Since the 1980s, the advanced of technology haven't just made building a startup exponentially cheaper, but communication improvements have also made it possible to build and work from anywhere in the world. Of course, most corporations and many startups still haven't caught on to the idea of moving the product team to Bali or Budapest. That was my situation: realizing my job wouldn't let me live the life of adventure I wanted, I quit -- and cofounded a startup to support my lifestyle. Now, working from anywhere and traveling frequently, I've become a self-proclaimed "digital nomad." Of course, I'm not the only one: forums, Facebook and Slack communities, and Skype groups are full of active and aspiring full-time globetrotters.
Traveling and working from different locations efficiently has its challenges and requires some planning. If you are thinking of leaving your square box for the freedom of working from home, coffee shops or a beach in the South Pacific, there are a lot of things to consider. I recommend starting out by going to NomadList before traveling to get the basics of your destination. You'll find a curated list of locations that are searchable based upon certain criteria, including safety, ease of connectivity to WiFi, cost of living, friendliness and weather. After you determine where you can work, you need to determine how to be efficient without the usual conveniences provided by your office (i.e. assistant, printer, unlimited network space, etc.). These tools can benefit anyone from the sole remote worker to a CEO leading a remote team:
When I need to have a reliable remote meeting, this is my “go-to.” Screen sharing is easy, it has HD video calling and call quality is excellent. It provides a 30-day free no-obligation trial, after that plans range from $24-49/month depending on how many people need to be in the meeting.
2. Google Hangouts and Google Drive
Google Hangouts is pretty universal and often the most convenient option if you need to talk to a client or share your screen during a call. It has messaging, voice calling and video. Google Hangouts is free if you call other users (US and Canada), it works on your browser so no other apps are needed and it has fairly inexpensive rates to make international calls.
Google Drive allows you to create and store documents in the cloud and access them from anywhere. You can share your documents so others on your team can collaborate. I heart Google Drive, but Google tends to update the organization frequently, which can be frustrating searching for regularly used tools. In any event, Google gives you 15GB of free storage, stores and organizes all of your documents, and you can work on the same document with multiple people at the same time.
E-mails get overwhelming so Slack makes it simple to communicate with your team through messaging. You can create separate rooms and share documents easily. Integrations make it possible to do everything from sending funny GIFs to initiating a team Google Hangout session (type /hangout) in seconds.
Slack is free to use for as long as you want, with limits on how many integrations you can use. Plans start at $5/month, which include unlimited integrations and full archive search.
Asana is a great task-management tool. It lets you create and delegate tasks, organize tasks into shared projects, chat within each task so conversations stay organized, and add attachments from Google Drive, Box and Dropbox. It also has calendar features, dashboards for projects and your very own to-do list.
Asana is free for teams up to 15 members. Premium services start at $63/month.
The same company now owns Elance and Upwork and the services are similar: you can find freelance work and also hire freelancers to do tasks that you do want to do (think virtual personal assistant). If you have a lot of time-consuming administrative tasks that are not worth your time, you can probably find someone for under $6/hour to do it for you. Now you can go to the beach instead!
I struggle with scheduling meetings across time zones and always manage to miss important calls. That is where World Time Buddy comes in handy. It helps you manage time zones and schedule global meetings. The tool uses an intuitive grid layout that makes it easy to see the applicable time in multiple time zones. It is free, web-based and easy to use.
For those who still take handwritten notes, Evernote allows you to easily take meeting notes and convert them from handwriting to type and makes your notes searchable. You can collect other files, such as articles and photos and share them with your team. It also syncs across all of your devices automatically, which is helpful if you work from a tablet and laptop.
Evernote basic is free and it offers a great plan for businesses, with a number of useful features (like its new work chat tool) for just $12/user per month. There are also premium features available.
If you have to keep track of time and expenses, this is a simple few-frills tool. It also makes invoicing and payments fairly easy by integrating with Paypal and Stripe. Harvest has a basic free version for one user, and paid plans range from $12-$99/month.
This one is not as common, but very helpful if you have to keep a physical office in the United States. You register your address at one of its locations, and all of your mail is scanned for you to access in a web browser. Earth Class Mail will also deposit checks for you, help you pay bills, will forward your mail to you anywhere in the world, will keep physical files for you and has secure shredding. Starter plans begin at $49/month and range to full-service business plans for $499/month.
If you want to stay in contact with family and friends from home, this mobile app allows you to keep your phone number and still receive calls over WiFi/3G/4G or a local SIM card (which will provide you cheap data). If you are traveling internationally for a short period of time, you may want to consider adding an international data plan from your carrier. All incoming calls are free, calls and messages between users are free and outgoing calls to non-users are fairly inexpensive (starting at $0.01/minute to the U.S. and Canada).
Taylor is a personal assistant bot that works in the Telegram application (available on Android, iOS and the Web) that uses info from NomadList to connect you to certain travel information like nearby co-working spaces, where to travel to and places to sleep based on your budget. Both are free and available on most devices.
12. Nomad House
You can sign up to be a member, which gets you a private room in the house, access to the Nomad House amenities in that city, hi-speed Internet and a network of other nomads. Think of it as hostel meets co-working space. Locations include Bali, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, London, Berlin and Saigon.
If you work on unsecured WiFi networks often, you may want to consider Cloak. Cloak provides you a private VPN to secure your network connection. Currently, it is only available on Apple devices. First 30 days are free, and then plans start at $2.99/month.
15. Find a Nomad
Find other nomads near you for free. You can message other nomads directly and even plan your travels around places with a high concentration of nomads so you do not get lonely.
Dropbox is a necessity for sharing large files that are difficult to send over email. If you are a freelancer, it is also a great tool for organizing your work. Just upload your documents into project folders and message your employer when your work is completed.
Dropbox is also great for teams since there are shared folders and you can store all the documents everyone needs in one place. It makes working across corners of the globe much easier.
Dropbox provides a free 30-day subscription and for $15/month per user, you can have access to as much space as needed. Dropbox also has file encryption and remote wiping, which can come in handy if you lose devices often like I do.
My iPhone is cursed and has crashed several times. Box has helped me save my photos from being lost when this happens. Box provides you 10GB of cloud storage for free; so backup your photos so you never lose them again. Box also provides a lot of other services that are helpful for teams such as sharing capabilities and business plans start at $5/month.
These are just some of my favorite tools. Resources are changing constantly so you may want to stay up to date by subscribing to a newsletter for digital nomads, such as Remotive, which was featured on Product Hunt for the latest and greatest tools and reviews. What hacks and tools have you used to make the life on the road easier, more profitable, and more interesting?