Keys to Effective Communication: Advice from Digital Nomads

by on May 23, 2017 in Remote

As a digital nomad, there is perhaps no skill more important to have than communication. When your job depends on communicating with people who are scattered across the world, it’s essential to have certain habits in place. It may seem obvious, but being an effective communicator is not as easy as it sounds.

So I decided to ask some successful digital nomads what their secrets to effective communication are. Here’s what they had to say…

1. Jessica Noële Dewitt, Visual Designer

Realizing there isn’t one solution for how to communicate effectively while on the road is my biggest realization. All of my clients have their own preferred ways to communicate and as a digital nomad, flexibility and adaptability are my top priority. My ultimate goal is to make communicating with me as easy as possible. As a result, my job, and now tools in my toolkit, is to be aware of all possible ways to share files: Google Drive, Dropbox, Box and how to communicate; everything from the tried and true email, to Zoom and Appear.in for video conferencing, to Trello, Slack, and Basecamp for project management. There is no wrong platform—but beyond platforms, be clear about where you are, what time zone you are in and when you are available. Clarity is the best way to manage expectations and get everyone on the same page.

When keeping myself organized, I am still a notebook and pen lady, but also rely on Teuxdeux as my digital to-do list, XE Currency for exchange rates and Every Time Zone to help with the math of figuring out time zones (so you never miss a meeting or call because you did your time zone math wrong). Finally, Katherine Conway and Peter Knudson’s book, The Digital Nomad Survival Guide, has been my everything in regards to how to be a successful digital nomad.

2. Alice Ko, Morning Bird at @LoveYourMornings and Founder of Pivot Six

I have two tips!

  1. Always set realistic and clear expectations of when you will be online, be available to chat over text, for phone calls and reply to messages. Making sure the rest of your team knows your availability is key to maintaining everyone’s sanity, balance and productivity. 

  2. Be open to using a variety of platforms for different types of messaging. For example, my team uses Whatsapp for urgent questions and messages. This has been helpful as we all know to always respond to Whatsapp messages before going through emails. We use emails for non-urgent requests and UberConference for conference calls. We always record our calls so that one of us can go back and refer to the conversation if things were not clear.

3. Chris Peloquin, Digital Nomad currently traveling and working while exploring a new city each month with Remote Year

The best tool to effective communication is the internet and making sure you are connected to the world. This can be done in a variety of ways (SIM cards, coffee shops, coworking spaces, T-Mobile international plan, etc.). In order to be effective at communicating, you have to have a connection. This takes planning, and if you are unable to communicate, you must make that known. Once you can plan your connectivity, then you must simply discipline yourself to do what you need to do and make yourself available whenever you need to be, so that [even if] a person has no idea where you are or what you are doing, as long as you are producing, that is all that counts.

4. Carol Schulte, Speaker, Coach, Creator of Women Living BIG

Every new city you arrive in, take a day to get settled, set up your WiFi and local SIM card, and then find out the top coffee shops with reliable internet access!

5. Casey Hekker, Digital Nomad working in advertising technology while traveling the globe as a participant of Remote Year

I have a full time job where I work NYC hours to ensure complete communication with my team at home, as well as my clients. I have all sorts of resources at my fingertips, including Gmail, Slack, Google Hangouts, Whatsapp, Facetime, Zoom, Skype, Bluejeans, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. It’s almost an exhaustive list of ways to stay in touch and I feel like I am always able to communicate with the people I need to (both for work and personal), using any one of these ways. One thing that I always have to keep in mind, however, is how to “unplug” and enjoy my time abroad, making sure I [am] living in the moment and enjoying who I [am] with instead of being connected constantly. I try to put myself on “airplane mode” for at least two hours a day and enjoy the people I’m with and fully engage in what I’m doing.

6. Sila Nur Isik, Wanderluster, Globetrotter, Digital Nomad at Mind the Ad

I believe maintaining effective communication and setting clear goals are key to set up the perfect remote working environment, both for the employer and employees. To enable working from wherever we are, there are many online tools that are available for us to use, in order to support collaboration and project management. To name a few, I recommend Evernote, Google Apps, Skype (or zoom), Slack and Basecamp.

7. Noe Rios, Social Media Copywriter at Ayzenberg, traveling and working remotely with Remote Year

I think the biggest thing for me has been creating a routine and sticking to it. I plan my day so that I have a few hours of overlap with regular office hours back home and I stay in constant communication with my co-workers via Slack, which has apps for iOS and for my work computer.

8. Anne Hardeveld, Marketer

What I noticed most about communication while working remotely is that it’s important to use the right communication tool per message. E-mail is fine for assignment instructions, time-sensitive messages via Whatsapp, SMS, Slack, e-mail, and I like to discuss the more complex matters through a video call (Zoom or Skype). Furthermore, setting expectations is very important. I always tell my clients in what timeframe they can expect an answer, a follow-up, or any other input. Once people are dissatisfied or expectations are not met, it is very hard to re-establish the same level of trust or relationship when working from a distance. These are some of the initial ideas that came to mind. If you would like more input, feel free to let me know! You can also email me at hello@annehardeveld.com.

