Living by the seat of your pants can be very exciting and spontaneous. Working, in the same manner, is disastrous. Remote workers may report high levels of productivity, we can also be very guilty of working in managed chaos. We know how to put a work and life hack together quickly. Most of the time hacks work and your quick fix saved your workday. However, building your remote work lifestyle on a hack it is very likely to backfire on you.
One of the great things about being remote, whether you are an independent contractor or employee, is having more freedom and flexibility. It also comes with greater responsibility and with responsibility comes more decisions.
These decisions could be about building an infrastructure to support your lifestyle, clients, work, and growth. Only taking one or some of these into consideration means you will definitely be hacking away at your life and work.
As a remote individual when you are making work decisions they cannot be independent of your life. Balancing your work and life is not the goal. You need to integrate them together. The process of successfully combining the two is what makes you just as happy when you’re working as when you’re not.
Here are four key decisions remote workers will have to make:
Step 1: Decide on your desired lifestyle.
What kind of lifestyle do you want your work to provide you? This isn’t about making the now much-overused term “six figures”. Six figures is not a lifestyle it is an amount and comes with no emotional ties until we assign a value. If your lifestyle could be the same with less how would you know if you achieved it?
Think about your perfect day. What does it look like? When you first start out remote working you’re not going to have perfect days. They might not all be hard but you can’t expect to have everything you want tomorrow. Every decision you make should complement the lifestyle. It won’t at first because the process is trial and error. Keep working on making decisions that work best for you and allow you to support your clients or employer.
Keep in mind this is also about your lifestyle. No one else’s. Your dream doesn’t have to include fancy cars, vacation homes, travel, etc. What is truly important to you? A lifestyle could be a cup of coffee at your favorite cafe in the morning reading a good book. It could also be on your back porch playing with the dogs. You may want to grow a business rapidly. Or you could want to keep yourself busy doing work you love while putting money into your vacation fund.
Step 2: Decide on your desired clients or employer.
This is the lifeblood of your company so you better enjoy who you are working for and with. If you are a remote employee the advice is the same. Choose the employer you’ll want to work for and report to day in and day out.
When you are working with clients can you see yourself with them for the long haul? Do they support a lifestyle you want or are they the reason you go on vacation? Before signing any long-term contracts know how you will be if you are working with this person in three years. Does the client have a place in your perfect day?
If it’s an employer do they encourage the lifestyle you have chosen? Don’t be fooled by articles you may have read that all remote companies encourage employees to travel and take advantage of a remote lifestyle. What’s the illness and vacation policy? Do they help you set up real boundaries? Now it is impossible to know where you will be in the future. Predicting how long you will work with a client or a company isn’t possible. However, you can know almost immediately if the client or employer is your ideal.
Many remote workers take on clients they know aren’t a good fit for their business. Or take jobs that aren’t a good fit so that they can work remotely. This will only help you if from the beginning you and the client are on the same page. Clients who don’t fit your long-term goals should only be for short-term projects. If you know the employer is not in your long-term future request to be an independent contractor instead. Be respectful of the client’s and employer’s needs now and in the future.
Step 3: Decide on your desired work.
What do you love to do so much it doesn’t feel like work? If you find anything to be a chore it won’t be sustainable. It should be what gives you energy no matter how tired you are. As a remote worker, you don’t leave work behind when you leave the office. Wherever you are is the office. Doing remote work you don’t love makes you feel like a prisoner in your own home.
Step 4: Decide on your desired growth.
Don’t let anyone tell you how big to build your business. I’ve spoken with many remote working freelancers who had too much work to handle, but well-meaning friends and colleagues warned against turning down work. In the end, they ended up burning themselves out and losing almost all of their clients. They reached a level where they had to start over again because they got in over their heads.
Likewise, if you want to grow you have to be tenacious in your pursuit of opportunities. Be a calculated risk taker. Try new things even when it’s scary. Unlike the person with too many clients if you really want to expand sitting back and waiting for things to happen rather than creating your own opportunities will drive you mad and produce little to no results.
As an employee, think about how you might want to be promoted. What opportunities does the company offer? Know how you’ll get to know others in the company and be strategic in your learning. Don’t expect your work advancement to happen organically.
You will have a lot of decisions to make and many come when the pressures of life are also calling. Sometimes we have the luxury to make decisions at our own pace after careful, well thought out deliberation. Other moments call for split-second decisions. In both situations, your emotions aren’t the most reliable to base your decisions on. Don’t get me wrong I believe in going with my gut sometimes, but it feels much better to make a logical decision based on what I know to be true and important to me already.