With rapid developments in technology many business owners can now choose to live in and work from locations all around the world. Some choose to work from somewhere with a better climate than the UK, while others are drawn to places that have more affordable property.
So if you’re fed up with grey skies or overpriced housing, is it feasible for you to relocate and run your own business from another country? Dave Millet of Equinox Comms, outlines what you need to consider;
I can remember a colleague from many years ago who used to commute from Leeds to London on a near daily basis. However, with the rise of the internet and telecoms technologies it not just the far flung parts of the UK that people are choosing to work from these days. There has been a large rise in the number of overseas commuters and workers.
Different groups relocating outside the UK
Their business and customers may be in the UK but they are choosing to work from anywhere. Part of this has been driven by the high cost of housing in the UK. A 1000 square foot apartment on the Costa del Sol would cost about £120,000 compared to about £800,000 in say Greenwich.
The people who are relocating abroad seem to split into three main types:
1. The regular commuter
These individuals, instead of doing a few hours traveling to and from work every day – do 4 or 5 hours twice a week. Perhaps working in the UK Monday to Thursday and staying with friends or in a small apartment and then going home to family for the weekend.
2. The self-employed business person
Business owners who only need to meet clients occasionally and can run their business and carry on work from anywhere.
3. The corporate global employee
The company executive who is regularly traveling away from home and family for much of their time anyway and might as well have their base anywhere.
It is not just housing costs that are fuelling this trend but also the cost of travel. A Brighton to London railway season ticket is now £4,452 – that can pay for quite a few air trips if booked well in advance.
What technology do you need to have when working abroad?
So what technology does the global remote worker need to fulfil this different type of lifestyle and what does it cost?
Firstly, broadband is not always available where you think it is abroad. However even this is being addressed with the rapid growth of mobile data in countries where traditional infrastructure is more limited.
For those that see Europe as their base the change in roaming charging in 2017, meaning that mobiles and data dongles can be used anywhere without extra charge, will help cap costs.
Of course, if the UK votes to leave the EU that might well change but so then will many other factors affecting the overseas worker.
Assuming you have managed to secure reasonable broadband access and don’t want to wait until 2017 or are outside the EU then VoIP apps for around £10 a month let you have a UK number both for incoming and outgoing calls.
So even when you call clients you can appear to be in UK. Although if they ask you to pop round for a meeting the following day – you may have to plead a full diary.
Voice and video conferencing
Thirdly the cost of professional voice and video conferencing plus collaboration packages has fallen dramatically. Plus there are plenty to choose from with most allowing you to connect with anyone that has a web cam on their chosen device and no need to install special software.
The more sophisticated ones will include screen and document sharing as well as whiteboarding. Some good quality ones can be had for around £30 a month.
Skype is free providing the client you want to talk too uses Skype but it can be expensive for contacting non Skype users. It also does tend to give the game away that you are a small business and working remotely so if that’s something you want to disguise, you’re better off going with a good quality paid-for option.
Also in most recent years Skype has had a major outage for several days. If you are working remotely that could sabotage your business. Given how much you are saving on housing and commuting less than £100 a month for broadband, VoIP and video conferencing / collaboration is not such a bad deal.
Online accounting system
Online accounting software allow you to access and update your accounts from anywhere in the world as long as you have broadband access.
There are now lots of different cloud accounting packages options available. For more information on the various options, read our guide on How to choose the best online accounting software for your business.
If there are more than one of you working remotely, then the advent of cloud storage such as Dropbox means files can be readily shared and worked on without the need for a server.
When visiting the UK
Finally, when visiting the UK with the availability of free WiFi you don’t even need an office. We have all seen people huddled over the laptops in coffee shops seeing how long they can make a double decaff latte last.
The challenges to running your business from overseas
So what are the challenges? Can anything replace that face to face meeting to build a relationship? Certainly it is easier for an established business owner to change his or her location where clients are already settled and new ones come through recommendation.
Time differences if you stray too far away from Greenwich Mean Time could create issues and mean you don’t get to enjoy the lifestyle of your new location.
The size of the world is getting smaller and someone working in Normandy is geographical closer to London than someone in Cumbria. So with improving and cheaper technology it is likely these trends will continue.
And finally, you won’t be surprised to learn that I divide my time between my office in London and my place in Spain, from where I wrote this.
About the author
This article has been written for ByteStart by Dave Millett who runs Equinox, a leading independent brokerage and consultancy firm. Dave works with many companies, charities and other organisations and has helped them achieve savings of up to 80%. He also regularly advises telecom suppliers on improving their products and propositions.
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