Well, since it’s the middle of the summer (depends on where you’re at currently, though), I thought I’d share a thing or two about how I manage to freelance regardless of the location I’m at, and how you can do the same.
This post actually includes both the techniques and tools I’ve tested before, and the ones I am yet to test as they seem like they are capable of making things a lot easier.
This isn’t about freelance writing while on vacation
Please don’t misread this whole guide. This isn’t about working while on vacation. I’m probably the first person out there who will preach the idea of “forget about work on vacation.” I simply don’t really believe that we should strive to find yet another clever way of staying at work no matter what.
Therefore, no. 1 rule: Leave freelance writing at home when you’re on vacation!
This is about taking things location-independent
When it comes to the idea of vacation itself, in its traditional sense, I probably have 2-4 weeks of it per year in total (vacation, meaning that I sit around and do nothing). Two weeks isn’t much but I don’t even feel bad about it. I’d probably go nuts if I did nothing for more than 14 days in a row.
The reason why I don’t feel bad about the length of my vacation is because I do some other things to keep life interesting. Every couple of months or so, I go somewhere else to spend a week or just a couple of days in a different location and work there in a somewhat normal manner. Well, maybe with some additional time for sightseeing but apart from that, my daily work schedule doesn’t change that much.
I know that I’m nowhere near the type of location-independent work like Chris Guillebeau, as I’m still perfecting most of my tactics, but I’m pretty satisfied with the results I’ve gotten so far nevertheless.
So, to the cool stuff, then!
(Warning. This guide is a bit longer than a standard blog post.)
It’s actually only “kind of” location-independent
Well, the thing with being location-independent is that you can be as independent as you wish and work from anywhere…as long as there’s internet access.
Since only 34% of the population has internet access, this means that there are still a lot of blank spots on the globe where you won’t be able to freelance write and be location-independent.
Even though it’s the 21st century, technology is sill stopping us from truly breaking loose and writing from the middle of the Kalahari, for example.
Therefore, the actual actionable advice I have for you in this section is to go where there’s easy access to the world wide web.
This does sound basic, I know, but it’s still one of the more overlooked details when relocating. And the mistake many people fall into is that they simply don’t make sure that the place where they’ll be staying has a quality high speed hookup.
Here’s the thing. If you’re, for example, planning to go to a real remote place then you will naturally remember about making sure there’s internet access there. But if, on the other hand, you’re planning to visit a popular European city, you will just assume right upfront that the internet won’t be a problem and that’s where the trap is. Simply not every hotel or host will be able to hand you over some internets.
Devices go wrong
Having your laptop break down is never a good day-starter. But if you’re in your city then you can at least just call the technical support and let them fix the damn thing. In the meantime, you can borrow a laptop from a friend, or dust your old PC or something. So for the most part, you can keep working despite the difficulties.
Having your laptop break down abroad is a lot more uncool. First of all, how do you get it fixed? Do you even try to find a local specialist? Do you buy a new laptop right away? Should you bring the old one back with you? And most importantly, how do you keep working?
I have two pieces of advice here. First, have a backup device of some kind with you. Smartphones tend to work great for this purpose (an iPad is even better). Even though they are not that comfortable for writing or managing your business, if you’re forced to, you can handle the core tasks in your schedule. So that’s that.
This is actually something I learned when I stayed in Barcelona a year ago. My laptop got infected with a nasty bug, which tried to extort some money from me in exchange for “fixing the problem,” and I didn’t have any backup device then. Luckily for me, I have some IT background from my University days so I was able to restore my Windows OS to a previously working state. But it still was the day I realized that backup devices are a must from then on.
The other advice is this:
Get yourself a “cloud”
For me, location-independent working isn’t actually that much about making yourself location-independent as it is about making your data location-independent.
That is the reason why I’m a huge fan of taking every piece of data possible and putting it into some kind of a cloud service.
In my experience, the best way of having any type of file imaginable (your texts, images, videos, etc.) backed up and synchronized to the cloud is doing it through SugarSync.
In short, SugarSync is like Dropbox, but better. It offers more free space and you can synchronize folders selectively, which means that you can pick which folders and files get synced to which machine.
SugarSync offers 5GB of disk space for free. If you need more, you can either buy a premium plan or sign up for a $5 / month service called Backblaze. It doesn’t have any sync feature but it’s great for online backups. I actually use it as my “master online backup” of sorts where I can connect to in case I need a specific file from my terabyte-sized collection. Backblaze offers unlimited disk space, by the way.
Next, note taking. Various note taking apps and environments are something I’m testing right now. For me, the perfect note taking app should be quick, accessible, and easy to synchronize across multiple devices (you never know when you’ll need to take a note, right?).
Currently, there are two winners on my list:
- Google Keep. It’s very, very quick and nothing comes even close to it when it comes to the ease of creating text notes.
