Take Your Writing Outdoors: 9 Tips for Successfully Working Outside

by | Aug 18, 2015 | Freelancing | 21 comments

Ah, the freelance life.

Half the appeal of location-independent work is you can work from anywhere and everywhere.

Since there are still a few weeks of summer left, many freelancers are longing to flock outdoors to meet their deadlines.

But working outside isn’t all fun and games. Instagrammers leave out the parts about the merciless biting horseflies, the noisy neighbor kids, and the never-ending screen glare. What’s a freelancer to do?

Follow these nine tips to maximize your outdoor experience and get some work done.

1. It’s all about the chair

As much as I adore my hammock, it’s not a place to get any work done. It’s hard to do much more than read a book or snooze while swinging back and forth in the breeze.

If you have work to get done, make sure you have a comfortable chair that will get you in a productive mood — and not tempt you to take a midday nap when you’re on deadline.

Some freelancers prefer working at an outdoor desk, small table, or even a lap desk. Experiment with a few options until you find a set-up that works for you.

2. Select your equipment with the outdoors in mind

From an unexpected sprinkler mishap to a gust of wind throwing leaves (or maybe even your coffee) all over your laptop, working outside is not the most hazard-free environment for electronics. For this reason, I don’t bring my regular work computer outside.

Instead, I have a small, inexpensive laptop that I use for travel and outdoor work. I got the machine for a steal, and I’d be pretty bummed if something happened to it — but not nearly as upset as if a cloudburst destroyed my main work machine.

In case you need another reminder: back up your work frequently.

3. Organize your workflow

While some may be able to work outside all day long, I’m not one of those people.

When I venture out for some fresh air and work time, I always bring specific projects with me. I organize my workflow so I can tackle one project at a time, typically for an hour or two, before going back inside to check in on email and regroup.

Everyone finds different ways to work, I prefer my outdoor time to be free of the distractions of email Having a travel laptop actually helps with this: the small screen isn’t great for toggling between open windows and other online tasks.

4. Fight the glare

Glare is the arch-nemesis of the outdoor-loving freelancer. As much as you want to work outside, sometimes it’s tough to see your computer screen.

One option is to face towards the sun and reduce glare on your screen. Another option is just moving to the shade, whether it’s under a tree or umbrella or even in the shade of a building.

Be sure to tinker with your screen settings and the brightness and contrast levels. Increasing these will likely make it easier to see the screen. Or consider buying a laptop hood or sunscreen — or make your own out of an Ikea storage box.

5. Go old-school

You don’t need to haul your laptop outside to get work done. Spending time outdoors can boost your creativity and inspiration, and that’s why it’s a great time for brainstorming, outlining, and other tasks that don’t require being glued to a monitor.

Grab your Moleskin and head outside to dive into your projects.

6. Skip the beach

Despite what location-independent Instagrammers will lead you to believe, the beach is not a great place to get work done.

Never mind the distractions of surf, sand, sun, and swimsuits. While those are a fun combination, they’re the enemy of your electronics. No matter how careful you are, it seems like sand and water have their way of getting everywhere.

And what happens when you’re getting too hot on the beach and want to jump in the water for a quick dip? Or if you need a bathroom break? Unless you have someone there with you to watch over your things, it’s a huge hassle to safeguard your business-essential valuables when you step away for a minute.

7. Pick a spot that’s not social

In some neighborhoods, if you plop yourself on your porch, people will soon come over to chat. While friendly neighborhoods are great for socializing, they’re not the best spots to get work done outside.

When you’re selecting your spot to work outdoors, be sure to keep the distraction factor in mind. If your sweet next door neighbor just can’t leave you alone (even after you kindly ask them to come back after working hours), consider bringing your outdoor office to a local park or other place where you can work uninterrupted.

8. Plan with connectivity in mind

Internet and electricity are two of the most important things to freelancers. Select your work spot with these needs in mind.

If you’re outside your own home, you may be able to have easy access to both by moving your router closer to where you’re working and running an extension cord. But if those aren’t options, consider turning your phone into a WiFi hotspot or bringing a spare battery for your laptop.

9. Don’t forget the sunscreen

Just because you’re outside working doesn’t mean you’re immune to the inconveniences of being outside. Be sure to slather on the sunscreen, don a hat, and grab the bug spray if the critters are biting. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, be sure to take breaks and follow other healthy freelancer habits.