be free, lance / working while traveling

One of the greatest perks of freelancing is the flexibility to travel. You’re not bound to “two weeks” of vacation time and do not have to ask for certain days off. You can literally just do it. And hey — you could even work abroad for several months if you’d like. Everything is an option! So before we headed off to France, I knew I needed to decide if I wanted to work while away or not.

Unfortunately, working while traveling isn’t that simple and is different for everyone. The urge to explore + try new things will always knock at your door while away. Chances are, you won’t want to be stuck in your hotel room all day long getting things finished. So no matter where I’m about to travel – I always take wanderlust into account and would encourage you to do the same. Are you the type of person who can successfully carve out three hours a day to get your to-do list done? Or will you be too distracted in trying out that new cafe you heard about?

I’ve learned that I am not the kind of person who can do much work while away. I discovered this early on, during one of my first trips away after I started freelancing. This surprised me, as I’m usually very good at keeping focused. But as soon as I hit the road, it’s a completely different story.

As a result, my method of maintaining work while away is pretty simple : I prep as much as possible starting a month ( give or take ) before leaving. My clients always know ahead of time if our project will be impacted by travel, which is something that we discuss and build into the timeline. I also like to tie up loose ends and work overtime in order to finish projects that are very close to completion. A little extra work before your trip is definitely worth the time off, I promise.

Don’t get me wrong — I still work a tiny bit during trips. As a business owner, it’s really hard to simply leave work behind. Personally, I reserve about an hour every night away to catch up on emails and check in with clients. And if a project emergency comes up, I’m always more than willing to find a little extra time in my day to finish what needs to be done. But that’s pretty much it. A little pre-vacation prep work goes a long way and is a great way to truly relax and enjoy your trip.

I know that other freelancers have found their sweet spot in working mornings while away, or taking a few hours over lunch to get things done — it’s different for everyone. But that’s the point … you need to find out how YOU work best when outside your usual office routine. Try out a few methods during your next trip and you’ll find out what feels most comfortable in no time. CHEERS to travel!

  1. Kathleen says:

    Oh man! I’ve been traveling a lot over the last couple of months. At one point I had a grand vision that I would completely redesign the Braid Creative site WHILE ON VACATION. I’m not sure what I was thinking. By then end of a series of vacations I patted myself on the back if I could attend to email each day.

  2. Angel Y. says:

    I totally had plans to work over my past weekend in Atlanta and that was a complete bust! Sometimes I’m really good at working while I’m away but I always under-estimate how tiring travel can be. Traveling is such an important part of my experiences as a designer and I’m glad I chose a career that allows me to go where ever my heart is content.

  3. alicia says:

    I’m in the ame boat as you. I love my work and am happy to do it every day. But at the same time I am a firm believer in work hard party hard. I think you need a healthy week of unplugging from work. I check in every evening/morning too, but try not to do work unless it’s really needed.
    Especially if you are on a short (cause yeah, two weeks are short) vacation in Europe exploring three different cities! It’s too much. I don’t know about you but I always have a jammed pack schedule and am exhausted by the time I get back to my hotel.
    Yes, freelancers can work anywhere and it’s an amazing perk of your job. But if you are all the way across the continent with your loved one you should be cherishing those moments without work interrupting. Otherwise you just may go crazy :p
    The perk of freelancing is if you decide to go and stay in Paris for three months. That’s when you can sit down a few hours every day and do work plus explore a beautiful new city at your own relaxed pace :)

    • breanna says:

      I totally agree about needing some time away, which is why I prepped SO much before leaving. Because yeah – it’s not often that we get to travel abroad with loved ones. Gotta enjoy it while there and be as present as possible! Luckily emails don’t take long and keep me sane enough to not be overwhelmed upon returning. :)

  4. Dennise says:

    I was in New Orleans recently on a short vacation with two girlfriends and we laughed at each other because the 3 of us did the exact same thing after waking up, reached for our phones and answered some work e-mails while still in our beds without being aware that the others were also awake. Such is the life of a young professional! :) Although I can’t see myself doing much more than answering e-mails while traveling, I really wish I had the discipline to do more.

  5. Shayla says:

    I agree that it’s hard not working at all but I think taking a real vacation now and then is a necessity and will in the end benefit your clients because you’ll return refreshed and inspired.

    As you said the key is to get as much done as you can before you leave and more importantly to communicate with your clients about when you’re leaving, how long you’ll be gone and how it might affect their project.

  6. Dallas says:

    wonderful, thought-provoking post. thank you!!!

  7. Kelli Marie says:

    I love working while abroad! Luckily, I work for a lovely company which allows me to do so. It’s great to be in Europe while working for the US because of the awesome time difference— I can get shopping and a jog ( if I want to) in before I even start work around noon!

    However, some words of caution: it isn’t exactly legal to work in some countries while on a tourist or entry/visitor visa, even if it is freelance work. I think there are issues with the country not being able to collect tax. Many, many people do it because most aren’t aware of the laws and I personally think the laws are outdated and crap to begin with. Just be careful is all I’m sayin’!

  8. Noor says:

    I always like to get away because I want to get away from my computer but I always end up being glad that I brought it when we travel. For me it’s because I am a mom so I always have to put my son to bed at a normal time and give him routine if that was not the case I would be out all night exploring with my husband lol. I know when we were traveling through south Asia I was so inspired and creating all kinds of things. YOU have to go to Asia I think all designers need to you would not believe the creativity wow just amazing.

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  10. Erin says:

    Prep work and letting your clients know is definitely key to making it all work – and knowing you have great internet access too. I traveled to Canada for six weeks backpacking and was able to work while away but I did make sure I took 10 days of that trip off to just relax and not turn on my computer or phone. Plus if you move into different times zones you can use the jetlag to its advantage.

  11. Ana says:

    I love to travel, so I hope I’ll be able to organize my work as freelancers do.

    And the extra work before a trip definitely pays off.

  12. Morag says:

    I have recently began working towards becoming a freelancer (because I really hate the structure of the 9-5) and whilst it isn’t enough to quit the daily corporate grind I still found your post really handy for when I do. Thanks!

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