5 tips to help you work while travelling
So you're thinking about becoming a 'Digital Nomad', eh? First of all, please let's not call ourselves Digital Nomads. That's an East London term that needs to be retired before it catches on!
Secondly, great! If you're lucky enough to have a job that only requires a computer and an internet connection then you really should at least consider working remotely.
We love to backpack, and have managed to spend two and a half years of our twenties exploring the world. So when we decided to set up Pattern we looked at our funds and did some maths. We quickly realised that for less money than rent in London, we could get flights to India, eat out every night and live like kings. Much better than counting the pennies in the capital over a dark, chilly British winter!
A few months later and Pattern has been set up on the road, while talking with clients in the UK from Thailand, India, Nepal and Spain. The longer we worked away from home, the easier it became. Not only did clients not mind that we were on the road; most of them found it fascinating.
The pro's of working on the road definitely outweigh the cons. This is made especially obvious when on Skype calls when you catch a glimpse of yourself on camera waiting for a business call with a backdrop of the Andes. It makes for a stark contrast to the white walls of offices you're used to seeing. When you clock off that day, you'll be experiencing a new city, new beach, new cuisine or new culture.
But there are frustrations. Times when no matter where you move your laptop to; that illusive Skype signal that was perfect a minute before your client call WILL NOT CONNECT. For all the rosy outlook now, it has been a steep learning curve. Time differences, technological challenges, Internet speeds and comfort have all caused us nightmares from time to time.
But if, like us, you want to combine your love of backpacking AND hold down a job. Here are our top tips to get you started.
1. Remember you're not on holiday
If you want to maintain client relationships, you can't treat your backpacking as a holiday. It's SO easy to fall into that trap. You have to remember that you still have client responsibilities, and that they come first. Working abroad doesn't mean that you will lose clients. But not doing the work will. Don't work from bed. It’s hard to be motivated when you’re still lounging in your PJs under the covers. Set a daily alarm, get dressed and approach working remotely/for yourself as you would a regular job, only you get to pick where you work from.
It's up to you to manage your work load, so there's nothing to say that you have to work 9-5 Monday to Friday, but make sure your standards of work don't drop. Although it's not technically a vacation, there's still a hell of a lot of time to explore when all the work is done.
2. Do an internet speed test before choosing where to work
If you need internet to do your job then make sure you test it out before you settle in for a day of work. This has saved us a lot of headaches as we can plan where to do a Skype call, where we can upload big files and where we can’t do either. They also have an app to make it even easier. So use your phone to test a restaurant at dinner time and bring your laptop down the next day for your call.
As a rule of thumb we found 2MB download speed and 1MB upload speed (as long as the connection is stable) hosted a Skype call with no issues.
Our favourite tool is http://www.speedtest.net/
If you’re travelling from place to place and need super internet plan ahead and email prospective accommodations to make sure they have a good connection.
3. Find somewhere comfortable to work with a power outlet
We are the first to head to the comfy sofa area, but the reality of balancing your laptop on your lap for any period of time is painful and counterproductive. Find a power outlet before you get comfy because chances are if you don’t you’ll be left wanting and envious of the people on the table next to you charging their phones. Try and find a café or co-working space with a table and chairs. Unfortunately (unless it is a professional co-working space) you're unlikely to have a set up that meets all EU workplace safety regulations. But you'll be a lot more likely to go for a walk at lunch time!
4. Make sure the location is 'work people' friendly
There’s quite a community of remote/freelance/nomadic workers nowadays. In our experience we have found most places happy to host us and keep us fed and watered all day. But this isn’t always the case. Some cafes, pubs and restaurants don’t want their tables full of laptop toting workers sapping the atmosphere. Also, if you're only going to drink 2 cups of tea and have a sandwich, but take up a table for six hours, perhaps don't choose the busiest cafe. This business could probably turn your table 8 or 9 times during your stay. You're costing a business a lot of money.
Workfrom is a great site geared towards sharing good places to work from all over the world. They have internet speeds, reviews and photos populated by members of their community. It’s free to set up a profile, list a place you like working at, network with others similar to you or even list a space of your own. Beyond that, it's usually quite easy to get a vibe for a place before you decide to set up shop for the day by looking to see if anyone else is doing the same.
5. Backup your work with cloud storage
We were spoilt at bigger companies with internal network drives with endless space. Sharing files from person to person is essential and saves clogging up your inbox. Perhaps even more importantly a cloud storage plan allows you to back up your data so you don’t lose your precious work. You're a lot more likely to damage or lose your laptop when you're moving around so often.
Dropbox is the obvious choice, but it can be a little stingy with storage for your money. There are loads of alternatives out there, so give it a Google and see which one suits you best.
There is obviously a lot more to consider when working on the road too. What are your top tips for working and backpacking at the same time? Where are your favourite places to work outside of an office?