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Taking your editing or proofreading service on the road: The nitty-gritty

Posted on 6th November 2017

I will try to keep this blog post fairly superficial because many of the issues that affect visas and travel are specific to where you are from and where you are going. Also, some countries change their rules and regulations quite often so I don't want this to be out of date as soon as I upload it. (And fear not, I don't even mention Brexit!)

First things first, I am a British citizen, travelling with a British passport and am still registered as a sole trader in the UK.

Rather than going into too much personal detail, I thought it would be useful to provide a list of some of the questions that I consider before determining where to go and whether I am allowed to work there:

  • What are the country's visa requirements?
  • How long am I allowed to stay without registering in the country?
  • How long am I allowed to stay if I choose to register (not for tax but in the EU, often if you stay more than 3 months, you are meant to register with the police)?
  • Is my insurance valid in the country?
  • Is the country safe to visit? (UK-focused but worth checking on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.)
  • Is the internet service reliable and open? For example, would clients be happy to send confidential documents to the country where I am staying?
  • Is the country safe? This covers issues about whether I'll feel comfortable doing things independently from Pete and also whether the accommodation and transport options are secure – I can't plan for all eventualities but certain places have reputations and I might not choose to take those risks.
  • Do I need any particular inoculations or medication? This might just be booster jabs for tetanus, typhoid, polio and diphtheria but I also check on things such as if I'll need malaria tablets or my yellow fever certificate (having had the jab in 2008 and that now being considered valid for life).

Insurance

I've had my wisdom teeth out in Germany, albeit when I had local healthcare, my appendix removed in China and I was bitten by a dog in Argentina so I have enough personal experience to say insurance is essential! The cost and availability vary dramatically depending on your home country, where you're travelling, whether you want the service to cover possessions and high-value goods and what sort of excess you want to pay so shop around and find the cover that suits you and your business needs.

When I first took my proofreading service on the road, I was able to get standard insurance from a general provider in the UK for 18 months and that was cheap and comprehensive. However, once I could no longer say I'd been permanently in the UK for the previous 6 months, these options were no longer available and I have since had to switch to more nomad-specific insurance. I went with True Traveller, but I know lots of people also use World Nomad. I am sure that more options will become available as the world's workforce becomes more location-independent so do check there aren't other services available when you're ready to buy your insurance. We pay extra to cover walking at altitude and a few more sports and activities, though we don't ski so that saves us quite a bit. The advantage of the nomad-specific insurance is that you can buy it when you're already travelling and you can extend it too.

Health concerns are one of my biggest worries while travelling so I have to feel confident that the insurance company is pleasant to deal with and quick to respond to queries. We usually have enough questions in advance of buying the insurance that we get a feel for this from a provider and I recommend this approach to others looking to get their cover. It's very easy to click all the buttons for a pre-programmed quote but it's worth asking a few probing questions and being reassured that you are getting the cover you want from a company you are happy with. Oh, and if you have a pre-existing condition, don't ignore it! I had to pay all of an extra £17 for 18-month cover for a pre-existing issue so it's not worth running the risk on.

I also carry quite an extensive first-aid kit and if I have prescribed medication, I make sure to keep the packaging with my name and details on it and also at least one copy of the full medication details in case border controls want to know what it is. It is also worth being sure it's OK to take certain medications into specific countries.

Banking and UK tax

I pay a monthly fee for my current account but this gives me free cash withdrawals around the world, thus saving me a lot in fees. I also have a credit card that charges no fees for purchases. It's probably worth checking an up-to-date list of accounts that offer these services but here's a (slightly out of date) overview. I receive all my statements electronically and make the most of all the online services, though I do also have phone banking just in case I need a secondary option.

If you need to check if you will still be liable/able to pay tax in the UK, you can do a residency test on the government website. I think there's a two-way consideration: the ties to your home country and the potential ties to a second country if you choose to stay there a long time. I specifically don't stay in any countries long enough to fall into this category, and at present I am still sufficiently tied to the UK. If I were to buy a house abroad or spend long periods of time in one country, this might affect the ties to the UK and I would need to review the situation. If that were to happen, my personal approach would be to speak to an accountant/tax adviser in both the UK and the 'new' country to be sure I am up to speed with the situation.

As for the practicalities of doing my tax return, I have always filed my tax returns online and now also ensure I receive all communication by email/via the online portal. I make online payments and everything functions exactly as it did when I was permanently in the UK.

HMRC log-in now requires you to input a code sent to a mobile phone number so that is one thing to consider. I believe there are options for if you have no phone signal but I haven't used these. I always do my returns in advance anyway but in this lifestyle, I certainly wouldn't be keen to use online service at the last minute.

Again, I am more than happy to discuss these elements in more detail via Skype if you want more specific details, and many of these issues will be the same even if you aren't a proofreader or editor. One thing to consider though is that I do not advertise my services or look for work in the countries I visit, nor do I sell physical products purchased abroad. If you do either of these, I might not be so much help but I'll see what I can do.

Written by Kate Haigh.