Travelling as a freelance web designer is relatively simple because it’s just you and the client, but travelling as a web designer who works within a team/agency can really be a challenge! Being an owner of a business, you always think that there is never a good time to take a holiday and when you finally do it, it always seems like the worse time possible. But you just have to realise that there is never a good time to take a holiday and you just have to commit to it before you go crazy!
My holiday was scheduled to run for three and a half weeks – the longest break I’ve had in years. It wasn’t easy (I had my nerves in stitches for weeks leading up to my departure)! The week I left, I was in the middle of three projects, with two new projects scheduled to start while I was away. It certainly didn’t feel like a good time to leave but my tickets were booked and paid for so there was no going back. Before I knew it, I was a plane on the way to the USA!
Working while travelling – the first steps
The first thing to get sorted when you land is to get access to Internet! Instead of doing anything complicated with travel data packs or tethering I simply bought a prepaid sim with a lot of data (5GB – luckily the data ran out one day before our flight back home) and used that in my phone (and occasionally swapped sim cards to check messages and voicemails), and that was done!
The next big expense was hotel WiFi. I was super lucky as my brother-in-law (who I was travelling with) had a Platinum membership on all the hotels we stayed in, which gave him free WiFi for pretty much the whole trip. Excellent! Given that hotel WiFi isn’t always the best, you do need to plan ahead and expect things won’t upload or download quickly, especially when you’re trying to upload a large PSD. Unlike Australia, it really isn’t too hard to find free WiFi in the USA, whether you’re in a plane or in the movies – if there is a will, there is a way.
The next thing to conquer is apps, including which apps to use for communication and presentations. Below are the main apps I used while I was abroad:
I personally found that the app for communicating with the team back home was Facebook Messenger as it combines messaging, video calls and voice calls all in the one app. Given I had a local sim in my phone, this worked out to be the best option for sure.
We use inVision for a few different purposes. The main use is to upload a web design PSD into inVision and annotate what each element is so that the client is able to view the design in a browser as well as make comments on their end on the exact element that they’re talking about – no back and forth emails are needed to figure out which part of the site they’re talking about.
The other way we use inVision is in my handover notes to go from designer to developer so that we’re all on the same page. I’ll make notes on elements on how I envisioned them to work, function or any animation that I would like them to have. The final way I use inVision is when the website development is almost complete and I do a quality assurance on the visual part of the website – I’m able to screenshot the page using the inVision Chrome plugin and make notes as to what I think might need to be adjusted to match the design better. So from start to end I’m able to use inVision to communicate both with the client and the developer to get everything signed off without having to make a call or send an email.
We use Asana internally as our project management app which just helps us list out each little task that needs to be completed and who is in charge of them. Some instances we go into detail with the tasks just so nothing is missed especially when launching a website, like remembering to turn off the blocking of search engines on a live website.
I bet you didn’t see that one coming! Most of us are on SnapChat in the office so it was handy to just see what everyone is up to in the office and to help share things you see while you’re out and about.
Keeping an eye on the bank account is always something you do as a business owner. Me being the super worst-case scenario type of thinker I never logged into my bank account while on any of the WiFi networks as you never know who else is on that network!
The final thing to consider when travelling abroad is time zones and time management. Being in the USA, it did work out pretty well considering it was almost the opposite time of the day compared to Australia. Most days it was us leaving our hotel room by 8-9am and spending most of the day out and about. We would hit a peak tiredness by 4-5pm, where we would head back to the hotel room for a rest.
This is when I would check my emails and do a bit of work. Considering it was now office hours in Brisbane, I was able to get replies and make progress pretty quickly. Being in the USA, everything is open until late (unlike in Brisbane), so we would head out to dinner or more sight seeing around 8pm. By the time we made it back it would generally be around 11pm-Midnight, in which I would do another quick check of emails and work before passing out and doing it all over again the next day. Don’t get me wrong, this is super exhausting but manageable if you work in some breaks within your holiday schedule (however, it was difficult to be on the go every single day and by the 3rd week we were ready to go home).
Fil is Studio Culture’s Design and Development Director.