Want to manage your digital “office” and being able to work remotely? Here are few tips based on my own experience.
It’s been nearly a year and a half now since I started to work remote. My first remote employer was, funny enough, Hibox, who built a digital workspace for teams that work remote. So, we really got to test it out. For a year and a half, I worked seamlessly with my team back at the Barcelona HQ, Argentina, and Brazil. During that year, I travelled between two countries and seven cities.
After adding one client after another, I now have 5 clients in 5 different countries. I’ve moved “home base” at least 7 times from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas, New York, and now Barcelona, Spain.
I’d call myself a “digital nomad”.
I’m about to spent another month stint overseas away from my now home office travelling in the United States.
I’ve been writing about my unique working situation for awhile and I’m getting a lot of questions on how I’m managing work with teams across the world while also being abroad. I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of other “digital nomads” out here (or Thailand) doing this. There are many more aspiring remote freelancers wondering how in the world this works. Getting communication, organization, and collaboration to a flawless process is the key to working remotely successfully.
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Here’s a little more on how I’m managing my digital “office” to be able to work with five companies, in 5 nations, while hitting the road once again:
Here is a precious tip for your team: Use Hibox to work remote
We built Hibox to be a complete digital workspace; an “office” you sign-in to.
And, truly, that’s how it feels with each of my clients. Each client has their own tab on my account and within each I have the whole team available to collaborate over chat, manage tasks, and share files with integrations like Dropbox and Google Drive.
It’s fantastic because everything work related for me is one place but also organized intuitively. I don’t need to set up 10 accounts on different platforms to get all the same functionality. And I can stay logged into each of my companies and just click to move over to the next client for the day.
I’m able to respond to questions faster, I always have the latest version of files, and I can even video chat with each team from within Hibox. This tool eliminates about 5 different accounts for each client. The amount of time saved in logging in alone is worth it. The interface is really user-friendly so I don’t need to go through a “training” period with most clients I work with, even if they’re not super tech savvy.
I still cannot figure out time changes in my head to save my life. You wouldn’t believe how many times I google “Time in…”. For five countries, it’s nearly impossible to coordinate my communication throughout the day without a little help. Timesone.io saves me. I can see where everyone is and exactly what time it is for them relative to me with one glance. This is huge in block scheduling my day; a key part of stay productive for me.
This one takes saving time a step further even. I don’t know how many minutes I wasted with back-and-forth email threads to clients just to schedule one 15 minute Skype call. Finding a time that works takes more than the actual call. Calendly changed that. Now I just send a link to my schedule showing my availability. They can book a time that works for them, make changes if they need, and I get notifications when our call is set. Freelance and remote work works solely on organized time and efficiency systems like this.
Work-life balance is no longer a reality with freelance work. That’s just part of it. Your personal life has to be as well organized as your work life. For all personal organization or things related to my own business, I use Any.do. It’s an incredibly simple personal productivity app. It’s easy to make little to-do lists. I have one for my blogs, my travel plans, my daily tasks, visa processes, etc. The important thing is it’s separate from my client tasks so I can focus on me when I open this up.
Tools definitely aren’t enough. More than anything, having the right mindset for working with multiple remote clients and getting your work habits right from the beginning are imperative. Here are some of the things that I’ve learned (the hard way) that make remote freelance work a success.
I’m actually fairly introverted so this was a weird learning experience for me. You’d think working remote was an introvert’s dream, but I talk to more people throughout my day now than I ever did when I worked in an office. Because you’re not face-to-face on a daily basis, it’s important to communicate even more than you think is necessary. You can’t assume your clients know what’s going on like they’re across the room. They feel more comfortable if you give consistent updates, no matter how small. I even set reminders to send updates. It makes a big difference in your overall professionalism.
Be realistic about time. A tip for you to improve your remote work
Since you’re free from the 9-5, you seem to start to think you have way more than 24 hour in a day when you work remote. Timezones, deadlines, and to-do lists blur into one another and soon you’re way in over your head. For proper time organization, I need to be very realistic about how long tasks will take. For the sake of saving the stress, give yourself more time than you think you’ll need. You can’t create more time but you can organize it properly. Here’s more on time management for remote work.
Plan the week in advance
One of the biggest mistakes early on was creating to-do lists for each client and trying to work through them during the week. It will never all get done. I end up with tasks that always seem to get moved to the next week. I learned to schedule work in blocks ahead of time so there was a definite time for each important task to get done. If there isn’t time? Let people know and make time the next week. It’s better than over-promising and under-delivering. This is really easy in Hibox’s calendar view for tasks so my clients can see what the plan is as well.
Establish routines that are as mobile as you
I just got off the phone with a client who asked if things would be “normal” while I’m away. Of course they will! My work routines do not change no matter where I am. This is important to establish for yourself from the start. Your scheduled tasks, calls, and processes for each client should be your constant. No matter what city I’m in I know what is expected of me each day of the week with each client and they know what to expect.
Remote freelance work is tough and a risk. No doubt about it. It may not be for everyone. But the benefits are incredible. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself more engaged and fulfilled by your work in the long run. As long as you set yourself up right from the start and learn to manage yourself in a way that works for you, I don’t think you’ll regret it.