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One of the perks of technology is the opportunity to not only work remotely, but actually run your entire business from the road while traveling! This is something that I’ve been lucky to do for a few years now, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!
Being able to travel when I want and how I want while earning a living really is like living a dream!
But that’s not to say there aren’t challenges involved. In fact, there are plenty of challenges you will encounter if you are running your business on the road. The key is being prepared and having systems and tools in place. So in this post, I wanted to share with you some of the things I’ve learned and what I use to help run my business on the road.
First Off – Is Your Business Compatible for the Road?
If you are a creative person like me, then you often have a lot of different business ideas running through your mind. But one of the first things to think about if you really dream of “working from the road” is to make sure that whatever business you create is compatible with the lifestyle.
Obviously, technology-based businesses are most suited to this “digital nomad” type of life as compared to businesses that require face-to-face interaction with customers or a physical presence at a location. For the most part, if you have a business idea that simply requires some type of internet connection then you are good to go.
However, it’s not always that simple.
For example, if your business requires constant access to the internet and a powerful connection, well you might have some challenges when you are traveling. Internet access is definitely not created equal across the world. This can even be a challenge for me as a video creator when I’m uploading videos online.
Plus, you have to keep in mind that when you are actually traveling (like on flights and stuff) you might have to be disconnected for a while. This isn’t the only consideration though; however, it’s definitely one of the biggest.
So it’s really important to think through your entire idea and be sure everything is structured in a way that makes it possible to work anywhere. And that things won’t come crumbling down if you end up being offline for a day or so.
Connectivity and Security on the Road
As mentioned, internet connectivity is really going to be one of the biggest thing you will need to handle. Luckily, there are many different options to choose from. And you really SHOULD have multiple options available!
Cell Phones / Data Connections
Google Fi is a must for me because with just one plan I can get unlimited data on my phone and tethering in ALMOST any country that I travel to. That can save a lot of money and headache. You can also get a local SIM card too (just make sure your phone is unlocked so you can use it).
I highly recommend getting a local SIM as well because it is usually cheaper and sometimes faster than the international SIM. So this means having a phone that has a dual-SIM slot. I use the Google SIM more as a backup and/or in-between countries where the previous local SIM won’t work anymore (like getting off the plane in the new country etc.).
Side note: You can order multiple SIM cards for free, from Google. As of writing this article, I lost my phone with my SIM card in it (Oh the irony!) Luckily, I was able to erase the phone via Android’s ‘Find My Device’, another huge security feature. I do have a backup phone but not a backup SIM, so currently I am locked out of some accounts like Signal, Telegram and Whatsapp.
Since I am actually going home soon, I contacted Google and they said you can order multiple SIM cards in case you need backups on the road, free of charge! So keep that in mind as well. They also informed me you can pick these SIM cards up at Best Buy and Target (if you’re in the US) for $10 but Google will actually credit your account that $10! I plan on ordering 3 when I go home!
Security is another issue that you can’t overlook! I have a 2-Factor Key (there are many different brands) which is a physical USB key that you keep with you and allows you to add an extra layer of security in order to login and access certain accounts. They make it so no one can log into your accounts without physically inserting the key into your computer or phone!
Be careful though, if you lose the physical keys, it’s going to be a headache to get your accounts back.
I usually travel with 3 of these and then keep 2 in my home country in a bank deposit box. Worst comes to worst, I go home and get those keys. In my opinion, this is LESS risky than not having the keys!
For me, it’s really peace of mind over everything. We all have our tolerances and I’m the most laid back when it comes to planning. I hate planning my trips! However, my care-free attitude only works for me when I have already laid the foundation of keeping my essentials secure and in order. Clear your mental capacities of worries about security so you can focus on other areas during your travels.
Hotel / Airbnb Wifi
Another area where you need to keep in mind security is at your hotel or Airbnb. When you use their wifi networks, always use a VPN. VPN means “Virtual Private Network” and it allows you to access the internet from a different, more private server in another country (which we won’t get into in this post) – but it also adds a layer of security when you log on. This can help prevent others from snooping on you while you are browsing the wifi or stealing your info.
Also, consider getting a security camera to put in your hotel room in case anything happens. Another option is just to tell them you will clean your room yourself, this way you can deny entrance by any staff into your room.
REMEMBER, it’s all about reducing your risk as much as possible!
One less entry to your room while you’re gone = less risk to you and your belongings. Develop this mindset and stick to it. It really does help a lot! Travel safety is all about limiting your exposure to potential threats as much as possible. So these are some ways you can control these factors to maintain your security.
