It’s a dream of many to become an entrepreneur and start a business that provides financial freedom – and more specifically, the freedom to run that business from anywhere in the world. Data from the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that there were more than 27 million entrepreneurs in the U.S. in 2015, and those numbers continue to climb.
There are countless business opportunities that allow for people to make the switch to traveling entrepreneurship, whether they’re doing consulting or e-commerce sales. But the same characteristics that make being a suitcase entrepreneur seem so amazing can also make for some stressful and even terrible experiences.
The Challenges of Working Abroad
It’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Entrepreneurs are susceptible to the same snags and problems that everyday Americans face when they travel around the world.
Cultural Shifts: You don’t have to go to another country to experience culture shock; it can happen just by visiting another part of a country you are familiar with. In many countries, there’s a distinct difference in lifestyles in different areas. There’s always an adjustment period when traveling to a new location, and it can throw off even the most well-made plans.
Lack of Sleep: Even when you’re traveling for leisure, crossing time zones can lead to a lag in your daily schedule. It can take time for your body to catch up, leading to sleepless nights and daytime exhaustion that makes it hard to focus on business.
Crossing Time Zones: Even solo entrepreneurs often rely on outside resources and other people to get work done, whether it’s a designer or a virtual assistant. When working with opposing time zones it can be hard to keep your resources on the same page and maintain communication.
Weather: Tight travel plans can become disrupted by intense weather around the world. It can ground planes, shut down roads, knock out services, and keep you from meetings, as well as disconnect you from your online business.
Limited Access: As advanced as technology has become, cell signals and internet service can be unreliable in other parts of the world. You may find yourself somewhere without the means to access critical business information and communication tools.
To try to avoid issues like those above, and minimize interruptions in your travels that could inhibit your ability to do business, here are some tools and resources to consider.
1. Have A Backup Plan
Since you’re bound to find yourself somewhere without internet connectivity, always have a backup plan. As long as you have good cell service, most modern smartphones can be turned into a hot spot, providing you with a connection for communication and monitoring your business.
If your phone isn’t locked to a specific provider, you can purchase SIM cards locally in the country you’re in that typically provide a month of service with data. The best bet is to plan ahead and make sure you know if a connection is available at your destination, and if you have coverage there.
2. Set a Schedule
A schedule is a good idea for any project or business, and the faster you change destinations while traveling, the more important it becomes. Running a business is a complex operation, made more complex by the chaos of travel. A schedule helps remind you, and anyone you outsource tasks to, of the work that needs to be done.
Simplify it by keeping a single schedule with all the details. A lot of project management systems, such as Basecamp, offer a calendar view of tasks and project due dates. If you have lots of employees to organise, Zip Schedules is another app that makes it easy to create clear, manageable schedules.
3. Use Automation Tools
Sometimes during your travels you’ll be in places where you simply can’t connect. You always want to streamline your tasks so you’re not constantly handling everything manually. Automation tools let the work continue once you’ve got everything configured, or at the very least make it easier to get tasks done.
Hootsuite puts all of your social accounts into a single dashboard so you can publish posts quickly.
Buffer is also a great tool for scheduling content to be pushed out to your channels. If you know you’re going to be busy, or offline for an extended period, get those posts scheduled so you don’t go dark.
If This Then That (IFTTT) can help you chain together tasks, triggered by a specific action. Anything that reduces your workload when you’re traveling can be helpful.
4. Leverage Content Tools
Even a traveling entrepreneur has to keep the content flowing. Unless you’re outsourcing the writing and editing, you’ll need to pause to produce content for your business. In the event you can’t access the software on your laptop or PC for content creation, have a few tools handy as a backup.
Pixlr is a great web-based Photoshop alternative that you can use from any browser, and it’s 100% free to use.
Canva lets you create social images on the fly for virtually every platform, complete with text overlay and designs. There’s a large collection of free images, or you can purchase quality stock photos from its database.
If you need a tool for writing, Google Docs is always free to use. Documents are stored online so you don’t have to worry about losing your work, and other staff members can work collaboratively in the doc from wherever they are. Once content is written, you can use Hemingway Editor to check the quality and readability of your content. Grammarly is another freemium tool that acts as your editor-on-call when you’re writing while traveling.
5. Use Cloud Storage
Avoid relying on physical media as your sole means of storage. Backup drives are cumbersome and easily damaged, and USB sticks can be misplaced or stolen. The safest approach is to maintain all of your files in cloud storage through Dropbox or Google Drive. Your files can still be accessed on your machine when offline, but you never have to worry about losing original documents.
