The Part Time Digital Nomad

I have a confession to make.

I’m not really a digital nomad.

Sounds weird, doesn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel. I need to travel. Staying too long in one place gets me itchy. I can’t even work in the same corner of the room for too long. I switch between living room and kitchen. Between city and country.

I sometimes work at my company’s office – mainly so I have regular face time with my colleagues. Which I value. But it’s not entirely necessary.

I absolutely have the freedom to randomly go and live in Spain for a few months. Or spend time with my family in Ireland, whilst still working and enjoying “normal” life with them.

Which is what prompted me to address this topic. Simply put…

…most digital nomad blogs put an emphasis on not ‘not having a home’. But there is such a thing as a ‘part time’ digital nomad. And, for the majority who want to enjoy location independence, this suits them just fine.

The point of being a remote worker and/or a digital nomad is that you get to choose where you live and spend your time. Some are very happy spending most of their time in their lovely little village in the South of England, thank you very much.

The whole point is the freedom to choose. And that’s what I focus on.

The (accidental) digital nomad

I remember going to a digital nomad meetup in Cologne, Germany. I went with my partner, who is a software engineer and works full-time for a company in London (he lives in Bonn, Germany). We were curious to meet others who might be living in Cologne for a while. To hear their stories, to experience different perspectives.

The vast majority of people there were ‘newbies’ – they worked at ‘stationary’ jobs. They were intrigued by digital nomadism and remote working (or perhaps just looking for drinking buddies – a most admirable pursuit).

Up until this point, I didn’t consider myself a real digital nomad. I spend a lot of my time in either Cologne or Bonn (they’re neighboring cities). And Ireland. And the UK…

Every single person we spoke to was… new to the concept, and curious. But that was when it dawned on us…

…we were the only ‘actual’ digital nomads there.

I visit family and friends in different cities/countries frequently. If it’s a long stretch of time, they’re usually working their day jobs and living their normal lives. So, I simply adapt my schedule to suit them.

So, how much “digital nomading” do I actually do?

At the moment… Not much (by my standards). Generally speaking, quite a lot. Life is something that should be focused on family, friends and following our passions. Work, projects, and writing are my passions – when I’m not doing those, I’m either spending it with people I care about. Or throwing myself into new situations, meeting new people and discovering new ideas/perspectives.

I travel as much as necessary. In practical terms, I like to get out of Cologne at least once a week. I like to get out of Germany several times a year. Some of those are holiday where I do very little work: many of those times involve visiting friends and spending time with them.

So, can you be a digital nomad and still have a permanent home?

Absolutely. So far, I haven’t seen this idea touted on many of the great blogs I’ve read. Which is understandable. They’re gunning for the big picture, the ultimate freedom. But what I have to say is…

…location-independence can also mean retaining the freedom to stay in one place – the placing of your own, personal choosing.

You can have a permanent home (or two, three… depending on your budget), spend a lot of time in one place and still be a digital nomad. You have that freedom. You’re location independent – it’s up to you to define it. Since every situation is different, the best thing you can do is speak to others who’re following the same dream of location independence.

What Tools Do Remote Workers Need?

Any tradesperson’s job would be difficult without tools.

The same can be said for any working professional. Whether you simply work remotely or follow the digital nomad lifestyle, there are a few bare essentials you should have.

Of course, the tools of your particular trade may differ from that of other remote workers.

A web developer will naturally use different types of software in comparison to copywriters or accountants. Even between different companies, communication tools can differ vastly. Some use Slack, others prefer Skype.

No matter your profession, where you work or what software you use, there are certain ‘bare essentials’ that every remote worker needs.

If you’ve got a full-time remote job, you probably won’t need freelancer platformsunless you’re also running a side-gig.

On the other hand, full-time freelancers may well use software their employee counterparts have never heard of.

Remote work certainly lends itself to minimalism. At least in terms of hardware. However, working remotely any professional is more or less impossible if you don’t have the following.

Office on the Road: Essential tools for remote workers

Working from home or on the road as a marketer, HR professional, coder, copywriter etc. requires certain hardware and devices. Without a laptop or at least a tablet (with a keyboard!), working from anywhere (or indeed working at all) is pretty much impossible.

