This week in freelance: Pandemic and business as usual

It’s been a strange year so far: Brexit, Australia on fire and now a global pandemic. While this is unheard of, life just goes on for most of us in a weird kind of way.

I’m working on new & existing website projects as normal, despite widespread concerns about Coronavirus and off-peak scavenging trips to Lidl.

Remote Working

Since starting the business, I’ve always had a ‘virtual office’ and worked from home or co-working spaces whether I’m in the UK or elsewhere. The freelancers that I work with often do the same. One of the benefits of remote working is that the risk of us picking up any bugs is lower as we’re not commuting or sharing an office. We’re all set up to be productive remotely, and easily able to self isolate if necessary too. So despite concerns about Coronavirus and people starting to work from home, we’re able to carry on with new and existing web design projects as normal.

I’m hearing about digital nomad friends coming/going back to their home countries as flights might be cut back and being isolated in a far flung country sucks. Being sick with fever and alone in Thailand was utterly horrible.

Self Isolating

As an introvert and working from home, self isolating isn’t too hard. I’ve been trying to go to the gym more, get out more and do more coworking. Covid-19 has pretty much stopped that in its tracks however. I’ve had a sore throat and headache so have largely kept myself to myself to avoid getting scowled at. To stop myself going nuts I’ve been playing co-op games online with friends (not abusive strangers…) and seeing friends one to one or in small groups. I’ve got a pile of books to read, some new skills to learn (VueJS, what a hot mess) and a knackered old bike to get some cardio.

Self Development

A friend gave me a talking to the other day and I’ve got some new books to read and am revisiting my morning routine to get the day started right. Exercise, reading, meditation and journalling set me up to be focused and productive. As mentioned I’m also learning some new Javascript skills to level up my WordPress development and keep up with the cool kids.

So What Next?

I’m doing a part time college course and I think that will be postponed soon. I’ll be getting food delivered and trying to make the most of the enforced downtime. Work wise, some clients in the online and information industries are carrying on as normal, but some that have face to face businesses are struggling already. It’s going to be an interesting year.

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Tech security tips for freelancers and digital nomads

While working remotely from Thailand, Bali, Gran Canaria and Lisbon I have seen a worrying lack of security awareness in fellow nomads.  We’re responsible for not only our own data and passwords but also client related files and passwords so a security breach would be more significant than a tourist losing their phone. This is even more important in light of the recent GDPR laws in the UK and the consequences of breaking them. Here are a few simple tech security tips for any freelancers or digital nomads working on the road.


Some websites are blocked in other countries and a VPN gets around this. I was using Tunnelbear (love their branding) but found that FTP connections to our server were not reliable via this VPN so I switched to Private Internet Access which has worked great. It runs on my laptop, tablet and iOS/Android phones.

Another benefit of a VPN is that it secures your traffic which is peace of mind when working from busy coworking spaces and cafes.

Password manager

With sites and services constantly getting attacked and compromised, it’s vital to have hard to crack, unique passwords. This makes remembering them hard though and that’s where a password manager comes in handy. I use 1Password as it works on my Mac, tablet and phones.

I also use the team version so my tech support guy can access client passwords without me having to provide them manually. Different password vaults allow granular access to various logins and passwords.

Cloud storage

The worst case scenario is losing the laptop and my data through theft or hardware failure. To get back up and running as fast as possible, I keep all my important data in cloud drive systems. I use (paid) Dropbox and (free) Google Drive.

I also keep filling my iCloud up with pictures of sunsets so can back files up to Dropbox or Google Photos to free up space and not have to pay for a larger iCloud account.

Drive encryption

To prepare for the worst, I encrypted my hard drive before leaving the UK. This way even if the laptop is stolen the data cannot be read without my login details.

Lock screen passcodes

I work from home most of the time in the UK so don’t have lock screen codes as they annoy me. I enable these on all devices while traveling though to reduce the chances of someone accessing my personal and business stuff.


These were some quick and easy security tips to help keep your data safe while working remotely as a freelancer or digital nomad.

Digital nomad tips: Lisbon

I spent a month in Portugal in July 2017, here are my Lisbon digital nomad tips including travel, accommodation, cafes and co-working spaces.


TAP were great – good price, fresh looking plane and a free inflight snack. Sketchy landing at Lisbon due to crosswinds!

The Metro is cheap and easy, the red line runs from airport all the way into the city centre for around €1.50. Ticket machine sells you a Viva Viagem card that you can recharge and then use on Metro, buses, trains, trams and boats.

Lisbon is fairly walkable with the option to get the Metro or a tram if you’ve got bags or it’s too hot. Electric TukTuks and a variety of other strange vehicles are available too.

Uber is a thing here and air conditioned cars are a good alternative to walking or the Metro when it’s hot. Trips around the city were around €4.

Buses and modern trams were regular and easy to use with the same Viva Viagem card (around €1.50 a trip).

I took the train to Porto after my stay here and it was amazing. Fare was around €25 booked in advance for first class and it took around 2.5hrs. The tilting train got up to 240km/h and had free (terrible) wifi and a table to work from.


Lisbon is apparently very safe to walk around, even in the narrow alleyways and dark streets. Tourist spots feature annoying and persistent ‘drug dealers’ selling herbs. No I don’t want any candle wax or Rosemary, but thanks for asking every five minutes.

SIM cards

Vodafone looks like €15 for 15 days with unlimited data, I just used my UK GiffGaff one though as since July 2017 free roaming has been available throughout Europe on all networks.

