work you can put into automating your digital-nomad freelance business, the easier it will be for you to be successful because these autoresponders can help track clients along to book meetings with you, view proposals, sign contracts or even review work.
If you're savvy enough, you can even use the fact that you're in a completely opposite time zone of your client to deliver work by the end of your workday and the beginning of theirs. This requires extra communication abilities, but is certainly possible given the offerings of tools, such as email management software, Slack, project-management software, Voxer, WhatsApp and so many more.
Good luck on your work journey, wherever it may take you.
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