Not only has technology changed the way we interact with each other, it’s also changed the way we work. With online file saving and sharing like Google Docs and instant messaging apps such as Skype, Slack and Atlassian Confluence, working remotely has quickly become a reality.
Working remotely has been called “one of the biggest drivers of transformation” in a prediction of employment trends by the World Economic Forum. In 2016, Global Work Analytics found that 50% of the workforce have a job that is compatible with working away from the office. More and more people are deciding to take the jump.
People make the shift to working remotely for many reasons. Whether it’s to foster a better work/life balance, travel, or spend time with the family, the ability to work from anywhere has opened up a world of possibilities. Getting away from petty office politics also means getting away from the motivation of having accountability to someone else. This can lead, especially at first, to a lack of productivity, where it’s difficult to draw the line between home and office.
If you’re someone who is thinking about retiring from the office life and taking your career into the digital sphere, consider these five tips to maximize your earnings while working remotely.
Tip #1: Find a Passion
Being passionate about the work you do is always important. However, when working remotely your passion is going to drive your work. If you find something you love doing, you will be more motivated to get it done and you will be more likely to produce quality work.
When you work in an office, you are held accountable to show up every day and work the time allotted. As a remote worker, you don’t have that same accountability. You are paid for the hours you put in, and if you can’t get motivated to work, then you won’t be compensated for your time. Before you consider cleaning out your office, make sure you know what you choose to do is the right thing for you. Trust me, once you find something you’re passionate about doing, and it will almost seem unfair to call what you do ‘work’.
Finding that niche to work in that you’re passionate about all boils down to three key elements: it’s something you love to do, you excel at it, and it contributes value to a company or organization. Although it may be seductive to chase jobs with the biggest salary or included benefits, without these three elements, you may find yourself easily burnt out or unfulfilled. This part of working remotely is similar to an office job, but it has added importance when you’re working alone.
Tip #2: Know Your Worth when Working Remotely
The best advice I have ever received is to charge for my skills and experience. In an office job, you go into an interview, present your past work and skills, and the employer decides the compensation that best fits your experience and skillset. As a remote worker, you are your own employer, and you alone must decide how much your skillset is worth. After working in an office setting with a pre-determined salary, this can be quite daunting.
My advice is to first take a look at what you have accomplished, and then what you are capable of doing. If you possess skills and qualities that are invaluable, charge for it. The work you produce will speak for itself, and most clients will be happy to pay for quality work. You can also look at what the paying rate would be if you worked 40 hours a week for a company. That number should be your starting rate, not much less.
For example, if you were making $40,000 over a year, your calculation would look something like this: $40,000 a year / 52 weeks (the working year) / 40 hours a week (the average hours per week) = roughly $19/hour. This gives you an idea of your starting rate, but from there you should calculate and add on vacation time, sick days, any equipment or software you need, insurance and health benefits, and any other benefits specific to your area of work.
Remember, if somebody is coming to you asking for your services, then they most likely can’t afford these big companies that you opted out of working for. You are at an advantage because you have the skills they desire, plus the ability to advise clients, at a fraction of the cost.
Always be fair and ethical when deciding on hourly rates and fixed retainers. But also know you are valuable. Charge what you are worth and you should have no problem earning what you deserve, wherever you are in the world.
Tip #3: Be Organized
In life, organization is key. As a remote worker, you can’t get by without being organized. No matter if you’re working with multiple clients or managing various products and services, you are the only one in charge. If you’re not organized, it will be easy to let a deadline slip or forget to place a crucial order. But if you are organized, you will have more efficient production and more time to focus on bringing in more business.
Having a scheduled day should reflect in your online presence with your clients and coworkers. It can be as easy as letting everyone know you’ve started the day with a message, to shooting through a quick ‘gone for an hour for lunch!’. Otherwise, it can be quite worrisome to send through an email and get no reply.
Organization allows for a structured system. When you know where things are, when they are due and when they call for your attention, you can spend more time focusing on bringing in cash. Soon, your reputation will precede you and clients/customers will want to work with somebody who offers excellent service, and great work.
