Have You Got What it Takes to Work Remotely?

Being a digital nomad, working from a co-working space, taking your laptop with you onto the beach. The remote working life promises so much.

But does it deliver? And how can you be sure you are up to it?

Here are a few key areas that you might want to consider before taking the plunge.

Work Remotely from any Timezone

So, where in the world are you working from this week? Or more importantly, what timezone are you in? GMT? UTC? ET? PT?

Want to organise a video call for your remote team? Which timezone are you going to base that on? Which one of you is going to stay up late/get up early/set their alarm for 3am to make it? See, the glamorous lifestyle is there for the taking, late nights waiting for a team meeting with other people who are sitting in sunny daylight waiting to speak to you.

Or are they? If you are like me then maybe you also have a habit of reading calendar invites/messages and seeing what you want to see rather than what is written there. This can result in you waiting online for a call at the wrong time, or even (as I have done more than once) the wrong day.

So it’s not just about clock watching, like it may have been when you worked in an office. Can you watch the clock, the calendar and then translate that into 4 different timezones and still make your meeting on time?

Co-Working Space

I’m pretty sure this is the most glamorous that it gets for me when it comes to remote working. Yes, you too could be sipping cocktails and working from the beach in digital nomad epicentre, Chiang Mai.

But let’s face it, you’re not. I’m sure like me the reality of working remotely is a little less glam.

My main co-working space is our dining room table. I can usually carve out about enough space for my laptop and notebook. My surroundings are not a minimalist dream. They are leftovers from this morning’s breakfast and whatever Lego creation the kids are currently working on. And if I’m really lucky, there’s probably a cat, either sat perched on top of a Lego creation, or trying to wedge itself onto my lap, tail in the air, waving around in the foreground of my video call.

There are other options. Coffee shops make a good ‘office away from home.’ Well, they would, and there are a few choices in the town where I live but one has Wifi that kicks you off after an hour and a half, the one with unlimited Wifi is usually busy and the rest have no idea that offering Wifi might be a good business choice.

I’m a Brit so there is another option — the local pub that has free Wifi and an app that brings your food and drink order to your table! What could possibly go wrong there?!

And finally, the best Wifi in town is at the local library. A space where I’ve discovered the truth about the generation gap. It seems to be perfectly acceptable for older people to come into the library and chat to each other. I get that it’s a place for community after all. However, if anyone under the age of retirement speaks or has an electronic device that they haven’t put on silent then it’s glares all round from the older generation — how dare they?!

Dress Code

Be a digital nomad they said. Dress in your PJs all day they said.

This one quickly goes from win/win to win/no win. Yes, you could dress in your PJs all day. Score. But see the above note about video calls. Are they PJs that will look acceptable on your next Zoom call?

And it isn’t just your PJ top that needs to be up to scratch. You will definitely get someone – parcel delivery, concerned neighbour, random stranger – turn up on your doorstep after midday and, when you open the door, look at you like you grew a second head because you are still in your PJs.

And if you do get dressed? Well, the advice blogs would have you believe that’s a great thing. Dress for the job you want they say, and don’t let anything like remote working get in the way of that. Get up and get dressed just like you would for the office.

Except most of the things that you do during the day as a remote worker don’t really need the same level of smart casual/smasual (I can’t believe I actually just typed that word into a blog, I don’t know who I am any more) that is required in an office. Full office outfitting for a quick pop to the shops for some biscuits, which along with any other snack are the remote workers’ nemesis, just isn’t required.

And finally, dressing to be outdoors just leads to a far greater temptation to leave your desk and the house. Which can only lead to bad things and brings us on to…

Work/Life Balance

Living the remote working dream. Schedule work around your life. Take that morning yoga class, go to the cinema of an afternoon.

But what about the flipside of this. Yes, we’d all love to go to the cinema in the afternoon but then you’re stuck working of an evening when everyone else is out doing something fun. Without you. Outside of ‘normal’ working hours you find that everyone else is not working and is out enjoying themselves and posting it all gleefully on social media. That’s not the time anyone really wants to work. Is that afternoon cinema trip seeming like such a good idea now?

The real pitfall here is that we’ve constructed a situation where we want to do less work during working hours and not make it up at any other time. That’s just a part-time job. Or, taken to extremes, retirement.

Plus, if it’s not your inner voice talking you out of doing work and into daytime leisure activities it’s everyone else you know who knows that you ‘work remotely.’ To them that just means ‘is around during the day.’ The invites to lunch, and other day time activities start to stack up. I’ve been asked to babysit because ‘you’re around during the day.’ I’m not sure that turning up to someone’s place of work to hand over a baby for a couple of hours during the day because ‘well, you’re nearby’ is quite acceptable, but with this remote working, you’ve got all these extra hours that have magically appeared when you decided to stop going in to an office every day.

