This Is How I Grew My Business While Travelling The World
Long-term travelling can be the most rewarding and also the most frustrating experience of your life… especially if you own a business. I like to differentiate between travelling and taking a vacation. A vacation means you have a home base but you are just taking a couple days off to relax and recharge. Traveling – especially extended traveling – usually means you have no “base”, and you are exploring on the move more than you are relaxing on a beach.
This past year was my first time experiencing extensive travel (over 8 months), besides spending several months living in other countries. The journey was long and I learnt a ton about the world, myself, and surprisingly even business. These are a couple of tips I want to share if you ever decide to travel while also working as a freelancer or running a business.
Have Everything Established Before You Start
This might go without saying, but it’s crucial to already have processes in place before you head out for long term travel. I believe business and sales is about consistency and processes. If you don’t have a system in place (or even a business), you shouldn’t put everything on the credit card and trust that you will start landing clients once you are abroad.
Have your methodologies in place, have a couple clients, and streamline everything so that you can actually enjoy your travels knowing that your business isn’t hurting. In my experience, do not try to start new projects when abroad. Even if you have an existing business, trying to start a side project while traveling is like trying to do SEO from a cell phone- it just can’t be done.
Always Dedicate Time to Work
Most people crave the free lifestyle where you can make your own schedule and work whenever you want. There would be entire weeks where I would wake up in a hostel in some Asian country not knowing what I was going to do that day. I would explore and let whatever looked intriguing write itself on my itinerary without any prior planning. But, I had to fit work in there somehow, so I would set certain hours to do work no matter what else was planned.
I got this tip from the awesome traveller and SEO, Diggy from ViperChill. He told me that even though he was travelling it wasn’t an excuse to not use a schedule for work. He would setup his day and include solid hours for work and I’ve been doing the same ever since. Remember, travel vs. vacation. You can’t neglect your business, especially for growth.
Being Productive in Foreign Environments
There are two drawbacks of working remotely in a foreign country: the environment, and the timezone. I always preferred rentinga vacation apartment where I went or getting a private room in a hostel for several reasons. Usually, a desk would be included so I had space to work, and I didn’t have to worry as much about leaving the laptop laying around for someone to steal.
Distractions were also a really big annoyance in hostel lobbies and public places. Unless you work really well in public, minimize distractions as much as possible. Nothing is worse than being on a sales call and then having two drunk tourists start fighting right beside you.
The timezone difference also proved to be a huge issue for sales calls, but can be managed if you sacrifice some nights or early mornings. This is related to the previous tip- simply dedicate your work hours at weird times of the day if you deal mainly with North American business people.
Lack of Internet
This is probably the most underestimated issue I’ve experiences personally and I’ve witnessed with others. You think “oh there’s internet everywhere. I’ll just connect when I get there.” No, there really isn’t WiFi everywhere. There’s WiFi access on planes these days but not in third world countries.
Often, places that advertise internet only have a strong connection in one area, or their speed sucks. I always run a speed test or call in advance and ask them to run a speed test while I’m on the phone and report back their numbers. This might sound like overkill, but when you’re doing well in a consultation and a Skype call drops, it can ruin the whole deal.
Assess what you need the internet for and the type of work you do, the average Mb/s you need to run that, and do speed tests. Also, don’t rely on phone tethering or portable WiFi hotspots to get any meaningful work done. You’ll run out of data really quickly, they’re not reliable, and the speeds aren’t competitive.
Consistency is Key
I’m not just referring to sales processes when I say consistency. Everything has to be consistent if you want to pull this off the most effectively. Your environment, your hours of work, and your mindset. Moving between cities often is the worst because of the time you waste repacking and transporting everything. It would take me a couple of days to readjust and find my optimal workspace and workflow again.
Obviously your lifestyle will determine your type of travel, but if you plan to be in one city for more than 10 days, book the place on a day to day basis or for your entire duration to avoid being forced to move out and waste time. Consider the time differences between countries- you don’t want your clients to be really confused about your schedule.
Use Online Tools To Your Advantage
There were so many tools that allowed my business to transfer easily abroad with me and solve many of the problems above. Here are a couple.
Skype: Did you forget that you weren’t going to have a regular local phone number when you were traveling? The only way to get a consistent local American number is to use a forwarding service or to setup Skype properly.
I pay $3/month to call any North American phone, if the prospect doesn’t have a Skype account. Then, I go to the Skype account settings and make the outbound phone number seem like an American number or my actual number if it is being forwarded. That way they think you are still in the U.S and they won’t be charged extra for calling long distance. Recording calls, call forwarding, sending text, and being able to use the browser at the same time are other side benefits to using Skype.
Schedule Once: This tool saved me on several occasions. It knows what time zone you are in, what your schedule looks like, and allows prospects or clients to book a time with you automatically in their time zone based on your availability. They never see where you are, just your availability which you can set or have it grab from your favourite calendar.
This is also huge for not going back and forth when trying to book a call. Just send them the private link to your calendar and they can book the time instantly into your calendar!
Gmail Offline: On a bus to the nearest waterfall? Hiking through the outskirts of a small village? I love loading all my emails once I have WiFi, then using Gmail Offline to respond to them while I don’t have internet, usually on my phone. Get all your work done and let it send out all at once whenever you reconnect to the internet.
I hope you took some value out of this post if you ever decide to travel long term with a business. Of course, don’t forget to have fun and explore! I’d love to hear what tools and tips have benefitted you in your travels and where you’ve been with your business. Let me know in the comments below.