Working remotely has amazing benefits but the struggle is real to stay on task and work an eight hour day. In an office you eliminate the distractions of homelife and replace it with the accountability of a manager to stay focused. More and more people are choosing to telecommute, so you may be wondering if this transition is the right option for you.
To better understand what it takes to successfully work remotely, I interviewed Christina Morales, one of the freelance writers with whom I work closely with at B2B ratings and reviews company, Clutch. She has been a virtual employee for many companies over eight years and has practical tips for efficiently managing her workload from home.
What caused you to start working from home as a freelance writer?
When my first daughter, Lanie, was born, we needed to increase our income. I didn’t want to put her in daycare so I started exploring my options for work-from-home jobs. I posted my resume on a jobsite and was hired by a local college to write for their blog. I started out making $15 per blog and was thrilled to be bringing home $300 each month while not leaving the house. It was a low paying job, but my contact was patient and taught me the ropes of blogging like the importance of SEO and how to use WordPress. With my next job, I jumped to $30 per hour.
I’m sure there are many distractions at home. How do you manage work and having kids?
Fortunately, my kids are both in school now but I still work a lot of the time in the evenings or on weekends. There are two things that I do when the kids are home: first of all, I’ve made our living room into my office and I hung a curtain in the doorway. When the curtain is closed, no one is allowed to enter. I also invested in a good set of earphones to block out noise and I choose from Google’s list of “working music to concentrate to”. Secondly, I purchased a bunch of crafts that my kids can keep busy with and that won’t require my attention. Coloring books, kid scissors, empty gift boxes, glitter glue, ribbons and stickers are all part of my arsenal to keep them entertained (they’re now ages 8 and 5 years old).
How do you not get distracted by laundry, house cleaning and the other chores that vie for your attention at home?
I do! I’m a neat freak and I have to have a semi-clean house for me to focus on writing. I drop the kids off at school at 9:00 am and then I give myself until 10:00 am to straighten the house and get the basics done. Then I make myself a cup of tea, turn on Google’s soothing playlist, and review what three specific writing assignments I’m going to complete that day. I need to make the working process a habit with specific goals so I can reach the quota that I set for myself each day.
What is the hardest part about being a remote freelance employee?
In my specific industry, I work for a lot of tech start-ups and even entrepreneurs who are located globally. The hard part is that it can be difficult to find stability. I can work with one client for two weeks until a project is completed or I can work with a company for an average of a year and a half until they dismiss their marketing team and choose to go in a different direction. I feel that a lot of the time I’m either in feast or famine mode: either I have more work than I know what to do with or things are too quiet and I worry about attracting the next project.
The second challenge to working remotely is adjusting to such a wide variety of personalities. Regardless if you work as a freelance writer, virtual assistant or call center representative, you’re going to have to adjust your work and communication style with each client. Some clients are laid back and love everything you do, some will nitpick and correct every part of how you completed your job, others will be heavily into technology and have specific platforms that you need to learn while those on the opposite end of the spectrum can barely send an email. The point is to be flexible and never take any criticism too personally. Do the absolute best you can in every situation and just go with the flow.
What is the best advice you have to remote workers?
First of all, do what you love and what you’re really good at. I love writing and researching and this career has given me countless opportunities to learn about interesting topics and share them with thousands of other people.
Next, as I mentioned earlier, be flexible and write everything down. I have a notebook that is divided by client. Each project usually requires a different word count, style guide, keywords, image specifications and more. There’s no way I can keep each nuance in my brain, and this way I don’t have to.
Finally, exceed expectations. Being a virtual employee is hard because you can’t develop the normal relationships and dependencies that come from working with a team on location. I set tight deadlines, check and double-check my work and offer well thought out suggestions every now and then so that I become an asset to the company. You don’t want to be expendable in a huge virtual workspace when there are so many others who want a shot at your job.
Eleonora Israele is a Business and Hiring Manager at Clutch, Eleonora Israele is an analyst at Clutch responsible for business process outsourcing and voice services. Clutch is a Washington, DC-based research, ratings and reviews platform for B2B services and software.