“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” – Dalai Lama
Maybe you love travelling so much that those words are already scribbled on a post-it note above your desk, and the reason you’re freelancing is to fit work into your nomadic lifestyle. Or maybe international trips are required of you, whether you like them or not.
Whatever your reasons, freelancing overseas is more than just cocktails on the beach. Just ask anyone who’s spent hours lugging around their laptop in desperate search of WiFi, while baffling kindly locals with botched attempts to ask for directions in the local language. Wander where you may, The Copy Collective lets you work wherever your fancy takes you.
Here are five tried and tested hacks to help you land on your feet – wherever that is.
Invest in some travel essentials
As a freelancer on the road, your office comes with you – which may mean being prepared for long stints away from a power point. Ever pulled out your laptop on the plane only to realise it’s out of power – for the next 22 hours? Not a great feeling. A portable, external battery charger can be a lifesaver. Look for one that can charge your laptop and phone or tablet at the same time.
You’ll also want a good pair of headphones, with a built-in microphone. Noise-cancelling, if you can afford it, will make plane travel and work in noisy spaces that little bit more bearable.
Build your local network
Before you head off, ask friends and colleagues if they have contacts where you’re going. At the very least, you’ll have some potential coffee break companions – which can be very welcome if you’re travelling solo.
And once you’re there, speak to as many locals as you can. Look up people who do the same kind of work as you and ask if they have time to meet. I know an Australian photographer who organised a coffee with a photographer working in a similar area when she travelled to New York – they met, and now work together all the time (and got married!)
Learn the language (or at least a few words)
There are some fantastic apps out there to help you, and many are free. Try and get one that you can download to your phone, so you can use it without chewing up data when you’re away from WiFi, and which speaks words out loud. Try Ultralingua and Wordreference.com. If all else fails – type something into Google Translate, cross your fingers and hope for the best (and get ready for some giggles from the locals).
Find a good place to work
Once you nail this one, half the battle is won. Sure, your hotel might work – but when you find a beautiful old library complete with an atrium (and free WiFi) in Paris where you can work undisturbed for the day, you’ll feel like you’ve won the freelancing overseas lottery – and positivity is great for productivity. Ask locals, or do a search for co-working spaces and check out forums on sites that cater for ‘digital nomads’ such as Nomad List.
Cultivate a micro-routine
Having a mini routine to get you into work mode while you’re on the road is even more important than when you’re at home. Why? Exotic procrastination temptations. Work or gelato from that little piazza I haven’t explored yet? Work or a surfing lesson on the sparkling beach I can see out my window? Work or… you get the drift.
Part of the thinking behind having a routine is reducing the amount of decisions you have to make before you actually start working. President Obama knows decision fatigue is a thing – that’s why he wears only a blue or grey suit every day.
So decide the hours you’re going to work in advance. You may need to be flexible – that’s fine. That’s why your travel routine is micro: it’s small enough to take with you. It might even just be opening your notebook and taking a few minutes to write a to-do list. A friend of mine listens to the same film soundtrack every day when she sits down at her desk. Pick something that helps your mind shift from ‘I’m travelling, I want to explore, maybe I can squeeze in a quick [insert whatever distraction that applies to you here]’ to ‘I am working now.’
And once you do get your work done, shut your laptop. Don’t get bogged down in emails that can wait til you’re back home – wander outside and immerse yourself in your new surroundings. You never know what you might find.