While not always 100% essential, smartphones can also make your life a lot easier.

First Things First: Get a good laptop (or tablet)

laptop table spotlight

Preferences naturally vary when it comes to laptops or tablets. Some of us  stick to Apple, others prefer a range of other brands. A select few even prefer working from a desktop, only using a laptop when absolutely necessary. Whatever your choice of device, there are a few things you should consider before you start shopping.

  • RAM: Depending on the work you do, you may need a lot or just a little RAM. If you’re something of an extreme multi-tasker, 8GB or higher is generally recommended. The same can be said for those who work with graphics/video editing.
  • Comfort: This is more important for some than for others. No matter how powerful or efficient your device is, it can be incredibly distracting if you do not actually feel comfortable using it.
  • Portability: This depends on the person. If you like to work in a lot of different places or travel frequently, your laptop should be light enough to carry without hurting your back. Additionally, it should easily fit into most of your bags. For some, this may mean sacrificing screen width.
  • Durability: Especially important for digital nomads who travel frequently. With so much moving between coworking spaces, hopping on trains and buses, your computer is going to get a few bumps here and there.

The same points apply to tablets (if that’s more your style). Find one with a powerful enough processor. Put a bit of thought into the keyboard as well.

Don’t Skimp on Decent Headphones

headphones table

Bear in mind that “decent” does not always equate to “big”. When I say decent headphones, I mean a pair of headphones that are durable and easy to carry around without taking up space.

Personally, I prefer smaller in-ear headphones. They’re small, unobtrusive and can be packed away pretty easily. However, if you feel more comfortable with bigger ones then by all means go ahead. The most important thing is that you can comfortably hold a video conference and actually communicate.

A decent pair of headphones can also block out the sound when you really have to concentrate. Durability is important because you don’t want to have to keep replacing them every few months. That’s why I would always advocate investing in a good pair of headphones.

A Smartphone

a smartphone

I’m not going to say its impossible to live or work without a smartphone (because it isn’t).

However, having one can make life a lot easier. You can use it to keep in contact with colleagues via Slack/Skype/whatever even if you have to pop out to the shops for a few minutes. You can check emails and messages on the go without having to bring your computer out. You can even use it to attend meetings.

For digital nomads and travellers, the smartphone is even more important. You can take pictures, keep in contact with friends and family, check apps and maintain contact with the community even while you’re away from your laptop.

A Decent Internet Connection

wifi symbol 500x

For those of us who mostly work from home, this is a no-brainer. Slow and inefficient Internet isn’t just a pain during work hours, but can seriously disrupt leisure time as well. So naturally, it is important to make sure your home is kitted out with a decent connection.

However, for the more mobile among us, a good data plan is also necessary. Even if you just pop out to work in a café for a few hours, you cannot run the risk of there being no public wifi. Having a good data plan will allow you to hotspot on your phone and continue working as normal. This of course may be tricky depending on where you live and what kind of data plans are available.

VPNs, or virtual private networks

vpn review network

Unfortunately, VPNs have become a necessity in order to protect one’s privacy online. Additionally, they grant you a greater level of access to the Internet by allowing you to bypass geographical restrictions. This may be more important for some professionals than others. As a digital marketer, certain aspects of my job would have been very difficult without one.

And again, digital nomads will find them particularly useful if they end up in a country that restricts certain websites.

For everyone else… It just makes sense to encrypt your data as much as possible.

Invest time and money into your search

Take the time to consider what hardware you need. Make a list of specs and do a bit of comparison shopping. As a professional, you should ensure that your equipment gets a good run – hopefully for a few years, at least. Freelancers in particular should also look into insuring their devices if anything happens. For digital nomads, travel insurance usually helps to cover the loss and/or damage of their devices.

 

The Plague: How to Avoid “Work from Home” Scams

What I was surprised to learn was that work from home scams are pretty common – even today.

Why?

Well, remote jobs are easier to find than ever these days. There are plenty of remote job boards available with real, legitimate companies listing actual positions.

