My love affair with working remotely began when I was kid and ordered magazines about setting up a home office. Over the years, the dream of a home office has morphed a bit, turning into the desire to work from whatever part of the world I happen to find myself in that month. Since then I've been lucky enough to open a laptop on five continents.
The first real go
After graduating college, and then law school, and then being laid off from my first lawyer job in the downturn of 2008, I was at a crossroad. I didn't want to go back to being a lawyer - but what did I want to do next? After taking a year off to travel and live with some friends in South America, I came back to New York City and joined a friend's software company as a marketer. At Datacap, I worked on building new digital channels to acquire leads for our sales team to call.
Start with little bits
The secret to most things in life is to experiment with small ideas first. So at Datacap I would take a Friday here and there to work remotely, particularly if I was going somewhere out of town and wanted to beat the traffic. The key to early remote days is to be even more productive than if you were in the office! With these small tests, I was able to ask for the big kahuna.
World Cup 2010 - South Africa
Long before joining Datacap I had bought tickets to the World Cup in South Africa. No way I was going to miss that for work! So I asked my boss if I could take two months away from the office to go down and see some games. Luck was on my side because he said yes and I was on my way.
Working from that far away from the office requires a regular rhythm. People in the office need to know when they can reach you and when they can expect a response. The time difference makes talking on the phone hard, so we ended up using email and our internal message boards a lot. Ultimately though, the main thing to do was to keep the work product high. Digital marketing is a great field because there are so many metrics that can be tracked to indicate how well you are doing your job. The baseline metric was whether the sales team had enough leads being generated to keep busy.
Shortly after I got back from Africa the company was acquired by IBM and I was moved to full-time remote, since the team I was working on was distributed around the country. With no expectations of ever being in an office, I took full advantage and started traveling a lot. I ended up really enjoying living in Europe. It allowed me to spend my day time hours however I liked and then work in the evenings with my US colleagues. That's great for a guy who likes to explore the outdoors! It also allowed me to build a lot of connections in Europe, since I could see them during their working hours.
I left IBM last year and struck out on my own. In some ways, being entirely responsible for your own income makes it less easy to be remote than working for a large corporation, since I need more face time with my clients. So I'm a little more settled now but still find time to take big trips. Earlier this year I spent a month working from Thailand and it was a great place to be!
Still interested in being a remote worker? I recommend reading two really great books - the Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss and Rework by Jason Fried. You can find more about me and other book recommendations on my website: ericmorrow.com. Happy travels!
Remote Year is a great way to travel and have the security of a paycheck and awesome community. To learn more, go to www.remoteyear.com