6. Maintain a Good Work/Life Balance
The whole point of traveling is to be able to see and experience the world while growing your business. Don’t forget to maintain a good balance of work and leisure. Know when to say “no” to things that come up, and learn to delegate to a virtual assistant. This way you have more time to relax while operations are running smoothly.
This includes telling yourself “no.” You don’t need to live inside of your analytics or watch the traffic roll into your Shopify store. Make time for yourself.
7. Plan Far Enough Ahead
When you’re at the office, you’re likely planning most things a few days out, or for the week. When traveling, open that window and make your plans far enough in advance to include the next leg or two of your trip. This way your schedule includes travel plans and you can account for work interruptions around deadlines, blackouts in communication, and project tasks.
8. Travel Light
Depending on how and where you travel, you can significantly lighten the load by minimizing the clothes you take with you. Dufl is a service that valets your wardrobe, maintaining a personal closet of your own clothing. You select the items you want, plug in your destination and travel dates, and Dufl ships your cleaned and neatly pack clothes to your destination. Ship them back when you’re leaving to have them cleaned, stocked, and ready to go for your next trip.
9. Don’t Get Overwhelmed by Receipts
It’s safe to assume that you’ll have a fair amount of expenses from traveling. With receipts from around the country or the world, you’ll want to keep track of them without hauling bags of paper receipts back to your hotel room or home office. Use a service like Shoeboxed to digitize your receipts when traveling abroad, and you’ll never have to hang onto or organize paper receipts again.
10. Keep Contacts Safe
It’s a natural habit to store the information for a contact on your mobile device. Unfortunately, if your battery dies or something happens to your phone, you won’t be able to access those contacts. Make sure to back them up to an online system like Google Contacts. You should also keep your most important contacts, like emergency ones, in physical form on your person.
11. Buy Better Equipment
It’s worth it to spend a little more upfront buying better-quality hardware that will last, as opposed to something cheaper that will underperform or break on you. If you’re traveling abroad, you might not be somewhere with an electronics store or repair shop nearby. Buy a Toughbook, a quality camera like a GoPro that can take a tumble, or noise-cancelling headsets that make net meetings easy in public places.
12. Use Note-Taking Tools
Have a means of taking notes no matter where you are. Inspiration can strike at any time. If a small steno pad and pen aren’t handy, use tools like Evernote or OneNote to keep your notes somewhere secure, as opposed to writing them on a café napkin. Both applications offer automated syncing, so you can access your notes across multiple devices.
13. Get a Virtual Assistant
Invest in a virtual assistant to tackle smaller, repetitive tasks while traveling, and free your time to focus on business development and growth projects, customers, or writing. The nice thing about virtual assistants is that you only need to pay for the hours you use their services, so if work is light you pay less, but if there’s a heavy workload, you know you have someone to lean on.
14. Know Your Destination
Get familiar with a destination before you arrive. Use TripAdvisor, travel directories, and local business reviews to find the best locations with the amenities you need for your business. Don’t just book in standard hotels. Enjoy the trip and save money by using VRBO and AirBnB to find cheaper vacation rentals that give you more comfort while working in different locations.
15. Don’t Get Locked Out of Your Credit Cards
Communicate about your travels with your financial institutions. Nothing can shut you down faster than your bank or a service like PayPal locking down your cards because they see activity somewhere they don’t expect you to be. It’s great to know they’re protecting your accounts, but it’s incredibly inconvenient to discover that your account was locked for assumed fraudulent activity when you’re trying to pay for something critical – like airfare, reservations, or food.
It only takes a few minutes to call account services and let them know the regions you’ll be traveling to or through, and the dates. They’ll enter this information into your account and the algorithm monitoring spending activity will ignore reasonable purchases within that window in those locations.
16. Document Everything
While you’re out there running your business, you’re also traveling to exciting new places and making memories. Take pictures and video wherever you go. Not only does this preserve the trip for your own sake, but it also it provides you with little distractions to help you enjoy your travels and maintain that work/life balance.
Also, there’s nothing better than personable, behind-the-scenes content for your social channels. Share those pictures and videos with your followers. Let them see the culture of the business you’re growing, your personality, and how you do business behind-the-scenes. It’s great content for marketing purposes.
Trying to run a business while traveling presents some unique challenges, along with the ones typically faced by seeing the world. With proper planning and the right tools, you can streamline your operations so that even in the face of a little natural adversity, the business continues to run smoothly. Above all else, use these tips and tools to maintain a good balance, and take the opportunity to enjoy your travels and the freedom that comes from entrepreneurship.