Although the terms “location independent entrepreneur” and “remote worker” are everywhere now, they hadn’t yet made it into the lexicon when I started working remotely years ago. So when I recently left for Europe to try working from overseas, I figured running a location independent business would be a piece of cake.
A week in, though, PayPal froze access to my business account and I had to jump through numerous hoops to restore it. Other websites I rely on behaved differently once they detected I was outside the United States, forcing me to find workarounds. And a credit card payment was flagged by the bank after it detected it was being paid from a new location.
I clearly still had a lot to learn about working remotely and running a location independent business.
“There are many things that you have to keep in mind, prepare for, and adjust to in order to find success as a remote entrepreneur,” warns David McNeill, founder of Expat Empire, a consulting service that supports entrepreneurs in taking their businesses abroad.
“In addition to managing payment providers across multiple currencies, hoping that websites won’t lock your account when traveling to new destinations, and balancing time for work and for fun when you’re exploring a new locale, there are many more issues you may need to handle regarding your global team, client base, and partners,” he explains.
Here I’ve asked McNeill and other location entrepreneurs to share their strategies for successfully working from anywhere. And I share my own tip, learned firsthand.
10 tips for running a location independent business
Tip #1: Spring for good accommodations
Advice from Tom Blake, owner of This Online World, a personal finance media company that teaches people how to make money online and become location independent and financially free. Blake has run his business from Florida, Columbia, and Dubai; he’s currently in Florida and plans to head to Europe soon:
“It might be tempting to cut costs when you’re on the road, especially if your business is in its infancy and you’re trying to remain lean. However, your accommodations are one of the most important budget categories when traveling. Not only do you need to be somewhere safe and secure, but the quality of your sleep plays a massive role in how productive you are when living somewhere new. Furthermore, you shouldn’t take amenities like a reliable internet connection for granted; many countries don’t have strong internet as a default.
“I learned this lesson while running my business in Colombia, during which time I booked a private room in a hostel-style Airbnb. Between the noise and Wi-Fi going down every 10 minutes, I had to book a private office at a coworking space, which was around $400 a month. With that extra expense, I could have easily booked my own private accommodation with better amenities and some peace and quiet.
“Things like flights, entertainment, and tourist-related activities are areas you can cut costs. But when it comes to being a location-independent entrepreneur, your accommodations are one area of your budget you shouldn’t cut corners.”
Tip #2: Plan for quiet time
Advice from Matt Ruttenberg, founder of SureLI, an online life insurance company. Ruttenberg worked from an RV in 2020 and is currently searching for a new home base for his location independent business:
“Finding time for taking a Zoom call or conference call was much more difficult than my original expectations, especially when sharing an RV with family. It takes a lot of organizing to find a place with good internet and silence. You’ll need to plan ahead to find a local library, coffee shop, or shared workspace because you just can’t get it done in an RV. Then you’ll need to figure out if they offer Wi-Fi, or if your hotspot has service in that location, all while finding a nice background for your Zoom call. But if you can master the art of planning ahead, you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.”
Tip #3: Adjust your hours
Advice from Andrew Pierce, attorney and founder of WyomingLLC.com, which forms businesses, acts as a registered agent, and provides supporting mail and virtual office solutions. Pierce spends more than 250 nights a year traveling.
“I adjust my sleep schedule to better match my teams’. It can make traveling a bit more difficult, but ultimately you need to be there for your team even if that means less sleep, or maintaining odd hours.
“Making it work depends on how many hours difference you are from your team. When I’m in Europe, I’m often six hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast, so it means late nights, but I’m free to explore in the morning. In Asia it can mean a 12 hour time difference—that means some very early mornings and probably a siesta in the afternoon.”
Tip #4: Spring for good Wi-Fi
Advice from Jacob Wade, founder of Roadmap Money, a personal finance website that helps readers learn how to budget, pay off debt, and start investing toward retirement. Wade is also a money coach and freelance writer. From 2018 to 2020, Wade worked from an RV, traveling to 38 states with his wife and children.
“Reliable internet is a must for my business, and traveling around the United States created connectivity challenges. We were able to stay connected using a rented Verizon plan which offered unlimited (and unthrottled) 4G LTE internet. We also purchased a Cradlepoint mobile router, which could be plugged into the RV. It provided a decent signal for working inside or outside the RV.
“When a Verizon signal was not available, most campgrounds offered free Wi-Fi in their public pavilion area or throughout the park. And when that failed, Starbucks was my go-to for reliable internet and mediocre coffee.”
