Mediterranean Pipe Dreams
Remote work brings many benefits. Have you ever dreamed of moving to an idyllic Greek island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea? I certainly have. As discussed in my previous blog post, Why Remote Work Matters, remote work brings many freedoms. Freedom of location; the freedom to work from any place you want, is one of them.
In fact, although my view isn’t as spectacular as the one in the image above, I am currently writing these lines from the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean. Thanks to remote work I have been able to move to the city of Antalya in Turkey.
For many years the idea of having control over my work location seemed like a pipe dream. I frequently visited Antalya, my wife’s hometown, and thought to myself how nice it would be to settle there. Unfortunately the IT industry there isn’t very developed, so finding a good job there seemed unlikely. Luckily remote work offered a solution.
I started working at my current company DriveTribe in London in 2016 where I gradually moved towards working 100% remotely by 2018. This made it possible for me to move to Antalya permanently. I still do visit London occasionally, but only for social reasons.
So how did I do it? How did I go from an on site job to a remote one?
Is Remote Work for Me?
Before answering those questions you first need to ask yourself whether remote work is actually the right thing for you. Sure, all the benefits of remote work sound great, but they don’t come for free. In fact, there are a few prerequisites that need to be fulfilled in order to be able to work remotely successfully.
A Remote Friendly Profession
Let’s state the obvious. First of all, you need to have a job that can be done remotely. Unless you have the persuasiveness of Edward Norton in Fight Club, it’s going to be hard to convince your boss to do your work remotely if it requires to be done from a specific place.
Fortunately, for most office jobs these days, there is no such requirement. Most work can be done from anywhere if you have the right tools. If your current job does not fall into this category you’re out of luck unfortunately.
The Right Attitude
Secondly, you need to have the right attitude. If you’re used to coming to work and wait for someone else to tell you what to do, remote work probably isn’t for you. You will be sitting at home most of the time, without your manager looking over your shoulder reminding you to focus.
It is extremely important to be self motivated when you’re working remotely. Focus is easily lost if you’re easily distracted by your surroundings or by all those pesky push notifications on your phone. If you’re easily distracted and need a boss with an iron fist to keep you focused, remote work may not be for you.
Productivity Over Attendance
Remote work values productivity over attendance. Given that there is no more office to attend in person, just showing up without producing much isn’t going to cut it. For many this comes as a blessing in disguise. How many times have you needlessly been called into a meeting just because you happened to be around? I bet you’ve worked with people whose sole purpose was to have meetings all day, I sure have.
Remote work makes this work culture where attendance gets valued over productivity less pronounced. It’s not that remote work eliminates meetings altogether, but in my experience it does make unnecessary meetings less frequent.
It’s almost absurd to have to say this, but if you do value attendance over productivity, remote work isn’t for you. But then again, if you do fall into that category your company’s next reorganization will almost certainly change your mind for you.
When looking for remote work you will notice that many adverts have timezone requirements. This requirement exists to ensure an overlapping time window for employees to communicate directly. Usually this requirement is stricter within and looser between teams. If everyone on your team is located in San Francisco but you’re located on the Maldives, direct communication is going to be tricky.
A Suitable Work Environment
Remote work removes the obligation to commute to the office everyday. This is an obvious benefit that gives you a lot of extra free time each day. However, it may come with downsides for some people. Especially those who do not have a quiet place to work from at home.
Make sure that when you’re working remotely, you have a quiet place where you can dedicate yourself to work shielded from distractions. Make sure that the other people you share your house with are aware of the fact that you need to be able to focus on work effectively.
If you don’t have a suitable work environment at home, you could consider other options. Some people like to work from cafés, others prefer to rent a hot desk at a co-working place. Even when you do have a suitable work environment at home, these are still good alternatives if you need a change of scene from time to time.
How to Get a Remote Job
Now that we’ve determined the prerequisites, we can start exploring the different ways to get a remote job.
1. Going Remote With Your Current Job
Chances are you currently have a job. Wouldn’t it be great if you could keep your job and start working remotely? It may seem difficult to convince your colleagues and boss that you’re going to start working remotely because you prefer the sunshine of the Caribbean.
Indeed, that argument is not going to convince anyone. Instead you need to convince them that by being allowed the freedom to work from wherever you want, you will be at your most productive. That by being allowed the benefits of remote work, you will be motivated to stay at the company and to give it your best.
When I started at DriveTribe, I loved my job. I was learning more than I ever had in my career, was getting rewarded appropriately and had great colleagues. After two years however, my personal circumstances changed and I wanted to move from London to Antalya. I managed to convince the CEO that I could be trusted to from home and negotiated a new contract that explicitly stipulated the remote working terms. So how did I do it?
The single most important thing you need to gain in order to convince your colleagues is their trust. Without trust you’re not going anywhere. If your boss cannot trust you to work independently, without strict supervision, it’s not going to work out. You will need to prove that you can be productive independent of your location.
