How to Balance Work & Travel

Javier Calvo

Written by  October 29, 2015

When it comes to freelancing abroad, time management is perhaps the most important skill to master.

As I get ready to leave for Copenhagen tomorrow, I am again reminded just how lucky I am to have a job that gives me the flexibility to travel. As a freelance copywriting and social media specialist, I have clients in numerous time zones and no set work hours. While this makes scheduling meetings a bit more difficult, it does allow me to work around my rather ambitious travel plans.

Since moving to Amsterdam, I’ve been able to use my schedule’s flexibility to help me sightsee as much as possible; whether it’s a day trip to another Dutch city to go to a museum, or a mid-week trip to Paris to visit a friend from home, work has never stopped me from exploring. However, what people may not realize is that a freelancer’s flexible schedule actually takes a lot of effort to maintain.

I love my clients and the work I do for them, which means that, for me, work will always come first. This also means that when I decide to travel, it’s rarely a spontaneous decision. Planning a trip, especially one mid-week, takes lots of preparation work-wise. To ensure that when I am travelling I can relax and enjoy myself, there are a few things that need to be taken care of before I leave.

Plan ahead

While it can be tempting to hop on the next available flight somewhere, rarely is that possible. Each month, I have different deadlines for different clients and it’s my responsibility to make sure that everything is completed on time. For me, the beginning and the end of the month tend to be my busiest times, with multiple deadlines falling within the same few days. Knowing this, I try to plan trips that fall mid-month so that I can avoid the task of trying to complete everything in advance.

Now this is not to say that you can’t travel during a busy time. My trip to Copenhagen actually falls on both the end of the month and the beginning of the next, my two busiest times. To make this work, I had to strategically organize my entire schedule this month so that all of my work is completed before the deadline. All my assignments that need to be finished by the end of this month and within the first few days of next month were completed this week before I leave on vacation. For many of these projects, that’s nearly two weeks before their deadline—but the extra work over the past few weeks will pay off in a worry-free holiday.

Make your travel plans clear

No matter how well you plan, if your clients don’t know you’ll be away and unavailable, it can cause issues. Before you head off on your next adventure, it’s important that you make your plans clear to the people you work with. That way, they can get anything they need from you before you go. It also gives you the chance to let them know who they can go to with questions in your absence.

I always try and let my clients know at least a few weeks in advance that I will be unavailable for a few days. This way, even though I’m away during the busiest times of the month, they have ample opportunity to contact me with questions before I go.

Use technology

Unfortunately, even the best planning doesn't mean that things will go seamlessly, this is where technology comes in. Whenever I travel out of the country, I make sure to have a small international data plan that I can use in case of a work-related emergency (or because I can’t find my way back to my hostel!). While I don’t set the expectation that I will be available during my trip, this gives me peace of mind knowing that nothing will fall apart while I’m away.

On my recent trip to Paris, I actually received an email from a client about a report they needed for a meeting that day. Using my international data plan, I was able to get the numbers they needed and email them back with time to spare for their meeting, and I did all of this from a bench on the Champs-Élysées. Thankfully, I was travelling with one of my best friends from home and she was more than happy to sit and people watch while I worked.

I don’t know how long I’ll be living abroad, so it’s important to me that I make the most of my time here. Finding the balance between work and travel has taken some effort, but it has helped me find a renewed love and appreciation for my career.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Tori Holmes

Tori Holmes is a Canadian freelance copywriting and social media specialist living in Amsterdam. After graduating from the University of Guelph and doing post-graduate studies at the University of Toronto, Tori moved to Amsterdam to fulfill her dream of living and working abroad.

Website: www.findtherightwords.ca

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