Tip #5: Plan how to pay for purchases
Advice from Sa El, cofounder of Simply Insurance, an online insurance agency and insurance education blog. El and his husband, Aten-Re El, run their business from multiple U.S. states, and will be working from Columbia next year.
“Notify your financial institutions you’ll be traveling. If your card is declined due to fraud because your bank thinks you’re at home, you could be in a situation where you are unable to get access to your funds. And be careful about carrying too much cash, as it can get you in trouble with the authorities when you enter the country. This happened to us on our last visit to Mexico.”
Tip #6: Pare down equipment
Advice from Chhavi Agarwal, co-founder of Mrs Daaku Studio, a blog, YouTube channel, and academy which provides work-from-home tips, ebooks, courses, and coaching. Agarwal works while traveling across India.
“It’s important to find equipment that is easy to travel with. I’ve created rules for myself which help me eliminate the need to carry certain equipment. For example, I either batch create video content for my YouTube channel before I leave for another location, or I shoot in the morning so I don’t have the need to carry add-on lights (which are huge).
“Additionally, I invested in an iPhone 12 so I could use it to shoot in 4K, which means I don’t have to carry a camera. Over time, I have figured out which tech items are absolutely necessary, the ones that can be combined with others, and the ones that aren’t important to carry at all. Make sure you understand how to work efficiently with minimal equipment.”
Tip #7: Make your business as flexible as possible
Advice from Susi Kaeufer, founder of Dreamlife Deluxe, a business mentoring and coaching business for women entrepreneurs. Kaeufer has been a full-time nomad since 2017, and has run her location independent business from all over the world, including Australia, Europe, and Asia.
“Make your business as flexible as possible so you can run it from anywhere in the world, no matter the time zone or quality of the internet connection. We communicate a lot via the app Voxer. It’s a free text and voice messaging app that works well for talking back and forth. Instead of having to sit down in a quiet spot and organize a video conference call, I can reply to my clients or my team members while on the go. I don’t even need a great Wi-Fi connection—the voice message will just buffer until it’s fully loaded.
“In addition, I schedule all my client calls on Tuesday, which leaves me with six days per week where I can travel and explore whenever I want.”
Tip #8: Leverage email
Advice from Blaire Brown, founder of BlaireBrown.com, a brand strategy firm which helps entrepreneurs and small businesses with marketing and branding initiatives. Brown has worked in multiple states on the East Coast.
“As the owner of a marketing agency, I have to stay on top of my A game when it comes to consistent outreach and communication. My email list is one of my best assets. Having an automated email system setup is critical for me at all times, especially when I am traveling. When I recently moved from Maryland to Florida, I didn’t have to worry about having to play catch-up with my clients because I had already planned my emails in advance through my email provider, Flodesk.
“I love Flodesk because it is tailored for my audience of mostly creative entrepreneurs, so its templates and branding customization capabilities make the emails more appealing and more likely to be opened. It makes my life easier with workflow functions, pop-up forms, and landing pages, too. With workflows set up and automated, I can handle big moves across the country, and travel whenever I want to pick up and go with confidence that I’m not missing a beat running my business.”
Tip #9: Document processes for new employees
Advice from David McNeill, founder of Expat Empire, a podcast, website, and consulting service which helps people move and work abroad. McNeill has worked from multiple countries, including Japan, Germany, and now Portugal.
“Given that you probably won’t be physically located in the same place as new team members you’re onboarding, it’s a good idea to create manuals to send to new team members so they can onboard themselves through your tools and processes. Provide an overview of their job responsibilities and how they will be evaluated, an overview of all the tools they will need, the locations on your file management system where they can find key documents, and the contact information of team members they should reach out to if they have questions. This manual should contain all the information they will require to perform their job.
“It’s good practice to spend some time thinking through what it would be like to be a brand-new employee in your remote company, and what you would want to know and experience if you were in that position, and then work backwards to create that experience for all new team members.”
Tip #10: Install a VPN
This is my own tip for running a location independent business, one I discovered the hard way during my current travels through England, France, and Portugal:
Install a VPN before you leave the United States. I could have avoided multiple headaches had I done this. I doubt PayPal would have blocked me from logging into my account had my computer not registered a foreign IP address, for example. Once I realized my error, I had some trouble installing a VPN from overseas. It was a huge hassle. Eventually I was able to install one. Once I set it to my home state of Florida, my problems were solved.