Similar to hotels and Airbnbs, often times when we are traveling we need to hop on other forms of public wifi. Whether it’s at the airport, a café, etc. Anytime you use public wifi it is extremely important that you use a VPN – for the same reasons mentioned above. Public wifi is not very secure, and using a VPN will give you an added layer of security.
Co-working spaces have really taken off over the years as more and more people work from remote locations all around the world. In fact, in many international cities where people travel and work you will find a lot of co-working options.
One of the benefits of these spaces is that there are usually pretty solid internet connections, as well as desks and other dedicated working spaces where you can focus and be productive. And some people enjoy going to these co-working spaces because if they are traveling alone, they might like having a place they can go and meet like-minded people who are also running businesses from the road. There are also networking and socializing opportunities as well as collaboration and shared energy at many co-working spaces that some people will really enjoy.
Personally, I’m not the type to use these co-working spaces much.
I tend to be more comfortable working in my own space, like my room or Airbnb apartment. That’s just my personal preference though. I know some people enjoy going to co-working spaces and not feeling like they are stuck working in their room all the time.
So it really depends on your personality and your work style. Co-working spaces aren’t my thing, but they might work for you.
VPN (Virtual Private Network)
We mentioned using VPNs when you are accessing public wifi networks. I also recommend having multiple VPN services. You basically just pay to subscribe to their service for a period of time, usually a month or you can get a discount for a year. Popular VPNs include:
They aren’t terribly expensive, so it’s good to have multiple VPN subscriptions just in case one isn’t working in a certain country for some reason. Also, there are times when the connection can get disrupted and having a back-up option running is a good idea.
Extra Phones / Personal Hot Spot Devices
It’s also a good idea to have backup phones for internet access and to function as hot spot devices to power your internet connectivity. There are dedicated personal hot spot devices out on the market that are not cell phones, such as Skyroam.
However, cell phones have become more powerful with their tethering and hot spot capabilities that I personally don’t see the need in a separate dedicated hot spot device. It just doesn’t make sense to get a hotspot when the phone does the exact same thing.
A good use for another phone hotspot is putting one of your SIM cards in the other phone and still having internet access when you leave your hotel room (say you need to upload a video but also need to leave the room for a while since a lot of hotel wifi’s aren’t as great as the phones data connection.
Equipment for Working While Traveling
If you want to run your business on the road then there are some key pieces of equipment you will need, and other items that you will just want so that you can be comfortable working. I highly recommend making your workspace as comfy as possible!
Here are some of the items that I use.
Laptop Computer and Stand
Of course, you are going to need a good laptop computer. The kind that you get really depends on your business and specific needs / preferences for speed, memory space, budget, etc. So I won’t get into that here.
However, I highly recommend that you also get a laptop stand! They are super cheap and really make a difference when it comes to being comfortable while working. And again – comfort is SO important in your workspace!
Many laptop stands are compact and portable, so you can take them with you. However, if you don’t want to pack it up and haul it around you can always donate it and get another at your next destination. Again, they are super cheap.
Other Computer Accessories
I also like to travel with a good keyboard case to keep my keyboard protected, as well as a proper mouse. You want to be motivated to actually work at your computer, so you need to make it as comfortable as possible.
For me, I have to have a mouse to do editing work! It’s an absolute must!!! I also bring along a long mousepad. The long mousepad is actually pretty helpful to wrap up stuff in my luggage.
Definitely don’t skimp on these accessories that make your work environment more comfortable. My workspace is actually the first space I set up wherever I go.
It’s what makes me feel grounded while traveling, sometimes so much so it doesn’t even feel like I’m traveling. Which is a good thing if you’re trying to run a business on the road. You can always walk outside to get that travel feel, but you can only feel like you’re running a business if you are comfortable with your work station!
So again, don’t skimp here!
Of course, you will need a good SmartPhone. Again, the type and size really depends on your specific needs and budget. But I definitely recommend buying a couple of phones so that you can have backups, and even just dedicating one of them to being your “hotspot” for internet access in the hotel or wherever you are. Also, be sure to get the unlocked versions so you can swap out SIM cards if needed wherever you are.
Communication & Collaboration Tools
Alright, let’s talk about some of the different types of software and tools out there that actually help you run your business and communicate with people while you are on the road. Below are some of the major tools out on the market that are used by many nomadic-business owners, like me.
Although I might not personally use all of them myself, I wanted to share them here because I know some of you might find them quite helpful for your businesses!
G-Suite (Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, etc.)
This is one of the most popular collaboration and cloud storage tools out there. There are really so many things you can do with Gmail, it’s pretty crazy actually. Most people don’t even scratch the surface, but depending on how much you dive into it, I know a lot of people who swear by Gmail to manage all their different accounts, setting up rules and automations, files for organization, etc.
