Remote work isn't always that much about being constantly on the move. For some, it's more about finding a healthy balance between work and private life. Rachel, Content and Social Media Manager at Hubstaff, followed her dream to work with freedom straight out of college. Her advice for aspiring remote workers is simple, yet powerful - sometimes all you have to do is to just reach out and ask.
Rachel, how long have you been working remotely?
I've worked remotely since 2013, a few months after I officially graduated from college (I finished my degree early, so I went back for the ceremony in 2013). At first I started out on a part-time remote basis, which means I would work independently for most of the week, but my boss and I met up at a restaurant or coffee shop to work together once a week (usually Wednesdays).
Are you a digital nomad or rather a remote worker?
I don't think I deserve the title of digital nomad, because while I enjoy traveling a cumulative average of 3 months/year, I consider being a digital nomad as being on the move 11+ months/year. I have the luxury of a designated setup in an apartment that I own, and I enjoy 1 week to 2 month working excursions, but I always love coming back to "my" desk.
The way I differentiate a digital nomad vs. a remote worker lies in their decision to travel or not. If you have a "home base," even if it isn't in the country of your origin, I'd say you're a remote worker. Digital nomads have no home base (other than the Internet).
What was your path to the remote lifestyle like?
I sprinted in this direction, without really understanding the industry (I just knew I wanted to work with a certain type of client, no matter where I lived). When I graduated college, I knew I wanted a job with a lot of flexibility. I started my career at a local Oregon winery, met a marketing agency owner through one of the wine industry networking events, and started working remotely with her June or July 2013.
I'm fortunate enough to have chosen all of my early clients. I liked what they were doing in their space, reached out to see if there was a need for my skill set, and they took me up on the offer. Not all independent contractors have the luxury of choosing who they work with, but I did. For example, I did a lot of research about remote work, and found some of Hubstaff's articles on the topic. I was impressed by their thought leadership and all of the resources they provided, so I reached out to Dave (co-founder) with a simple hello email and a resume.
What helped you find your first remote clients and kickstart your remote career?
Reaching out. A simple email or check-in is underrated. Even if they aren't hiring (Hubstaff didn't have any open position listed on their website, or anywhere else when I reached out), it won't cost you anything but a few minutes of your time to craft a nice, professional email and ask. Low risk, high reward.
A healthy dose of curiosity also helped me build my network. When I find an interesting website or company, I reach out and say hello or sign up for their newsletter. When a newsletter is particularly engaging, I hit reply and let them know I appreciated their content. The desire to learn new things has opened a lot of doors for me.
What challenges do you see in remote work?
I'd like to point out that the challenges of remote work and being a digital nomad don't always overlap. For example, things can get lonely if you're a digital nomad, but if you're a remote worker like me you might actually have more time to spend with friends and family.
Right now my biggest concern with remote work is the health risk. Our office is the world, but it's still an office. You still spend most of the day sitting down, typing (in my case, since I'm all about content), and staring at a screen. I recommend investing in glasses that protect your eyes, an ergonomic chair, and a nice keyboard and mouse.
Although, hypocrite that I am, I don't have any of those things (yet).
What helps you to stay motivated when working remotely?
The same thing that would keep me motivated at an in-office job; I love the work, and I enjoy getting better at it. As long as I'm learning new things about content, strategy, SEO, marketing and the like, I'm happy. As much as I'm learning about SEO, I would definitely have to enlist the help of a professional company that specializes in it to help me promote my online business. Search Engine Optimisation is not easy to do yourself, and that's why we have companies like assertive media to help us!
Plus, the travel, schedule, and wine-allowance are awesome perks. Every day is bring your pet to work day!
What are your personal favourites when it comes to work tools for communication, productivity..?
I use Hubstaff for all of my time tracking, invoicing, and productivity monitoring.
I store all of my files in Google Drive, and sync my bookmarks in Google Chrome. I just bought a new laptop and got everything up and running in under 5 minutes thanks to my scarily connected Gmail account.
I like Slack and Skype for communicating. Since I chat regularly with people from across the world, Skype has made lots of meetings possible.
I'm also a huge fan of WordPress, and Yoast SEO (a WordPress plugin).
Do you have any advice for people who want to start working remotely?
Reach out and say hello. Make the ask. And check out these great lists of places to find remote work:
What are your views on the future of work?
It's going to become more common, hands-down. It's just so much more convenient for the employee and employer (it may take some time to familiarize with the setup), and it's great for the environment. Imagine a world with no traffic, except for web traffic.
It'll keep getting more competitive. All the jobs with the best perks are; think of how hard it is to get into big players like Google and Facebook, who offer great perks and awesome salaries. As long as you continue learning and keep practicing your craft you should be fine.
Finally, it'll get better. Look at how many project management tools have come out in the past 10 years, making online work easier and more seamless than ever before. Then online messaging apps, video chat, and time trackers were created, adding more layers of ease and convenience to remote work. It's just going to keep getting easier (I wonder if a virtual reality office space is in the works!)