A few weeks ago Madhukar Tirunagari sent me this message on Quora.
May I ask how were you able to get the projects to work on and make money while you were travelling for 2 continuous years ??
I though it would be more interesting to share how to design a nomadic workstyle instead of how to make money.
A bit of history
In 2007, after my first year in a university I understood that softwares as we knew them by that time were on their way to die. My home server was already a source of everything an IT student would need such as music, movies, text editor, webmail, storage, IRC, notes, code editor, calendar and more. My laptop was on Ubuntu and I was a big fan of rsync and webdav. Internet wasn’t so popular on phones but wifi was.
Gmail was born 3 years earlier, Facebook was one year old, Apple introduced the iPhone during our summer holidays.
Based on this observation I had no difficulties to think that what I could do in a small student room were already in a pipe of big companies.
A nomad isn’t alone
In 2008 I went to live in Sydney. My home server was in a bedroom in my dad’s place and I kept using my datas over the internet. I came back to France for a Master. Then I spent 2 years in Paris in a design school while working for a web agency and also as a freelancer.
This experience made me meet many people and expand my network. Finally I designed my entire life to live as a nomad, including my clients.
- I get them used to receive emails at any time (day or night) so they wouldn’t notice different timezones.
- I never gave my phone number but only Skype and an email.
- I also installed an asynchronous workflow because I knew I would not have internet anywhere anytime. email != phone.
- I always always always delivered on time. If I feel a project a bit risky, I don’t take it. That built the image of a trustable partner even though I’m not online everyday. People even told me that they kinda appreciate to not see me online because it means I’m not distracted and I work on their project only. This is also true because I optimise my online time.
- As you can guess, I use web based tools only. My laptop is empty. I can lose it or crash it. I will lose money only. That makes me able to work from any workstation, even on an ipad. Yes, I still need internet 🙂
- I select my clients. Mostly agencies or big companies. Teams and people who know how to use internet. I don’t want to spend time on teaching how to send an email or share a screen on skype. It also says that they have enough people to manage the project without me. I’m a designer, not a project manager. That’s also why I’m always on time. They manage, I respect, they don’t ask questions, I travel.
After 3 years I had enough money to back me up in case of a problem and I left. Nothing changed with my professional network because “Nico’ is like that”. They still poke me when they need and I’m still very bad at having a proper portfolio.
Chose your tools wisely
You can’t travel with a heavy bag even though you plan to work. Take only what you need, nothing else. My “office” fits in a small backpack.
- Mac Book Pro Retina 13″ and a mouse
- Canon 60D, Sigma 30mm, Sigma 18-200mm
- iPhone 6s and Nexus 5 (no sim cards, I only use them to test, check my mails and other easy tasks)
- Pens and notebook
- Passport and personal papers
- Power adaptors
Nomadic work is your choice
Working on the road requires to be organised. Teams are not responsible for your lifestyle, it has to be as transparent.