Editor’s Note: In a previous blog, Ken Chen says it’s possible to work from anywhere as a consultant. All it takes is some imagination, the right client, and the will to go for it. Take it from Erica Lee, a marketing strategist who decided to move to a farm and carve a more natural, healthy lifestyle in Grants Pass, Oregon.
A Sign of the Times
One of the reasons I have been able to make this move is really a sign of the times. My clients are global and so is the tech media. Interviews are now only in person at conferences but otherwise, conference calls or video calls and the tools I need to do my job — email, Google Docs, and a few apps — are accessible anywhere and are more collaborative than before. When I started on my own 16 years ago, this was not possible.
Understand How to Be Part of a Team
Another key to being able to work from anywhere is understanding what it takes to be part of a team. Remote workers and their internal counterparts have to have empathy for team dynamics. What I mean by this is that there is a higher level of communication necessary. Again, technology helps with this. Apps like Slack, Google Hangouts, and even Dropbox allow you to feel and act like a team from anywhere.
But it also takes a new level of communication. You have to stop and make time for virtual coffees and spend 15 minutes of each call just checking in on people’s weekends. You have to create a virtual water cooler and make it a regular occurrence. Finally, visuals — where it is your face on video (stop looking only at the docs and look at the camera) or just some funny meme — you have to show them that you are human.
Lose the Drama
Finally, one thing that my clients need is for me not to get involved in the drama and emotions that PR events can cause. I can’t tell you how many conference calls I have been on when several people are arguing. I can just sit on the deck, mute the call, stare at the mountains, listen to a rooster, and think.
Modern offices do not allow enough time to simply strategize and think. Once the arguing is over, I can offer well-thought-out counsel that takes all the points into consideration but also really has the company’s best interest in mind — not the best interest of just the people in the room. This is what I get paid to do. To bring a sober perspective to the table.
Work Out of the Office
One more thing, I think everyone should work out of the office at least once a week. Teams should do something together out of the office once a month. What?!
Listen, I once was hired to take over for someone on paternity leave. Because of other clients, I told them I could only cover part-time. They understood and then added me to all his meetings that I could fit in. Fifteen hours of meetings! When does the work get done?
People always wonder why the smart people spend more time on a mountain or in the dark in a conference room or windsurfing. Your most creative thoughts happen while being alone and doing something that has no relevance to the project at hand. I get some of my greatest strategy ideas while working out or gardening. You need a bit of solitude to be able to invent the next big thing.