Being organized also takes the form of knowing you’re financially secure. It can be intimidating to be financially on your own, so it’s good to research your cash flow options. An example of this is a six month personal loan, which allows you to borrow money quickly and pay it back over a fairly short and fixed, period of time. Compared to using a credit card for your emergency line of credit, it can easily blow out of control due to being more flexible than a typical personal loan.
Credit cards have no fixed term to pay it back and with such low minimum repayments and revolving credit, you can find yourself with a debt for decades. Loans are handy to keep you floating above water, but it can be costly if you don’t keep your spending under control.
Tip #4: Time is Money
I know, you’ve heard this saying more times than you can count, but it’s important to reinforce – there’s a reason for its repetitive use. As a remote worker, you decide when and where you want to work, which is great. However, you can’t wake up and watch a whole series on Netflix and expect to earn revenue. Working remotely does not equal no work at all, sadly. I suggest making a work schedule, and a break schedule. Working first thing in the morning sets the tone for a productive day. For many, it can be hard to get started after sitting around in front of the TV or laying in bed.
Your time is important, and as mentioned above, you have to know what it’s worth. Make excellent use of your time. Plan your day strategically so that you can check things off your list, and avoid moving tasks to tomorrow’s list. The more you get done, the more time you have to take in more work so that you can maximize your earnings. A recent blog post explained it perfectly: “How much time a project takes up literally affects whether or not you’ll be able to take on another project. Consultants know this, and that’s why they charge the way they do.”
Tip #5: Set Goals
If anything you do, you need to set a goal so you can monitor your success, as well as your failures. It is important to analyze your failures, so that you can change course or alter the way you are doing something in order to turn that failure into a success, and earnings.
Setting goals also gives you motivation. For example, if you have a goal of securing five clients by the end of the month then you are most likely going to get organized and manage your time wisely so you can reach this goal. I suggest when you first start your work to conduct a ‘self check’ every two weeks. After about a month or two, you can change the checks to monthly reviews. If you need more motivating, another idea is to plan out your goals at the beginning of every day with a notebook and pen, and cross out each as it’s achieved. Or go digital and use free online tools such as Todoist, Wunderlust and Any.do.
Another benefit of setting goals are achieving them. Once you achieve a goal you can set another one. Maybe it’s to hit another benchmark for revenue, products sold, or clients secured. Whatever it may be, goal setting can help keep you motivated and help you maximize your profits through “self checks” and business evaluation.
Tip #6: Plan for Failure
This may sound contradictory, but the best way to set yourself up for success is by planning to fail. Making this adjustment to working remotely can be difficult, particularly at first, so it’s important to not set your expectations too high. Allow yourself to get acclimated to the new lifestyle, whether you’re working while you travel, or simply working at home. It’s important not to overload yourself at first.
A big issue that can make it harder to work remotely is the lack of social interaction that may come with certain types of telework. You’ll no longer be able to exchange news with coworkers by the water cooler, or have a chat over your desk. It’s easy to stay locked up in your workspace, but it’s also a surefire way to burn out. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, there are benefits to getting out for a standing coffee date or exercise class. With this planned in, you’re seeing down the path that leads to failure and avoiding it.
Another common failure is becoming overenthusiastic in quitting their job or booking travel before building up a client list, particularly if you’re freelancing. Take the time to start out and make your way in your niche, allowing for any setbacks. When starting out on your own, it can take longer to build a client list from scratch. Personal loans can help you out, but it’s always better to take it cautiously.
What works for you?
It can be hard to hit the ground running, but don’t let any missteps derail you. These tips are a great start, but at the end of the day, it comes down to experimenting with what fits you best and leads to the greatest results. One person might be able to fit in a few episodes of their favorite show in the middle of the day, but others might need to set up an entirely separate work space within the house.
It’s an adjustment for both you and your clients, and while it can go wrong, it can also go very right. The workplace is moving towards a more digital environment, so working remotely can offer you many more opportunities than you’ve seen before.