Want to Freelance and Travel Abroad? Here are 7 Tips for Success
Freelance travel is a dream job for many people. All you need is a laptop and a few good freelance clients, then you can travel and work from anywhere. Freelancing online is an amazing opportunity for anyone with a deep sense of wanderlust. You can work from just about anywhere in the world if you play your cards right.
I’ve been working online for over 5 years now and have a lot of experience with freelance travel. Here are a few important things I’ve learned to along the way:
1. Pick countries that are good for freelance travel
The great thing about freelancing while traveling is that you’re not just going on a 2-week vacation. You can actually stay in a country for months while you work, if you can get a long enough visa. There are lots of tourist-friendly countries that will let you stay for 90 days visa-free. Some even offer really long visas if you want to stay long-term or go and come as you please. I’ve been living in Ethiopia for the past 5 years using nothing but tourist visas — they offer 2 years for Americans!
There’s this really cool website called Passport Index that I like because it will give you an idea of what kind of visas you can get in different countries based on your passport:
In most cases all you’ll need is a tourist visa to work remotely from a country. Though some places have visas specific to freelancing. Estonia also has a new e-residency program that will give you long-term residency in their country and allow you to register your freelance business as an EU company. It’s specifically designed to help freelancers who want to travel the world but need a base for their business.
Wherever you decide to freelance travel, make sure you choose a places where you can get long-term visas.
2. Find a good internet connection
Another important thing to consider when choosing countries to freelance in is internet quality. A lot of developing countries are attractive for freelancers because they’re affordable and often give great visa deals. But the internet can be especially slow.
Having a good internet connection is important so you can communicate with clients, apply for gigs, etc. So definitely take this into consideration when choosing where to freelance travel.
Here’s a great resource that ranks countries by average internet speed. Taiwan has an impressive 85 megabytes per second!
That said, you don’t have to go to the countries with the fastest internet to freelance. With a little preparation, you can freelance just about anywhere that has semi-reliable internet. Believe it or not, I make great money freelancing from a country with the 7th slowest internet in the world:
If you do end up traveling to a country without the best internet, make sure you take steps to ensure you can at least check your email daily. Try to stay at a place that has WIFI in the room. If you can’t, then make sure you have a local SIM card so you can use mobile data services and tether your phone to your computer.
Some telecoms companies can issue you a special SIM card designed just for mobile data usage. You can then put it inside of a 3G/4G dongle that you plug into your laptop to use the internet.
Believe it or not, my whole first year freelancing, I didn’t have WIFI in my home. I started a successful freelance business using this bad boy:
I would just plug that into this ancient Macbook every day to check my email, upload documents, and communicate with clients:
By the way, here’s my current freelance setup (I’ve come a long way):
3. Use AirBnB
If you want to successfully travel while freelancing, you need to find a good place to stay. You can’t get a bunch of freelance work done and really enjoy the country you’re in if you’re just staying in hotels. Your hotel might not have a work-friendly space (e.g. a desk with a comfortable chair) and you’ll have to eat out 3 meals a day. Not to mention hotels are expensive. There are much cheaper ways to live and work in different places around the world when you avoid hotels.
That’s why I highly recommend using AirBnB, or a service with similar options (Booking.com has gotten good at offering home-stay options as well). With AirBnB, you can find places to stay at a much more affordable rate. And often hosts will offer special discounts for weekly or monthly stays. You can also choose a place that has kitchen access, so you can cook your own food and save money.
When you search AirBnB, you can also specify that you’re traveling for business. Then the homes that show up in search results are guaranteed to have the basic amenities you need to work, such as WIFI and a laptop-friendly workspace:
I really like the freedom that AirBnB gives for people who want to work and travel at the same time. In fact, I like it so much that my husband and I are also AirBnB hosts! So if you’re feeling adventurous when you start freelancing, get a visa to Ethiopia and come stay at our guest house in Hawassa. We offer free WIFI and advice about freelancing!
4. Pick a lucrative freelance niche
I don’t think all my tips should be specifically related to travel, because there are lots of other factors that can greatly impact your success freelancing, no matter where you’re located. Probably the most important one is picking your freelance niche. Your chosen niche will impact what kind of jobs you can apply for, and how much your earning potential really is.
Here are some of the most in-demand freelance niches out there today:
- Administrative Support
- Customer Service
- Data Science and Analytics
- Design and Creative
- Sales and Marketing
- Social media marketing
There’s a lot of demand for freelance writers, especially if you want to be a travel writer. I used to write some articles about travel when I first started out freelancing. But there are many other freelance paths also. Maybe you’re not sure which freelance niche is right for you. But I’m certain you already have plenty of valuable skills that would be relevant to any of these lucrative niches. All you need to do is harness them to maximize your value as a traveling freelancer. (If you need help choosing the perfect niche, my free minicourse can help).