Rather than sending files back and forth, I know a lot of people who run their businesses with small teams who swear by Google Drive and related software such as Docs and Sheets because they can edit the same files and just share links with each other for edits.
It can really help stay organized and easily collaborate with each other.
Video Chats (Google Hangouts, Zoom, etc.)
Video conferencing platforms have exploded in the last year. So there are really a lot of options out there, but some of the most popular include Google Hangouts and Zoom. Zoom has a free option, but it’s limited and has time limits on the meetings. But Google Hangouts is a good alternative and has a lot of free functions as well.
Also, you don’t have to always use the video – although it’s nice to be able to see people when you are chatting. Sometimes these platforms just work better for having a business call to share screens with each other and go over websites, or files together, etc.
Messaging Platforms (Like Slack)
While email might work for a lot of people for more official communications, you also might need to have a quick messaging platform. Slack is one of the most popular and allows you to set up different channels with users for certain projects, clients, teams, etc. This allows you to easily shoot messages back and forth – similar to texting. But you can also attach files and include links as well.
I actually use Slack a bit myself, although, I admit that we probably don’t take advantage of all the features. But one of the nice features is that the history is searchable too, and of course the attachments.
There are a ton of different productivity tools out there on the market today for people who work remotely or run their entire businesses on the road. What you use will totally depend on your needs, preferences, and budget.
Below are a few of the most popular out there. I have used some of them myself in the past, but I know other people who rely on some of these tools quite heavily to run their businesses and keep track of projects with their remote teams:
- Asana – great for project management and tracking
- Trello – another way to collaborate and track / organize projects
- Monday – similar to Trello and Asana, but has some unique features
- Airtable – kind of like a database…but also kind of like project management and spreadsheets too. They have a ton of awesome templates to use to get you started on different projects.
- SmartSheet – it’s like a spreadsheet that also has automation capabilities and triggers with workflows, emails & it has different account options with user restrictions. So you can see a spreadsheet and fully edit as the admin, while some of your team have limited capabilities based on access you give them.
- Toggl – a great way to track time for projects (especially when outsourcing tasks to VA’s, etc.)
Banking & Business Tools!
Banking when you are traveling full-time (or even part of the time) can be tricky. The key really is having plenty of backup options in case of an emergency, or in case something stops working. For example, I recommend opening multiple bank accounts – with different banks! Some banks work better than others, but overall, the major national and international banks will work better for travels in other countries.
Also, be sure that you get multiple ATM, debit cards and credit cards. Personally, I recommend having 5 (maybe even 7) different cards, minimum. It’s not as hard as you’d imagine to qualify to open these accounts and get these cards. But trust me, you will want to have all these options.
I also recommend getting some prepaid cards too, again just as back up so you have access to some way to pay for things.
PERKS OF TRAVEL: YOU CAN’T REALLY SPEND MUCH ON MATERIAL STUFF SO MOST YOUR MONEY GOES TO INVESTING. IT ACTUALLY FEELS LIKE A LIFE HACK TO BE HONEST.
Money Security Tips
As mentioned, keeping your money safe really is important when you are traveling.
Another system I use is getting multiple cards for the same account. A lot of banks and financial services let you order multiple cards. This means that if you lose one, you can still have access to that account via another card. Basically, if you have 2-3 cards for the same account, you can “freeze” the backups and keep them at your hotel while carrying around with you the active one. This way you will always have peace of mind while traveling.
As far as the “prepaid” type cards go such as CashApp, you can load that card with the amount you’re only willing to lose. Say you’re going out partying for the night, put the amount on the card and be worry-free if you lose it.
Revolut is a great card as well (not sponsored). Not only do they provide all the services I just mentioned, but they have single-use online cards too that are “destroyed” as soon as you use them. This is great for websites you’re unsure of or for signing up to sites that require for month-to-month memberships.
Also, when you have multiple cards consider cycling through the ones you use. That way you may easily notice if one has been compromised – then you can lock it immediately.
Business Bank Accounts
Whether you are still considered a “sole proprietor” or if you have officially formed a business entity such as an LLC, for your business, it’s important that you open a separate business bank account. Honestly, it just makes your life a whole lot easier to begin with when it comes to keeping track of expenses, income, etc. and it makes doing your taxes a lot easier too!
Plus, if you are running a business you really should treat it like a business anyway! So having a separate business bank account is key. You really don’t want to co-mingle your personal and business accounts. It just gets super messy and a pain.
