Working Remotely – When my friends ask me what I do for work, I tell them that I am an independent writer and designer who works remotely for a few companies around the world.
They usually act impressed and then ask me if I get to work from home.
This is the point in the conversation where I groan internally.
I’ll answer “yes” and they’ll say something about how lucky I am to get to go to work in my pajamas.
But you know what?
Working remotely is hard!
It’s challenging, fast-paced, and sometimes, it’s downright rewarding.
If you yourself are considering working from a home location or on the road, I highly recommend it, with a few caveats.
What’s tough about working remotely?
Working remotely – Packing up your laptop and hitting the road in search of the ultimate tropical beach is many people’s ultimate dream.
We’re inundated on social media with posts about setting up shop in places all around the world.
Remote workers, or digital nomads, are on the rise!
These folks aren’t constrained by office walls.
The entire world is their playground!
Like anything else in the world, being a remote worker comes with its fair share of downsides!
Time Management Hurdles When Working Remotely
The biggest challenge that remote workers will face is time management.
Getting to that gorgeous tropical beach is one thing, but what happens when everyone else is off enjoying the sun and sand and you have to work?
Remote workers might be doing business in exotic locations, but they’re also working while they are there!
Smart remote workers know that they need to hold themselves accountable, and many will find a coffee shop or co-working space to get their business done.
Digital nomads and remote workers who lack the discipline to put in the hours needed will find themselves falling behind, or even losing clients!
The beach might be calling, but those waves aren’t giving you your next paycheck.
To be successful you need to adhere to a strict time management schedule.
Tips And Tricks For Time Management
- Set aside chunks of time that are devoted to working and resist the urge to do anything else.
- Find a quiet coffee shop or co-working space where you won’t be distracted.
- Understand that many people you’ll encounter are on their holidays and don’t try to keep up with them.
- Don’t swing too far in the other direction. Give yourself a day off from time to time.
Finding Good WiFi
As glamorous as working remotely might seem, a big part of it is actually locating good WiFi, which can be a frustrating endeavor!
Some of the most beautiful places in the world don’t have reliable WiFi.
While others might be bemoaning the fact that they can’t immediately upload their new Instagram pics, you’ll be stressing out because you’re close to missing a major deadline!
Just because you’re working remotely doesn’t mean that you’re still not beholden to deadlines and the needs of your clients.
It’s important to remember that when you’re traveling, you need to have back-up plans for your back-up plans.
Save yourself the stress of coming up short in the WiFi department by planning ahead!
Do your research!
There are online resources right at your fingertips, so tap into social media groups and forums to find out how connected your destination is.
Know where to seek out WiFi; Starbucks, McDonalds and higher-end restaurants will most likely have amazing WiFi.
Consider getting a mobile hotspot or SIM card to use in an emergency from Verizon, T Mobile, AT&T, or Straight Talk.
Having To Put Out Fires while Working Remotely
When you’re in the office, you can just walk down the hall and handle any problems that might come you’re way.
It’s a lot harder to do that when you’re trekking through Peru’s Sacred Valley!
Business often follows Murphy’s Law, where anything that can go wrong, will.
Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with remote work, these fires are a lot harder to douse!
What happens when you’re in a different time zone and you sleep through all of the drama of the workday?
How can you handle an angry client over Skype or Zoom?
There will always be fires to put out.
Good preparation and setting expectations are two sure-fire ways to douse them quickly and effectively from anywhere in the world.
Tips And Tricks For Putting Out Work-Related Fires
Always be candid with people about where you are working and what challenges you might face.
Are you in a different time-zone?
Let your clients know that while they are making things happen, you are sleeping.
Set expectations and always under promise and over deliver.
Let clients know that you’ll get back to them in 24 hours, then personally strive for 12.
Know how to use video conferencing so you can get face time from halfway around the world.
Make sure that your WiFi is up to speed so you never go dark in the middle of a crisis.
Payment Challenges For Remote Workers
If you’re working with more than one company, you might encounter some payment challenges.
This is especially true if you’re working with companies from all over the world.
Currency conversion rates vary from platform to platform, and you might not have access to a number of different payment methods.
Fortunately, the days of remote employers cutting you a check and mailing it are over.
Even though we come from different countries, we still have common methods of payment, like Stripe, GPay and PayPal, that cross over national borders and make the flow of money easier than ever.
When you get a new client, discuss the method of payment in addition to the payment terms of the contract.
Suggest some alternatives and work together to find what’s right for you.
Never assume that clients, particularly foreign ones, will be able to do a direct deposit into your bank account.
Tips And Tricks For Dealing With Payment Challenges
- Open up accounts on different platforms like Venmo, GPay and PayPal do your clients have plenty of options.
- Talk about payment method options as soon as the contract is signed, so both parties are on the same page.
