Carlo Pandian has some tools to help digital nomads who want to work remotely.
It’s the lifestyle that so many desire: work anywhere, from a beach in Thailand to a chateau in France. However, most people aren’t willing to put in the work to make it a reality. If you’re considering taking your work on the road, you will need to continue giving your clients the same high level of service they are accustomed to, no matter where you’re putting the hours in.
Here are some of the tools to help you become a digital nomad while continuing to thrive professionally:
This may seem like an obvious tool to purchase when moving into location independent work, but there is one key point to mention: many location independent workers opt for Macs. They are robust, with plenty of tools and capabilities for any kind of occupation. Most importantly, Macs also have an international warranty so you can bring it to an Apple store for repairs almost anywhere in the world.
To protect your Mac, look for a protective cover that will keep your laptop safe when it’s bouncing around in your bag. Covers can also help reduce the risk of theft – this one by BookBook doubles as a vintage mystery novel.
When you’re on the go, you don’t want to waste time waiting for checked luggage. Invest in a good backpack that can store your work and belongings safely. The ability to travel with a carry-on will improve your travel efficiency and reduce the risk of your luggage getting lost – potentially with your work in it.
For ultra-efficient packing, you could try something like the Minaal Carry-on bag. It’s designed to lie flat for easy packing with a lot of storage in a compact space. You can take it onboard with most airlines, carry it as a duffel bag around the airport and wear it as a backpack around the city.
Be sure that your work is backed up in at least two locations. If you’re going to be travelling with your clients’ information, the last thing you want is for your computer to crash or to be stolen and have your work go along with it.
Maintain a durable physical back-up like LaCie Rugged, especially for saving your laptop’s settings and software. There are external hard drives the size of notepads that carry up to 1TB of data. Try to update these monthly.
Building a client base is the foundation of your business. There are a number of different ways to find clients.
Word of mouth
If you have the means, start by doing some work pro bono and getting your name out there. Recommendations can often be the strongest driver of business for your new company so be sure to do your best work. If it gets people talking then you’re on the right track.
Build your own website – even a simple one – that will help people find you and that showcases your services.
Websites like ODesk, Elance and People Per Hour make finding freelance work easy. There is also a lot of competition here, with dozens of people budding for the same job. The risk here can be that you will be underpaid for your work. Avoid the temptation to bid for jobs that pay you less than you’re worth just to get feedback and build a reputation. Wait for the right work to come along.
Communication & collaboration
Video calls will help you combat isolation. It can be lonely when you don’t have the constant human interaction that you get when working in an office. You also need to be kept in the loop, participate in brainstorm sessions and be a part of the team.
A tool that is more professional than Skype and easier to use than Google Hangout is GoToMeeting. If part of your business involves running webinars or training for clients, you can get up to 15 people in one videoconference. It’s also cloud-based, so the conferences can be saved for rebroadcasting – perfect for putting on your website to attract more clients.
Team projects can be difficult to manage if you don’t store documents in a centralised location. Since you’re already using Gmail (aren’t you?), setting up Google Drive and Google Docs is a no-brainer. You can work on the same word processing or spreadsheet file and see the changes as they’re happening. The files can be accessed by anyone working on the project, making it easier for handovers or on-boarding new remote workers. For a more professional system for sharing with clients, try Podio, a project management tool great for collaboration.
Scheduling can be a nightmare on the road. If you are a true digital nomad, finding a time to speak with clients can be a complicated task. Some clients believe that you’re always available because you work remotely. You could invest in Timetrade, a tool that helps you schedule calls and appointments. You set the times you’re available in a calendar so you can block off periods when you’re working diligently or travelling to another destination. Your clients log-in and book their appointments for themselves. It saves the back and forth of trying to find a mutually suitable time via email.
Another great app for your phone is Wunderlist, an online to-do list that you can share with anyone from your clients to your collaborators. You can access it from anywhere and it will help you keep track of all of you upcoming tasks.
Billing & eCommerce
Bookkeeping and billing
A professional invoicing system makes a difference. You definitely want to get paid. Make your invoices simple and professional by using an automatic tracking and billing software. The most commonly used invoicing system by digital nomads appears to be Freshbooks. It’s an online invoicing system that is perfect for freelancers. You can monitor business expenses, track time spent working with clients, and provide them with a professional invoice in set intervals.
If you don’t already have PayPal, you should get it. Many companies have adapted to the international and remote workforce, and are set up to make payments by PayPal. Connect it to your bank account so that you can receive payments via email. If you’re working with clients internationally, be sure to have your BIC and IBAN numbers to facilitate the payments if they don’t use PayPal yet.
Keep track of your lifestyle budget with Microsoft Excel. The functionality and computing power of Excel are second to none. There are plenty of templates that can be used to suit your needs so making use of them will help you manage your travel and business expenses.
There is a lot to consider when deciding to make the switch to nomadic life, but there are many tools out there that can make it easier and more feasible than ever before. Maybe it’s time you get the courage to take your business digital and house sit in that chateau in France.
*Carlo Pandian is a freelance writer interested in productivity, entrepreneurship and management and has previously published on Tech Republic, Killer Startups and Under30CEO. When he’s not online, Carlo loves cycling, swimming and cooking Italian food.