So, what do you think? Have you got what it takes to be a remote worker?

 

Why Freelancing is like Running and Other Marathon Analogies

Freelancing is Like Running and Other Marathon Analogies

Why Freelancing is like Running and Other Marathon AnalogiesOne of the things that I’ve consciously done since I started freelancing is to build my own virtual watercooler.

As you can see from my previous posts, I was never the natural networker. In fact, I now often describe my networking at previous office-based jobs as ‘whatever events were offering free cake and time out of the office.’ As you can probably tell, I didn’t see much ROI from it as an activity.

Fast forward to my new working life as a remote worker and freelancer and – guess what? – networking is something that plays a big part in everything I do. And my favourite part of it? Organising a virtual coffee with really cool people around the world.

So there I was, having a virtual coffee with the very cool and lovely Kat Loughrey. We were talking about freelancing generally, what we see in our working futures and where we get our blog ideas from. Talk turned to other freelancers and how it is often the case that you compare yourself to others.

My comment was ‘freelancing is like running, you don’t know where anyone else has started or how they’ve trained, so how can you compare yourself to them?’ Kat’s response? ‘Now that’s a blog idea!’

So, without further ado, here is the aforementioned blog. How is freelancing like running? And if you are going to run a freelance marathon what do you need to do to get training?

Freelancing Is A Marathon. Start Training For the Long Haul.

Despite the fact that the London Marathon was founded as an event for amateur runners, no one turns up on the day without having trained. Well, I hope that’s the case!

If you want to go the distance as a freelancer then you need to be playing a long game. Training is essential. By that I mean a few different things:

  • Physical and mental well-being – being physically and mentally fit is the basis of your business as a freelancer. If you aren’t in good health, then your business won’t be either.
  • Train for effectiveness – think about how you work best. When do you have the most energy? Do you work best alone or at a co-working space? Get your environment set up to help you be successful.
  • Plan to succeed – use your time effectively. Think about your time management and how you can make the best use of your time. As a freelancer this is your key resource, so plan to use it well.
  • Invest in the long term from day one – train to be the freelancer that you want to be in the future. Think about how best to network and build a community around you. It might not seem like a priority when you are first looking for work but over time these are the things that will bring you long-term benefits, so start investing time in them now.

Try different ways to train and seeing what works for you. Try out the Pomodoro technique for your time management, or a new workout at your gym. These are the things that will get you fit to take on the challenge that is freelancing.

You Don’t Know Where The Person Running Past You Started From

When I’m out running I often see other runners. Most of the time they are running past me. Sometimes they are coming towards me, and we greet each other with a sweaty out-of-breath nod as we pass. And sometimes I’m lucky enough to be the one overtaking.

Whenever I go past someone, especially when I overtake, I always think the same thing. Don’t get smug because you passed them, you don’t know where they started. We all have off days when we run slower. We have days when we fly around our chosen course.

You might be out for a quick 5km, running past someone who is on mile 9 of a 10 mile long run. You didn’t start at the same place when you set out on your run.

It is the same when you are freelancing. There is no point in comparing yourself to anyone. They might have started freelancing last week, when you’ve been established for years. Or the other way round. They might have a strong background in blog writing, but be publishing their first YouTube video.

 

Train For The Distance You Want to Run

Some people love to sprint. They want to run flat out over a short distance and collapse into a heaving pile at the end. Others want to run further and longer, pushing their limits with ultra-marathons. You need to know what distance you are looking to run in order to train properly for it.

It is the same in content and social. There are so many ways to produce content and get a social buzz going, the best way to establish yourself as a freelancer is to specialise in the area/niche/channel that is your passion.

You might have a niche that you love working in or a specialist interest that drives your community work. You might be an expert in all things Snapchat. Focusing on the work that you want to produce gives your offering clarity and shows people what you are passionate about.

 

So there it is, the running/freelancing blog I needed to write, thank you Kat! Let me know your thoughts, and where you see crossovers with your hobbies and freelance life.

 

 

Freelancing and the Never Ending Salary Discussion

Freelancing and the Never Ending Salary Discussion

I read this article from Independents United about salary transparency with interest. I will fully admit that I have always been someone who never really wanted to talk about salary. I’m nosy enough to want to know what someone else earns but if that means I have to say how much I earn, suddenly I’m not so interested.

However, having just started out as a freelancer, I’m also realising that the luxury of being coy about how much I charge is fast disappearing. When every person you meet wants to know what you do there is a moment at which that interest is going to turn to how much they would have to pay you to do it.

I get it, it is completely natural. As a business owner, especially for startups and SMEs, you are talking to someone you’ve just met about your business and they are talking to you in an engaging and interesting way about what they do and how it could enhance your own work. You’re already thinking ahead: What projects could they work on for us? And, inevitably, how much is this going to cost me?

