We live in a rapidly changing work world and one of the biggest changes is the concept of working remotely or “telecommuting”. More companies are offering this kind of arrangement and for a variety of reasons. It may be part of a “flexibility” perk to save their employees time and money on an especially long commute or the firm may decide to save money on real estate or leasing costs by having a percentage of their staff work at home.
For independent contractors though, it may be a different story altogether. If you possess a rare skillset, chances are you will find clients much more willing to accept you doing the work in a location other than where the project is taking place, especially when they cannot find someone locally with the pertinent qualifications. But there is still a lot of reluctance amongst some clients who worry that if they don’t have you onsite, they won’t be able to supervise and monitor your work. It may be that your duties require you to be there during normal work hours every day for interactions with other project members such as meetings or facilitation sessions. But so often, it seems to boil down to the simple issue of trust. Perhaps they didn’t find that it worked for them and so how could it work for anyone else. Or maybe they’ve had a bad experience with an employee or contractor previously.
So, how then do we change the narrative and ensure our clients feel comfortable with this alternative method of delivering work? The simple answer is by changing perceptions and when it comes down to it, the responsibility lies with you. So what, then, can you do to show that you are able to meet contract deliverables when working remotely? Here are some simple ways to set yourself up for success:
Contact is the key– as a remote worker it’s critical that you stay connected, especially from a client accessibility standpoint. Today’s technology makes working from anywhere that much easier—but it is still up to you to demonstrate that you are equipped with the fastest Internet connection possible and latest communication gear that enables a variety of ways for clients to reach you. Phone, email, Skype. Dropped or missed calls, bad connections will only cast doubt on your ability to deliver so invest in your infrastructure.
Establish regular work hours– While you may enjoy the freedom of deciding when to work, you need to decide when you’re “on the clock” so that clients can reach you and personal contacts know when to leave you alone. Getting in a regular routine keeps you productive and without that discipline you may find that one of two things happen: You procrastinate and find yourself in a stressful crunch to get things done with an unhappy client or work gets spread out throughout the day and you feel like there’s never any downtime.
Set boundaries and limit distractions– With no one looking over your shoulder, it is up to you to stay focused and motivated and to keep others from interrupting your work time. Friends, family, pets, YouTube etc., can all compete for your time if you let them. Remember, not only do you have a contractual obligation but you are also trying to change perceptions so you need to be strict with yourself and demonstrate your professionalism and ability to deliver.
Create a work-friendly space– One way to limit distractions is to dedicate an area as your “work area” when not at the client site. A home office that will give you privacy and keep you away from interruptions is essential. Even if you live in a small apartment, dedicate a corner where all your tools, materials, media connections, and papers are at the ready. This will serve as a visual and psychological signal that it’s time to get to work. Or as an independent consultant, perhaps it’s time to rent an office space where you can have business mail delivered and a place to go every morning. Besides being a great way to establish your credibility as a professional, having somewhere to go can often stave off those feelings of isolation when working on your own.
Working remotely can be an advantageous scenario for both the independent consultant and their clients — as long as both parties are comfortable with the arrangement. Taking steps to increase the likelihood that you’ll stay engaged, focused and professional and building trust and setting yourself up for success is essential and will ultimately improve your work performance and inspire confidence in your ability to deliver remotely.
Do you work remotely? If so, have you had clients who were apprehensive about it? How did you work past it? We’d love to hear from you.