Remote work is for everyone.
OK, maybe not for those who need to operate heavy machinery from factory premises, or those who flip burgers at fast-food outlets, or the ones who attend to toddlers and children at nurseries and playschools. However, if you fall under the first two cohorts of machinery-operators or burger-flippers, there’s ample evidence that proves that the day isn’t far when you will be able to control and monitor your robotic counterpart from anywhere in the world.
For the sake of my argument, I’m going to assume that you either fall in one or more of the following cohorts or aspire to do so:
- Part-time or full-time Freelancer or Consultant (what’s the difference?)
- Entrepreneur running a service-based or product-based online business
- Part-time or full-time employee
Whether you’re a freelancer, consultant or an internet entrepreneur, going remote is 100% pragmatic and doable. On the other hand, if flying solo is not your thing and you prefer being part of a team, a lot of forward-thinking, fast-growing companies offer remote opportunities along with substantial flexibility to choose your peak hours.
As someone who has worn all the different metaphorical ‘hats’ described above, I’d like to share some tips for you to embrace remote work.
Rather than painting a rosy picture of a world-traveller who does what he likes, when he likes, as much as he likes, while making more than what’s needed to make ends meet, I’d like to talk about the moderately successful freelancer who needs to generate work, negotiate with clients, understand the scope, execute the task, create invoices and maintain the accounts while ensuring high-quality output and hoping to get paid on time.
Tip #1: Choose relationships over transactions
A lot of folks on either side of the spectrum have a transactional outlook towards freelance gigs. This is a problem that perpetuates the gig economy and has been exacerbated by the freelancing platforms that have taken every measure to make sure things stay purely transactional.
However, if you have a long-term perspective towards freelancing and not just looking to do it ‘on the side’, you have to forge and build relationships with prospective clients and partners to become the go-to-person when those folks or their peers need a service you offer. Often, you need to let go of your ego and respond to that client who never bothers responding to your follow-ups. And almost always, you need to provide value to prospects before they become paying clients.
Tip #2: Stay on top and embrace reality
While it is important to find your forte and excel at it, it is equally important to constantly acquire new skills to stay hireable as a remote worker. Just recently, a wise man said that if you learn and train for three or four years, your knowledge is already obsolete and gone are the days when most people could learn once and be employed for the rest of their lives.
In a rapidly changing economy where technology is disrupting one industry after another, the only way to keep moving forward is to adapt, learn and repeat, rather than agonizing over becoming irrelevant. A case in point is the fact that anyone can automate most repetitive tasks using easy-to-use affordable tools, resulting in the death of many jobs. However, not everyone has the time, patience or the requisite disposition to dabble with tools, let alone implement and maintain them. A threat or an opportunity, you decide.
Tip #3: Remember, time is valuable and so are you
Time is your biggest asset as a remote worker. Two things have really helped me understand where I spend most of my time and what my time is really worth — using a time-tracking tool and gradually increasing my rates. I strongly believe that one cannot have a “standard hourly rate” as a freelancer; if you have one, you need to reconsider. The value you derive from the work should be inversely proportional to what you charge your clients. Often the most boring tasks — ones that add little or nothing to your knowledge bank — pay the most.
On the other hand, as a remote employee, you don’t have the privilege to spend your day attending back-to-back meetings or taking an hour-long lunch break; the only thing that matters is the value you generate for your employer.
Tip #4: Give yourself a breather every now and then
In contradiction to popular belief (sipping cocktails by the beach all year round), remote work is hectic. The line between ‘free’ and ‘busy’ is very thin. Clients expect you to be available whenever they need something done, keeping track of timezones can make you dizzy, and taking time off can easily result in lost income. But maintaining a balance between work and downtime and keeping an open line of communication with employers, customers or clients is key to staying sane and maintaining healthy, long-lasting associations.
If you have experience working remotely, do share your thoughts and tips for others who are just getting started. And if you found my tips helpful, I’d love to hear from you.