Working remotely like a badass [tips]
Note: I'm an independent freelance consultant who often works remotely. A friend asked for some tips, I wrote the below based on a few years of growing my biz and keeping clients happy. Since many folks here, especially the freelancer crowd, are likely working remotely, I thought I'd share.
Would love to know if this is useful and if I should write down more of my thinking in this form — it's helpful to get it out on paper.
Working Remotely Like A Badass
- Be organized with your dates and deliverables. Tracking your deliverables and deadlines is mission-critical. Nothing craters a client’s confidence faster than when a remote worker misses calls or blows deadlines. It will confirm any lurking suspicions they have about how you manage your time.
- You must have a task-management system. I use Asana. You must load every single task into a centralized calendar and make a discipline of managing it. Trust your brain at your own risk.
- All contact with clients should have clear next steps, verbalized and agreed on during the meeting, circulated in an email following, and then slotted into your task calendar.
- Leave no stone unturned. You should be originating far more communication than you receive. If a client emails you about an issue you’ve lost track of, they’re frustrated (even if their email is nice). The only way to salvage this is to have a buttoned-up reply where you can reference specific past communications.
For example: Client emails “Where are we on the marketing plan?? Need to get this handled ASAP."
Your reply: “Hey [Client], we’re rolling along — per my email on 1/8, we are waiting for the sales team final figures so that we can nail down the budget. I’m expecting those numbers on Friday and you will see a draft of the plan on the following Monday. Let me know if that timeline doesn’t work."
Carefully manage your daily schedule.
- You’re independent for a reason: schedule independence. However, working outside of an office setting can be deadly if you’re not committed to getting stuff done. Rather than let the day get filled up with random appointments and unprioritized todo’s, I strongly recommend owning your calendar.
- Take ten minutes at the end of each day to review your upcoming schedule. Unscheduled tasks are generally worthless; I recommend uniting your task list and calendar (My setup is Asana and Fantastical 2.)
- Defend the schedule. You should be firm about accepting appointments and phone calls – force people into your schedule as much as possible. The tradeoff is that you must deliver.
Be as reachable as though you were in the next room.
- I’m a big fan of uninterrupted “focus time” for my work, but you need to maintain a level of reachability so clients trust you.
- It’s ok to only be reachable on one channel (phone) while others take a back seat. For example, I only check my email every 2 hours. I clarify with my clients that phone/text is the most immediate way to reach me.
Never lead a conference call without something for everyone to look at – ideally a deck, but at the least a bullet-point agenda.
- Conference calls where you’re nothing but a disembodied voice are death. You must always bring something tangible for people to review. It’s surprisingly easy to toss together a deck in 20-30 minutes – an exercise that not only looks more substantial, but will help you organize your thoughts before the meeting.
- Resist the urge to do a “presentation”; a simple deck that walks everybody through your thoughts as though you’re giving a lecture will suffice. The bullets should be very pithy summations of your talking points.
- A very durable format, borrowed from Minto’s “Pyramid Principle”:
Situation – context that everybody will agree with: “Over the last few months, we’ve launched several marketing initiatives targeting small businesses."
Complication – the tension/problem: “These initiatives have failed to generate significant interest and were hampered by lack of focus."
Resolution – your answer: “I propose that we lead focus groups with the audience to better understand their needs set while piloting a novel digital marketing tactic.
- As a remote worker you face the challenge of not being there. Compensate by being a continual presence in your client’s inboxes. 20 to 30 minutes a week on this will create the impression that you’re working around the clock for your clients.
- Schedule 5-10 minutes at the end of the day to review pertinent items and make a point of emailing the client. For example, look at their website once a week and send a note to somebody on the web team with a comment or observation.
- Man-mark clients – identify a handful of people outside your main client who matter, and develop relationships with them.
Make best friends with admins and personal assistants – your “boots on the ground."
- They'll as a physical proxy in your client’s office. Whether it’s printing documents for a meeting or getting you time with a busy exec, administrative staff can work wonders.
- Become friends with these people. Make a point of getting to know them. Many people do administrative jobs to support them while they pursue something really cool, like opera singing. You should know the band they play in, or which films they’re reading for.
- Always give them ample notice when you need something, and don’t count on them. They don’t work for you, and even the incredible ones will lose track of your requests from time to time. Smile and thank them anyway.
Submitted January 13, 2016 at 12:10PM by jpreeves
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