It can be kind of easy to get into a rut as a freelancer. I mean your sofa is well worn and your daily habits are well set.
As you talk to the bigwigs of XYZ Company on Skype who will know you are wearing bunny slippers?
As a freelancer, one of the best things I have ever done to improve myself, as well as my business, is to travel as often as possible. Here’s why:
You never know who you will meet. You might end up next to a top CEO on a plane, share a basket of bread with a globe-trotting entrepreneur in India, or strike up a conversation with a small business owner while waiting in line for a Vegas show.
Any one of these people can become future business contacts for you, and, if nothing else, the short conversation you share with them could make a lasting impression on you and your business.
- You never know what you will learn. One day I was hanging out in a coffee shop near a major conference center when a guy sat down next to me and started chatting. Turns out his startup just got $14 million in VC funding. Needless to say, I had a lot of questions for him about the ins and outs of his business as well as the ins and outs of working with venture capitalists.
- You will get out of your rut and so will your thinking. Your mind doesn’t have to work very hard when you do the same things every day. Now flip the switch and begin your day with congee in a café in China, tasting chicken feet for the first time during a dim sum lunch, and watching an incredible acrobatics show in Shanghai. Suddenly your brain starts working overtime to process all of the new sights, sounds, and experiences (this is a good thing for you and your work).
You will get some new ideas. Even if you take a short flight from your home city, you are bound to get some exciting new ideas. Many years ago I traveled across the country and saw that a mall was doing enormous business in renting kiosks to smaller businesses that couldn’t afford a larger mall space.
When I came back home I talked to the manager of our local mall about this, and he said they had never heard of such a thing. A few years later our local mall was blooming with kiosks.
- You will relax. Sometimes the only thing that is standing between you and a significant breakthrough is allowing yourself to shut off for a bit. A nice beach, a nice book, a Pina Colada, and lots of relaxation can do wonders to restore your creativity and ideas will once again begin to flow.
You will be able to concentrate. On the flip side, maybe you are super creative and ideas are flowing, but you have so many distractions in your day to day life that your latest project is at a standstill for lack of time simply to concentrate and work.
A short get away to a location that will keep you off your cell phone, off your Twitter account, and keep the kids out of your hair for a few days may be just what you need to complete your project.
- You will be inspired. Inspiration comes to people in so many different forms that it is difficult to pin this down with an example, but you will know that you were inspired when you gazed at the Grand Canyon and an idea pops into your head for the latest website you have been coding that seemed to be missing something. Or you may pass by a group of girls in Harajuku and “ta da” your latest design project suddenly gets an infusion of inspiration.
- You will have a gripping story to tell. Part of freelancing is networking and what better way to network with people than to get them interested in you (“you went backpacking where???”) and have something engaging to tell them (“you wouldn’t believe the open fractures I saw on the land divers in Vanuatu!”…well maybe save this little anecdote for your medical clients…).
You may come back with a new attitude. Life moves much slower in many countries around the world. It wouldn’t hurt, if you have been hammering away as a freelance code monkey for years on end, to pick up a bit of this habit.
Not everything needs to be done exactly as it is in your country in order to produce superior results. With travel you will learn to roll with the punches and incorporate a bit of joie de vivre into your life.
- You will open many more doors for your future. Whether it is meeting life-long friends who will always have a couch available for you whenever you come back to their country, finding someone a half a world away who becomes your biggest client, or learning things that will allow you to scale up your business to unimaginable heights, travel can utterly change your future.
Yes, travel can be a bit expensive, and yes, working with clients while you are on the road can sometimes be challenging, but the positive experiences of traveling can greatly—and positively—impact your life as a freelancer.
What travel experiences have you had? Have you taken your freelance business on the road? What advice do you have for freelancers that would like to travel with their business?