Six tips on keeping a business running while moving countries (and continents):
1. Remember that instant internet access is not an automatic right in every developed country. Even when you’re willing to pay handsomely for the privilege. Finding yourself unexpectedly “internet-less” can be a source of enormous stress when you’re trying to maintain a modicum of professionalism during a potentially turbulent period in your personal life (a clash we freelancers find ourselves grappling with far more frequently than we like to admit, I’m sure). And it’s easy to get caught up in the frustration, which doesn’t solve anything. You’ll know this is happening to you if you find yourself starting thoughts with, “It’s hardly the back of beyond. Surely, in this day and age, I’ll be able to just…?”. Surely nothing, my friend. The only way forward is to accept it, get over it, and get on with it. And make sure you plan for it the next time (bearing in mind point 2, below).
3. Forget fancy productivity tools and go back to basics. Pen, small notebook – it’s not pretty, but you’ll be glad of it when you find you’re still living out of rucksack two months after your move date. (Yes, you heard me. I lived out of a rucksack for two months 🙂 ).
4. Forget getting things done, because you won’t. If you’ve chosen to keep working while you move, then focus number one has to be work. You’ll be doing well to do much else beyond that. Even the most basic tasks take so much longer without the knowledge that comes from being familiar with your environs. Just get the basics sorted (internet, place to live… in that order) and don’t worry too much about the little things (beds, cups, curtains, blog posts, etc). There’ll be plenty of time to sort that out later.
5. They might speak your language, but it doesn’t mean you won’t find things “foreign”. Don’t let that scare you! And I mean this with all clichés and stereotypes aside. As an Irish woman, I thought I’d worked this out after 6 years in London. I had moved to the UK almost on a dare, with very little real knowledge of the country or its culture. (And it was very hard for a long time.) In contrast, I thought I knew what I was letting myself in for with my move to Australia. I’ve had close ties to a certain special Australian for ten years now, and have made several trips out here, including an eight-month working stint in 2001. But still, it surprises me how Australian society feels more foreign to me than any European country I’ve ever lived in. Language really is only the tip of the iceberg.
My advice? There’s nothing for it but to pack a set of open eyes, ears and mind, take a deep breath in and strap yourself in for the ride. Another blogger I know captures this with great wit and intelligence over here, where he blogs about his experience as a Brit on an MBA in the US.
6. Have fun! Moving countries and starting again from scratch is an invaluable albeit extreme way to gain perspective on all aspects of your personal and professional life. Keeping your freelance business running while you relocate may seem stressful, but it’s well worth it. It creates a starting point in your new life, which adds structure, opens doors and acts as an anchor to what it was you liked about the “old you”. Best of all, you’ll remember what you like about your job, and why you wanted it to be part of your new life. You may even find you enjoy working more than you have for a long time. So don’t be in too much of a hurry to get straight back into the same set-up you had before you moved, either in work or in play. Instead, make the time to stop and smell the frangipanis.
Take it all in. Make the effort to capture your experiences, impressions and feelings whatever way you can. You’ll be glad you did when you have time to make sense of it some day, maybe from your rocking chair on the verandah.