Depending on the type of person you are, travelling in general can heighten your anxiety levels. Even if it’s for leisure purposes.
When you’re used to working from home, travelling for work can be particularly stressful.
It’s not your day to day norm. You can’t do everything as you usually would. It totally throws you out of your routine, so it’s an understandable pain point.
With that said, it’s an important part of being a freelancer.
Occasional travel for work can be a good break from monotonous cycles. It helps build your character and keeps you in touch with reality; an important check for yourself when you’re used to being relatively insular in a business sense.
Although a worthwhile experience, it can still be straining.
I’ve learned to de-stress travelling for work by having a set of plans and routines in place.
Here are 9 ways to decrease your stress levels when travelling for business as a work from home freelancer.
1. Clear Your Decks
When travelling, it’s harder to be as responsive.
Anything that absolutely has to be done during the time period you’re travelling should be finished before you set off.
There’s no fun in trying to find a quiet corner of an airport to put a website live on slow Wi-Fi, believe me.
Prioritise these tasks above less involving work in the days before you’re due to travel.
2. Be Realistic With Your Schedule
In my experience, you can’t work exactly as you would from home when travelling.
On a train or plane it’s not so bad, even if you’re only actually seated for a part of your travel duration. Good luck if you’re driving, however.
Take this into account when booking work.
If you have a day, or a few days of travel coming up, lighten your load for this period.
If you over promise while you’re restricted by travel, you’ll end up letting people down.
Knowing how to be transparent about your limitations is of high value in general. In this instance, it’s no different. People hold honesty in high regard.
Try not to arrange meetings or agree to deadlines that could be significantly influenced by your travel plans. It’s less stressful for you and less frustrating for others that way.
3. Inform Your Clients In Advance
You’ll likely have more than one client as a freelancer. Travelling to meet with one client will often make it difficult for you to service others.
It’s important to make your client base aware of your current schedule. If this involves downtime due to travelling for work, be open about it; managing expectations is one of your most significant jobs as a freelancer.
Conventionally, it’ll not be for weeks on end that you’re away. Most of the time it’ll be a day or two. And usually, people understand - your clients will often travel for work more than you do.
If you properly inform your clients about your plans in advance, it will reduce the amount of chasing-type emails and calls while you’re on the move. This will in turn reduce the stress of the scenario.
4. Take Care Of Things At Home
When you’re always at home, you take it for granted that things there will get done and be taken care of.
There’s the bigger daily responsibilities like taking the kids to school or walking the dog. Plus the smaller things that are inconvenienced by your travelling, such as someone being in to accept deliveries.
Not being home as a remote working freelancer is often a hinderance to whole running of the household. You have these daily responsibilities that contribute to the smooth running of things that you won’t be able to fulfil and alternative arrangements need to be made.
To relieve yourself of worry, as you would when going on holiday, don’t overlook getting things in order at home before you travel for work.
5. Book The Extras
I’m a firm believer that you should always invest in the tools and equipment that allow you to perform to the best of your abilities.
Like having a well-kitted out dedicated office at home, you should invest in your experience when you travel.
It easy to think, “I’ll not need a £5 fast track pass through airport security” at the time of booking. That is until you’re stuck in the queue with only 20 minutes to boarding.
In reality, the money you outlay on some upgrades is earned back ten-fold in time saved and it helps decrease the overall travel tension.
- Paying extra for a hotel in the best location with good Wi-fi.
- Upgrading to a first class quiet carriage on the train.
- Taking an express train over the slower variety.
- Using meet and greet parking right outside the airport terminal.
- Booking an airport lounge.
A small aside - I’d list business class flights here too, but in my opinion they’re only worth it:
- On long haul when you can earn back a similar amount from working onboard (which is still hard when the flights are so expensive).
- If you have an important engagement right off the flight that you need to be on your toes for.
With that being said, in general, book the extras.
6. Research Your Destination
You’ve arrived at your destination. Where are you going? How will you get from the train station to the meeting venue? How will you get from the airport to the hotel?
This is can be a taxing experience without proper research.
I’m not saying you should plan everything from the thread to the needle, but it’s good to have some idea on how your visit to a new place will flow before you get there.
To illustrate my point:
I once arrived in Oslo thinking the done thing was to get a taxi to the city from the airport. ~£120, an hour and a few jokes from my colleagues later, it became clear I should have got the train for ~£10 taking 19 minutes.
It’ll help your trip run smoother if you take the time to research your destination in advance.
7. Do Everything Earlier Than You Think You Need To
This can be hard for a one-person businesses when time is precious.
However, one of the biggest stress relievers for me when I travel is to always give myself plenty of time.
I hate being late for anything, but especially meetings. I feel that being late is being disrespectful of another person’s time.
As a busy freelancer, you’re always trying to use your time in the most productive way possible. Despite that, don’t leave your travel margins too fine.
Start your drive an hour before you have to. Get the train one earlier than you think you need to. Fly a day in advance if you can. Try to give yourself a buffer for any unforeseen circumstances that could cause you to be in a rush.
Rushing is one of the biggest causes of stress. And, when you’re rushing, you don’t make the best decisions.
Give yourself plenty of time when travelling for work to de-stress the event.
8. Budget For The Costs
Consider the fact that while you’re giving one client your undivided attention you can’t bill anyone else.
If you’re travelling to meet a lead you often can’t bill anything at all.
There’s the none-obvious costs too, like paying someone to walk your dog while you’re away.
Travelling for business as a freelancer means you’ll need to discuss who’ll cover what costs.
Will the client you’re travelling on behalf of pay for your expenses? Direct travel costs, accommodation, food and drink?
Make sure you have an agreement in place regarding expenses before you take the trip. This will help you steer clear of any awkward conversations afterwards.
Going out to meet a client is a big commitment for a freelancer. It’s an investment of time and money.
Try to mitigate any financial nervousness by making sure it’s worth your while before you commit.
9. Book-End Periods Of Travel With Office Or Rest Days
Even though I find big value in travelling for work now and again, as someone who is used to working from home, I need to recharge my batteries when it’s over.
If you know you have a period of travel coming up, try to plan for a day on either side of this where you’re fully office based.
Use the day before your journey to properly prepare. Clear the decks, talk to your clients, fix up your schedule, research your destination and plan how things will work out at home.
On the day of your return, depending on how long you’ve been out of the office for, it can be helpful to put off any meetings too.
This gives you a chance to return any emails you’ve missed and do any post-trip administrative work, alongside getting your head back into your projects.
Better still, take a day off to give yourself a genuine rest after an intense trip.
Travelling to meet leads, work with clients and go to conferences can be a stressful time for a work from home freelancer.
Nevertheless, it has its benefits and I’d encourage any regular remote worker to do so from time to time.
Give yourself the best opportunity of positively gaining from the experience by de-stressing the situation as much as possible.