- Be prepared to incur some international charges or fees if currency must be exchanged.
Working remotely is something that many people dream about, and with today’s connected world it is even more possible to engineer the digital nomad life of your dreams!
Being aware of the challenges faced by working on the move is an important way to make sure that you can have the best of both worlds!
Why Working Remotely is Harder than You Think
Below, I will go over exactly why remote jobs can be so difficult, what some of my most interesting challenges are, and how I solve them.
Challenges of Working Remotely
Understanding what you’ll actually be facing when you take on a remote job is important.
I started my freelance job almost a decade ago as a designer for a company that I used to physically work for.
I had a desk and an office; the whole nine yards.
As I moved up through the ranks, I got a bigger office, and then a bigger one, and then, no office at all.
That’s right, I was given a remote position.
I was pretty excited, to be quite honest.
I’m not big on early mornings and 8 AM traffic.
However, it wasn’t long before I realized that remote jobs come with some big challenges.
Some People Don’t Understand My Job
Outside of my company, my friends and family have a hard time understanding that yes, I am working, and no, I can’t just stop and take a break to come over.
I schedule my time precisely; I have to.
When I get assignments and job tasks, it’s completely up to me to work them into a complex schedule.
I often work on tight deadlines and wind up sitting on my laptop late into the night.
I am pretty sure that my parents think I am a computer hacker or on “the Facebook” all day, so there’s that.
The truth is, I can actually take a break.
Sorry mom, I just don’t want to go get you more cat food.
My Solution: I Tell Them That I Have A Home Office
I don’t really have a home office but I do have a desk.
I have lots of desks.
Sometimes my desk is a table at a bar.
Sometimes my desk is a park bench.
One time, my desk was a table at a tavern in the Swiss Alps.
I think I liked that desk most of all.
Anyway, for some reason, if I tell people I have a home office, they seem to get the picture more easily.
If I tell people that I work remotely as a digital nomad, they don’t seem to know what I mean.
Staying Connected to The Internet Abroad Was Difficult at First
Since I actually work remotely as a digital nomad, I’ve traveled all over the world for my job and sometimes just for fun.
I absolutely love it.
The challenge here is staying connected to the internet and keeping my cell phone on.
I used to pay outrageous wireless fees.
I’ve also connected to just about every public Wifi network you can imagine.
Eventually, I worked out a solution to this problem as well.
My Solution: Portable International Wifi Hotspot Devices
While I used to have a hard time getting Wifi as I traveled abroad, I feel like I have solved that problem quite effectively.
Portable wireless hotspot devices with international connectivity have been a lifesaver for me.
These portable little things look like power banks on steroids (some of them actually do have power banks) and function like a wireless Wifi router that you can carry around wherever.
They work as long as there’s cell signal nearby.
They’re rechargeable via USB and great for working remotely.
Paying for unlimited data internationally through my wireless company was a joke; creating my own hotspot by using my smartphone was a no-go.
Portable worldwide wireless hotspots are way better.
These devices are comparatively inexpensive, easy to use, and super reliable.
They give you a strong and fast connection that is completely secure.
I usually connect my laptop and smartphone to my device at the same time.
When I am traveling with other remote workers, (yep, there are a few of us, and we like to travel) we will share a hotspot and pay for it together.
This pretty much makes it a non-existent expense depending on how many people I am traveling with.
Finally, since my device is used for working purposes, it’s completely tax deductible.
I Never Really Get a Day Off
Even when I am sick, I still have to come to work; work is literally with me everywhere I go.
I usually spend hours working every single day of the week.
However, over the years, I’ve come up with some solution to the whole constant never-ending work thing.
My Solution: Holy Days
Since I used to work non-stop, I eventually had to figure out how to schedule “holes” in my workflow.
I call these “Holy” days.
You see, I try to space things out so that I only have to work a few hours on the days that I have other things to do in my personal life.
These are my Holy days.
I also tell all of my clients and the people working under me that I will be taking the weekend off.
This is basically true because I only work late at night most weekends and I try to limit my screen time to just a few hours.
Telling everyone I am not working at all on Saturday and Sunday usually keeps most of those big jobs at bay until Monday rolls around.
Now for the Good Part: The Rewards of Remote Work
While working remotely is hard, it’s also pretty awesome.
I’ve been able to travel all over the world.
My first trip was to London and it was quite a learning experience.
Since then, I’ve been to South America, Australia, and Southeast Asia.
I also get to set my own schedule for the most part.
This is great for weddings, funerals, and family emergencies.
I get to sleep in as well, which is a huge deal to me.
Most of my creativity shows up late at night.
I save gas, I save money, and I always have something to keep me busy.
In conclusion, working in a remote position or as a freelancer is hard.
However, if you have the right mindset and a few of the right tools, it’s more than worth it.
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