Long-gone are the days of the low-paid, “grunt work”-type telecommute jobs. Programmers and customer service workers tend to have the most choice but digital marketing, HR, finance and management professionals are also beginning to see more remote-friendly jobs available in their field.

So why, then, are work from home scams still a thing?

Well, first all remember this:

There will always be scammers and con artists. They will always try to prey on those of us who need something. If anything, the more desperate you are the more susceptible you will be to a scam.

I’m not knocking desperation here, either. We’ve all been there. Sometimes, we see an offer that is too good to be true and hope, just hope, that maybe it is the answer to our prayers.

Up until recently, I did digital marketing for online dating sites. Part of the job was researching and creating content about online dating scams. Many of these dating scammers followed similar principles to job scammers. The only difference is that job scammers aren’t playing off your need for affection. Rather, they’re playing off your need for an income.

PLEASE NOTE: Job scams exist in the “real world” too. Although remote jobs have a higher level of legitimacy these days, it is much easier to get away with a scam on the Internet.

That’s why when you’re looking for a job online (which, let’s face it, is the main method most people use these days), you need to be all the more vigilant.

What makes telecommuting a particularly “lucrative” industry to scammers, however, is the fact that getting a remote job is competitive business. The good news is that many remote job boards do a pretty good job of vetting potential employers and cleaning up job advertisements.

However, as a job seeker you still need to should some of the responsibility and…

…you should still be able to recognize a work from home scam yourself!

That means looking for certain signs. As a general rule, I would recommend remaining suspicious if anything seems fishy. And I mean really fishy, not that they just took forever to respond because, quite frankly, that’s the sad state of recruitment these days.

Evaluating a Work from Home Scam: What you should look for

There are a couple of points which immediately scream “scam!” in your face when you encounter them. As a general rule of them, I would maintain that if something is too good to be true, then it’s a lie. However, consider the following points…

  • If it looks like a “get rich quick scheme”, then it most certainly is. For the scammer, that it is. For you, it means you’ll simply lose a lot of money. Get rich quick and pyramid schemes naturally predate the Internet, however the digital world has become a very viable medium for scammers to carry out their work (hey, it’s great! Even scammers can work remotely these days!).
  • If they want you to part with ANY amount of money, then get out fast. Some jobs in the real world do require you to pay upfront for certain materials (uniform, etc.). However, this generally shouldn’t be a necessary. It is you who are selling your services to a company, not the other way around. If they want to train you then they should pay for it. The same can be said for any software or hardware they provide you – and if they want to train you. You should never have to pay out of your own pocket for any of that… Ever.

Think of it this way: the main thing a scammer wants to do is extort money from you. It is as simple as that. If the “employer” on the other end consistently insists on getting cash from you, then you know you’re dealing with a bullshit merchant. Forget about what they promise you because it’s not true.

Let me repeat that again in more clear, concise language. Just so those of you at the back can hear me clearly…

NEVER, EVER, EVER GIVE MONEY TO A RANDOM STRANGER ON THE INTERNET. EVER.

Are we clear on that? Good.

In addition to the “employer” wanting money from you, there are a few other signs which should spark your suspicions. Consider if…

  • …the job ad itself is written clearly and concisely. Now, I have seen real, legitimate job listings which were terribly So bad, in fact, I wondered how the person behind it even had a job in the first place. HR is in a sad state these days so I can understand that a lot of legitimate listings may seem “scammy” at the start. Which why you should also…
  • …check the job ad’s credentials. By credentials I mean telephone, email and web address as well as other social media. How big is their web presence? How consistent is their branding (and check URLs!). You’ll usually know pretty quickly whether or not it is legitimate.

Remote “jobs” that are usually scams

There are certain “jobs” that are indeed complete bogus. Generally speaking, the easiest jobs with the highest promise of income are out and out scams. Data-entry positions, for example, should be avoided if they offer you something along the lines of US$50.00 an hour.

