Elance Blog

4 Tips For Freelancers Who Love To Roam

Occasionally we invite clients to discuss issues of importance to freelancers who work on Elance. Here are some thoughts from Nikolaj Astrup Madsen, a Danish entrepreneur and creator of the popular Workaway Camp (which is a one week camp for entrepreneurs in a beautiful house in the mountains north of Barcelona). Check out how you can win a spot, including airfare.


There is a major trend towards working when and where you want to. I’m sure the internet and concepts like Elance are a big part of this trend. Nowadays it is possible to work within a niche, selling stuff online to the whole world just with a laptop.

In my eyes we are seeing a change of the perception of “success.” Normally success is defined by wealth, how far you can get in a big organization, etc. This trend is changing this, because it makes it possible for people to work and live like they truly want to. People living and working when and where they want to measure success in another way. They measure success in terms of knowledge, experience and most importantly happiness.

A lot of other articles describe why this is a cool and interesting way of life, so I am not going to dig deeper into that, but instead I am gonna give some concrete ideas and tips you can use, to make it easier to work and live wherever you like to.

I have gathered these experiences in around two years’ time. In that time I lived in Beijing, China for about a year and travelled a lot always with my laptop, working as a self-employed marketing consultant.

4 Tips on how to make it work.

Most self-employed people have some kind of customer contact. Most of the people I meet, whoworked remote had some kind of freelancing job, where they have to have contact to their customer.

Many customers would like to meet sometimes and many want to call you all the time. These kind of customers can be really difficult to work with when working remotely. I have been lucky to have customers that like the flexibility and email communication. I will always prefer these kinds of customers, because they are nice and easy to work with.

If you have some kind of freelancing job and you are thinking about doing it remotely, you might wonder how you can get your customers to agree to do it. Many people fear that they will lose customers.

I met a designer for an American newspaper in Beijing He had lived there for 5 years. He said that trust is the key to make it work. He asked his employer if they could just test it for some time and see how it went. The result was a cheaper employee (no office, lunch, etc.), and he was much more efficient because he worked when all the other employees were sleeping because of different time zones (which resulted in fewer emails, calls, etc.).

So if you need to convince a customer, show them that they can trust you. Try it for some time and show them even better results than before. Normally the fear of losing customers is not that relevant. Customers just want things done at a good price without too much trouble, so that is what you should give them!

1. Get an office abroad.

When I moved to Beijing with my girlfriend (who was going to there to study), I needed some kind of an office. I started out with working from home and coffee shops, but it can be pretty difficult to work in a Chinese coffee shop they can be pretty loud.

Instead, I did two things: I got a membership to Regus, which is a worldwide chain of offices. Normally, they are quite expensive, but they have a really nice concept called “Business Lounge”. All of their offices have these business lounges. It is just a kind small cafĂ© where you can work with good Wi-Fi and free coffee.

They have a gold membership, which is $49 a month. With that membership you can check in at all their locations all over the world and have lots of coffee. It worked perfect for me and so far I have used it in Beijing, Singapore and in Denmark. It’s great because it’s the same concept everywhere so it is really plug’n’play.

If you are looking for a bit more permanent office somewhere abroad where you are gonna stay for a period, I can also recommend contacting companies owned by people from your home country.

I contacted two Danish companies in Beijing and asked if I could rent a desk and they were both really positive and offered me a desk. When you work in a foreign country one of the best things are guests from back home. They just thought that it would be cool to have someone from their home country in an office filled with Chinese employees. One of the companies even gave me a desk for free, including fast Wi-Fi and imported coffee Not bad. :)

2. Have a normal phone number wherever you are in the world.

Most companies need a phone number, where customers, potential partners and others can contact you. This can be kind of tricky when you move and travel around, but there is one way to fix this.

Skype offers a nice solution to this problem. For a small, monthly fee you can get a local number from your home country. It is not more expensive to call that number and you receive the call via Skype. Another good thing is that Skype can be downloaded as an app, making it possible to answer calls on your mobile phone.

Once I was in a Chinese food market, when a Danish customer called me to ask some questions. That is pretty amazing No huge phone bills, just pure global awesomeness!

3. Keep everything in the cloud.

I know this is a quite simple trick and it is important no matter where you work, but maybe even more important when you live in a country where you don’t know the language, how to navigate, etc.

Imagine you have all your important documents and files on your laptop – all the stuff that is essential for you to work. Then imagine that you are in China and your computer crashes. Where do you go to fix it? In a country where you normally don’t know what you eat for dinner, good luck!

I have everything in the cloud, so I can access it everywhere. I use Gmail, Google Drive, Dropbox, and in general all the systems I use for my work are online, always accessible. This is so simple, but again and again I meet people who store really important stuff on their laptop. It is an accident waiting to happen!

4. Network is crucial.

One of the difficult things when working on your own can be the social element. You are on your own in a new country and need to build some kind of network. Of course social media is great for this and you should really be active on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or wherever people like you are.

You should also attend events to broaden your network. There are lots of groups meeting all around the world that are interesting and work with the same stuff as you. Meetup.com is a great place to find these.

Thanks for reading, hope to meet you out there somewhere.


Wow, awesome writing. Someday I will also start traveling like this.

I really enjoying and getting inspiration from this article. Thanks writer.

thanx for the post, really very helpful.

Wow, Cool stuff.
We are the freelancers, find this writing merely helpful !

Keep it up. Thanks a lot!

Wish your good luck and success!

Thanks for this wonderful piece of advice....will definitely help us all.

Happy Elancing!!!! :)

Worth reading and following. Thanks

Thank you, Nikolaj, for a great article. Very helpful tips especially for an international traveler - I had forgotten about Skype.


Thank you, Nikolaj, for a great article. I have been doing this for the last 15 years, but how do compete with programmers that charge $5/hour and quote $250 for a month's worth of work. I also find a lot of clients on Elance, at least the ones I have been involved with are fishing for free information. Regards

And what if anything happens to cloud services? Besides you never know and won't know how secure your stuff is over there since all of the services you mention are proprietary, not open sourced.

Living the dream :)

Thank you Nikolaj. My biggest challenge was to get some office space for working wherever I am as I travel a lot and it is difficult to keep up contact and work with clients who are in other countries. Regus is really good tool which will be useful to me. Thanks again!

Great article Nikolaj. I am working in a far off village of Pakistan. In Asian countries like Pakistan, electricity supply is also a concern and for me, solar energy has proven very helpful in this regard. Any thoughts on client confidentiality when keeping your data on Dropbox, Google Drive etc.? There are also some social aspects when you are freelancing especially here in Pakistan. Most of the people here don't know about the concept of freelancing and when they come to know that somebody is working at home, it becomes difficult for them to digest it easily. How comes, what kind of work, is it possible etc. I would love any comments from Pakistan freelancers especially from those who are independently working at home. Thanks (Qadir).

Thanks Nikolaj, one more inspiration to work:) Cool!

Thanks for the article. It may prove helpful someday when I will start travelling.