Remote work comes very naturally to me. I was 11 years old when I had my first ever remote ‘job’. This was to be a graphic designer for a Pokemon fan website. I remember the moment when I wrote my ‘cover letter’ email on Yahoo and the thrill of getting a reply back. Sure this wasn’t paid, but it was fun! And from that age, I was very comfortable with remote teams – collaborating with designers and developers via an online community since I was around 12/13 year olds. I had built up an online portfolio of work and by that time I was 16, I started my freelance business (officially, including sole-trader status ) with my first paid work. In my early 20s, I founded an online/web startup and I continued on freelancing even while moving to and travelling across many countries. Since those early days, I’ve had so many remote positions – from full-time employee, to freelancer, to consultant, to operating my own company and startup.
Much of the advice that you find online in seeking remote work mirrors to the kinds of stuff that I did in my teens.
- Build an online portfolio.
- Develop your professional networks.
- Develop your band online (mine was under various names – “The Noire”, “Saint Agency”).
- Learn to operate under a business (in this case, I applied for my ABN at age 16).
All of these, I’ve learnt organically. Just go right in there and do it.
However, the following below are further tips and advice for those who have no remote job experience.
#1 Contribute to online communities
Online communities are a good way to establish your profile and learn how to work with others online. Since the activities that you do in-office will be replaced by online tools and platforms, it helps to learn how to flourish and contribute in online communities.
#2 Work on your writing and online communications
Much of what you communicate will be in writing. It is very useful work on your online writing skills. At the same time, what is interpreted online can be different to what you intended as you type your responses.
#3 Show your personality online
Your hiring manager will most likely scope out what is available online about you. Make sure your portfolio is up to date, set up a domain with your full name and publish a website as your main online ‘hub’, and make sure your relevant profiles are all linked from this website.
Even if your work doesn’t require a portfolio or website, it helps to have all these online. It’s a good icebreaker when you join new teams – since there won’t be that much ‘watercooler’ type conversations for others to get to know you, something like your own website is useful.
#4 Start developing skill sets of a remote worker
It doesn’t matter if you have worked in x for many years. Being a remote worker will involve developing new skill sets and you must be able to take and board and learn these.
Some of these skills are going to be new and/or relevant to a certain industry while others are going to be transferable. Transferable skills include:
- Being a good remote worker means being able to work with a variety of people. Your teams are most likely not going to be in the same city as you are in, will not have your language is their primary language, will have very different culture and lifestyles as you are, will be a variety of individuals.
- Being a good remote worker involves being a self-starter, self-teacher and an independent worker. There are going to be certain personality types that will find full-time remote work not suited to their preferred work/personality type, and that’s fine.
- Similar to freelancing, having excellent time and task management skills is important as you are largely working on your own and need to be disciplined in being able to work and delivering your tasks.
- Flexibility to adapt to a team’s existing processes. Processes and documentation are pertinent in remote teams since written documentation is one of the main ways to deliver information. There may also be manual/automated task management tools and processes being the norm.
#5 It’s about how and what you can contribute rather than the remote aspect of the role
At this stage, remote work is still seen as a niche, a company perk, or somehow there is something about working remotely that transpires a lack of trust in some organizations.
I find that those wishing to switch to remote work tend to focus too much on what the company can offer them – a remote job. Rather, job seekers should instead continue to focus on what they can contribute to the role and to the company. Job seekers should only approach the remote aspect as an operational/logistical issue. It is like the approach that I’ve seen from those that require work visas – rather than focus entirely on what the company can offer them (a work visa in their desired country), visas should be seen as a logistic/operational concern and that the primary focus should be on what the job seeker can contribute to the company.