Below, however, are a few “jobs” you are probably better off avoiding:

The Assembly “Job”

I hadn’t even heard of these until I actually did some research on job scams…  This type of “job” seems particularly mean (and depressing). The “employees” are sent starter kits to assemble craft supplies… And the products are then sold on by the company. Of course, the assembler gets paid… Not. It’s pretty obvious off the bat that this is a scam because… guess what? We’ve got machines to do that nowadays.

It’s simply not a valid business model. Forget it!

The Data Entry Job

Unlike assembly jobs, data entry is actually a valid type of work… And yes, a lot of people do it. You can actually find valid data entry gigs online which will pay you a couple of dollars. Honestly though, a full-time data entry is not only a) rare to come across and b) doesn’t pay very well. That’s because it’s quite literally grunt work. It’s the digital equivalent of stacking shelves.

Data entry is part of a host of other jobs. From VAs, secretaries to online marketers and programmers. All at different pay scales.

You’ll know that this job is a scam when you’re promised even a liveable salary.

Nope, forget it. These are usually bullshit as well.

So then what is the best way to get a remote job (without being scammed)?

There’s no magic formula to finding a remote job. It’s just like finding any other kind of positions. You need to have the qualifications and/or experience for the role you want. And during your job search, make sure you’re aware of the most common types of work from home scams. As well as any other kind of job scam.

Just being a little savvy will help you separate the wheat from the chaff… and get you the job you want.

LIES: Remote Work Myths That Are Nonsense

The concept of remote work is plagued by myths and misconceptions.

This is, in part, thanks to the rising popularity of telecommuting. While many people read the facts and statistics, many more prefer to listen to half-truths and outright lies. After all, they are much quicker and easier to believe simply checking the facts.

Guess what’s worse: some (no many!) of these people are managers, HR professionals and even company leaders. Many of them balk at the idea of letting their employees work from home.

To these managers, leaders and human resource professionals, being unable to physically see their employees and peer over their shoulders means they may as well not be working at all.

Well… at least until said employee breaks their leg and needs to stay home for a few weeks. That’s far too long to wait and there’s lots of work to do… Ah, simply let them bring their laptop home and work from their.

But only until they’re better! Apparently, working from home is perfectly fine if you’ve done yourself an intense injury.

For these people, working from home is also a very viable solution. If it happens to be the weekend. Somehow, though, it just doesn’t work during the week. Must be the magical weekend fairies and their productivity dust.

woman doing a line
“Productivity dust”… Yes. That’s what we’ll call it.

It is this particular type of poisonous attitude towards remote work that causes a lot of people to be miserable, holed up in atrocious “open plan” offices, get on each other’s nerves, significantly decrease their productivity, lose money and commute for nearly two or three hours a day.

Younger, trendier companies have countless solutions. “Isolation” pods, pizza parties (yay?), foosball, games..!

Leaders decide against treating people like adults. Instead, they do a u-turn and every employee becomes a naughty child who must be carefully monitored. “Work from home? Why? Here, have whatever your want… right where I can see you!”

The truth is that in the knowledge economy, you’re being paid for your knowledge. Not your physical presence. You are not a tradesperson or a doctor. For decades (nay, CENTURIES), businesspeople were happy to pay external freelancers for tasks they didn’t want to do. Oftentimes, these people wouldn’t even be in the same building.

Nowadays, the only reason you have to be in an office is because of your contract.

Well, it’s time to give up the bullshit. Let me introduce you to some of the most common remote work myths I’ve common across and tell you why they are bullshit.

“Collaboration without face-to-face communication is impossible/ineffective!”

meeting collaboration hands

Yes, it is ineffective.

Until it isn’t.

Circumstances (like a business trip) may force colleagues to be apart for weeks or months. In fact, it happens quite a lot. Contracts are negotiated, products are sold and money is made all the time with neither party ever physically meeting one another.

This also happened long before even ARPANet existed. The thing is, when it comes to making money… business finds a way. Do not underestimate the power of human greed.

Just watch dramas from the 60s and 70s featuring businessmen who can’t leave work at the office. They still do paperwork on trains. They draw up strategize at home. They telephone their bosses and clients from their living rooms and hotels.

If you’re dedicated to your job and have shit that needs to get done, you will get it done.

