Today’s guest post is by the ever-entertaining Marian Schembari. I found one of her posts last year via the Twitterz and have been stalking her ever since.She’s a social media thug (consultant is a ridiculous word) who helps creatives rock out online. She blogs over at Marian Librarian where she cuts through the BS of social media. Check out her Profile Overhaul service if you’re looking for a quick and dirty revamp of your existing online presence. Follow her antics on Twitter @MarianSchembari.
Back in April I uprooted my life in New York to move temporarily to London, and then New Zealand where my Kiwi boyfriend and I could live in visa-drama-free harmony.
Whenever I explain to friends and family how this is possible I say something along the lines of, “My job is online, I can work from anywhere!” Strangers assume this is mildly glamorous. Blog readers have expressed jealousy in my ability to “live carefree.”
I may be now living in one of the most beautiful countries on earth, but location independence is harder than it looks. I am not on permanent vacation. I spent six months in London not actually experiencing because my eyes were too adjusted to my computer screen to be able to focus on real, live humans.
And the two months I’ve been in New Zealand? I’ve taken one trip beyond my new neighborhood. And that’s because it was Christmas.
So before you go traipsing off to Thailand like every other lifestyle designer on the interwebs, let me share a few truths I’ve learned from my year as a “location independent freelancer.”
Truth #1: Normal People Don’t Understand “Working for Yourself”
The UK apparently didn’t like my “self-employed” line as they thought it meant “gonna lock down a job in the UK and steal all the monies from hard working Brits.”
After reading my journal, locking me up in a detention facility overnight and stalking me on Google, I was to be officially deported to my last port of entry. They eventually let me go without deportation – *wipes brow* – but not sans the help of a phone call from mommy, a $1,200 return flight purchase and forcing immigration to actually sit down and read my blog.
You see, not only was it very clear on my site that I run my own business, but I also wrote a post about my eventual departure form London to New Zealand.
TIP: The blog post apparently worked as it was written months before my departure, but I wouldn’t recommend this tactic. Before entering any country you plan to be in long-term, bring proof you work for yourself. As most freelancers know, folks with “real jobs” tend to get nauseous just thinking about us.
Truth #2: You Can’t Actually Work from Anywhere
After moving to New Zealand I found out about broadband limits. Apparently there’s no such thing as unlimited internet on this side of the equator and when you go over the measly 20-40GB? Oh. Right. They switch you to dial-up speed.
So those videos I make for my clients that require a massive upload to my website? I’ve had to cut those down big time.
The books clients send me so I can see samples of their work? Scratch that.
So no. I can’t actually work anywhere. You can’t actually work anywhere.
TIP: If your business is mostly run online, check the internet regulations and specifics of your country of choice. Also make sure there’s at least one cafe that doesn’t charge for wifi (I’m looking at you, New Zealand Starbucks).
Truth #3: You’ll Want to Travel. But You Won’t.
Being a freelancer is like being in school: There is always some assignment hanging over your head. So when you imagine yourself cruising across the Adriatic in that jet boat, remember when that smoldering Italian fisherman asks you to come to his villa for some gelato and pasta he’ll feed you with his fingers, you may have to bail early to finish that project that needed to be turned in yesterday.
TIP: Cut back your workload. Listen, I got nothing better for you on this one. Know you will regret not taking that road trip across the South Island because you had to finish that copy for client x. So either reduce the stuff that needs doing or stay at home where you won’t feel like you’re missing out.
Truth #4: Getting Paid is a Royal Pain in the Ass
Regardless of where you are, your clients will most likely be back home. And unless you’re big into taking large sums of money via PayPal and parting with 3% every time someone pays you, you need some way to get moolah.
Luckily, my family is still in the States and, because they’re nice, my parents deposit client checks on my behalf.
Because I’ll be in New Zealand for the foreseeable future, not having Kiwi clients hasn’t stopped me from opening up a bank account. Right now I pay around $10 for each withdrawal from my US bank and it’s a gain head ache. Never mind a waste of money.
TIP: Find a credit card that won’t charge ridiculous fees for taking out cash (Bank of America had a deal with Barclays while I was living in England) and have someone nice at home who can collect payments and deal with them. Sure, they need to really like you and live near your bank of choice, but I gotta say – not having to accept thousands of dollars through PayPal makes this totally worth it.
Lesson? Do it.
This isn’t to say location independence isn’t great. Looking back, I really should have been more prepared, but I was sort of fooled by the ease these online-lifestyle-design-douches seem to be running their businesses from really obscure countries.
At the end of the day though, after this year abroad I never want to HAVE to be somewhere. I feel ill just thinking about it. But just because I’m traveling doesn’t mean I’m not working. And just because I’m IN these countries doesn’t mean I experience them in the same way a traveler would.
That all said, I’ve only been doing this for a year. I may get better at it, I may decide to settle down. I also think plenty of folks do it significantly better than I.
Have you tried it? Are you considering it? Do you now want to hit me upside the head for not making it seem sparkly and magical? Better you know the truth…