Another article for Friday Entrepreneur category. Today’s article is about Entrepreneurship and Freelancers, People who work remotely, online and most of the time either from home, from co-working spaces or cafes. This is one of an entire series. Hopefully, time will be more considerate towards us all, so I can write more stuff based on personal experience.
What you will learn after reading this extremely long article (3,600+ words):
– Working Remotely Isn’t Just Fun and Games – For Real Now, It Isn’t!
– Running Your Own Business or Freelancing Projects Can and Should Be Challenging
– There Are Always Small Costs to Pay Depending On How Loose Our “Pockets” Are
– The Costs Involved Are Not Just Financial, But Also Social, Timely, Professional and Personal
– There Are Solutions for Every Problem, We Just Have to Implement the Right Ones
– Our Aim Should Be Achieving a Balance Between Working Remotely, Personal Life and Our Finances
– We Can Use Apps and Tools for Entrepreneurs to Enhance Productivity, but It’s Still Up to Us to Get Sh*t Done
– No Productivity Tool Is Perfect, There’s Always a Downside to It
– Mindsets Aren’t Perfect, but Rather Perfectible
– We Cannot Be 100% in Full Control Over Our Businesses and Lives, No Matter the Tools and Mindsets
– Allow Yourself to Be Surprised from Time to Time to Stir Up Motivation and Satisfaction
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Working Remotely: The Mindset
Working remotely, be it from home or from a coffee shop or a shared space might seem just like a dream for some, while for others it is a reality, a lifestyle, a trending and rewarding form of organizing their “office” hours and being their own boss. Or at least, this is how the public eye sees us, the ones who work remotely, the ones who have the office in the living room; the ones who enjoy a cup of coffee in a bar, while constantly typing on our laptops and tablets; the ones who are too active on Social Media after midnight; the ones who need constant access to Wi-Fi, email and at least a decent Smartphone. That’s the public mindset and it isn’t something that can easily be changed in the foreseeable future. They criticize while we plan a revolution, right?
There has been much talk around this subject: can we speak of a work-from-home revolution? Most certainly… Yes? Maybe? Possibly? Who knows for sure. I think it is too early to decide whether or not in 10 years time, 1 out of 2 people will work from home or remotely, although as a Statistician at heart, I would definitely shout a clear, concise YES.
Of course, this is a personal opinion, coming from someone who has been freelancing and “entrepreneuring” for the past 6 years (darn, I even invented a new verb – “entrepreneuring”: the action of doing something with your life while staying true to yourself). But the numbers are increasing worldwide: people want to enjoy their life and their work, they want to be able to create their own schedule, something that works for them, something that increases productivity, so that they deliver excellent results. And of course, something that helps them settle their finances.
After a series of comments and some follow-ups over email and Skype with three ladies that won my heart with their stories (you can read all about it in the About SERPlified comments section), I decided to treat this subject with more care and provide more insights. So this is what we are going to “debate” today: the working remotely scenario and how to enhance that work-life-finances balance with the help of productivity tools for entrepreneurs and healthy mindsets, of course. However, please keep in mind that what works for some, might not work for others.
Warning no. 1: These are just small references and tips you could use to build your own set of productivity tools (be it apps or just motivational quotes) for a happy rewarding lifestyle.
Warning no. 2: Some points are of personal nature, as I always get emotional and excited about my own lifestyle and how I’ve been “entrepreneuring” for the past 6 years.
Understanding The Costs of Working Remotely
Basically, working remotely is not for anyone, and because of that, some costs might emerge without us really understanding where did they pop out from. It is critical to understand that in a society where man was taught to go to school, learn, get a diploma and then find a job, in order to be able to sustain a possible future family, the “freelancer” aka “remote working individual” appeared as a need to do things in a different way. In the US, the first mentions of freelancing dates ever since the mid-late ‘80s, where the term would define “an individual who would work for various clients, without being specifically employed by any of them” (Charles Handy).
Since then, the term has evolved quite much, especially in the past decade, where freelancing is somewhat the beginning of entrepreneurship. So what are the costs of being a freelancer, a work-from-home type of guy or gal, you might ask. Here’s what I came up with.