This myth is weakened even more thanks to modern communications technology. Unless your job literally involves working on someone’s actual body, physical presence is wholly unnecessary. While there are many jobs which call for that, I’m pretty sure it’s actually inappropriate in most business contexts.

cat licking
“Aww come on, just one lick. One lick and your company has the Morgan Account for the next 20 years!”

“You can’t let people work from home. They’ll just arse around on the Internet all day!”

party lights

That is very true. Certain people exist whose life ambition seems to be to do nothing but spend time looking at cat pictures on company time. But, here’s a secret: work shy layabouts who do nothing at home will go to the most extreme lengths to avoid doing work in the office, too. Sure, it may be harder for them, but you’ll amazed shocked at the ways people will try to appear busy.

Without actually being busy!

I’m no business genius. Yet if I set a series of tasks for someone on a team I’m leading, I can easily tell if they’re working because I can see the results. You, as a manager, should have a certain set of metrics by which you measure your employees’ success. Whether they’re sitting in the office or in Bangladesh, you’ll know if they’re working because shit is getting done.

It’s not rocket surgery, people.

Oh, and those lazy people who need ‘supervision’ in order to actually do their job? I have a simple question for you:

Why the fuck haven’t you fired them yet?

“Remote work is new-fangled, passing fad…”

bewitched 500x

I believed this remote work myth for the longest time. As the years trickled by, I started to realize that it probably wasn’t true. What really made the penny drop, however, was watching Bewitched (I kid you not!).

How many times did Darren Stevens (usually thanks to a spell of Endora’s) stay home and work on his advertising campaigns? Or call Larry Tate to say he was working from home? Or do work on the weekends because a client was coming to town the next day?

And people, people… That show was set and filmed in the damn sixties!

Yes, I know it probably wasn’t that common for a regular employee back then to work from home. I am also aware that it’s a television show about witches. But television reflects real life. Steven and Tate had urgent business to do, and they did it. Office or no office.

Let’s expand further. Accountants have been able to work from home… Since forever. So have newspaper/magazine journalists. Carpenters. Oh, and just take a look at this article while you’re at it.

Telecommuting is absolutely nothing new. It has just become more common and a hell of a lot easier.

“Everyone, everywhere can and should work from home… All the time!”

woman by the pool reading

I personally would slightly prefer to work for a fully-distributed company. However, as long as they have an effective remote work policy in place and I can choose where I work, it’s not a necessity. I am also not opposed to fully-distributed companies, either. However, we need to realize that not everyone can or wants to work from home.

There are many dedicated, intelligent and talented employees who just prefer and even excel in an office environment. In the same way that I both prefer and excel at my work when I’m in my own space, listening to my own music and sitting on a bean bag rather than a back-crippling office chair.

ergonomic chair
And don’t get me started on that “ergonomic” nonsense. Humans were not meant to sit in chairs of any kind for long periods of time.

Although I talk about “remote working” a lot, in reality what I’m trying to advocate is employers treating employees like adults and focusing on getting the work done and achieving results. NOT watching people like hawks, treating them like children and fussing over stupid rules that actually waste precious company time($$$). Sure, in jobs where physical presence is necessary, you have to be there. End of story.

But that’s exactly why I chose to be a digital marketer over being a receptionist.

For workers in the knowledge economy, we should ultimately be afforded the choice to work either in the office or at home or on top of Mount Vesuvius.

While remote work still has many myths surrounding it, it is my hope that one day we (read: MANAGERS) will have gotten these pedantic, patronizing attitudes we have towards employees. It is no wonder so many of us are miserable at work.

Just look at how we’re treated.

 

Digital Nomad Myths – What You Shouldn’t Believe!

The idea of being a digital nomad is becoming very popular. Remote working allows us to do this… Which in turn has created a unique and fast-growing lifestyle that many want to pursue.

And as with anything that becomes popular, plenty of myths and misconceptions have made themselves known. With the spread of misinformation, its probably a good idea to clear up some of the false ideas that many people may have about digital nomads.

