The Future of Work is Local-Remote
The Coronavirus health scare reminds us that we could have been working better all along.
All of my best freelance clients are locals, even though I can (and do) work for companies across the world. But when working for local clients — who I could see in-person with a 45-minute drive down the motorway — 95% of my work is remote.
Remote work doesn’t mean being a digital nomad, lounging on a beach in Bali with a cocktail in hand going tappity-tap on your Macbook keyboard (and of course, posting about it on Instagram). It can simply mean working from home, even if you’re in the same city as your client’s or your employer’s office.
Remote work isn’t a glamorous lifestyle choice. It’s a choice to maximize efficiency and balance.
Why are local clients the best? Because they trust you more, your communication is better, and you develop deeper long-term relationships. These are the type of clients who you build your business around.
Yet most people who choose remote work don’t focus on local opportunities, because the pull of a massive international client pool is hard to overcome.
Local and remote work aren’t mutually exclusive. I’ve been doing both for 18 years. You can take your business to the next level by becoming Local-Remote and combining the best of both worlds.
Benefits of remote work:
- Work from home (or wherever else you want). No time wasted commuting.
- Better work/life balance. More time for family, exercise, healthy diet.
- Work when you want. No one looking over your shoulder. You’re responsible for your output but not when or how you do it.
- Location-independence. Work from anywhere, for clients from anywhere.
- Lower cost/overhead. No office space or extra equipment to rent.
- Less time wasted in meetings, small talk, and office politics. More efficiency means more value passed on to your clients.
Benefits of local work:
- Easier communication, same timezone, same language, and a common culture.
- More trust. Getting to know someone face to face will ALWAYS build more comfort and confidence than over email, slack, phone, or even video.
- Workshops and other group collaboration are far easier when you can be together in one place.
- The reassurance that you can meet in person if you have to, even if you rarely choose to.
- Easier to get paid. Same currency, banking systems, etc.
- Local work leads to local recommendations and builds local reputation.
Local-Remote, the ideal combination
When you work remotely but focus on local clients, you enjoy the benefits of both with very few of the weaknesses.
Local-Remote work combines the intimacy and trust of in-person relationships with the freedom to work whenever, wherever.
You build trusting, long-term clients who have the reassurance they can meet you if they need to, but you rarely end up having to (because honestly, between Slack and video conferencing, how often do you really need to get face-to-face?). You create opportunities for efficient collaboration while maintaining the flexibility to work where and how you want most of the time.
Local-Remote work multiplies the person-to-person efficiency of office collaboration with the time-saving efficiency of rarely commuting.
You streamline your processes for maximum efficiency by being available locally when it’s needed, but working remotely for the large majority of the time — creating more time away from work while still overdelivering on your client’s expectations. The time you save in fewer meetings and less commuting — combined with less overhead costs — is passed on as better value to your clients/employer.
Local-Remote work is the fastest way to generate good reputation and a pipeline of referral clients.
Local relationships lead to quick reputation growth in your area. You get known as “that [guy/gal] who’s really great at [your exptertise] on [your city]”. If you remove [your city] from that equation and go completely remote, you’re reputation is trying to compete globally. By keeping your word-of-mouth local it snowballs instead of dissipating like steam into the crowded international marketplace.
Local-Remote work is a win-win for your client as well as you and your business development.
It’s not just for freelancers
With so many businesses choosing for their employees to work from home and practice “social distancing”, this less traditional way of working is suddenly becoming their new reality. Some of them find that transition difficult — after all, we’ve been training for over a century to maximize efficiency in an office, not from home. But when the kinks are straightened out and processes honed, most of them realize they can be far more productive working remotely than they were in the office.
I know I do. Part of why I love freelancing is simply because I get so much done each day. I maximize my work time to focused billable hours with very little fluff and distraction. Employees and freelancing from anywhere could have those benefits all the time if they simply chose to optimize their business processes to allow it.
Making Local-Remote work, work.
Not everyone finds this easy, so here are my tops tips:
- Keep normal(ish) working hours aligned with your client’s/employer's office hours. This ensures that you’re contactable. Nobody likes a remote worker who goes MIA or takes 8 hours to respond. If you are in different timezones, work out a routine that maximizes your overlap.
- Use phone, text, email, Slack, and video calls like a pro. If they hear you and see you often it may feel as close a connection as they have with people sitting right next to them. (You will have to change out of your pyjamas for video calls — it’s worth it!).
- Just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean you can throw routine and structure out the window. Maintain as much (or more!) self-discipline as you had before. Lay off the snacks, ignore the TV. Stay focused.
- Have a dedicated workspace. Your kitchen table isn’t an office.
- Get your family on board. Total support and respect for your “office hours” is required for any successful work-from-home career.
- Don’t make excuses. Never miss a deadline. Overdeliver. Don’t give them any reason to perpetuate the stigmas around remote workers. Act like a “grown-up”.
Why isn’t this the new norm?
There’s no reason Local-Remote can’t become the new norm. COVID-19 may end up as a blessing to work culture, enlightening stubborn employees to the beauty of remote work. If they do it right, it should lead to increased productivity and increased employee happiness. What’s not to like?
After nearly two decades of doing it, I’m certainly not going back. It’s only a matter of time before most of the workforce jumps on the Local-Remote bandwagon (by choice or external forces), whether they’re employees, freelancers, or casual gig workers. The choice is ripe for the taking. Let’s all embrace it rather than seeing it as an unwanted side effect of this pandemic.
We may look back on today and remember it was the time work changed forever. Or, if you’re like me, nothing much has changed at all.
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Hi, I'm Benek Lisefski. Since 2001 I've run my own independent design business. Join me as I unfold 20 years of freelance business knowledge: honest advice and practical tips to help you take your indie career from good to great.
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