Today’s technology-filled world allows us to work in a global economy and connect with people around the world without leaving the comfort of our own office. That said, there are still situations where business travel is a necessary evil and, as an independent contractor, you want to ensure you’re always taking an entrepreneurial approach to travel.
Here are some tips we’ve compiled from speaking with other independent contractors and business owners:
Apply a common sense approach to business travel. Whether it’s a requirement of a client or your next contract is in another city, travel is often necessary for the independent contractor, but you need to ask yourself “Is it really necessary?” Each and every trip needs to be evaluated on its need and on maximizing the return on that investment. Even when your client is reimbursing all travel expenses, it is good business to show you are thinking of their costs, plus there is always your cost of an invaluable asset – time.
Travel takes you away from your regular routine, and therefore, you want to maximize your use of time while still staying on top of your regular commitments. Here are some of the ways to do that:
Maximize your workday in the time zone you’re visiting. If, for example, you travel from Toronto to Calgary, get as early a flight as possible, allowing you to land and begin your workday as early as possible in the Calgary business day.
If we follow the same example, when you leave to go back to Toronto, try to catch as late a flight as possible to ensure you have as much working time as possible with your Calgary client. It means long days, early trips to the airport and late arrivals home, but your trip is as full of available time as possible.
Before leaving home, and before leaving the office to return home, load up on some “readable” To Dos for on the plane. Try saving up work for a few days and plan to complete it on the plane.
Have a plan before you leave!
Be cognizant of the costs of travel and try to minimize them where possible. As mentioned earlier, even if the client is covering your travel expenses, it shows good faith as a contractor to consider their costs. Here are some of the ways to do that:
Never travel business class for work.
Try to book ahead and take advantage of special deals on airfares. Also shop around between airlines, taking the cheapest flight rather than sticking with one airline to build your points/status.
Shop for hotels and take the best deals, never staying in the big name, big price places. Use memberships (CAA) to get good rates, or use Hotwire and other services to help get a good rate.
Don’t eat at fancy restaurants as a general rule, but entertain clients in appropriate manner whenever possible!
Travelling to another location should be all about maximizing your return on investment (both time and money).
Try to keep your regular activities to a minimum.
Spend time with the management and staff at the client’s site.
Take time to network with potential clients, partners or colleagues who live in the city you’re visiting.
Take advantage of training opportunities and local networking events where possible (Note: This definitely requires advanced planning!)
Obviously there are times when things do not fall into place, but as a general rule, you can maximize the effectiveness of your visits and minimize the costs of your visit by using the above guidelines. As a side benefit, you’ll acquire some funny stories to tell about the airport experiences and some of the seedier hotels/motels you may find yourself in.
Do you have any additional tips to maximize your business travel? What about funny stories from your own traveling experiences?