Being productive is difficult if you’re a digital nomad

Probably my favorite one because this myth also applies to remote workers. Digital nomads are often seen as flighty individuals who book plane tickets on a whim and disappear for months. On the surface, this seems to be true: except that for the most part, a lot of travel is actually planned painstakingly in advance. Visas are a thing, people!

That’s not to say you won’t get distracted by your environment. It happens. Everyone has on and off days. Some people are more prone to distraction than others. Interestingly, I’ve always found that having a bit of chaos around me actually makes me more productive. That’s why I like to do some of my work in noisy cafes (not all the time, though!).

If you primarily work from home, you may do so to avoid office distractions. Yes, offices can be very distracting places. Especially the disaster that is the open plan office. Not only that: office politics is often a big (and unnecessary) time-suck.

It’s impossible to build a successful career

Here’s a tip: It’s possible to build a successful career anywhere if you want to, digital nomad or not. It takes a lot of work, but humans are very good at overcoming the challenges that are thrown at them. For many, ingenuity and creativity are actually enhanced by lack of resources or major obstacles.

This myth also assumes that the only way of having a successful career is climbing the corporate ladder. Which is a load of crap. Successful careers are built on determination, collaboration, communication and a willingness to go the extra mile. That can happen in any work environment, remote or not.

It’s only for tech people!

I’ll admit I fell victim to this one for a long time. Especially when I was looking for remote work: I thought as a digital marketer/copywriter that my full-time remote work options were severely limited. Most of the remote jobs I saw were based in programming and tech… And while it is true that a significant number of digital nomads work in tech, and that many remote jobs are tech-based, plenty of careers can be worked from a distance.

As a non-tech remote worker or digital nomad, you may have to negotiate a bit more. Fight a little harder for what you want… But it is by no means impossible. In fact, customer service is one of the largest industries for remote work out there.

Digital nomads live a life of constant excitement

This is a non-work related one and I can understand why many believe this. After all, digital nomads travel constantly, meet new people and learn new languages. They also have new experiences are always up for an adventure… Well, maybe not so much. Moving countries constantly and acclimatizing to new environments is great. But it has HUGE downsides.

  • Loneliness affects a lot of people when they move away. Suddenly, you’re in a place where you have to be open to making new friends. If you still want social contact, that is. It can be quite daunting for a lot of people… And very much a skill to learn in and of itself.
  • You may have money problems. It’s always wise to have a “nest egg” to fall back on, but there will definitely be times when you have to scrimp and save. It may mean not being able to go for cocktails on the beach.
  • Let’s not forget homesickness and culture shock either… Newer digital nomads tend to be more prone to this than seasoned ones.

Conclusion

The nomad life is undoubtedly great, but its not all glamor and beaches. Every type of lifestyle comes with its ups and downs. And while you can read all the advice in the world, there’s nothing better than actually experiencing a lifestyle to see what it’s truly like!

Thoughts on Freelancing and Stability

I originally became a freelancer because I didn’t like working in a kitchen. The only other skills I had besides cooking were speaking English and being able to write. Since work as an English teacher was scarce, I turned to “writing for the Internet”.

welcome to the internet
My first day on the job.

This really meant content mills – Textbroker, The Content Authority and MediaPiston (who were actually pretty decent, but it’s dead now so don’t get any funny ideas).

There was no guarantee of work, but I turned the computer on every day. I wrote most days – sometimes very little, sometimes far, far too much.

I read many resources on freelancing. How to get clients, where to find them and new places to find work. As time went on, I managed to pick up a few of my own who paid better and delivered more consistent levels of work. At the end of every month, however, I was still living hand-to-mouth.

peanuts
In being paid peanuts, it was sometimes all I ate (this may or may not be true).

I loved the freedom of being able to work from anywhere. I enjoyed being able to shift my hours so I could meet friends who usually worked night shifts in bars. I had a lot of fun adventures disappearing off to another city and still being able to make an income. Yet at times, I was wondering if I could pay my rent next month.

Instability and freedom, or stability and being chained to a desk

At some point, I realized that experience in a company might be valuable. So, I managed to blag my way into a job where I became a full-on online marketing manager. It was nice to have a stable salary, regular working hours and my own desk.

carol beer
I tried my best not to impersonate this person. It didn’t always work.

