Traveling is an exciting experience, it opens your eyes, widens your mindset and certainly inspires you for more. I’ve been traveling since I left high school in 2011, I went to study Multimedia Design & Communication in Denmark, I did an internship in a design agency in London, UK and after a quick trip around the Europe, I’ve left for a journey of my life – a tour around the world as a digital nomad.
What is a digital nomad, you may ask, a digital nomad is an individual with a certain skillset like writing, programming or designing, that leverages remote work opportunities to travel the world.
In this article I’d like to share how I traveled the world and worked as a freelance web designer while building Despreneur. I want to inspire an idea that you as a web designer can easily combine these two activities and completely redesign your lifestyle. Collect moments, not things they say. As a web designer you’re able to produce your work without physically being in the place so it gives you the freedom to move anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection. Read also our previous article about How to Work as A Freelance Designer and Travel.
Not a surprise but you need to plan your itinerary, future destinations and getting paid for very simple reasons: to save time, money and stress while you’re on the road.
Some of the things you need to think of are:
- Where will you get web design clients?
- How are you going to get paid?
- What happens if you’re not able to work for a month or two?
- Where are you going to live?
- What about health insurance and taxes?
Before leaving make a rough plan of where you want to go, let your relatives, friends and family know that you are leaving.
It’s very important to contact your bank and other institutions and inform them about your leaving. Make sure they activate online payments in your cards, enable a risk of your card being used in third world countries, also make sure to get medical check ups. Get a credit card (if you can) that covers travel insurance.
From the professional perspective, ensure that you have a fully working laptop, charger with adaptors for different countries, get a Skype or other VoIP service credit for cheaper international calls.
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Ideally, have a list of clients queuing up for your work, healthy work pipeline will give you a lot of confidence and peace of mind. If you don’t have enough clients yet, hold on, save some money and work on booking some clients for the future.
How To Get Remote Jobs?
This might be a huge headache at the beginning, especially if you were getting physical jobs only. However, updating your portfolio, looking for previous clients and talking to them about a remote work possibility will put odds in your favor.
Focus on good relationships with your clients, if it’s a permanent position, look for a company that has a free policy on how you work, in other words, their culture allows you to get the job done in any way as long as it is done. My good friend, also a digital nomad, Jacob Laukaitis, who works on Chameleon John allows his employees to work from home or any other place, meaning that you can go to your friends birthday or that football match as long as you get the job done. Other notable companies leading the remote culture are Buffer, Zapier, Toggl.
I’ve seen many remote job boards popping up here and there and below is a list of some I’ve discovered recently.
Remote | OK
Remote OK is a daily listing of jobs where it’s okay to work remotely. At distributed startups like Buffer, Zapier and Automattic and many other companies who embrace the future are posting jobs there.
Remotive Jobs is a curated collection of remote startup jobs by Rodolphe of Buffer.
Dribbble job board has an option remote/anywhere that lists all the jobs that allow you to work remotely.
Working Nomads curates remote digital jobs in the areas of development, design, customer success, sys admin, management, and marketing.
AngelList Remote Jobs
AngelList is the largest platform for startups to find investors, hire new people and get press. They just recently launched remote jobs platform where you can find a well-paid startup position to work remotely.
Meeting Other Designers
Traveling and missing out on meeting new people is a complete failure of traveling in general. Meet as much people as you can, that way you will learn about their culture, you will get new ideas and make new friends that will make you feel like home anywhere in the world.
While I was traveling with my buddy we were attending different design, business, and tech meetups and events to meet like-minded people. WordCamp Europe, Startup Weekend, Couch Surfing meetup, Dribbble Meetup as well as different events at co-working spaces. These events provide great atmosphere for people to connect and discuss about their hobbies, life and even potential collaborations.
Startuptravels is a great website that allows you to browse your destination directory and propose a meetup with local entrepreneurs, while most of them are not designers, they can be very cool people to talk to and potentially will need a web designer services, meaning that in the long term you may get another client.
Check Dribbble Meetups page of official meetups listed there to book your calendar of an upcoming meetup near you. It’s great for networking with fellow designers, learning from them and generally having a good time.