- Springpad. It’s great for all kinds of visual notes. There are presets for notes about things like: movies, music, books, places, recipes, products, wines (my favorite category), photos, and many more.
What about Evernote? – Asks you. Well, I really have no factual argument against it other than I just don’t like the design and the feel of it. It’s just my personal opinion so feel free to disagree. Anyway, functionality-wise, it’s still great.
Maybe there’s something else I’m missing here but I think we’re pretty covered when it comes to clouds for now. Oh, one more cool thing about clouds is that if something breaks down, you at least get someone to shout at, which is always a stress relief of some kind…
Going online with things that used to be offline
There are four particular things that many people keep in the offline realm, so to speak. Here’s why getting them taken care of in the online is a better idea:
1. Client proposals.
If you’re doing any sort of active marketing for your freelancing business then you probably deal with client proposals from time to time. Such things come in handy when you have a prospective client who’s not that convinced in hiring you yet. Simply saying something like “hey, here’s my offer, take it or leave it” won’t probably seal you a deal.
Whether we like it or not, design and presentation matters. This is why you can try out Bidsketch. It’s an online proposal software that’s perfect for freelancers. You can use some of the proposal templates it provides, create your own reusable content, and cook a ready-to-send proposal in minutes.
Then, after you do send it out, Bidsketch provides data about whether your proposal has been viewed or not, and even lets your clients sign the deal electronically.
Invoicing with Excel is just so 1998…really.
There’s a lot of online alternatives out there these days. The one I recommend is FreshBooks. It’s simple to use, quick, and understandable even if you don’t have an accounting bone in you.
FreshBooks is also good with templates and ongoing invoices, so you can bill your existing clients ultra fast.
(By the way, Bidsketch and FreshBooks work well together. You can view your invoicing data straight from Bidsketch.)
3. Project management.
I’m mentioning this in case you do work with a team of people and need to manage your combined efforts in some way.
On the other hand, if you’re alone in your business, then you can probably go on without a project management software… Just being honest.
In a nutshell, here’s my advice when it comes to such tools: For small teams, use Teambox (free). For larger teams and cooperating with your clients, use Basecamp.
4. Password management.
With more and more services we’re forced encouraged to use every day, we also have to deal with more and more passwords. Deal, as in remember. Or do we?
Well, there are actually only a handful of rules when it comes to proper and secure password management: you must (1) have a different password for every service you use, (2) each password needs to be complex, and (3) you must store them securely (preferably in your brain). However, the kicker is that these three rules are impossible to put in practice in a real-life scenario unless you have a password manager.
Long story short, go ahead and try LastPass. It has a ton of apps (mobile and so on) and browser extensions available. It stores your passwords securely and allows you to use them instantly whenever you need to log into something, anything.
Passwords in general seem like a no-brainer kind of thing, but the fact is that waking up one day while being abroad and getting the sensation of “Damn! I don’t have my password for X” is the worst feeling possible. I know that you can always restore a password if all else fails, but doing it a couple of times in a row is highly unproductive.
Going offline with things that used to be online
So, why would you take things that are online and move them to the offline? At first, it seems like it kind of defeats the purpose of being location-independent.
Well, it doesn’t, and this is actually something I found out the hard way a number of times before I finally got it right.
Let me give you an example. Gmail. It’s great for working with email and stuff. But what if you don’t have access to the internet at the moment (which happens a lot when you’re abroad in an unknown environment)? No clever answer here, you’re simply grounded with no possibility to do anything.
That’s why I’m a fan of the Gmail Offline app (for Chrome). This is a Gmail app that supports offline access. It takes a snapshot of your email, allows you to read it, respond to it (!), archive it (!), delete it (!), and so on. Basically, you can do anything you wish, and then once you’re online, everything will get synced to your actual Gmail.
(From what I can see, the official Gmail app for the iPad has the same possibility.)
This particular issue – the occasional downtime – is also why I’m using blogging software like Windows Live Writer (PC) or Blogsy (iPad). I never write my articles straight inside WordPress because if I go online, I can’t work on them until I go back online again. With Live Writer, there’s no such problem.
Kind of long this guide has become (sorry about the Master Yoda impression). Nevertheless, I do hope that this info will come in handy to you when testing if location-independence is the thing for you.
Is it really the “all you need to know guide?” Probably not if I’m honest. After all, it’s just my point of view and I’m sure you can share some tips of your own that I haven’t thought of, which I actually encourage you to do in the comments.
So, have you tried going location-independent with your freelancing business?
Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a freelance blogger and writer. To get in touch, pay him a visit at newInternetOrder.com (especially if you’re interested in some info on how to write a blog post – with a blog post blueprint) or his personal hub-site – karol.cc.