Remote Working Basics

When I started working exclusively from home in late 1999, it wasn’t a smooth transition. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t intuitive. I’d gone directly from tending a popular bar to freelance whatever-ing (transcription, data-entry, appointment setting, website designing, freelance writing, blogging, reviewing and general editing) alone, at home, being lonely and not knowing what I should be doing with my time.

I’m not the smartest or most focused person in the world. I’m actually not that bright in conventional terms, I have my strengths but it took a good long time for me to figure out what they were and how to take advantage of them in any meaningful way.

I know this is a scary time for people. There are a lot of people out of work already, and before we became shut-ins for the benefit of public health there were a lot of people already facing financial insecurity. I’m not going to tell you not to be scared, but I will tell you how to find your groove so you can get a paycheck and be scared of something other than eviction and starvation.

Follow these seven simple rules:

  1. Maintain your social connections and nurture your relationships. I don’t mean in a sleazy network marketing way. I mean call, FaceTime, chat, Skype, Zoom, email and text your loved ones and friends during your lunch hour and the hour after you finish work for the day.
    Share your life with your people and invite them to share with you, make group chats and video conferences and introduce your people to each other and ask them to share their people with you.
  2. Unless your work is directly related to social media, stay off of it during your work day. Besides being a time suck, during times of turmoil the tone of normal neutral conversations can turn toxic and hostile and ruin your mood and productivity.
    When/if you do use social media (after you’re done for the day) try to be gentle and empathetic, scroll past rants and provocative conversations, block disturbing content and make a point to interact with others in a positive way.
  3. Establish a normal human schedule and stick to it. Shower and get dressed like you’re going to work, because you’re going to work. Of course you don’t have to stick to just eight-hour days five days a week, you can go more or do less, but be consistent.
    If you have too much downtime, sign up for some online classes that allow you to study at your own pace and work your studies into your schedule, when you pick up more work you can ease off your classes until the next slump.
  4. If you multitask, do it in a meaningful way. Do NOT try to solicit clients and write your manifesto while you’re on the phone, both tasks will suffer. However, you can put a roast in the oven, set the timer and then make calls and set appointments until it’s done. You could also put stamps on envelopes or fold flyers or do any other simple repetitive task and listen to podcasts or watch tutorials.
    Supervising your neighbor’s small children while they assemble cheap goods for you to sell on Etsy might be profitable multitasking to some, but is morally dubious, I advise against it.
  5. Start where you are, with what you have. The biggest mistake people make is waiting for the perfect storm of financing, equipment, software, time, education, professional network and opportunity to fall together before they get down to business.
    Don’t wait. You cannot buy experience, but experience is going to be your most valuable resource so the sooner you start the sooner you can count on having it.
  6. Weigh your time investment against income carefully. I’m serious on this one, pay attention because it’s very important. It’s way too easy to think you’re making good money if you’re not tracking your time, especially if you hate selling, only to literally be working around the clock earning a few dollars an hour.
    Sit down and do the math.
    If it takes me ten hours to earn fifty dollars, and then I have to reserve 20% of that for taxes and social security means I’ve only made a spendable four dollars an hour; and that’s a generous estimation because it assumes that revisions won’t be requested and I’m not paying any overhead just to exist. I’m better off not taking the job and splitting my available time between finding better clientele and working on my own projects to fill out my portfolio.
  7. Do what you like well enough to tolerate doing it on a daily basis. I know that conventional inspiring wisdom is supposed to be “Do what you love and success is inevitable!”
    That’s what I’m supposed to say but that whole thing is a myth. The do what you love thing works for very few people, otherwise they’d teach it in school and we’d all be successful all the time. If you do what you love you’re going to have an extremely difficult time being objective about its successes and failures and that’s not good business. You need a healthy level of detachment and when you learn to really sincerely like what you do and it gives you financial stability, then you’re way ahead of the curve my friend.


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