You could say that there are little financial costs while working remotely. However, if you want to have a legal presence, then you’d have to create a company and genuinely jump from freelancing to entrepreneurship. A company means investing money in buying the right equipment, from hardware to software. It also costs to register the company name and to “rent” an office. If you have a place of your own, this part is covered. If not, you’d have to rent a place. The space could be used for both living and working, but there’s a downside to that: having personal and professional life in the same space is not for everyone.
Then, there’s the annual cost of website hosting, design and plugin implementation. It would be great if someone would even maintain a social media presence for you, as well as post some articles on the company blog – if you cannot DIY – again, from personal experience, it takes at least 4-5 hours a day to work on a great topic and to write that extra high quality copy (article).
[Tweet “If you wish to stand out from the crowd, you have to level up your game. “]
Add up the VAT costs that need to be cut from every bill of every contract you seal. There are also costs involving company employees, including the scenario where you are your own boss and employee. Plus additional small costs that might arise throughout the year. If you “play” solo, things are a bit less complicated, and more complex. It depends, either way.
Solution: If you don’t like the sound of this, then there’s another option: co-working spaces. Just rent an office or a fixed desk. From personal experience, I find co-working spaces to work mostly with the IT&Programming and Design&Multimedia industries. Being active in the Data Analysis and Internet Marketing industries, I still find my comfort in working from cafes and lounges. But it might work for You!
While financial costs can be somewhat reimbursed or solved, the time lost can never be regained. Once you consume it, it’s “gone in 60seconds, baby!” (like in the movie, you know…). You have to be prepared to measure the amount of time dedicated to each task, the amount of time spent on average per day, per week, per month. Add, multiple, reduce, then draw the line and see where you stand:
- Is your work too much time consuming?
- Are the time costs justified by the results you get?
- Is your time organized in such a way that each second and minute is valued at its true potential?
And so on. You need to measure, draw the line, analyze, ask yourself questions and come up with the answers. If your work scenario costs too much of your time, then either use tools to better organize yourself or transform the environment you reside in. I would insist on the transforming part. As Tracy Goss mentioned in his book, “The Last Word on Power”, we have to reinvent ourselves if we feel we are stuck in the same place. And there are ways to make the impossible become possible.
Solution: All this is dependent on your actions. So what are you going to do? Ask yourself: Do you feel lucky, punk? – then act!
This actually happens especially when you have to switch professional fields. Say you studied Psychology for 5 years, and you hold a bachelor’s and masters’ degree in Psychology, but you’re actually not working in this professional area (I’m not complaining, but this is the story of my life). Your professional area as an entrepreneur is, let’s say, related to Digital Marketing. So while Psychology and Marketing may have some points in common, some bridges that connect the two professions, they are not one and the same.
So you must be very careful not to develop frustrations in this type of scenario: if you acknowledge that your studies reflect a passion or a personal choice, while your work reflects a professional choice, followed by passion, you should be more than fine – almost on the verge of achieving that work-life balance we’re all so eager to talk about. But many times, we let these professional costs bother us more than necessary. So again, measure, analyze, sum it up, draw a line, meditate, ask yourself and come up with answers:
- Is it worth it?
- Could you live your whole life without regretting it?
- Which is which?
- Did you make that choice for yourself?
- Did the economy, society or family and inner circles made that decision for you?
If you have your answers, then you can work on this type of mindset. From my own experience, I believe that some way or another you can find a balance between your passions, your professional actions and your personal choices.
Solution: As long as you don’t set invisible walls for yourself, you should be fine. Quoting my dad, who always tells me “You are your best friend, but sometimes you are your worst enemy, as well”. Go figure.
Working remotely automatically means a smaller professional group with who you can share discussion topics. You don’t get to have colleagues and enjoy your coffee or cigarette with them. There’s also a tendency to spend more time at home/in a café/alone and focus on working, rather than socializing.
