*This digital nomad post is a collaboration which includes gifted products, but as usual, all views remain my own.
We all love the idea of becoming a digital nomad – of having the freedom to design our own life and work as we choose. Whether we want to do that in Bali or to simply work freelance in our pyjamas at home, it's never been a more realistic option for so many of us. Now don't get me wrong – it's not an easy choice by a long shot and it takes a hell of a lot of hard work to build up a freelancing career. But despite the time spent setting it up, the time and effort you put in at the beginning could finally help you live the life you've been dreaming of.
So many companies in the UK are not yet taking full advantage of flexible working and I am lucky to be working for a company at the moment who have really embraced the concept. Not only do we have the option to work remotely – either from home or even from another country – but we can choose our working hours and have access to a range of benefits including free travel, gym memberships and much more. Despite many companies in the UK taking bigger strides towards allowing their staff the opportunity to work from home, they are still hesitant to make the leap. Online security labeling company, Seareach, recently discovered that over 50% of office-based staff who could do their job role working from home were unable to as their employers would not permit it, due to security and GDPR reasons. Reasons for not allowing this have ranged from security issues and lack of teamwork, to productivity and fairness. But let's talk about what working remotely is really like for employees.
Why become a digital nomad – pros and cons
As someone who has worked in a office, remotely, across the globe and freelance, I believe that trusting your staff to work out of the office is a great way to encourage them to raise the quality of their work. When your management gives this vote of confidence, you feel inspired by their belief in you to actually work harder and better. Working in an environment of your choice, and without distractions, you will find your productivity levels increase and cut down on working hours due to lack of wasted time. Staff remain much happier and full of energy because they no longer waste time on a long commute or working in some stuffy office building. For companies, they are saving money on providing office space and can utilise technology for meetings and organisation. Happy staff and happy company means more room for growth and better employee retention in the longer term which benefits the business.
As with any choice, there are always cons for some people. Some may not embrace the independent working style of becoming a digital nomad. You do have to be a certain sort of person to do well at working remotely and to remain productive. Some do struggle outside of an office environment or may find the work lonely, but there are ways around this with co-working spaces and meetings over Google Hangouts and Skype. There sadly will always be individuals who take advantage of the generosity of their managers to work less and get away with as little as possible. There are also questions over security, data protection and ensuring laptops and technology provided by companies remains safe. But, overall, I would always say the pros far outweigh the cons.
Becoming a digital nomad
There are so many ways of becoming a freelancer or a digital nomad – whether you start your own business, pick up clients or even start doing "home office" instead of working in-house. If you're dedicated and focused, it can be much easier to slip into this way of working than you think. There are so many ways of working freelance and becoming a digital nomad – basically if you can work from a laptop, you can work from anywhere. From writers and bloggers, to Youtubers, virtual assistants, seo experts, designers, coders... the list is endless! If you're thinking of becoming a freelancer – the first job you have is figuring out your skills and learning to sell them to clients and businesses.
My freelancing journey
I first started working as a freelancer when I was still in university when I was writing a weekly column for a newspaper. Over the last nearly ten years (yikes) I've worked freelance around traveling and various other jobs and have eased my way further into digital nomad life. These freelance roles have ranged from writing, blogging, journalism, social media, seo and content management, to even photography! At points I've been a full-time digital nomad, and at other points, I've held various jobs at the same time, and at some points I've jacked it all in just to travel full time. One thing I've loved about my experience is that it has been one heck of a varied journey and has taught me a LOT of new skills along the way.
Advice to budding freelancers
It doesn't matter if you are planning to freelance from your bedroom, or if you want to build a business to run while you travel across the world. The job requires the same skills and commitment if you're going to be successful. You have to stay focused, organised and on top of your workload – but what are the best ways of doing that? Here are my top tips for creating the perfect working environment for your "home office":
Be honest about your working style
This is vital to boosting productivity and ensuring distractions are kept at a minimum. First, figure out what kind of worker you are – do you crave silence, classical music, jungle sounds or loud cafes? Are you a morning person who leaps out of bed and seizes the day, or do you prefer to work when everyone else has gone to bed? Don't try to force yourself to be the worker you're not – working freelance is the perfect opportunity to finally do things your way. Be honest with yourself and embrace a working style that works for you.