Luckily, there are a number of online banks out there and banks that cater to small businesses and digital entrepreneurs. Below are a few popular online business banking options:
Money / Cash Access / Receipts
Similar to personal banking, you are definitely going to want to have a way to access your business money, as well as making deposits and cards to pay for things. You definitely want to have an ATM / debit card for your business account, but I also highly recommend getting a couple of business credit cards too. Even if you have to get them from a different bank. Because again, you never want to be caught without! You really never want to co-mingle your personal and business assets if you can help it. It just gets messy and can be a real pain later to deal with.
When it comes to receipts and keeping track of expenses, whether they were personal or for business, can honestly be quite hard when you travel full-time and run your business on the road. A sure-fire way to help is to keep all of your receipts and separate them later.
But things can build up quickly!
I highly recommend setting an amount of time once a month to go through everything to make sure you keep your spending / taxes in line.
There are also a number of specific laws when it comes to business expenses, writing things off, and so on for your taxes. Everyone’s financial situation is different and the laws can vary. Depending on the size of your business, you may want to look at hiring a professional CPA and tax advisor to help you with this. They can really save you, especially if you loop them in at the beginning so that you are not cleaning up a mess later in order to file your taxes (because that’s really not fun!).
Accounting Tools / Software
To go along with your business banking and accounts, you really should look at some of the online accounting platforms out there that can help you stay organized. The great thing about a lot of these platforms is that you can connect them right to your bank accounts so that transactions automatically pull into your accounting software.
Some of these platforms have free versions, such as Wave. But these free versions might have limited capabilities. Depending on your business though, the free plans may totally be worth it. Quickbooks is also another popular option, and it’s used by a lot of accountants too. What’s great is that you can connect your bank accounts, business credit cards, etc. to these tools and automatically import transactions. You can also keep receipts together, etc.
Other Business Tools
Depending on your business, you might have some other needs too. Things like managing contracts, sending out forms, invoicing, payroll, tracking expenses, etc. And of course – there are a ton of tools out there! Below is a shortlist of just a few helpful tools that might work for you:
- Gusto – one of the top payroll software out there that’s great if you have employees and need to pay them, give benefits and run reports and W-2s for tax time, etc.
- Expensify – great tool for tracking receipts and expense reports, approvals, etc.
- Dubsado – a popular tool for creating business forms and templates as well as workflows with automations.
- Honeybook – another popular tool for client management with built-in capabilities for forms, tracking projects, invoicing, etc.
- Wise – can also be used to send money and even invoicing, especially good for overseas transactions and between currencies.
- Calendly – scheduling meetings / appointments & can connect to collect payments too
- Traveling Mailbox – a great “virtual mailbox” where you get an address and they will scan your mail and send you PDFs to review digitally. You can also request them to forward the physical mail to you where you might be located.
Honestly, it seems there are a million others out there! So this is really just a shortlist of some of the most popular tools that digital nomads use to help their businesses run.
Support for Your Business
No matter what business you are running, it can be really helpful to have people you can reach out to for advice or help with things that you might not know a lot about. And while there’s a lot you’re going to learn as an entrepreneur, in some cases, it’s totally worth paying a professional to help.
For example, having a website is critical to many businesses today. Maybe you don’t have the time to learn how to make a professional-looking website yourself. In that case, it’s worth the investment to hire a website designer to do it for you.
Another area where a lot of business owners need help is accounting and taxes. I mentioned it before, but this is something that’s definitely worth paying to have a professional help you with. They can advise you on what things can be written off, and setting up a system to track your receipts and stuff like that. Plus, come tax season you’ll be really happy to have them!
Outsourcing and Staff
At some point, if your business is really growing you might consider hiring some staff to help. The good thing is, if you are running your business on the road then your business can support a remote team.
That means that you can hire people from wherever and aren’t limited to a certain geographical area. Tapping into your online network is a great place to start to find people who can help take some of the load off you.
There are also situations where there are just things you don’t want to do yourself. Perhaps you don’t enjoy those tasks or feel like it’s just a time suck away from the real things you love doing for your business. In those cases, don’t hesitate to outsource it to others!
Outsourcing is a great way to free up your valuable time so that you can focus on doing the more important things that will help grow your business! You might be able to find people in your personal network to outsource work to, or there are a number of online platforms that specialize in providing outsource support. Upwork is one of the most popular, but there are ton out there to choose from!
Final Tips for Running a Business from the Road
It’s pretty incredible to think that it’s possible to build a business and run it completely from the road while traveling. And while the “digital nomad” life might seem carefree and stressfree, the truth is that there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes. Even though you might not have a traditional business, there are many aspects of running your business that is the same – especially when it comes to banking, finances, etc. Then on top of it, you have the travel aspect – which is amazing, but can bring a whole additional set of responsibilities.
The key to it all is being prepared. What’s amazing is that there are so many tools and resources out there to help you be able to not only build your business but keep it running remotely wherever you choose to be.