Meetup is another place where you can find a lot of different events, including design, business and tech that will make you some new connections and make you feel like home.
Eventbrite is generally for event tickets but there are many different events for free too, just browse it in your selected area and you will see how much is going on.
Co-working spaces is another great place to meet other like-minded people. One of my favorite co-working space is Hubud, a hub in Ubud, located in a paradise island in Bali, Indonesia. They have fast wifi, nice coffee and great community with dozens of events.
Utilise Your Social Network
I was surprised how many followers I have in different countries located in Southeast Asia, where I was traveling for the last 6 months. Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, and many other countries and I had someone I knew online, simply check your current connections and ask to meetup for a coffee or so, if they can’t make it ask for an introduction to someone they think you will have a good time with.
Best Tools To Get Things Done
While working remotely you will need tools to save you time and solve specific problems like scheduling a meeting in a different time zone or sharing a huge PSD file with your client. There are numerous tools to get the job done, and every web designer has their own workflow. I’ll list some tools I’ve been using so you can check them too or look for alternatives.
Online time tracking tool featuring 1-click time tracking and helps you see where your time goes. Free and paid versions are available.
iDoneThis is an incredible management tool which has provided me with unprecedented visibility into our productivity and the areas where we need to improve.
The most powerful Twitter tool for real-time tracking, organizing, and engagement. Very easy to manage multiple accounts, schedule updates and filter feeds.
StayFocusd increases your productivity by limiting the amount of time that you can spend on time-wasting websites.
A personal analytics service that shows you how you spend your time and provides tools to help you be more productive.
Evernote is a great tool for note taking and sharing with your friends or clients.
Trello is infinitely flexible and incredibly easy to use tool for personal project planning. Trello keeps track of everything, from the big picture to the minute details.
Dropbox is a service that keeps your files safe, synced, and easy to share. Bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and never lose a file again.
Headspace is a digital health platform, providing guided meditation sessions and mindfulness training for a better work/life balance.
Free calls with your team, clients as well as your friends and family.
Wave Apps Accounting
Accounting is extremely important and shouldn’t be ignored while traveling. Wave’s accounting tools are 100% free, secure, and accountant-approved.
Traveling can get very expensive if you don’t know how to book flights or accommodation for your next destination. In this section I’d like to introduce you to some cool apps and services that will help you find cheaper flights as well as nice places to stay and work from.
Nomad List is definitely your go-to place for researching destinations, value for money, connecting with other nomads and obviously finding some more handy information.
Find cheap flights with Momondo. Find and compare fares from 700+ travel sites, find out best dates to travel to your desired destination.
I use Google Flight Search to get the big picture of the biggest hubs to fly from like London in Europe and Singapore, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur in Southeast Asia.
JetRadar is a flights search engine. Similar to Momondo it shows you the best deals from hundreds of airline companies.
Especially good for using in the US. Save a lot of money and get smart suggestions to save some dollars on flights.
How do you find a place to work from? You will certainly need a very fast internet connection and comfortable environment. While I personally can work anywhere from cafe to restaurant to hotel room, you may want to try co-working spaces first. You don’t just get a comfy place with fast internet and coffee supply but amazing like-minded people around you.
Copass allows you to work from hundreds of co-working spaces on the planet with one single membership. The freedom to work and connect to awesome folks anywhere.
ShareDesk marketplace provides a platform for mobile professionals to discover and book work and meeting spaces on the go–by the hour, day, or month.
Desk Surfing gives you the freedom to work where you want. And who you want to work with. Desksurfing is co-working at any given place.
Find nice rooms, usually better for shorter term stay, however, hotels and homestays are cheaper but after living in hotels you really start feeling that authentic homes are probably better, even if they cost slightly more.
Booking.com and Agoda are great services for nice deals on hotels, providing especially good value for money in Southeast Asia.
There you have it, a quick overview of the possibilities of traveling and working as a web designer. Web design industry is growing and the number of people starting to combine their remote careers with traveling is exploding. I hope I’ve inspired you to rethink your current position and provided you with enough tools and information to get started.
If you have any questions regarding getting remote jobs, communicating with clients, managing day to day tasks while traveling, ping me on Twitter @tomaslau.