9. Monika Mundell, Business Strategist & Copywriter for female entrepreneurs

I’m a pen and paper girl. I work best when I track every appointment and task with my Moleskine bullet journal. I love the combination of using tactile media mixed with my digital business tools such as Gmail (where I collate all of my domain emails), Gdrive (for team and client collaboration), and Dropbox (for cloud storage). Using all of these tools gives me equal opportunities to engage my right and left brain and assures that projects get completed on time.

10. Kate Smith, Travel Blogger and Digital Nomad

Always have a backup and prepare for worst-case scenario. IE: Have a hotspot available in case the internet drops and always be charging your computer. Important calls can come up last minute and the last thing you want is a computer that is about to die with no plugs around you to charge.

11. Julie Kallweit, Creative Travel-Junkie and Co-Founder of WiFi Tribe

Staying productive on the go is not the easiest thing to figure out when you start working remotely. Communication between team members should be your number one focus. If communication is not working, you are not achieving your goals properly, deadlines get delayed and you are running in circles. So let me help you out with my favorite tools and what I’ve learnt in the last couple of years as a remote worker:

  1. Slack – best team chat tool I know. You can organize your team conversations in open channels. Make a channel for a project, a topic or anything, message people directly, have phone/video calls, share files, code snippets…and, the best part, it has hundreds of different integrations to personalize it.

  2. #nomads is a slack group for all remote workers and digital nomads out there. With over 250 channels you can get almost every location independent lifestyle question answered in a couple of minutes. It’s also amazing to meet new people.

  3. Trello is a collaboration tool that helps you to keep track of your different projects, and organizes them in different boards (to-do-lists). It tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process.

  4. Skype or Google Hangout to voice calls or video calls with up to 10 people from all over the world; doesn’t matter if they are on their phone or computer and I can share my screen with them if I need to explain or show them something (easier than team viewer).

  5. Gmail/ Google calendar for more official communication and a free web-based e-mail service. Every team member has its own address and the Google calendar as a time management tool

  6. Streak is a CRM system for your Gmail inbox. You can create as many sales funnels as you want, share them with your team so that everyone is also always up to date regarding your customers. Nice benefits are also the mail view tracker, mail merge, send later and snippets. Don’t want to miss it anymore and why pay for a CRM if you can have it for free.

  7. Grammarly—doesn’t matter if you are a native English speaker or not, Grammarly is an awesome add-on that helps you to get rid of annoying spelling mistakes and makes sure everything you type is easy to read, effective, and mistake-free.

  8. Calendly to schedule appointments. Let it know your availability preferences, share your Calendly links via email or embed it on your website and your customers can pick a time in your calendar, create an event and you are getting notified via mail (works well together with Google calendar).

  9. Franz combines chat & messaging services into one application. Awesome tool to get rid of all the open windows.

12. Micaela Nauman, Digital Nomad and Full-Time Adventurer

To stay connected, I get a SIM card in any country I’m going to be staying in for awhile. The thing about a lot of the places I travel to, SIM cards and data plans are extremely cheap compared to back home. So rather than struggling to look for a cafe or accommodation with lackluster WiFi, I get a SIM card and am immediately able to hotspot my laptop and work with a great connection, as well as having all the apps and resources to stay in touch at my fingertips! As far as programs to stay connected with clients, I like programs like Slack/Ryver because you’re able to chat with the whole team, share files and ping each other for important tasks without sorting though a mountain of emails. Lastly, I’ve made it a habit to being open and honest with my clients at all times about my schedule and ability to have a connection while abroad. I’ve found it’s much easier to build that strong foundation and relationship if I’m open about when I’m going off the grid for adventures, travel days, time zone differences, etc. And plan accordingly ahead of time for projects rather than becoming silent due to a lack of internet. Keep the communication up and there will be no shortage of time for adventuring around the world. 🙂

Summing Up  

Effective communication is all about creating intentional habits and implementing them into your everyday life. And it’s the little things that make all the difference.

It’s getting a new SIM card set up immediately upon arriving in a new city.

It’s keeping your team (and/or clients) informed of your schedule at all times and giving them regular updates on projects.

It’s creating a daily routine and making sure that your schedule coincides with the people you work with.

It’s finding the resources and tools that will help you to effectively communicate, whatever they may be.

It’s planning ahead and remaining prepared for what’s to come.

It’s having a backup ready in case Plan A fails.

It’s setting expectations and establishing trust with the people you work with.

And of course…it’s finding the very best WiFi connection you can find, whether that’s in a beach hut in Thailand or a coffee shop in Paris.

Now tell us…What are some of your tips for effective communication? Are there any that were left off of the list? Share them with us in the comments below.

 

About the author of the post
Mary Blackiston is the Content Marketing Specialist for SUCCESS agency.
  • I love the tip, “Always set realistic and clear expectations of when you will be online.” This holds you accountable and helps your coworkers and clients know how and when to reach you.

    A tip I’d add – Give your task at hand your full attention. From emails to pitches, those on the receiving end can tell if you responded in a rush and with minimal effort.

    Thanks for compiling these tips and tools!

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