5. Be conscious of time zones
Depending on where you are in the world, there’s a good chance your freelance clients are in a very different time zone as you are. For example, say you’re freelancing in Thailand but your client is in Los Angeles. That’s a 14-hour time difference. And normal 9-5 business hours in LA would be from 11PM-7AM in Thailand.
In my experience with freelance travel, most clients do not care what part of the world you live in as long as you’re available when they need you. So you just have to be flexible. I don’t normally want to set up a client call for 9PM my time, but I do it because that’s when normal business hours are for my clients.
When applying for freelance gigs, make sure there aren’t any time restrictions on the work that you can’t manage. For example, you could get a gig in administrative support and the client might need you answering emails in the middle of the night your time. That’s not going to work.
If your time zone is really different from your client, just make sure you’re working on gigs where time isn’t much of an issue. Being a freelance writer, editor, data analyst, or translator work well in this scenario. You complete assignments on your own time and clients will find your submission in their inbox when they wake up in the morning.
6. Don’t forget to work while traveling
It’s easy to see how freelance travel can be appealing for people today. There’s so many different places to visit, and numerous attractions to check out in each place. You get to try new foods, meet new people, learn about a new culture, and go on adventures. In some ways, it’s like an endless vacation, except without a set itinerary created by some travel agency.
But while you’re having all that fun exploring the world, don’t forget to get a few hours of work in every day. Freelance clients won’t just land in your lap. You need to put in the effort to land gigs and build your income so you can spend more time doing what you love.
The good news is, it’s possible to build your freelance business in a way that minimizes how much work you really have to do to sustain your traveling lifestyle. It’s not all about pinching pennies and staying at cheap places. Get the right kind of high-paying clients and you can end up earning double what you would at a normal 9-5 job for less than half of the effort.
To get an idea of what I mean, check out what I got paid for these recent freelance assignments I worked on:
- 2,000-word article about email autoresponders. It paid $440.00. Took me 3 hours. (≃ $145/hour)
- 800-word article about cryptocurrency. It paid $209. Took me 1.5 hours. (≃ $140/hour)
- 2,235-word article on automated bidding. It paid $543. Took me 3.5 hours. (≃ $155/hour)
- 1,900-word article on time management. It paid $456. Took me 3 hours. (≃ $150/hour)
You can also earn this kind of money as a freelance traveler if you market yourself strategically. Then you can spend 20% of your day working and 80% of your day enjoying the travel you love.
In 2018 I spent a month exploring Spain with my brothers. I worked very little during that time:
If you need some help getting started with your freelance business, I recommend you check out my online course.
7. Get ahead of your freelance deadlines
Being a freelance traveller requires a lot of spontaneity in your life. You never know where you’ll be staying, what opportunities a new city might bring, or what else might come up. That’s why getting ahead of your freelance deadlines is really important, so they don’t disrupt your life.
As a general rule, I like to get my assignments done 48 hours before they’re due. Sometimes things take longer than I expect and I end up not delivering until the deadline. But as long as I keep that 48-hour plan, I ensure I never actually miss a deadline.
When you travel as a freelancer, you never know if you’re going to have internet connectivity issues or if something else will come up to slow you down. Life isn’t mundane like working a 9-5. So you need to be prepared.
Staying ahead of your deadlines also makes it easier for you to take advantage of new opportunities that pop up as you travel. Say you meet some cool people who want you to come boating tomorrow to their private island but you can’t, because you have a deadline. You should have gotten your work done earlier so you can enjoy world travel to the fullest!
A couple of years ago I was going to visit my parents in Ireland. I flew into London where they picked me up with a surprise:
They flew my sister (who I hadn’t seen in years) out from Boise, Idaho for a fun-filled week in London together!
It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do that with her. And luckily for me, I was way ahead on all my work deadlines, so I could spend the whole week sightseeing and spending time with my family.
Freelance travel is such an amazing opportunity, I’m surprised more people aren’t doing it. It’s probably because they don’t think they have the skills or ability to succeed at freelancing online. But I have a secret for you:
Freelancing is easy.
I work about 2 hours a day and travel all I want. It’s the best gig in the world, and you can start doing it too using the skills you already have. All you need is a little confidence, and a little guidance picking the perfect niche to grow your freelance income. Then it’s travel, travel, travel.