This is the social cost: while you can create and organize your own time, it might be difficult to make time socializing when you have to sleep during the day and work during the night. Or vice verse. Some of your “friends” might envy you and even fail to understand why you are making this choice. But the good part is that you get to keep close those who truly value your decisions and those who respect your life choices. For those people, it is worth cutting a couple of work hours and enjoying their stories, jokes and insights over a couple of beers. Once you identify the valuable people in your life, make sure to keep in touch with them and to understand why they deserve your attention and your time. You also don’t get to go to team-buildings and parties organized by the company, and that’s because you are your own business.
And should you do develop a business plan and create a small company, the people you work with might see you as their boss and not as their colleague, so the fun part is left somewhere in an uncertain shaky place. But don’t stress too much, just focus on what you have to do. The rest will come sooner or later.
Solution: getaway with friends, society dance festivals (for e.g., tango festivals), bootcamps and more. Who needs team buildings when you can have friend-buildings?
Personal Space Costs
This is probably a point which most people working remotely manage to agree upon. Even if we talk about you being your own business or setting up an office in your home, it’s still your home, after all. You’d be invading your personal space, the home space, the private space with all those professional and business-related factors. You’d be tempted to overwork yourself, under various excuses.
The environment will not allow you to fully relax, nor will you be able to “leave your problems at work”. You’d allow stress, work, tasks to pile up right under your nose. And most certainly, you’d find it natural to grab the laptop, sit on your couch and work some more. Because in your opinion, this might seem the most natural thing to do.
So make sure to make some room for personal space, too. And not let the “office” space mingle with your personal time. Once you do that, then you can move to using productivity tools. It’s no use in using productivity tools if you fail to understand and admit the truths and realities in your life.
Solution: Settle these costs first, then you can get to a point where you are productive. Change space working venues, don’t always stay at home and work. What I usually try is to work from home no more than 3 days and the other 3 days to switch to working remotely from a coffee shop, restaurant or lounge. Plus, I keep my “1 day for myself” routine, where I don’t do anything else except relax, enjoy time with myself, read, cook for myself, drink tea and watch my favourite movie(s) or just dance, exercise, travel.
Either way, find solutions for your problems and then you can start using the following productivity tools to increase efficiency and drive even greater results. Because you’re already great if you’re reading this.
Tools of Productivity – Personal Selection
If you are still reading this part and did not skip the topic, then you are aware of how important the Time factor is in our lives, how Personal Space matters, how Social interactions influence us and how finance and profession click on our personality. As I mentioned earlier, there are some costs we cannot afford, such as time costs. You know each second that goes by is lost and never to return. This should be more than enough of a reason to why time management tools are important. Actually, they are all important. Here’s my personal selection.
Time Management Tools for Entrepreneurs and Freelancers
1.TimeLeft is a Desktop App that allows you to set up reminders, clocks, alarm clocks, work days countdown timers, and other time synchronization utilities. It’s really easy to use, in a Winamp skin format, pointing out digits and text. You can customize it any way you like, from just showing a plain message on your screen to playing a certain tune, or opening a link, a document, other applications etc. It is free and anyone can use it.
Why whould I recommend it: It’s a pretty simple app, but it does one great job: the best aid for your memory. I would refer to it as the no.#1 application for Time Management.
Why I wouldn’t recommend it: It won’t help you much if you’re using mobile devices more than stationary (desktop system, notebooks).
2.RescueTime is another interesting tool. You can find it in desktop and mobile versions. What it does is to simply run in the background of your device and analyze the amount of time used on specific tasks. At the end of the day, you click on it and see a detailed report.
Why would I recommend it: You can actually see (and numbers don’t lie) how much time you actually work and how much time you spend doing anything else but work. It’s funny especially when you realize you were wasting time on tasks and actions that don’t necessarily matter.
Why wouldn’t I recommend it: Well, if you’re a digital marketer and part of the daily tasks is to be active on social networks, use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Youtube and so on, it won’t help you much. Basically, what I just mentioned is counted for as wasted time, so the app isn’t that smart to identify your job role.
Social and Personal Tools for Entrepreneurs (Not Limited To)
EverNote. With EverNote, there’s another story. First of all, you can also install it on your smartphones, which also leads us to the conclusion that we are kind of tech-dependent. Secondly, the app basically has many other apps: from the classic app that reminds you about everything to customized apps such as reminding you to say hello to the people you meet, to read without distractions, to study smarter, to remember the food you love and even to draw attention. It’s funny in a way, but I would say these apps are great for Social and Personal use.
