It’s been roughly 12 hours since I snapped an image of Melbourne’s sunrise from aboard my flight. It feels surreal to be back from my temporary digital nomad lifestyle, back in my room folding away clothes, and even stranger getting sunburnt.
Although it’s not clear to me that I now need to cycle on the left hand-side of the road and wear a helmet, I know one thing for sure:
Do this, and you’ll build trust with your clients, credibility with your brand, and maintain a regular client base for the duration of your adventure.
There’s a litany of methods and apps to help you improve, but here are the 5 ways I would personally optimise my next trip for smoother client management and a more sustainable digital nomad lifestyle.
Know your exact time zone
I encountered this problem when I first landed. And if I’m going to be honest here, it was a problem I was still encountering up until my last week. My problem? I kept getting the time zones mixed up. My first mistake was a rookie error - I thought I had a Skype call with a client at 830am, and it was actually 730am. Easy mistake, given it was my first day abroad. But the second and third times? They could have easily been avoided.
My problem was that I was making meetings with clients based on three different time zones. For example, I was in Berlin, scheduling a call for London time for the week I would be there. I would then forget to adjust my Google calendar from Berlin time to London time. Ugh. Frustration, apologies and head slamming ensue.
Key take away: If you’re using Google calendar, make sure you manually set your time-zone. I made the error of assuming I’d set it to automatic, but I hadn’t. If you have in your mind that you need to manually set it, I’d wager that you probably would, rather than relying on a machine to do the job for you.
- Open your Google Calendar.
- Click the Settings drop-down menu at the top right.
- Click Settings.
- Click the drop-down menu next to your current time zone to select the time zone.
- Click Save.
Premium conference call quality is always best
Do you like to use video during your Skype meetings so that you can form a genuine connection with your clients? I know that I do, and it also prevents us talking over the top of one another if we have visual cues for responsiveness.
Unfortunately, Skype’s connection works better when you turn video OFF. I’m almost certain my clients assumed I was lounging about in my pyjamas instead of turning on video. But I maintain that it was for the sake of me not having to ask them to repeat themselves.
Key take away: turn video off, or use an alternative:
Google Hang Outs – free and easy to use. Not my favourite, as many of my clients don’t actively use Google.
Voxox – free and paid calls like Skype, but with arguably better call quality.
Appear.in - my personal favourite. Free to use, just create a URL for others to paste into their browser and voila! You’ve just created a virtual meeting room.
Get tech-savvy and avoid roaming charges + missed calls
I bought a new sim card in Berlin because it was cheaper than buying a data pack through Optus. This was great for calls and texts within the country, but I couldn’t call overseas numbers (which wasn’t explained to me at the store. German customer service is very…um…laissez fair?). So because I didn’t have my Australian sim card in, and my clients didn’t have my German number, we couldn’t communicate via one of our usual mediums - the phone. It’s not often that a client will call me out of the blue, but I understand it’s disconcerting to find your supplier’s phone is turned off.
My regular clients knew I was travelling. But for potential clients who I hadn’t yet spoken with, they could have easily gotten frustrated with not receiving a call-back and just gone elsewhere. This was a huge oversight on my part.
Key take away: This requires a little bit of technical knowledge, but you can actually divert your mobile number to divert to your Skype app on your mobile, which then diverts to your overseas number. Hey presto! You can connect with clients back home AND avoid roaming charges.
Set up your virtual Do Not Disturb sign
I’m a huge fan of an email app called Airmail, bar one major flaw – you can’t set up an auto-responder. It’s such a beautiful app, but it pains me that I can’t set up an out-of-office reply. I also love Spark for my iPhone, but I can’t set up an auto-responder using that app either.
However, iOS and Mac’s Mail app have their own auto-responder functionality. I’m not a fan of these apps, but for the sake of having a professional auto-responder, I’ll put up with their poorly designed interface temporarily. If you have clients who like to live in their inboxes, an auto-responder is like a virtual Do Not Disturb sign. They won’t bother you until you’re out of transit - hopefully!
Honesty is always the best policy
When I was approaching my departure date back in September, I was in two minds about whether to be upfront about my global gallivanting. Should I tell clients that I was going to be temporarily roaming Europe, living out of my suitcase? Or should I pretend that I really, really prefer 630am call times. In my opinion, any lack of disclosure reeks of shadiness. In hindsight, I wish I’d swallowed my pride and told every client of my whereabouts. I now know for the future that honesty, as always, is the best policy. Your mother was right.
Granted, I’m relatively new to the digital nomad life. And if I’m going to take my own advice, I’ll be honest and say it’s not a label I can rightfully claim. I still call Melbourne home, and will for the next couple of months. But as I’ve found with most conflicts in life, communication really is key. Learn to harness your communication skills, and the technology to help you do it with ease, and your whole life will improve - not just your work.