How to make the whole world your office

Imagine a lifestyle where you could travel wherever you please, whenever you like. Whether it’s Boston or Cancun, Bali or Crete, freedom from the constraints of the office is, for many of us, the dream. Turning that dream into a reality may not be as far-fetched as you think. It’s never been easier to become a freelance ‘digital nomad’, working for UK clients from the  most far-flung beaches of the world, thanks to cloud-based productivity tools like G Suite, the rise in popularity of online freelance marketplaces and cheaper long-haul flights than ever before. 

Sound good? Then get packing. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

1. A budget

Nobody wants to be stuck on the wrong side of the world with empty pockets. So take some time to work out how much you’re likely to spend in each destination. Booking.com can give you a good measure of accommodation prices, while Nomad List approximates the cost of day-to-day living (with tons of other info too) in hundreds of destinations around the world. Travel blogs like Nomadic Matt are also handy to over a real-world account of how much you’re likely to need. Budget a little more than you anticipate spending, just in case, and ensure you have enough to live on that budget for at least a month or two in case projects dry up.

2. A profile on a freelance job marketplace site

Whatever your skill set, freelance jobs marketplaces are the most plentiful source of remote work. Sites like Upwork and Fiverr are like an eBay for jobs: a potential client posts a project, then freelancers bid for the work with a short covering letter and a proposed rate and terms. While the quality of work (and remuneration) on offer can sometimes vary, these two sites are where you’ll find the most projects you’d probably want to work on. Just like networking back home, relationships built on Upwork or Fiverr may bear more fruit than you expect; what began for me as a four-week Upwork project in 2017 resulted in a yearly retainer contract and remains my full-time, remotely based contracting gig.

3. A local sim card

Mobile data makes freelance life in an alien country a heck of a lot easier: Google Maps will no doubt help you find your way around and when decent wi-fi is hard to come by, your phone’s personal hotspot can be invaluable to get some work done too. But, of course, if you’re outside the EU, that convenience can come at an eye-watering cost when the next phone bill comes through. So, it’s best to pick up a local prepaid SIM card with a data bundle included; you can usually find one in airport arrivals for just a few pounds. Ifyour phone is locked to your home network, or you need to keep your normal SIM free for client calls, an inexpensive mobile wi-fi device will do the trick just fine. You simply put any SIM card in, switch it on and off you go. I use Huawei’s E5330 (£27).

4. A debit or credit card with free overseas withdrawals

The costs can quickly mount up without one, particularly in countries where card payments aren’t yet widespread. In Thailand, for example, where cash is king, all ATMs charge 220 Thai Baht (£5.37) for withdrawals with a foreign card. Let’s say you bank with HSBC: that £5.37 comes on top of the bank’s two per cent overseas cash fee and a 2.75 per cent non-Sterling transaction fee – which means the fees on a £100 withdrawal total a whopping £10.12.Fortunately, a whole raft of ‘neobanks’ – that is, 100 per cent digital banks accessed via app – offer free overseas withdrawals and an easy set-up. Check out Tide for accounts specifically designed for small business owners. Monzo, meanwhile, is one of the most popular providers of digital current accounts. Both charge only minimal fees, if any at all.

5. A co-working space

Locating a place to set up shop in Western cities – be that a coffee shop, café or library – is rarely a challenge. The less developed corners of the world, however, can be less  accommodating. I won’t soon forget spending 45 minutes running around the sweltering streets of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, trying to find somewhere – anywhere – to sit down and connect to some wi-fi for an imminent client Skype call (ultimately paying about five times the going rate for a coffee in a pretentious hotel lobby). So take a look at coworker.com
for a directory of thousands of co-working spaces all over the world and, for around half of the spaces listed, free day passes for you to try before you buy.

6. Travel insurance

The costs of an unexpected hospital visit can be sky-high in some parts of the world, so you’ll need a comprehensive travel insurance policy with gadget cover included. It’s probably simplest and cheapest, if you’re not planning to visit North America, to opt for an annual ‘Worldwide excluding Canada, USA and Mexico’ policy, which gives you the flexibility to change your itinerary with a reasonable upfront premium.

The bottom line

So, you’re all set and ready to go. Now it’s just a question of deciding where – and the world is your oyster!

 

Meet the author

Mark Williams