How to Make a Working Vacation Work For You
Having a freelance lifestyle is all about freedom. Freedom to work at your own pace, make your own hours and take time off without feeling like a burden to your coworkers (I think we’re all accustomed to that unnecessary guilt). But are you taking full advantage? I’ve made it a personal goal to take 1 month to travel and work and after successfully doing so last summer, I decided to do it again this September! I just returned a few days ago from said adventure and thought I'd share some of the things I've learned about working abroad.
Tell your clients in advance.
If you want to avoid a rush of last minute work (I'm pretty sure we all do), send a vacation notice email to your repeat freelance clients 2-4 weeks in advance so they are aware of your scheduled vacation. While I was away, I took 2 weeks of vacation and worked abroad for the remaining 2 weeks. I outlined this clearly to my clients so they were aware I would not be available for 2 weeks and if they required any work completed before this time, this provided ample time to approach me with any new projects they required. The same applies for current projects as well. If an ongoing project will not be completed before your time away, your client should be informed in case this will interrupt their project timeline.
It's smart to keep your clients in the loop of your travels while you're working abroad as well. Set up a hyperlink to your skype username in your email signature during this time to avoid unanswered client calls to your cell. Instead of pretending you're still in your usual location, it doesn't hurt to tell your clients you're abroad so they aren't surprised if they receive communication from you in the middle of the night, and they'll already know to consider time zones when they need to get in touch. In my experience this has never caused an issue. Clients understand your flexible lifestyle may take you out of your usual city and they are happy to work around the small restrictions working nomadically can cause.
Keep track of your projects tangibly.
Whether you are like me and keep a day planner, or you use an online calendar - make physical note of the projects that need your attention and on which days. You might normally have a great memory and can manage this all mentally but trust me, when you're away this will not be at the forefront of your mind. You'll be seeing and experiencing so many new things each day it's important you don't loose track of the work you do need to do. However you are on a "working vacation" so work doesn't need to be your #1 focus all day either, which is why noting it somewhere that you can easily reference once each day when you sit down to work is the best way to maintain accountability.
Don't forget, you're in a different time zone.
Time zone travel can be beneficial to your schedule if you're going forward in time. (Time zone talk always sounds like some sort of weird time travel, I know). This summer I travelled east to Spain, Portugal and the UK so I had the luxury of being able to do a few activities during the day (I took a day trip to Coimbra when I was working in Porto for example) and then complete my work after 5pm - only 9am in Vancouver - meaning deliverables were still sent to my clients within plenty of time. However if you're travelling west, this could cause issues for your project timelines. Be sure to work on projects a day in advance if needed to ensure work and communication reaches your client on time.
By this I mean, don't try to do work in your hotel room while your friends are getting ready to go out to dinner. Unfortunately that's not conducive to productivity. When travelling with others it's always nice to have a little alone time, so I suggest taking advantage of that alone time and getting some work done at the same time. I like to take pictures of cute cafés I pass while exploring the city and come back to them later to work. A quick online search for unique coworking spaces returns great results as well! I worked at a local coworking space that was at the back of a café in London, the drop-in rate was just £2/hour and unlimited coffee and tea was included! One of the most fun aspects of working in a new city is feeling like a local and getting to discover the unique places other freelancers work.
Keep Your Receipts.
While your trip itself can't be written off for your taxes (unless the main purpose is for business that is) you can keep track of all expenses you do spend on work and those can still be written off as per usual. If you pay to work at a coworking space for a day, that is indeed a working expense!
I Struggle Too.
Normally I'm pretty good at staying on track. I know working from home is a scary thought to some because it's very close to the couch (and the tv) but I usually manage to keep focused at my desk. Working while travelling is a different story. I enjoy taking a break from being a tourist and taking my laptop to a cafe I stumbled upon, working in a completely new space for a few hours and having some much needed alone time. If you're travelling with a partner or friends it's definitely difficult to find this time to step away without having serious fomo. However it's totally worth the test if extended travel is something you're interested in! Living on the West Coast of Canada means that flights almost anywhere are not cheap, so taking more time in my travel locations really allows me to see more while only paying for 1 long-haul flight. I highly recommend giving this a shot to see if it works for you.
Let me know if you have any questions! This is the second time I've gone on this type of adventure and I have lots of travel and budget tips I'm happy to share.
Until next time, keep doing what makes you happy :)