The digital nomad movement is now a fully-fledged cultural phenomenon with developers, designers, and freelancers. While the glitz and glam of traveling the world and using a few digital skills to pay the way has some serious plus-points, there are a few things that require careful consideration before laptops are placed in rucksacks.
The challenges and fundamental requirements of working as freelancer remain and nomad designers can easily make mountains of these molehills if they fail to plan ahead. This may seem a little doom and gloom but there is, of course, a big shining beacon of light at the end of the tunnel – the tools being used to meet the challenges are multiplying and improving all the time.
Here’s a rundown of the integral tools and nomad designers will need to rely on (we’re going to leave out the design software for now).
Finding decent wi-fi when travelling and working
If content is king, then wi-fi is some sort of conquering emperor that has subjugated it. The life of the nomad designer is dictated by their ability to access decent wi-fi, every decision about travel itineraries, tech and even where to eat must consider this most pertinent fact, always. Thankfully, the nomad community has plenty of tips on where to go.
The bastion of the digital nomad, cafés with decent wi-fi are top of the list when it comes to must-haves and there’s plenty of resources to help travellers find an ideal spot:
- Workfrom.co allows users to search any city for the best coffee shops and co-working spaces for digital nomads and read user reviews
- Wifi Cafe Guide is a growing, user-submitted, guide to cafes with wi-fi around the world
Co-working spaces are also a solid option, if a little formal, offering fast internet, a likely unlimited supply of coffee and the potential to meet other nomads.
Copass, ShareDesk and Desksurfing all work in roughly the same way and give members access to thousands of co-working spaces around the world by providing a platform for individuals and businesses to rent out their extra office space.
After from the wi-fi conundrum, remote working’s biggest challenge is invariably getting work in the first place and then managing the client through the process. Talent marketplaces like DesignBro.com have made it increasingly simple for freelancers to get work but designers must consider and decide which technology they’re going to use to get as smooth and clear communication as possible with clients.
All-in-one project management solution for freelance designers
While there are a few project management tools out there like Asana, Basecamp, Teamwork, Monday, Notion, Trello and more there’s only one (recently launched) that is specific to freelance designers. It’s called Gency.io and was launched by designers as not just a freelance designer project management tool, it’s the full package. It lets you send project proposals to your customers, take payment, it manages timing & workflow, let’s you manage communication & feedback with your customers, and file delivery in order for your client to have continued access.
With this recent launch, if you’re on the go, all you need is Gency.io and your favorite design software & you’re pretty much good to go. That is, as long as you manage to find some half-decent wifi somewhere!
Getting the job, communication and managing clients
There’s a host of tools available but the time-tested favorites are exactly for good reason – Whatsapp, Skype and Google Hangouts for chats, Basecamp for ongoing communication, and Slack for internal communication.
Backing up and sharing files
If you’re a designer, storing and sending larger files is also going to be a challenge. Dropbox and Google Drive are great services for storing resources and can also be used to share files alongside tools such as WeTransfer.
Project management and tracking time
Maintaining discipline and a routine are some of the keys to success for digital nomads and a well-used project management tool is a staple. Besides the previously mentioned Gency.io, Trello has proven to be a great tool for pretty much everyone who’s ever used it and has few worthy competitors. For time tracking (which is vital if you’re charging for your time or keeping track of how much time you’re spending on projects), there’s plenty of tools out there but Toggl and RescueTime are highly recommended.
While talking finance is the least sexy subject here, it’s a vital cog in the traveling nomad machine.
Shopping around for adequate travel insurance that covers any existing medical conditions and electronic equipment is a must. Sometimes, however unlikely, things go wrong and without insurance, there’s often a hefty bill to pick up. Enough said.
Keeping track of your incoming and outgoing funds is perhaps more important while traveling than when at home; changing currencies, unexpected bank charges, chasing client payments, invoicing… the list of stuff that can become a pain in the backside without a proper process in place goes on.
Xero, Mint, Wally, and Expensify are all solid budget management tools with Wally being a favorite in the nomad community – it being free and all.
For invoicing software, Invoicely and Wave are both brilliant and free.
Besides having grown up in the design Industry, Christiaan has advised some of the world’s largest companies on their branding & packaging designs. Has been the resident judge for design awards, and has spoken at numerous global design & marketing events. Christiaan founded the London office of the award-winning Cartils agency, and has founded the DesignBro.com platform.