How to Run a Business While Traveling
Well, it's been way too long, but it's finally time again! I'm headed back to Europe for a quick 2 weeks on a new adventure. If you've been following me a while, you'll know I usually travel solo (the best!), but this time I have a very special sidekick...Mama B.
(she’s the smiley one in the middle)
If you didn't already know, Mama B is a beast of a triathlete, and I follow her all around the world while she competes in some of the toughest Ironman races out there. This month is the world championship Ironman 70.3 race in Nice, France.
Like a good daughter, I talked her into trying to qualify, then invited myself along to assume my usual role as sherpa, photographer, chef, head cheerleader, and now tour guide/translator, as she hasn't been to Europe since she was a kid.
The race is only one day, so we'll have plenty of time to explore and hop around, see some good art, and I also have a few goals to reach for my business.
One of the benefits of the way I (intentionally) set up my creative business is that I can pretty much work from anywhere.
I know this is not everyone's goal, but as I enjoy traveling and living in new places, I wanted to make sure my business and lifestyle were aligned.
When I started out block printing 9 years ago, I was selling my prints at art shows and in local shops. That was fun and exciting, and it was really cool to see my products on the shelves and meet my customers in person.
However, it also made me feel very trapped. If I received a big order, I would have to clear my schedule and work in my studio for a few days and up to a week at a time to get it done by the deadline.
The process would start out as enjoyable, but making the same thing, hour after hour was honestly very tedious for me, and I came to start dreading those orders. I also felt like after the stores took their cut it wasn't really worth my time.
I soon realized that if I really wanted to make a living with my art, I either had to narrow it down to one high end product that I made to order, or come up with a better way to create income (aka, not a physical product).
This created (and still creates) a divide in what I really want out of my business. The desire to make things has always competed with my desire to work completely digitally and without the need of a studio.
One of the ways that I've tested this balance is to work while traveling. I started doing this a few years ago and realized I could get by without a studio and still teach via the interwebs.
Sure, it's not as convenient, and I can’t make a huge mess like I want, but it works. Most of the time I just need a table, some good light, and an internet connection.
If you've ever wanted to run things from the road, this is a good opportunity to see how one person makes it work. As an artist and freelancer, I always find it helpful to see what other people are doing.
Here’s a breakdown on what my goals are for the next two weeks, what I'm packing on my trip, and more.
This trip will just be about 2 weeks, so I’m not super stressed about packing this time. The last few trips I’ve done have been 1-2 months, so there was a lot more planning involved.
We’ll be starting in Paris, then making our way down to Nice, then stopping a few other places before heading back to Paris.
In general, when traveling I try and bring as little as possible so I can avoid schlepping heavy luggage around…especially on longer trips.
Now, am I good at this? That’s up for debate, but every trip I get a little better!
Besides the essentials, clothes, shoes, toiletries, etc, I have to think of what I want to focus on for work…and any supplies I may need.
For this trip I’ll fortunately be working mostly from my laptop, writing and creating content for the next few months.
My block printing supplies are pretty easy to toss in my bag, but I’m not going to try and get my sharp carving tools through TSA. If I want to carve stuff during the trip I’ll have to buy a set abroad…if I can find it (50/50 chance).
Sooo, mostly I’m planning on writing and sketching while I’m away. Here’s what I am bringing with me so far:
Mini tripod (for impromptu videos)
Pencils, pens, etc
And that’s pretty much it I think. If I was staying a month I would probably bring my block printing supplies for some projects, but I also know I won’t be solo this time and won’t be working as much.
Working solo on your own thing is not easy. You have to have discipline to move forward daily, meet deadlines, know what to focus on/what to forget, and also push through when you feel like everything is horrible and nothing is working.
Consistency is the most important thing though. If you keep taking the (sometimes painfully small) baby steps, you will get there eventually!
Since moving 5 (!) times in the last 9 months and uprooting my life from one coast to the other, I honestly can’t say I’ve had much motivation to work on my business.
NYC is exhausting, physically, mentally, and it’s taking some time to adjust! This trip will be a good way to get back on track, so I’ve decided that while I’m away I’ll plan on working 3-4 hours a day.
I imagine that some days this plan will go completely out the window, but if I set up a loose schedule in advance, I’ll be more likely to stick to it.
I’m also taking into consideration the habits of my mom and I. For example, we both wake up really early (her first, then me).
I’m the most productive in the morning, so that’s a good time for me to get a few hours of work out of the way before we go do our thing.
For sketching, I usually get ideas when I’m out and about, so I’ll just keep my sketchbook on me and take quick photo references to save for later.
If I need to film anything, it needs to happen early afternoon so I get decent lighting.
At nighttime I can take a look at any sketches I did during the day and any photos I took, then sleepily doodle til the late hours if I feel like it. Less brainpower is needed here :)
Another trick I’ve been using the past few years to keep myself on track is the Pomodoro Technique.
I basically give myself 1 hour to complete something on my list before moving onto the next task, no ifs ands or buts.
This helps with procrastinating SO MUCH! If I only have 1 hour, I’ll finish it much faster than I would have originally, even if I go slightly over the 1 hour limit.
Between keeping a loose schedule, working with my habits rather than against them, and timing tasks, I find that keeping a work schedule while traveling isn’t always that hard.
And of course, if it’s just one of those days where work isn’t going to happen, I’m not too hard on myself. If I take a morning off, then I can come back fresh the next day.
There are a few things I want to get done during the trip. I need to catch up on some writing…emails, blog posts, etc. These I try to do in batches because when I start writing, it’s good to take advantage of that creative flow.
I’m also hoping to design at least 3 new patterns. This might be ambitious, but let’s see how the sketching goes!
Another thing I need to do is plan out content ideas for the next month or two. Remember how I said consistency is the most important thing? Well I suck at it!
I also know that I suck at it, and that taking a few hours to plan ideas out in advance goes a long way for me. To do this, I usually make a list of possible ideas, then plug them into my calendar on Trello.
Seeing what I need to get done visually on a calendar every week makes it more of a reality rather than just passively thinking, “Oh, I should take photos today..”
My favorite part of the plan is to bring you along on my trip with me! That’s why I’m planning out a few posts while I’m in France full of photos, as well as bringing you along with videos on my Instagram.
Stay tuned for pics and progress coming next week!