Running a business on the road can definitely have its challenges. There are a lot more unknowns and things to consider that you don’t have to worry about if you have a set location. But if you’re dreaming of becoming a digital nomad that travels full time, it can be done! Here’s how we manage to run our full-time business from the road.
Misconceptions About Digital Nomads
There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about what it is to be a digital nomad. If you search this lifestyle on social media, you’ll see a lot of people drinking lattes by the side of a mountain or hanging out in a bikini on a beautiful beach. The carefree, luxury lifestyle that you see on Instagram isn’t the case for most people. While traveling full time does give you the opportunity to see incredible places, most of us still have to work. A lot.
To clear some things up:
- No, we are not millionaires. We make a good living that supports our lifestyle, but we are budget conscious. We aren’t staying in 5-star resorts.
- Although we had plenty of support from family and friends, we didn’t get any financial help from them to get started. Nor did we ask for it. Embarking on this adventure took a lot of preparation, research, and our own money.
- We aren’t out exploring every day. Most of the week, we are in our Airbnb, hotel, or house sit working. We generally explore the area we are in on nights and weekends.
Okay, let’s dive in.
The Work We Do As Digital Nomads
In case you aren’t familiar with us, we provide web design, branding and SEO services for entrepreneurs looking to ditch their 9-5 jobs and start their own business. As corporate dropouts ourselves, we understand the struggles of starting a business and love that we get to help people reach their goals. We’re honored to have helped business owners in so many different industries.
In addition to our design agency, we have a travel blog where we share our experiences on the road and provide honest reviews and budget travel tips. While Wicky Design is our main source of income, we do make some money from our blog through ads and affiliates.
Tools We Use To Help Us Work Remotely
While technology has allowed us to run our business completely online, we do our best to make sure we can work effectively and efficiently. Below is a list of some of the online tools we use on the road. For even more, read this post on our top digital nomad tools or watch the video below.
We use the Dubsado (affiliate link) CRM to manage our projects and client interactions. Dubsado handles lead management, scheduling, contracts and more, all in an easy to use online system. Our favorite features of Dubsado are the online scheduler (which links to Google Calendar) and client portal, which have helped save us tons of time.
Google Hangout Meetings
Hangout meetings are part of GSuite and are an easy way to virtually meet with our clients, instead of doing it in person. It’s easy to set up a meeting and add it to our Google Calendar. While phone calls are great, it’s nice to be able to see the person you are talking to. Hangouts meetings also allow screen sharing, so we can easily bounce ideas off each other during meetings.
We use Mailerlite to manage and stay in touch with our email list. Mailerlite has a lot of features and is really easy to use. The best part is that for up to 1,000 subscribers, the service is free, so it’s a great way to start building a list. The paid plans are reasonably priced and offer even more features.
Pinterest drives a lot of traffic to our travel blog, so we use Tailwind to schedule pins and stay active on the platform. Tailwind has helped save us a lot of time snd offers tons of great insights and analytics on our Pinterest account. We can easily see what pins are most popular and what boards give us the most engagement. Since using the platform, we’ve seen the clicks to our website go up by 20%, so we definitely think it’s worth the investment.
Other Things To Consider Regarding Remote Work
There are several things to think about when traveling that you don’t have to think about when you go into the same office every day.
Our work schedules are not the same as they used to be when we were in an office. Some days we are traveling to our next destination. Sometimes, we work at night or on a weekend because we’d rather see a place during the week when it’s less crowded.
We found the best way to deal with our ever changing schedules is to stay on top of it. We block off days we are traveling so no meetings are scheduled. While we technically could take calls on the road, we can’t be 100% focused on our conversation while driving, so we prefer to wait until we are at our next destination.
We also try to schedule calls all on the same day, which we call “meetings day”. Having all of our calls on the same day allows us to focus on client work the other days. We have found doing this helps us get things done a lot faster and ups our productivity.
Time zones have also become something we have to consider more now. A lot of the people we talk to are on the east coast, so as we head west, we had to block off mornings as times to schedule calls. We also try to send our east coast clients updates earlier in the day since they are a few hours ahead of us.
One of the biggest things we consider when selecting a place to stay has become the workspace area. While we can basically work anywhere, we are much more productive when we have a comfortable space. We try to stay in places that have a large enough table to fit two people with two laptops. If we can find a desk, that’s a bonus! A great thing about Airbnb is that you can filter out your searches to include only places with a “laptop friendly workspace”. While it limits your selection, the places we do see are more in line with what we need to have a comfortable stay. That said, we’ve worked on a variety of different surfaces and have has situations where we needed to make the most of it.
Internet connection is another big factor for us. In order to work efficiently, we need internet that is fast and reliable. We try to do research and ask questions about speeds when we can. So far, we haven’t had any major issues, but there have been times when uploading videos or trying to launch a website has taken a lot longer than it would have if we were still in our Philly office. Every place is different, so we try to take advantage when we have a really fast connection and do the things that require a faster speed when we are there. If things are super slow, we’ll head to a coffee shop or library with wifi to get work done.
How We Get New Clients As Digital Nomads
We saw digital nomad life as a huge opportunity to expand our business. Before we started traveling full time, most of our work came from the Philadelphia area since we lived, worked, and connected with so many people from there. We love Philadelphia and the awesome people we have worked with, but traveling has given us the opportunity to meet new people and expand into different markets.
We had an active social media presence before we were on the road and we continue to use those platforms now that we are digital nomads. Through our social media platforms, we share valuable content, our work, and where we are at on our journey. Our story is a unique one and we love connecting with people through comments, messages and following.
We aren’t super fond of “traditional” networking but know that meeting new people is helpful in growing our business. We are a part of PowerMatch*, which connects us with fellow people in their network that we could potentially partner with. This service is great because we don’t have to spend any time finding matches and meetings are done virtually or through a phone call. We’ve met a lot of great people from all over the world through this service.
*Update August 2020: The PowerMatch network no longer exists.
Being on the road gives us the opportunity to attend events or workshops that we might not have considered while in Philadelphia. We use Meetup and Eventbrite to look for workshops or WordPress events in the area we are staying in.
An unexpected benefit of being on the road has been the connections we’ve made through house sitting. We’ve met several small business owners through doing this, which have turned into great connections and clients. It’s been a great way to share our story and expand our brand.
Is Digital Nomad Life Right For You?
We realize this lifestyle is not for everyone. There is a lot to consider and running a business on the road can be tough. Like anyone else, we have good days and bad days, but overall the good weighs out the bad. If you’re considering taking your business on the road, we hope you found this article helpful. Happy travels!