In the same way that I’ve never wanted to talk to someone about my own salary, at first I really didn’t want to talk about how much I charge. But then as I realised people were curious I also started to learn that how much you charge can be used as another benchmark by people who want to work with you as to the quality of your work and where you sit compared to other people they have spoken to.

When this all started out and I was feeling a little uncomfortable about it I sat down and had a good think about what I wanted to charge. I did my research: What are other people charging? What should I charge? How do other people go about deciding what to charge? I learnt that what you charge and what you earn are two different things and this gave me a chance to really think about what my overheads were where before I just assumed I had none. (Note: you never have no overheads!)

I’ve discovered that telling someone what you charge and negotiating what they are going to pay are also two different things. Salary negotiations for a new job are perfectly natural but when every new piece of work or contract is a small scale salary negotiation you need to decide if there is any room for manoeuvre once you’ve put a price on a project. I don’t think there are hard and fast rules here. Sometimes I negotiate, sometimes I politely say that the price I’ve given is the only price I’ll do it for.

If you look around in your niche you won’t have to look far for to find someone who is happy to disclose what they earn from their work each month. There are many people in social media, bloggers, digital nomads, who are happy to put together and share a monthly report of what they earn and how they’ve earnt it. I find these fascinating. From seeing how people utilise other revenue streams, make passive income, run online mentoring in their niche, it is so much more than the numbers they are sharing.

So I think I’m somewhere in between at the moment. I definitely have a good sense of what I would charge for a project but I’m not quite on board with laying it bare on my blog once a month. Maybe one day, but not right now.

Overall, I think transparency is good. Whether we are talking about money, how we do business, our values, our lives or our families, being as open as we feel we can be is a great way to conduct yourself in any part of your life.

Networking - Not as Big and Scary as You Think

Networking — not as big and scary as you think

There are lots of things that you tell yourself you don’t like. For me, at work, networking is at the top of that list. I’ve always felt like it is a skill that I don’t have whilst everyone else is just out there, meeting new and fresh contacts daily whilst busily following up with everyone they met last week and doing amazing ‘networking’ business I can never hope to access at glamorous networking events.

Now that I’ve decided to go freelance I’ve had to sit myself down and give myself a good talking to. How am I possibly going to grow my client list, business, skill set or future success if I don’t get on with networking? Then what do you need to do, I ask myself? Network! Go out and do the one thing you don’t like doing and get on with it for the good of what you want to achieve. In short: suck it up, Laura.

On the flip side of this I also thought about what I am good at. One of my strengths has always been research; getting out there and finding out what is going on and how this can inform the project that I am working on. Who is saying what? How can companies that I work for be part of that conversation? I’m also good at connecting the dots. Want to work with that person or company over there? Well, great news because they work with this person, who knows them, who is new to that and it turns out they are looking for someone just like you.

By now I think you might see where this short post is going. Turns out that not only do I network all the time I actually know how to do it a lot better than I thought. When I knew that I wanted to work for myself I reached out to friends of mine that I knew well and worked in areas that I was interested in and approached them. It felt like a nice gentle way to start, ask some advice, have a chat, pick someone’s brains over a coffee and a catch up. Everyone had a different perspective and recommended a couple of companies, networks or people for me to look out for. A few even put me forward for work they had come across which was an amazing start.

Now that I’m set up and ready to go I’ve got straight on Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium and am in the process of setting up my own website and blog. I’ve sought out all those friends and the people they put me in touch with. Through them I’ve found new people and organisations and interests and followed those too. I’ve done my research and connected the dots and it has given me a great start and lots of avenues to explore. And it starts to look a lot like networking to me or at least it has started to look like my version of networking: seeking out people I want to connect with and seeing how I can work with them to benefit us both.

I’m unsure if there are different ‘types’ of networking or whether the agressive go-getting idea of networking I had is just wrong but I think it can also be our natural instinct to have our heads turned by the loudest, biggest, brightest thing within our sights. It can seem like whoever is shouting is getting the most attention but new movements like Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution are starting to focus on the benefits of a quieter approach. On a related tangent, Paul Johnston, was musing about how he choses which conferences to attend in his thoughts about innovation: 2 Degrees of Innovation.

My approach has always been to seek out the smaller conferences, where you are guaranteed a level of intimacy with the speakers, and the other attendees. The speakers could often be described as Edgers. The smaller conference fosters more conversation and also often allows for harder questions to be asked in any Q&A. It also generates a community around the ideas.

I think that is more what I’m looking for from networking, the feeling that I’m making more of a connection with others who I’m interested in working with, a better understanding of what they are hoping to achieve and how I might be a part of that now or in the future.

Best of all it has made me get out there and just start talking to people. I’m a lot less worried about the conversations that end badly and a lot more interested in where the great conversations could lead. And it turns out I’m not quite as bad at networking as I thought.