Global freelancing: how to become a digital nomad

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We all know that being self-employed comes with both pros and cons. Freelancers are burdened with more responsibility than most when it comes to making a success of their career — and, indeed, when it comes to winning work in the first place too. But life as a freelancer also provides unprecedented freedom, flexibility and control over how we spend our working days. If you begin to think about the entire world as your office as I do, this offers some interesting opportunities.

Over the past five years the co-working trend has taken the world by storm. In every city across the globe, it’s now possible to find a cafe or workspace designed specifically for laptop-wielding coffee enthusiasts looking for a reliable Wi-fi connection. This is leading more and more freelancers to hit the road and work remotely from faraway locations. Members of this roaming community are known as “digital nomads” — and some believe there’ll be one billion of them by 2035. Here’s what you need to consider if you’d like to join them.

What does your working week look like?

Start by writing down a list of all your current work activities and how much time you spend on each of them. Include everything from client calls and emails to in-person meetings and, of course, actual hands-on project work. You can use tools like Toggl and Google Calendar to track time spent on different activities, or just sketch out something rough from memory. Use this as an opportunity to assess how you spend your time and don’t be afraid to offload any activities that aren’t paying off. Now think about the practicalities: how much of what you do can be done from anywhere? What regular commitments might influence your choice of time zone?

How do you win new projects or clients?

If you work predominantly from one location, it’s likely you win new projects or attract new clients through a mix of attending events, word of mouth and actively making enquiries, perhaps through third-party work platforms or using social media channels. Ask yourself whether being on the road would enrich or detract from your current approach to sales and whether you’ll need to adjust your strategy to make it work. Travel presents new opportunities, so think about contacts you’d like to make in specific locations and research meetups and co-working spaces where you can make new connections.

When are you most productive?

Everybody has a different ideal state for doing their best work. As freelancers, we know all too well that productivity can fluctuate massively from day-to-day. So, think about when you feel most motivated and try to analyse what makes you more productive at particular times of the day or in certain environments. While you’re travelling, you’ll need to harness your productivity like never before, so you have the time to enjoy where you are while you’re working. Becoming a digital nomad is a huge lifestyle change, so it helps to go into it with an awareness of your current work-life balance and decide whether this is something you want to experiment with during your period of travel too.

Why do you want to work and travel?

It might seem like common sense, but make sure you know the purpose of your journey before you commit to life — or even an extended period — as a digital nomad. Working and travelling is starkly different from going on holiday, and you’ll gain most from the experience if you have clear aims in mind and realistic upfront expectations. As freelancers, our happiness and state of mind directly impact our work. So, think carefully and ask yourself: what do you want to achieve? Who do you want to meet? Which location do you want to experience? What are your personal and professional development goals? The power is in your hands, and the whole world is your office.

Learn more about digital nomadism and how you can combine work and travel at Lauren’s Guardian Masterclass in London on July 17th. Use the discount code LAUREN15 for 15% off your ticket. CLICK HERE TO BOOK NOW.

For those considering taking that leap, IPSE launched last month a new partnership with language learning platform busuu. The platform is the world’s largest social network for language learning, providing courses to over 80 million members worldwide.

About the Author:

Lauren Razavi is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant. She writes and talks about the future of work, the sharing economy, global development, cities, sustainability and technology. Through her role as managing editor at Contently, she launches and manages publications for clients such as Google, Singapore Economic Development Board, Philips and S&P Global. Her journalism has been published by titles such as The Guardian, Wired, The Atlantic, and VICE. She lives and works as a digital nomad.

The author shares this work under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).