Digital Nomads in Lisbon

As of July 2017 there was a huge digital nomad scene here, with many coworking spaces and a very active Lisbon Digital Nomads Meetup group with meals, coworking and drinking events throughout the week. There are also the Digital Nomads Portugal and Lisbon Digital Nomads Facebook groups (that are mostly people spamming and looking for places to live..)

Coworking spaces in Lisbon

Second Home

Looks incredible and they use hundreds of plants instead of air conditioning. No trial day or day passes and I was informed that they only accept people longer term who will be part of the community. Fine.

Cowork Central


Lots of plants, new bean to cup coffee machine, aircon, great light and views over the river. 90/90 internet. Slack channel with jobs, events & chat. I loved it here, the internet is ridiculously fast and I ended up coming back a few times.  The guys invited me out for pizza and they do surf trips.  Reservation is recommended as it fills up quick.

Drinks and snacks: Free tea, coffee (bean to cup machine) and water

Costs: €15 per day. €210 a month.

Trial: Free day

Accommodation option: Nope





Amazing facilities, peace and quiet and great value. Looks more like a business centre than a co-working place – felt a bit of a scruff in my shorts! Air conditioning, free fruit, coffee machine and sun terrace.

The only reason I didn’t sign up was the lack of community and the Internet was playing silly fuckers for me the day I went. I couldn’t log in to various websites I need to run my business. Not sure if this is the way it is or just a temporary problem.

Drinks and snacks: Free tea, coffee (bean to cup machine) and water

Costs: €80+VAT for the month

Trial: Free day

Accommodation option: Nope




More of a startup incubator and coding school than co-working, but we had a coworking day organised by Lisbon Digital Nomads. Unfortunately the stools on the coworking day were terrible for posture, but I think they offer proper desks for paid coworkers.

I went to a couple of coding events at Beta-i including an intro to Javascript evening and a taster for the Le Wagon bootcamp that runs here, which covered UX, landing page build, Git version control and basic Ruby.

They also have a TGIF social meet on a Friday (obvs) with beers on the terrace.

Drinks and snacks: Coffee pod machines (bring your own pods) and water

Costs:  €10 a day, €75-100 a month

Trial: Free day

Accommodation option: Nope


Cowork Lisboa at the LX Factory


I found this place a bit visually chaotic but they had solid internet, good kitchen facilities and it was busy. It’s off to the West of the city with lots of trams and buses available.  Internet download speed was decent but upload speed was slow. Good chairs.

Drinks and snacks: Free coffee (didn’t try it as I had one from the excellent Wish cafe across the street) and free chilled water.

Costs:  €12 a day, from €100 a month

Trial: Free day

Accommodation option: Nope




Bare looking industrial unit that needs some soft furnishings. It’s a work in progress and the finished version looks amazing. Chairs were pretty bad for posture. Internet was very slow and hampered my productivity here. No aircon.

Drinks and snacks: Bean to cup coffee at 50c a cup, tap water but no water cooler.

Costs: €100-€130 a month depending on whether you want office hours or 24/7 access. I went here for free as part of the Lisbon Digital Nomads meetup so not sure about free trial day or day passes.

Trial: Free day

Accommodation option: Nope



I didn’t find many nomad friendly cafes in the tourist areas. Popping out a laptop and mooching their wifi for half a day doesn’t fit with the crowds and I found them too hectic to concentrate.

Brick cafe

One of the highest rated coffee shops on Google Maps, I thought the coffee was average. Amazing cheese toastie though.  OK internet and some other laptop folks around so working from here looks fine.

Cafe Tati

Retro place with amazing salads. Laptop friendly, so-so internet that came and went. Worked from there for an afternoon and got stuff done.

Pois Cafe, Alfama

Great brunch and coffee, lovely mismatched decor and artwork but terrible internet. Also too busy with tourists to stay here and work.

Fabrica, Alfama


Famous for their freshly made croissants, people were queuing out of the door at weekends. Would be good off peak. Great coffee.

Fabrica Coffee Roasters

Incredible coffee and pastries, no wifi but looks like it’s OK to work from here too.

Wish Slow Coffee House, LX Factory


Amazing coffee (some of the best I found in Lisbon) and good range of food. Didn’t work from here but it looks like they would be OK with it.


Expensive (or shitty) AirBnbs aimed at tourists, with short term flats seemingly hard to find. I got lucky as a nomad chum had a room free in her flat for a few weeks. Erasmus flats look basic and terrible, plus they sell the package as being a massive piss up which isn’t ideal for a 40yr old with a business to run.

There are some companies offering accommodation and coworking packages aimed at digital nomads, with the associated high costs.

Check out the digital nomad groups and international accommodation Facebook groups but be ready for a struggle. Mentioning budget and being flexible with location will help.

Things to see

There are a ton of things to see in Lisbon, many of which you’ll see while walking around. There are free walking tours around the city as well as the We Hate Tourism tours. Buildings are beautiful and the old trams are cute. Trying to get on a number 28 tram in July was futile.


There’s a Meetup group called Lisbon Explorers who do beach trips and hikes in the areas surrounding Lisbon. I did this every weekend to get some nature and went to a few places around Sintra and Cascais and a trip to Cabo Da Roca, the westernmost point of Europe.

I spent an afternoon at MAAT  and found the buildings more interesting than most of the exhibitions.


I hope you’ve found these Lisbon digital nomad tips useful. I had a great time in Lisbon as there’s lots to see and do as well as good coworking scene and tons of tech and social Meetups. I’ll be back for sure.