There are no shortcuts in obtaining your colleagues’ trust. It has to be earned through hard work, a positive attitude and team spirit. Here are a few things I did to gain my coworkers’ trust:
Start early and finish late. If you are expected to come into the office everyday, you may as well use it to your advantage. Show your dedication by arriving early and leaving late. This serves a strong signal that you are focused and care about your work. There is no need to exaggerate here though, just make sure that you show your dedication and aren’t known as the person who comes in late and leaves early.
Focus on team improvement and mentor less experienced team members. Companies rely on team work, prove that you care about your team. Using your experience to help develop your team is another great way to show dedication. It strengthens your bond with your colleagues and helps the team improve as a whole. By improving your team, you will become invaluable to your company. Being on an effective and well-functioning team is extremely important. How will management be able to trust you as an individual, if your team can’t be trusted as a whole?
Focus on simple and effective communication. Communication is critical, even more so in remote teams. If you and your team are not effective communicators, you won’t be a successful remote team. Work on improving your communication by keeping it simple. This is important for both verbal and written communication. Do no try to sound smart by using complicated words and sentences. Instead focus on communicating in simple terms. This may sound easy but it is not, communicating complex concepts in simple terms is a skill that needs to be honed.
Respond to incidents. Proactively responding to incidents outside of working hours is one of the strongest signals of your trustworthiness. Firstly, it shows dedication to the business. Secondly, when you’re responding to incidents you are actually doing critical work, remotely!
Don’t shy away from dirty work. Not all work is fun. Some of it can feel like a drag. In order to gain trust, it is important to prove that you’re willing to pick up the dirty work. By doing so, you show that you can be counted on and have a positive attitude.
Once you have gained trust within your team and your team has gained the trust of the company, you can start bringing up the idea of remote work. There are many shades of remote work, from one person working from home once a week, to the whole team being distributed globally. Use these different shades to your advantage. Start simple and progress from there.
At DriveTribe we started with one person working remotely a week at a time. We gradually moved to a globally distributed team with the option to work from the London office when desired. It is important take a gradual approach so that there is time to reflect and improve, while adapting to this new way of work. For our team this shift came quite naturally, but that may not be the case for all organizations. Take it step by step.
2. Finding a Remote Job
In some cases it simply won’t be possible to turn your job into a remote one. Your colleagues may not be up for it or you may be looking for a new challenge anyway. No need to despair, remote jobs are increasingly becoming more common. Let’s explore some tools that can help you find one.
The best way to find a remote job is through your personal connections. Getting introduced to a company through someone you worked with directly, constitutes strong social proof. Due to our social human nature, social proof is one of the strongest determining factors in decision making. When hiring remotely, social proof that you can be trusted will have an immense impact in the hiring decision.
Many recruiters have a bad reputation due to their sometimes questionable methods. Most of the spam I receive certainly comes from recruiters (closely followed by software development outsourcing agencies).
That is not to say however, that there aren’t good recruiters out there that can be used to your advantage. Personally, I have had good experiences with Functional Works, who also specialize in remote jobs. LinkedIn is generally a good tool to get in contact with recruiters.
Finally, you can have a look at job sites, some of which specialize in remote jobs. These sites are pretty much self explanatory, all offering plenty of jobs. I personally prefer angel.co as it focuses on startups and has social elements to it. It allows you to create a neat profile that attracts potential employers and similar minded individuals.
Here are some sites that offer a wide range of remote jobs:
3. Starting a Business
The most audacious way to get a remote job is to create your own. Starting a business is the only true way to gain independence. While employed, you will always remain at the mercy of your employer. Through entrepreneurship you can gain complete control over your life. Thanks to the internet, starting a remote business that operates globally has never been easier.
Deciding to be self employed may sound like a huge step, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, the best way is to start small. Starting a side project while still employed, is like placing a small bet with limited downside but huge upside. You can invest a bit of your time and money in small projects that can turn out to be a huge success.
Your side project could be anything, if you’re a software developer you could write an app that automates a simple task. If you like to write, you can document your experiences in a blog. By starting small and putting your ideas into practice quickly, you can get quick feedback and start iterating and improving your projects.
Personally, I have AlexGarella.com, SecretAntalya.com and a few other apps as side projects. I explicitly made the decision to start blogs about the things I care about personally. Incorporating your personal experience is a great differentiation strategy. Personal experience is the one thing everyone has, that is completely unique to them. It can’t be copied and it can’t be faked. You would be surprised how many people are interested to read about your authentic experience, as long as you present it in an appealing way.
Even if you don’t manage to gain financial independence through your side projects, they are still great learning opportunities. Experimenting and putting your ideas into practice is the best way to learn. By creating blogs or apps you can learn loads of invaluable skills like creating websites, coding, digital marketing, search engine optimization etc etc.
The Producer Mindset
The most important thing about entrepreneurship is to switch from a consuming mindset to a producing one. Instead of reading blog posts you could write them, instead of watching YouTube videos, you could create them. Instead of receiving a salary, you can generate it.
Instead of demanding remote work, you can create your own remote work!