Unfortunately, the charm wore off pretty soon. I went into the office every day. I sat in the same place. While I still appreciated the stability and loved learning new things, the feeling of “sameness”, of being trapped in one room for forty hours a week, began to creep in.

I started to miss freelancing, or so I thought.

In truth, I wasn’t missing freelancing at all. I had diverse projects to work on (admittedly within a very niche industry). I was constantly learning new things and training my SEO muscles. I was making lots of money from our affiliate partners. What I was really missing, in fact, I was simply the lifestyle I had been accustomed to. While my hours were flexible, my presence was required in the office because it was the done thing.

When it comes to freelancing, people often make the choice for two reasons. The first is having their own business, trying their hand at being successful and seeing how much money they can make. The other is simply freedom. This kind of freedom is traditionally not thought to exist in most companies.

However…

…these days, the online industry has made full-time jobs as flexible as freelance positions.

Things are different now. If you’re adamant about the option of working in your underwear (or in the Sahara or eye of a hurricane or wherever gives you the most “inspiration”), you don’t have to go at it alone. Remote jobs are plentiful – if a little competitive.

In essence: Things nowadays are not as clear-cut as “freelancing = freedom” and “employment = imprisonment”. There are freelance positions which require you to be on-site, and permanent employment contracts that let you work from anywhere in the world.

If you are looking for that kind of freedom, the key here is your perspective. If it is easier to find a freelance job, it’s best to build up long-term partnerships which can similar to regular employment. Forget about security for a minute and focus on regular pay. After all, you can still be fired pretty fast on a permanent contract. Though you’ll most likely receive some “I’m sorry” money.

So, what to do?

Research!

Have a look at your industry. What are the most feasible options for you? Do you mind going into an office maybe only once or twice a week, but having partial location independence? If so, you may luck out on finding a local job. Are you so utterly fantastic that companies and clients will come to your door, begging for your services? Then maybe freelancing is the best option.

There are a lot of possibilities out there. How much money you make and whether you can live on it also depends on how in-demand you are. Those with programming skills will make more in a shorter amount of time – SEO experts fall somewhere a little lower in the pecking order. Unfortunately, writers tend to be seen as the grunts (unless you’re so fantastically good that you’ve written for Vogue, or something).

So, what’s my secret? Well, I mix it up.

I have freelance work which ebbs and flows. However, I strive to maintain some kind of “basis” income. Theoretically I could get a job in a coffee shop, though since I prefer location independence I went for a part-time remote job. Having at least a guaranteed coming in every month covers my bases – train ticket, health insurance, candle supply (I light a lot of smelly candles).

So, when it comes to flexibility there is a lot of wiggle room. It just means that you have to add a dash of creativity to your work strategy. Which shouldn’t be a problem… We are creatives after all, aren’t we?

Working Remotely: An Employee’s Perspective

Remote work has been around for a long time. It’s popularity, however, has only really grown in the last 10.

I’ve been working remotely for most of my professional life. At least, ever since I got out of the restaurant/odd job business. Even then, I wasn’t fully remote. When I started freelancing, I taught English as a second language – mainly in big, boring German companies.

coffee
Boring companies, but nice coffee.

Not long after (read: a month), I discovered I could write for money on the Internet. Back then, “content mills” had their heyday and were everywhere. They were a start but thankfully I gave up that life-sucking habit.

After several years of freelance copywriting (earning an okay living, might I add), I got hired to work full-time for a company in Cologne, Germany. I was over the moon. Some of my friends even described it as a “real” or “grown up” job.

There was an office. There was a telephone. There was a desk of my own. The job was more than just writing: it was digital marketing, SEO, a bit of graphic design, translation, project management (i.e., anything that needed to be done).

It was a novelty for me and the job was interesting. The stable salary was also the biggest plus. Definitely the most delicious temptation after spending years carefully tracking how much money was coming in every month.

cologne cathedral
Plus, Cologne is an amazing city.

