Virtual Bookkeeper Insights from The Road

Have you ever dreamed of having the freedom to travel anywhere in the world, and have your business support your mobile lifestyle? Well, it can be done if you're a virtual bookkeeper.

It's been awhile since my last blog post. Did you miss me?

Part of the reason for my absence from the blog has been because I was traveling for an extended time in Indonesia… literally on the other side of the planet.

Do I have a team of bookkeepers to carry on the work in my business for me while I am globetrotting? Nope. I do have a virtual assistant who helps me with my online training programs for TFB and the customer service Help Desk. But my bookkeeping business is all me.

So since I've been running my business 100% virtually from my home office for over 14 years, I thought it was about time to test out what it would feel like to truly run it all from the road for more than a week. My overseas trip was a month long and gave me that opportunity. It was the ultimate virtual bookkeeper test.

Here's what happened with my ‘digital nomad‘ experiment in Southeast Asia…

The Good

Since I know that my concentration is greatly affected by my environment, I prepared a work itinerary so I would not lose track of important dates for critically important tasks that would impact my clients financially (such as the A/P and A/R functions). I also used automation to pre-schedule as much as possible before I left. In my plan I built in some extra time, just in case Internet connectivity was not what I was hoping.

All that pre-planning turned out to be a lifesaver!

Since I knew that I would be heavily reliant on public WiFi for much of my trip, I also used a privacy and security program called Avast SecureLine VPN, which I have been very pleased with so far.

Something that gave me peace of mind was being able to answer questions that came up for my clients while I was away, and they felt no difference in my level of service. A few of them even forgot that I was traveling. (I notified all my clients about my travel plans, just in case something came up while I was in flight. Though of course, Internet was available on most of my flights too.)

The fact that I was still running my business and in touch with my clients, when away from the computer I was free to completely enjoy my new environment and travel activities. It was also nice to have no drop in revenue, which I would otherwise experience as a freelancer on vacation.

The Bad

While I knew that my Internet connections might not always be optimal, it had been 14 years since I'd traveled to Indonesia. So I assumed that connections would be generally much better than they were years ago. Sadly, that was not always the case, even while I was in the big city of Jakarta at a four-star hotel!

Sometimes my WiFi connection was useless for anything more than email. This slowed me down a few days and I had to reschedule my work time for when I would be in a different location. But as mentioned above, fortunately, when the most important work of the month needed to be completed, I had a strong, secure connection.

What I'd Do Differently

In hindsight, I probably should have got an international hotspot so I wouldn't have been as dependent on public WiFi as I was, and wouldn't have to worry about burning through my limited cell phone international roaming and data allotment.

I also would've scheduled more free time on my trip itinerary, since my activities schedule was much more time-consuming than I had expected. So available time to work was less than I thought it would be. (The traffic in Jakarta is outrageous!) Because of this, a few times I needed to be at the computer very early in the morning to get all the essential tasks done.

Conclusion

As a long-time freelance virtual bookkeeper, I'm very grateful that I was in a position to take a month-long trip and still be able to run my business successfully from the road. But I also learned that I don't think I'd want to be a full-time digital nomad backpacking around the world and attempting to keep up with my clients' books at the same time.

While I loved the time difference (I was literally half-a-day ahead), I missed being able to work at my desktop computer with dual monitors and quiet surroundings. I did feel more distracted. And if I was traveling longer term, it would've made online meetings with my clients more difficult.

So my conclusion is that the technology available to us today means we truly can work anytime anywhere. We just need to find the level of virtual that works best for us individually. Even so, having that level of flexibility feels like a gift.

If you ever do bookkeeping work virtually while traveling, what tips can you share from your experience?

By the way, I'm just about ready to release the completely updated version of my popular training program for professional bookkeepers who want to start a virtual bookkeeping business. It's called the Virtual Bookkeepers Guide. So you'll be hearing more about that very soon. So stay tuned if 2018 is the year you want to finally start your bookkeeping business, or you're ready to take your existing practice online or… on the road!

 

Freelance bookkeeper, trainer and consultant who works with internet savvy business owners and bookkeeping professionals to maximize cash flow and build true win-win relationships.

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