Leave distractions at the door
The beauty of working as a digital nomad is that you get to design your life and make your work fit in with it. So choose your timetable wisely and take on as much work as you need, but make it work around you. Love yoga? Never let yourself miss those morning yoga sessions. Crave the beach? Give yourself a few hours off in the afternoon for tanning and swimming. For those who are staying at home – if you have children, or friends who want to spend time with, make sure to give yourself time for brunches and playtime. By allowing yourself to live without restriction and to do all the things you want to do, it makes it easier to leave distractions at the door. Work extra hard and keep your productivity levels high and you may even master the art of working minimal hours for maximum reward.
Creating your perfect workspace
Part of embracing your working style is creating the perfect workspace for you. This means finding a spot where you feel comfortable and inspired to work, where you're safe from distractions but also not cooped up as you would be in an office. For some this means creating the perfect office space at home and filling it with light and creativity to inspire their work. For others it can be finding the perfect cafe with fresh juices and avocado toast no matter where they travel. And for some – with the right mindset – the world becomes their office whether it's the pool, the beach or the plane. I normally find heading to where the wifi and coffee are of similar strengths helps.
For me, part of workspace is being able to easily transport my most important tools both safely, and with a touch of luxury to make sure I always regard them as vital parts of my business. Family business, Pad and Quill, recognise the importance of hard-wearing and long-lasting items that come with a hint of luxury thanks to the highest quality materials. They gifted me a beautiful artisan-made Valet 13" leather laptop case, which comes with space to store both your laptop, iPad and accessories. Each of their products is thoughtfully designed for maximum practicality for your business needs, while still maintaining the traditional leather treatment and workmanship. I feel so lucky to have been gifted such a beautiful product, it really is made to such a high standard and I love that despite it being brand new, it will only improve with time as the leather becomes naturally worn and well-traveled – much like it's owner. Their website features a whole range of products from bags and wallets, to journals, wallets and much more, I can't recommend it enough for high quality but budget-friendly luxury accessories.
Give yourself the tools you need
Investing in yourself and your new business is important – it doesn't have to mean spending a fortune but it does mean you believe in yourself. If you need a new camera, laptop or technical equipment, make sure you spend time doing your research, asking friends for advice and making sure that when you lay down the money and invest, you're sure you've found the best tools for the job. Think about marketing materials to help promote your business – whether it's branding, a new website or logo, business cards or pamphlets and spend time designing these exactly the way you want them. Even look into courses and ways of becoming an expert in your field – build your knowledge and learn how to sell yourself.
My biggest working investments have been my laptop, camera and mobile phone – all of these I use on a daily basis to work and further my business. It's easy to see these are larger outgoings, but when you weigh up the money you could make and the ways you could grow your business and skills with the right equipment – you'll see they're a worthy investment. My friends at Juice gifted me the Juice Kickstand Wireless Charger which is a great addition to my portable office. No matter where I am, I can always charge my phone even when there's nowhere to plug in – it's a lifesaver when I'm in a rush and need to work or stay online. When you spend as much time on the go as I do, you come to rely on battery packs and making the most of every last bit of charge. I'm a huge fan of the Juice products and I really love that they work on a "waste free world" policy – producing minimal accessories to reduce product waste.
Fuel your body and your creativity
It's so important to maintain a healthy lifestyle both physically and mentally when you're freelancing or working as a digital nomad. Even more so than while working in an office as you no longer have people telling you to go home, or make sure you take a lunch break. You have to take responsibility for setting your working hours, for making sure you take breaks and spread your workload, for recognising stress and any strains on your mental health. After all, when you run your own business, you have to invest everything into yourself. That means eating healthily and making sure you stop work to break when you eat rather than blasting through. It also means forcing yourself outside for some fresh air and getting to the gym to clear your head after a busy day. Most importantly, it means taking full days off and not letting yourself look at emails or anything work-related – taking time to indulge your creativity and inspire yourself away from work.
Build a support network
It can be easy to get lonely when you work freelance and stop going to the office – but don't let that make you feel isolated. Instead use this new business opportunity to meet like-minded souls and build a support network. Social media can be a godsend for this, as can co-working spaces and meet-ups for freelancing/business women. By using any, or all three of these, you can find it easy to make friends in similar positions who can offer friendship, support and advice. If you don't have any friends or family who already work freelance, it is really important to meet others who understand the struggles of the working life. By building up a working community of your own, you'll never miss the experience of office life.
Thinking about going freelance – what is inspiring to to try it out? What are your biggest worries over remote working? Does your company allow flexible working?