The Traveling Entrepreneur – what it’s cracked up to be…

I’m excited to share a great post from Stephen Heiner – he’s got a great entrepreneurial story (well several of them in fact) and he’s living his dream right now in Paris as a traveling entrepreneur – check out his great advice below.   Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

Picture by Wayne Shipley via Flickr

Picture by Wayne Shipley via Flickr

Dream job.  Work anywhere.  Your schedule.  Travel whenever you want.  All of it sounds good and amazing.  But what you should know, if you don’t already, is that if it’s too good to be true, there’s probably a catch.  And that isn’t the voice of an envious ninny, I promise.  It’s the voice of experience.

I’m typing this today in Poland, though bits of it were written across the last two countries I visited.  Indeed, I have not slept in my own bed in over five weeks and five countries and I miss it.  Would I trade the last five weeks for even one night in that bed?  Of course not.  But these weeks have taken my understanding of what it means to run businesses while traveling to an entirely new level.  I wanted to share some tips with you – not just if you are in line to take some time off, but precisely if you don’t see that white space in your calendar, and are trying to force it in and make it happen side-by-side with your regular life.

Begin with the end in mind

These words of Steven Covey will be with me to my death.  They are terribly important.  Ask yourself why you want to travel.  Is it simply to get away?  Is it to learn something new in general or about yourself in particular?  Both?  Are you trying to see if you could, maybe possibly, live somewhere else?

Once you’ve answered these questions, block out a specific time you’d like to be away.  Be ambitious, if you’d like, with your itinerary, but build in rest days.  Just because you are somewhere amazing doesn’t mean you have to do something every single day.  If you don’t rest this will just turn into “regular life on the road” which will taint the whole experience.

Watch the clock

Your clients may not be in the same time zone as you, especially if you, like me, favor a part of the world which is, on average, 6 hours ahead of your clients.  when you are “ready to go” they may still be sleeping.

Appointments across time zones can be tricky.  And your technology may fail you.  Recently I was in Romania and had sent out a Google Calendar invite in Eastern time to a client based in it.  My client received the invite in Eastern time but inexplicably it posted the call to the calendar in Central time.  Thinking the error was on my part, when we rescheduled I let him send the invite but clarity was still absent.  The calendar failed both of us again.

It is stature-gaining to be an international freelance contractor, but it is stature-losing in the extreme to get something as simple as an appointment dead wrong.  Don’t take chances.  Confirm using text or whatsapp in addition to email and/or calendar invites.  The client can’t really be upset that you want firm times noted.

Don’t assume resources

There is a new brochure circulating in Paris, put out by the city government, which gives tips on how to deal with American tourists.  These are put out for all sorts of nationalities and is for the service and travel industry here in the city.  Among the tips are “smile more” (we are a friendly lot, aren’t we?) and “ensure plentiful access to WiFi.”

I believe that had wifi existed at the time of the Bill of Rights we might have a very different 2nd Amendment today!  The demanded right for wi-fi “whenever” is not yet a given from sea to shining sea, but it’s getting there.  Europe, like many parts of the world, simply isn’t there…yet.  It may be many years still before wifi is as plentiful here as it is back home.  And it doesn’t even have to be wifi that lets you down.  I was on my way back from Normandy to Paris and an incident on the train track ahead forced our train to stop suddenly.  The train was not conscientious enough to stop outside of a cellular dead zone.  They hadn’t gotten the memo that I had a very important kickoff call with a new client.  It took a lot of smoothing over not to lose him.  If you are conducting business on a travel day, notify all your appointments of those travels and let them know something could go astray but that you will be on it.

Sometimes in our desire to appear as professional as possible we want to portray that working with a contractor who travels/is outside of the country is as seamless and easy as working with someone in the same city as the client.  That’s simply not true.  What we can and should recognize – and state at the outset – is that it is our international travel and perspective that brings a unique and tremendous value add to what we do.  We may not always be instantly available but we are watching business happen globally, not just reading about it, and that puts us and our clients ahead of the competition.

Plan for Wonder/Wander Time

Entrepreneurs often like to schedule their travel how they schedule their personal and business lives: undergirded with a lot of assumptions that may not hold up.  That’s okay.  That’s the uncertainty we live with and thrive in.  While visiting Avila, Spain recently I had this as part of my schedule for the day:

11h00 City Center

12h00 Cathedral

13h00 Walls

14h30 Conference Call


You might guess that I lingered at all of those stops.  Avila is a magnificent medieval city: I had to hustle to the cafe for my video conference.  Make the schedule you want and then remove one thing.  If it turns out you have time you can always add it back later.

Know when it’s time to come home

This ties back to my first point: keeping the end in mind.  Plans change and travel isn’t always subject to our whimsy.  Sometimes it’s important to come home early if a situation warrants it.  Other times it’s important to leave on time, even when you want to linger.

Remember that no matter how well you manage it, travel disrupts your routine, which I’ve mentioned in another place is the base for your success as an entrepreneur.  “A rolling stone gathers no moss,” goes the proverb.  A mentor of mine has always added, “but it sure gathers a lot of polish.”  When you get home, spend and use that polish.  Not all at once, but well and wisely, as you have hopefully also traveled.

Stephen Heiner is a serial entrepreneur who currently makes his home in the quiet 17th Arrondissement of Paris.  When he’s not traveling to every country in Europe he hasn’t yet seen.  He creates content at Word Works Inc when he’s not giving guides for Paris Foot Walks or writing about his personal life at The American In Paris.

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