How To Start Working Remotely
I remember sitting at my desk in the office, wondering where I would be if I could work anywhere in the world. I daydreamed about sunning myself on a beach in Barcelona during my lunch breaks. I yearned to check out tapas bars and sip sangria in the evenings after a hard day at work.
This dream is now my reality. If you’ve been thinking about leaving your corporate job for a remote working lifestyle, here’s how you can do it too.
Step 1: First, ask yourself why
Do you just need a vacation from your current job or are you actually ready to take the plunge and start working remotely? Spoiler alert: You will need a lot of self-discipline and hard work. Often, you will feel confused and scared, as this is a whole new world that hasn’t quite become the norm in many countries. You will have to rely on yourself and Google, A LOT.
I pursued this lifestyle for a number of reasons. 1) I am extremely self-disciplined and can work well by myself without needing to be motivated by others. 2) I favoured the benefits of working remotely (flexibility, travel) over the benefits of working in an office (having a support network of colleagues and a steady paycheque, to name a few).
Understanding why you want to work remotely is important when things get tough along the way, as it will prevent you from giving up.
Step 2: Build a nest egg
While working at your corporate job, save as much as you can to help you with the transition. There will be occasions when work will dry up. You will need to hold your nerve because if you are doing all the right things such as pitching to clients and networking, it will happen.
I can’t count the number of times when I don’t hear from anyone for a week and start to worry and then suddenly, multiple projects come in all at once. I wouldn’t be able to hold my nerve if my rent and bills weren’t being paid. Essentially, your savings will help buy you time, so that you don’t throw the towel in and go back to your corporate job as soon as things get tough.
Back in the days when I had comprehensive health insurance and a steady paycheque
Step 3: Invest in your brain and future
It took me a while to realise that you need to see your brain as an investment. Spend money on it, as it will be the critical tool that will help you make the transition to a more flexible lifestyle.
In line with this, I spent money on courses to help upskill myself so I could have a competitive advantage in the market. I invested in a teaching course, a freelance writing course, a blogging course and a marketing course. Each course cost less than $200. There are also plenty of free or cheaper courses out there if your finances are limited.
We don’t think twice about spending money on shopping or fancy dinners, so why not spend it on something that can help you earn income in the future?
Step 4: Monetise your skills and get a side hustle
The courses will also help you monetise your skills and guide you to finding your first client. Now, one piece of advice I can give is: don’t give up your day job until you have a side hustle! Work on your side hustle in the evenings and weekends. You will gain your confidence and refine your skills, so you can build up a pipeline of projects to work on full-time.
I took on small editing jobs and worked on them in my spare time—it helped me understand the market, as well as learn common mistakes and how to find more clients.
Step 5: Calculate your hourly rate*
So, how much do you charge? This is a hard one. Quite simply, I began by calculating the lowest amount I could afford to charge to be able to live in my dream city (Barcelona) and then raised my rate as I became more valuable.
For example, if you live in Barcelona, it costs around €1,600 (S$2,500) per month to pay rent, food and bills. Let’s say you work 35 hours a week, that’s 140 hours a month. That means you need to charge at least €12 an hour to break even, which isn’t much at all! It takes the pressure off and you have a starting point. Anything extra you charge will help you save more or work fewer hours.
Nowadays, I charge at least 5 to 10 times that for some of my clients but only because I know how to demonstrate value for them.
*Note: It is worth calculating your existing hourly rate, just so you realise how much money you are sacrificing (or not sacrificing) when you pursue a remote working lifestyle. For example, before I made the leap, I took my monthly salary and divided it by how many hours I worked per month. I included all the times I stayed back to work late on projects, and weekends and lunch breaks I sacrificed to complete urgent deadlines. When I took this into account, I realised my hourly rate wasn’t as high as I thought it was and it made the transition easier.
Step 6: Learn where to find clients
Clients can be found through job boards, agencies, networking, or good old-fashioned hustling. Google “remote working jobs” and a whole list will come up. I began my editing career by creating a flyer and sticking it up on boards in various universities. I figured lots of students could benefit from having their submissions fine-tuned to help them achieve better grades. I was right.
My first business coaching client was a professor who needed to present his paper at a business conference. I utilised the presentation skills I’d learnt during my banking career and helped guide him through the presentation process. I won my first freelance writing job by pitching to a website that had minimal content—I knew I could offer interesting, useful articles to help their readers.
Working from a cafe in Pai,Thailand
Step 7: Take the plunge
There will come a point when you need to make a decision on whether to take the plunge or continue with your current job. What really helped me was knowing I could always go back to a finance job if working remotely didn’t work out.
I would suggest giving yourself a timeline to experiment. I told myself if I didn’t earn the same salary I’d earned in banking within 2 years, I would go back to my corporate job. That way, you take the pressure off and provide yourself time to give it a good go. The way I see it, if you are going to be working till you are at least 65, what is 2 years out of your working life?
How To Transition To Working Remotely
Working remotely isn’t for everyone. But as I sit writing this on my balcony in Barcelona, the sun is on my back, the smell of the sea and tapas is wafting through the air, and I know made the right decision. So, dream big, make a plan and start hustling!
Cover image by Daria Volkova/Unsplash