There’s a reason why running a business while traveling is a goal for so many entrepreneurs. It sounds glamorous, and after all, it’s easy to idealize the image of hopping effortlessly from country to country while money flows into your bank account.
But the reality of becoming a location-independent entrepreneur is much more nuanced. In my own experience running a location-independent business, I’ve found that there are good days when it seems that all of your hard work has paid off and you’re able to strike a perfect balance between work and travel, but there are also bad days when all you want to do is chuck it all away and retreat to the safety of a cubicle.
Learning to weather these ups and downs is part of the process. Fortunately, you can cut your learning curve substantially by learning from others who’ve built location-independent businesses. Here are my top three tips.
1. Build A Location-Independent Structure
One of the first — and best — decisions we made early on in the life of our agency was to build a fully remote team. We knew not only that doing so would lower our overhead costs and let us tap into top talent worldwide but also that if we wanted a mobile lifestyle for ourselves, it was only fair to give our team the same flexibility and freedom.
But building a remote team can require taking different steps than running a location-based office. For instance:
• Put the right tools in place. For planning, I like Asana and Basecamp. Toggl is great for time tracking, and Trello is great for letting remote teams work through complex projects together.
• Overcommunicate. You often can’t make assumptions when running a remote team — and you can’t rely on in-person chats to form connections. Make communicating everything from project statuses to personal updates deliberate and intentional (even if that sometimes means staying up late or getting up early to talk to a remote team member).
• Create processes and document procedures. When you’re remote, your team can’t count on being able to ask you questions as needed, in the moment. That’s where your process documentation comes in. Not only can things like onboarding workflows or project checklists answer these questions, but they also can ensure that your work is carried out in a consistent, quality way.
If you want to go remote at some point in the future, plan for it from the start. Don’t assume that you’ll be able to smoothly transition from an in-person workforce to one where you never meet face-to-face. Build the systems and processes you want to have from the start to avoid costly, time-consuming restructuring.
2. Get The Right People On Your Team
Not everyone can work successfully in a remote environment. And there are trade-offs you’ll likely have to make if you want to grow your location-independent business.
For example, since you won’t have direct, day-to-day oversight over your team, you may need to pay more for rock stars who are at the top of their games and who can manage their workloads independently. It isn’t necessarily a mistake to get the cheapest talent you can find, but know that it could cost you in terms of increased time spent on management and oversight — which you probably want to avoid when you’re building a location-independent business. Since the goal of becoming location independent is usually to be able to get out and enjoy the places you’re visiting, it’s often preferable to free up your time by working with higher quality talent that needs less back and forth.
Before your remote business gets off the ground, think about the ideal structure needed to sustain it. Figure out who you need, what they’ll cost and when you’ll bring them on. It’s a lot easier to think through this ahead of time than it is to try to rework your company’s structure once you’re established.
3. Don’t Give Up Too Quickly
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt like giving up in the 11 years I’ve been running our agency. We’ve had clients who’ve cut off all contact with us without warning, clients who won’t pay their bills and clients whose campaigns have failed because they wouldn’t follow the guidance we’ve given them.
Then there are the particular challenges of building a location-independent business that facilitates regular travel. A late flight can disrupt a whole day of carefully planned meetings (and taking the 3 a.m. flight isn’t uncommon). Having to pop online to answer emails sometimes means taking time away from my family — the very reason that global travel is so important to me.
But if I’ve learned anything from this process, it’s that the people who are successful in business aren’t necessarily the smartest or the most well-connected. They’re the ones who never give up.
Early on, I learned to love knowing that I could stick it out through tough situations that would’ve been breaking points for other people. Knowing that what I’m going through is something that would make someone else want to quit has always made me want to persevere — to keep pushing through.
That idea may not resonate with you in the same way, but it doesn’t matter as long as you develop the mindset that allows you to keep going when quitting would be easier. Don’t give up. Hard times don’t last forever. If you’re truly committed to traveling the globe while balancing a location-independent business, you can find the grit and perseverance needed to make it happen.