Why would I recommend it: You can use it on your notebook or smartphone, it’s very user-friendly and multi-tasking. It will certainly decrease social costs (because you are actually reminded to socialize) and your personal costs (you’re reminded of hobbies, favorite foods and other stuff).
Why wouldn’t I recommend it: Although it is multi-tasking and have many features, you might get tangled up in the EverNote universe. It might also affect your Time Management plan. You would be tempted to say “Yeah, but they’re great time management tools, as well”. Sort of. But the very idea that you have to use a smartphone means a couple of seconds wasted every now and then. My two cents, of course.
Professional Tools – I Would Say for Every Online Enthusiast
1.Trello. Trello is a super app, we could say. It allows you to track your goals. I like to use it for my personal brand and for some of my projects. You can add different categories which are relevant to the project, which in a way are similar to Actions or Steps you need to make in order to achieve success. You can also add green, yellow and red lines, marking the action as “successful”, “pending” or “unsuccessful”. If you want to build an online business or maximize your business’ potential, it’s a definite Yes.
Why would I recommend it: It allows you to create a certain “journey” and evaluate what have you done for your business or project so far, what actions were successful and what did not work according to plan. It gives you access to insights and it is a great way to map your daily/monthly/yearly strategy and improve it.
Why would I not recommend it: It will take some time to get used to it. Sometimes, I find this tool to consume too much of my time to actually fill in the details of each action and follow up on how and if successful.
2.iDoneThis. iDoneThis is another great tool to map and monitor your professional progress. The app/tool works really simple: you sign up and each evening, you receive an email on your email address, asking you “What have you done Today?”. You simply reply to the email you just received with the tasks and actioned done in that day. The tool then generates a calendar and you can click a date of your choice and see what have you done that day. It is extremely user friendly and has an “individual” mode and a “team” mode, so if you’re looking into Team management, you have access to what the team members have done. And you can also share the perks with the others.
Why would I recommend it: It is really user friendly, easy to use and has a simple, yet effective design. The idea of taking 1-2minutes per day and reply with an email, stating things done during the day can help you better monitor and improve your performance. The team mode is also great and really affordable.
Why I would not recommend it: It is funny that the app will email you Monday-to-Sunday. Sometimes, by not doing anything else than relaxing on a Sunday afternoon, you might feel guilty of the lack of business activity. From time to time, the emails can become very annoying and there is no way to deselect the weekend notifications.
3.Cloud Drives. I have placed them in the same category, as each Cloud service has similar traits, from iCloud to Google Drive or OneDrive (the former Microsoft SkyDrive). These can offer quite a few handy options for your business, there’s no doubt on how useful they can be and how much value they can add. And GoogleDrive also has many apps and tools for Finance use, including the good old Office Suite with Excel, while OneDrive lets you connect your desktop to mobile Windows OS and freely use all the Office 365 options.
Why would I recommend them: We are connected to our devices, so having mobile combined with desktop or notebook can certainly help you to always stay connected to your business. It also increases productivity and can save you many hours of switching from one device to the other. It is also great to use them as storage and get everything you need, right on the spot: presentations, documents, financial data sheets and more. A huge plus in our lives, I would say.
Why would I not recommend them: The only reason is over-saturation of tool usage. I think that the more tools we use for every aspect of our lives and work and finances, the more time consuming these options become.
We should not be in full control of what happens in our business and life, so maybe an element of surprise can spice up our levels of motivation and satisfaction. Which are, of course, extremely important in achieving a work-life balance. If you are using similar tools for entrepreneurs or even the same, then you probably understand that any app or tool has its own limit, but remember:
[Tweet “You should never set limits for yourself in business – don’t shut the door on your dreams.”]
Hopefully, this article will help people better understand what the work-from-home scenario is all about, what role people, actions and our behavior play in it and how we can achieve a certain balance without sacrificing too much. A final word…
[Tweet “Mindsets aren’t perfect, but they sure are perfectible. Entrepreneurs should know what I’m talking about.”]
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