Guest Post by Dave Langdale
Dave is coming up to his first year as a medical copywriting and digital health consultant with Word Monster. To celebrate, we’ve asked him to put together his top tips on how to begin working in your own space. There’s a wealth of practical advice in there, which really highlights the benefits of owning your time.
If you’re starting out as a remote worker, or you’re new to freelancing, it can be a daunting prospect. There’s no induction trip around the office, no lunchtime beers or introductory game of ping pong. It’s just you, a notepad and your laptop. Luckily, there’s a load of tools and advice out there to help you get started.
My first year of remote working has been brilliant and I’m sharing my best tips for getting the most out of it. This is practical advice, which hopefully you can take forward. It doesn’t start with 'be proactive' or ‘do a great job’. That’s a given.
1. Don’t work in your pants
It’s the age-old joke. ‘Working from home? I’d spend all day in my pants.’ Yes, you could do that. You could also turn up to the office in your pyjamas. You might get away with it, be seen as a bit different. Get a new nickname, like Quirky Sue. But it wouldn’t prepare you for a day of work.
Instead, start your day as you would in an office. Get up, change, shower, eat, start when you’ve agreed to. At your desk, not the sofa. I genuinely feel the benefit of starting a remote working day as if it was an office day and would advise you to do the same.
2. Tool yourself up
There are so many great apps and programs out there that make a remote worker’s life easy. Most of them are free too, so you don’t need to shell out your first month’s wage on a load of software.
I wax lyrical about this tool. If you haven’t heard of Trello before, it’s a free project management tool that can be adapted to suit any role. It’s flexible, easy to use and can make organising multiple jobs and clients effortless. It’s not just for projects either. You can share boards as a team. Use it for brainstorming, idea collation, client management or collaboration. You can even integrate other tools, like Slack and Clockify into it.
Apps like Skype and Slack really are the foundation of successful remote working. Most clients/agencies will have their preference but it’s worth being familiar with both. Skype – the communication tool of choice for Word Monster – helps me keep in touch with the team throughout the day. We discuss briefs and collaborate as if we were in an office, as well as discuss important topics like Bake Off.
Another foundation tool for you, especially if you’re freelancing. Again, most agencies – and even clients – will have an email tool they can embed you into. If you’re working for yourself though, Gmail is free, robust and easy to use.
The best part of remote working is the flexibility it gives you. Need to pop to the doctor’s or the gym? No problem. As long as you make your agreed hours for the day. That’s where time-tracking tools like Clockify and WatchMe come in. They keep a log of your hours so you don’t have to. Simply set it going when you start and stop it when you do. It’ll collate your hours and send them on in a handy report.
3. Make the most of working remotely
As important as it is to stick to point 1 of this list, this one is equally so. Working remotely offers you a unique opportunity that no office can. You can work anywhere. Some of my most productive and enjoyable days have been working in a café in my local town. Or a restaurant in Barcelona. Make the most of it. Don’t get stuck in a rut where you hardly leave the house. Believe me, I’ve done it, stepping bleary eyed into the midday sun after four days straight inside. It’s easily done, but definitely not good for you.
Take my advice. Get a nice rucksack or satchel, plan your work ahead and get outside. Explore your home town or city. Visit another city. Find a lovely café and see how productive you are in new surroundings. It’s a golden ticket to a brilliant life. Don’t miss out on cashing it in.
4. Keep in touch
Without the distractions of a busy office, it’s surprisingly easy to get your head down and crack on with the jobs you have. But as a remote worker, even if you know you’re working hard, no one else does. Keep in touch regularly. Let your client and colleagues (if you’re working with them) know when you’re about to finish a job, so they can line up another. Say something right away if you hit a barrier. Chase up if you’re waiting on a brief. Contact helps keep your dialogue moving and agencies impressed with your proactivity. There’s nothing worse for an agency to get to the end of a busy day and realise their writer has been sat waiting for a brief the whole time.
Collaborate with your team too. Even if you’re an experienced senior medical writer, there’s always an opportunity to learn. And to gain the benefit of social interaction. If you don’t have the luxury of a shared office space, remote working can be an isolating experience. Your team are there in the same position you are. Talk.
5. Develop your craft
Having more time is a luxury and there are so many ways you could make the most of it, whether that’s spending time with your family or friends. My advice though, develop your craft. Watch videos online, take e-learning modules, ask to help out on jobs you may not be so familiar with. If you’ve never written a storyboard for an animation before, give it a go. Not sure you have the creative chops for a headline? Read up on it and collaborate with your colleagues to develop one. Learning doesn’t have to stop just because you’re working on your own.
Hopefully you can take some of these tips away to your first months as a remote worker. It’s an amazing lifestyle with wonderful flexibility. Just make sure to embrace it while you’re delivering the great work. Don’t isolate yourself to your desk. Explore, learn, enjoy it.
You’re a remote worker now.