Rethinking Remote: Working From Paradise

Have you ever wanted to spend the winter on a tropical island? Or is spending a month in Australia on your bucket list?

If most of your client interactions are through the phone or email, you might consider working from an exotic location on your dream list, whether you go for an extended vacation of a few weeks or spend a whole year abroad. Your customers will hopefully have no idea that you spent the morning surfing and that your office is an oceanside deck unless you tell them.

Bill Barrett, president and founder of GrillGrate, has spent a month at a time working from a beach house in the outlying islands in the Bahamas.

“We walk the beach with coffee in the a.m. and grill dinner on the porch at night while working in between,” Barrett says. “We’re never out of touch—just a world away.”

With a little bit of planning, many solopreneurs, freelancers and even many business owners can successfully run their business from across the world.

We walk the beach with coffee in the a.m. and grill dinner on the porch at night while working in between. We’re never out of touch—just a world away.

—Bill Barrett, president and founder, GrillGrate

Here are five things to consider before packing your bag:

Reliably Connecting

The most important consideration for working remotely may be making sure that you will be able to get online. Lara Miller, who owns a California-based PR firm and has worked from remote locations such as Guatemala, India, Southeast Asia, Europe and Indonesia, says her biggest challenge is finding a reliable way to connect to the Internet.

Many travelers find that the most affordable and reliable way to have online access is to rent accommodations with wireless Internet. Miller was able to check email and surf the Web when she rented guesthouses that had Wi-Fi in Southeast Asia, India and Indonesia.

Another option is purchasing a prepaid dial-up service card for the destination.

“While in Guatemala, I purchased a dial-up air card to get online and a local SIM card to check email on my phone,” Miller says. “However, I discovered that the card didn’t work all that well between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so I would schedule most of my work in the early morning and late at night.”

Since Internet service may be more unreliable than in the U.S., many people find that they need a backup plan, such as being able to connect through their mobile phone. You may also want to have a list ready of the closest Wi-Fi hot spots to your destination. Check out NuNomad or Mapping Megan for detailed information on connectivity options while traveling.

Phone Access

Cell phones can quickly rack up a hefty bill making international calls and checking email from your smartphone. Exploring call services that work over the Internet, so you can make calls from your laptop, is one option.

Travelers spending an extended time in a country may want to purchase an international cell phone with a local SIM card. You could buy one when you arrive or order through a company and have it delivered to your home in the U.S. before you leave. Since different locals have different phone networks, you want to make sure you order the right card.

In addition to Skype, Barrett uses Magic Jack, a device that allows you to very inexpensively make phone calls. “Magic Jack allows me to maintain a local phone number so people calling don’t even incur a charge to call us directly (or know we are out of the US),” Barrett says.

Setting Your Schedule

If you will need to regularly be in contact with customers back in the U.S., you may want to consider a locale with a minimal time difference. Otherwise, it can help to come up with a plan for being available during critical times and conference calls. If you head to the other side of the globe where days and nights are opposite, you may need to be creative.

Think about the times during the week or the day that you will need to be available by email or phone. Some travelers get up in the middle of the night a few days a week to take calls, while night owls may find staying up late to be a better plan. If you have employees, you may want to delegate tasks such as conference calls or support calls to give you more time flexibility.

Consider setting basic work hours to help you have some structure and make sure you balance your time between exploring and working.

“I have gotten more disciplined about setting goals and projects to complete, and working very early in the morning—sunrise to 9:00 a.m.—and then again later in the afternoon,” Barrett says.

Getting Equipment and Supplies Overseas

Making a list of the equipment and supplies that you will need to take to your destination and brainstorming the logistics of getting it there can help in setting you up for success. While you can take your laptop with you on the plane, you may want to investigate shipping options if you will need a printer, large monitor or desktop computer. If you are on a remote island, you likely can’t run to the store to pick up printer toner or paper.

Learning Some Language

One consideration in selecting a locale is the language barrier. One of the reasons Barrett enjoys the Bahamas is because language is not an issue. For others, learning to speak another language might be part of the adventure. Learning basic phrases in the language may help. You can also use a language program to learn the language before you leave.

Miller recommends downloading a language translation app to your smartphone to help with language issues. “When I was in Guatemala, I had to learn basic Spanish fairly quickly, but I still struggled. I was scared to walk into a shop to refill my aircard credits because I didn’t know how to say it in Spanish. Thank goodness they were able to understand my gestures,” Miller says.

For more tips to help you stay productive on your next business trip, access Business as Pleasure: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Travel.

This article was originally published on July 20, 2012.

Photo credit: iStock

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