Before a pandemic took the world by storm I had already been working remotely for more than five years. I remember my first internship being about an hour commute to and from my home. Two hours a day in a car, every day does things to you.
After about two months of that internship, I decided to bail. I was hoping to get an entry-level job making peanuts but to think about the commute and how it would affect my daily life was something that stopped me dead in my tracks.
From that moment forward I sought to reach elsewhere for freelance work. For initial income, I scoured the web looking for anything I could get my hands on. Designing websites for a couple of hundred bucks seemed awesome at the time as I was living in my parent’s basement. I did this over and over for years and eventually paid off my student loans.
My friends and family thought I was crazy working out of the cold dark basement thinking that was a “career path”.
The mentality toward someone working from home/remotely then was strange. You got ridiculed for never leaving the house or always “being in your pajamas” even though I left the house daily and don’t wear pajamas. Do people wear pajamas anymore?
Anyway, I didn’t let the judgment affect me. I knew I was ahead of the curve when it came to remote work. From what I could tell on Twitter, only a few companies were advocating remote work at the time. None of them were of course local to me. I was also an entry-level designer not exactly ready for the big time.
I looked worldwide for companies in need of help and eventually landed a designer role at an ed-tech startup out of Colorado. This cemented my goal of working remotely for good. I was happy!
The grind to get started on my freelancing for a couple of years taught me a lot about working remotely. There are definite pitfalls but for me, it’s way more pleasant than commuting to some office every day.
Here are some tips that worked for me:
Set working hours
While it’s okay to work long and hard it makes sense to have a regimen. Setting working hours allows you to commit to a routine which is a trait humans do naturally.
If you have a family, setting working hours will allow you more time with them and also help them know when you can be present. It’s a balance.
Dress like you’re going to work
Never wear lazy day clothing if you’re going to be working. I learned this early as it just puts you in a non-productive state. I’ll often dress like I’m going out in public just to sit down and work. It tricks your mind and body into focusing on the matters that need to be addressed instead of veering off course into the multitude of distractions we incur every day.
Take breaks often
Sitting at a desk or in a shop for large amounts of time takes a toll on your brain and body. I like to go for walks, listen to podcasts, and remove myself from my workspace. This is a small reset that allows for more creativity and focus.
Dedicate a part of your home to your work
I use a spare bedroom as an office. I enter it only to work and create (I’m a musician as well). These are scared spaces that are only on limits for me during my dedicated work hours and sometimes on the weekends.
There are additional tax benefits to using your home as a workspace. You can expense supplies, the space you use, the utilities, and more when tax time comes.
Socializing comes with work
Unlike being at the office you have to actively socialize. There is no passiveness when it comes to communication with others when you work remotely. I have my family and dogs around but sometimes you need new perspectives and opinions on work-related matters. Use tools like Slack, Discord, Twitter, and more to connect with more people like you.
Have play projects
I work full-time but enjoy tinkering on personal projects on the side. That could be anything from blogging to creating my own SaaS applications. Find something you love and allow yourself some time to go deep in it. This provides a balance between doing things you might want to do and things you can’t wait to do.
I invested in a lot of gym equipment over the years and after about 11 of those years now have a fully equipped gym at my disposal. I considered this an investment in myself and my family. Working remotely has made me question doing the same with workouts. Why do I need to transport myself to another building to use equipment and come back? Sure it’s costly but I think a lot of people would exercise more if they could skip the act of “going” to the gym.