That was all well and good. Until I started to dread getting up in the morning. Full trams were never the problem though. It dawned on me that for the rest of my time at that company, I would (probably) be sitting in the same chair, in the same room… Eight hours a day, five days a week.

That’s when I began to think about working remotely again. In fact, I started to yearn for those days.

What does “working remotely” really mean?

First things first: remote work or “telecommuting” is not a job or a field of industry. Rather, it describes a type of working environment. An office is a work environment, a restaurant, a bar, a warehouse. “Office worker” is not a real job description, in the same way that “warehouse worker” does not describe what you actually do for a living.

Working remotely can and is done by a vast range of different professions. Those professions can also vary wildly. Copywriters do drastically different work from HR professionals. An accountant and a web developer’s day-to-day tasks are in no way the same.

Remote workers come from a vast array of different fields. Some are graphic designers. Others are business consultants. Quite a fair few nowadays are even medical professionals. What all of these jobs (for the moment) have in common is that they are generally “white-collar” jobs in the knowledge economy.

dog white collar
“White-collar”… What a ridiculous term.

Which brings me to the main point: in these professions, you are being paid for your knowledge and expertise and not for your presence. If your job is done on a computer, it can theoretically be a “remote job”. Of course, we have to make the distinction because most “computer” jobs are, by default, carried out in offices.

The reason more people don’t work from home isn’t because they don’t want to. The real reason is fearful management, worried that they cannot “check up” on their underlings. Fear in the main reason that most people can’t or won’t telecommute.

Remote Work Arrangements: More possible than ever

 

The good news is that setting up a telecommute arrangement isn’t as challenging as it once was. Many companies already offer working from home at least one day a week. That’s fine for a lot of people, however not enough for many.

These arrangements are also surprisingly common at larger companies: from Apple to Amazon to dell. Various other start-ups, such as Hotjar and buffer, have an almost completely distributed workforce.

At my nice job with the stable salary, I realized that all of the work I did was on a computer. Sitting in the same desk every day and commuting was getting old, so I thought…

Why not just ask?

It was as simple as that. For many other people, it isn’t that simple. Those who work in more “tech-like” industries tend to have an easier time of getting work from home arrangements. Programmers and IT professionals in particular have the most choice when it comes to remote jobs.

The good news is that more companies are wising up to how remote working can benefit them. The challenge for us as employees is mainly finding a company that will allow a remote work arrangement.

Remote Working as an Employee: The benefits

I’ll admit that I started my career arseways. While I did travel to companies to teach classes, I didn’t spend all day there. While teaching, I also spent the entire time interacting with people. That’s very different to go into the same office every day and staring at a screen for three hours.

However, my “remote work” experience began when I started working as a copywriter. I would spend entire days either at home or in a café working away and dealing with clients.

Fast forward three years and suddenly I was in an office. Every. Single. Day. It was an interesting change at first but soon became very suffocating.

Once I started working remotely again, things generally got easier. I did sometimes work longer, though I noticed just how much more effective I was. My boss remarked on it as well.

During my office days, I actually used to dread getting up in the morning. While I like a bit of fresh air and social interaction, it’s usually the last thing I want to do at 8 AM. When working in the office, I was usually one of the later ones (my company isn’t too strict on hours, being an online marketing firm). When working at home… Suddenly, I was up and working at 7. I had plenty of time to do shopping, washing, household chores and still get my work done.

My social battery also improved. I don’t like spending all my time around people. However, I do need to spend time with them – more specifically, people I actually want to have quality time with. My work involves very little social interaction to begin with and, although my colleagues are nice people, we don’t get much of a chance to really spend quality time. It made sense to concentrate during the day on my work, and then get out in the evening.

Yep, I still really like working remotely

In conclusion, I would say that at least on a personal level working remotely is my absolute preferred method of getting things done. Spending time getting bits and pieces done in cafes also helps, though it’s not mandatory. Of course, some people cannot concentrate without being in an office environment. I have full sympathy. I’m not one of those people who advocate the abolition of offices completely, however offering employees a much more flexible system of work could make a huge difference on their general happiness and well-being – as well as that of the company.