Running a business from overseas—Experiences and Tips

Calvin Hanson

Calvin Hanson

Camille and I run three businesses while we travel as a way to fund our travel and life.

Each of these businesses have their unique challenges as we travel and I’ll share tips on both types of businesses and notate which business the tip applies to.

Find a good manager “on the ground.” (Airbnb)

While traveling, we need someone to be your eyes on the ground, to help guests, clean the property, or reset the router after a storm. We have been blessed to find amazing cleaner/managers that have really helped us when we are overseas (Kimberly and Annie, shout out to yall!). We have been 6 hours ahead and 6 hours behind Eastern Time so having someone to communicate when you are sleeping is a must. It’s also good to find a “jack of all trades” person that you can pay hourly as well for any small fixes in plumbing or other fixtures. Its best to stay away from separate trade companies unless the issue needs more expertise.

Wifi/internet is a must everywhere you go (Airbnb, Design business, Learn English with Camille)

We were in remote Jaen, Spain, and didn’t realize the Airbnb’s didn’t have wifi. It was great for disconnecting but not for staying connected to the businesses. Without Wifi it is difficult to stay connected to clients and answer quickly on our Airbnbs (a must to be a great host). Of course with web design I absolutely need fast internet. I work mostly with wordpress and webflow and both are 100% online platforms. The majority of my business will stop without internet. I suspect nowadays any business needs a bit of internet to manage their business.

Remote work granada spain
Remote work while in Granada Spain

9-5 doesn’t exist (Airbnb, Design business, Learn English with Camille)

Camille or I will wake up to attend to our crying child and see an airbnb request or question, so we’ll answer it (after we attend to our child of course 🙂 ). Many times I need to chat with a client about a project and have to schedule appointments after my 9-5 to fall within their 9-5. The beauty is most communication can be through email, video or chat.

Also, the point of travel is to experience the culture, food and people. Our schedule can look like a morning out exploring then a 3-4 hour work block in the afternoon and finally if there is any super pressing things, they can be worked on after the kids go to bed. Schedule becomes a juggle but it’s worth it to us to live “nomadic” in this season. With web design and branding some deadlines can’t be avoided and 6-8 hour “traditional” workdays happen on occasion still.

Slow Travel is the preferred way to travel (Design business)

Travel days make you tired and usually there needs to be recovery time (especially when traveling as a family) when you are changing locations rapidly even inside of one country, it can really be hard to have the creative energy to work on a new branding project or website.

It also takes time to find that good cafe that lets you work for 4-hour blocks with fast wifi and decent coffee/vibes (no super loud 80’s music please!). I need to be able to get out the door to a cafe I like and get to work quickly. Some global locations will be better for remote work. One of my favorite spots to explore and work remotely is Tirana, Albania. It’s great for digital nomads because of its strong cafe culture and fast wifi.

Calvin Hanson Creative Headquarters
Calvin Hanson Creative Headquarters in Greer SC

Remote work is not for the start up phase (Design business, Airbnb, Learn English with Camille)

Unless you have a big contract or work remotely for one company, you need to do your math and see if what you want to do is sustainable. For example, Learn English with Camille took two years to become profitable. We started it as a side project and grew it while living off the income of the other projects.

One way to launch into remote work is to save up for your trip then work part-time while traveling to offset your costs. If you plan to travel extensively you’ll obviously need to make sure you have enough flow of work to not lose money each month. Depending on your business you can find clients in other countries that you visit.

For traveling in Europe you will need a higher budget than Eastern Europe or Asia in general. Within Europe, southern European countries will be cheaper than the north. Housing costs will be probably the biggest expense, so finding cheap housing will be key to be sustainable.

Discipline is key to travel and working (Design business, Airbnb, Learn English with Camille)

Sometimes work-related issues are time-sensitive and in my web design business I have deadlines I am working against the clock. This means sacrificing a day trip out exploring to finish a project. It can be very tempting to forget work and explore a castle on beautiful days, but it comes back to bite you in the butt. For me, working while traveling actually helps me be more disciplined because I try to work in 3-4 hour blocks at a time and I become more focused to finish work tasks during this limited time.

Summary

My overall experience of working overseas has been very positive and I owe a great deal to my amazing clients and guests.  Airbnb, Online teaching and web design businesses are great models to have seasons of travel while you work. I would highly encourage you to try it if you can!

Resources for you

Nomad List is a website that helps you see what cities are great for “digital nomads” and other remote workers. If you want to be a English or language tutor, try LINGUATALK or italki.

Are you a remote worker/traveler? What are your experiences? Aspiring to travel and work? What would you like it to look like?

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