How Do I Become A Remote Worker…?

I want to become a remote worker

I want to become a remote worker.

I don’t think I’ll be able to sit on the beach and sip cocktails in Bali while I’m working. But I want the freedom to work more like a remote worker.

So I’m evolving. My workflow is changing.

I live in New Zealand. So that’s pretty remote anyway. I’m not moving house or shifting overseas. I’m just looking for flexibility. And greater productivity when I am “at work”.

I’m also looking to get out of the house and detach myself from my home office (as nice as it is).

I also want to detach myself from all the physical crap that comes with running a business. My home office and garage and parts of my roof are full of work crap.

And I’ve got some off site storage as well. Also full of crap.

Here’s my plan… I’m not saying that this will work for you, but this is what I’m doing right now. And it is working for me.

I’m moving out of home

I already work from home. We got rid of classrooms and offices several years ago. This was a great step as it reduced our overheads. I love not leasing a building.

My home office is comfortable. I have a nice desk, chair, big screen and storage. This is one of the problems. So I’ve moved out.

I’m working in a co-working space

I have a desk downtown at a co-working space called Kloud Collective. It’s a new startup run by a friend of mine who is also my Google guy. More on Google later.

To work there, I have to drive to work. That means I have to leave the house. It’s great.

It also means that I get to rub shoulders with others who are also working like this too.

This includes some cool Taupo-based startups including

  • Cloud-based accounting champions
  • Aviation video recording pros Eye-Fly.
  • Virtual office and personal assistant Rogue PA.

It’s a great bunch of people. Focused. If there’s a key here, it’s that working with other people working remotely works. Well it does for me at least.

I’m using Evernote as my memory

I’ve written about Evernote before. I have a love/hate relationship with the cloud-based notetaking app. I’m giving it another shot.

It’s working. As long as I keep things simple, it’s fine. I use it as my digital note pad for jotting down ideas. That’s about it.

I also keep a personal todo list in Evernote. Yes, I know there are proper todo list apps. I’ve used all of them.

Now I have one todo list note for the month that I’m in. And I write all my todo lists in this note.

I dump everything out of my head into the day’s todo list. Then whatever doesn’t get done gets copied to the next day’s list which just starts at the top of the same page.

If I’m not getting something done, there’s usually a reason. So then I’ll delete the item from the list.

Or I’ll transfer it out to another list where I can forget about it.

I’m using Basecamp to manage my business processes

We run an education business. We’ve been using Basecamp for this for years. It’s not perfect. But if comes close.

Here’s the secret: Every student is a project in the project management system.

We build every project from a template that we’ve been tweaking since 2007.  It’s a dynamic process, but this means we have consistency. There are more than 100 things that have to happen for every single student every single time.

And this manages every process from enrolment through to graduation and archiving. It’s also scalable.

I’m using Slack to communicate with my team. 

Slack is an instant messaging app for team. It’s touted as an email killer. Please don’t email me. I hate email so I’m always ready to look for alternatives.

I’ve been using Apple’s iMessage and Viber for a couple of years now as alternatives. But the big problem is that they are not searchable.

Slack is secure and searchable. And I can set up different channels for different kinds of chat. And we can all private message each other as well.

I’ve just figured out that I can link my Google Drive and Google Calendar to Slack. And I’ve also started using it to log my time for certain jobs.

Sure it’s another mouth to feed. But less email.

I’m using Sales IQ to keep track of new business

I’m terrible at marketing. My idea of marketing is waiting for people to ring me up.

I’m trying to be better. I subscribed to Sales IQ recently. Again, it’s cloud-based software as a service. I can use it to keep track of people that I send out marketing material too.

The idea is that it manages the sales pipeline for me. It will even do fancy reports. I don’t care about fancy reports.

This aspect of my business has always been weak. But then again, I’ve never had a good process or system.

Basecamp evolved into a bespoke student management system. I’m hoping that Sales IQ will evolve into something similar for tracking new business.

I’m using online banking

This one is a no-brainer. I never go to the bank. I can’t understand why banks still have buildings. I predict that soon all banks will no longer have buildings.

I’ve have a PO Box but I pay the courier to deliver my mail

I have a PO Box. I’ve had one since I started my business. It’s just one of those things I have to have as long as other people insist on sending me physical mail.

This might sound weird. But now I pay the courier a few bucks a week to clear the PO Box for me and deliver the contents to my house. Yes, like a mailman.

Yes, I know I could just redirect it to my house address. But it makes me happy to keep the separation between my business postal address and my home address.

I also don’t have to remember to clear the PO Box. That’s what I’m paying for. I also don’t care what you think about it.

I’m using online shopping for just about everything

I hate shopping in shops. This one has tipped for me. I now prefer the online experience for most things. Books. Clothes. Groceries. Office supplies.

I do like going to cafes and restaurants though. And some shops are cool. But they have to offer me some kind of experience now.

Luckily, there are lots of great coffee shops close to the co-working space. Like downstairs. I’m going there in about 5 minutes.

I’m using Google Apps for Business

I’ve been onto this one for a while. Gmail takes care of my work emails. And I have priority inbox turned on. That means that unsolicited or unknown emails get pushed right down the queue.

If you want to email me, please don’t. Use our office email instead: It’s my goal for the business to only have one email.

Google apps means that we use Drive for all our files. And it also means that we use Docs for all word processing and Sheets for all spread sheeting.

I’m forced by others to use MS Word or Excel from time to time. This makes me feel tired.

I’m using a virtual assistant

Actually, she’s more of a virtual administrator. She takes care of the emails and all incoming communications. This includes all student work coming into the organisation.

Sometimes we work side by side in real time in the same physical location. Like regular humans. At other times, we each work remotely for different places.

Slack allows us to chat about whatever we need to. Sometimes this is live. Sometimes it’s delayed.

I don’t tell her what times she needs to be “at work”. All the jobs get done. I trust her.

I’m trying to minimise all paper flowing in and out of my organisation

I can’t get rid of everything. Some things remain out of my control. But many of my statements come electronically. And I have many of my bills set up for direct debit or credit card.

I have a small portable scanner set up to scan receipts and other crap

I bought a scanner for this purpose about two years ago. But I couldn’t make it work. I just wasn’t disciplined enough to do it.

I think this was because I was so well set up at home with a physical filing system in place. And I actually couldn’t make it work.

And I actually couldn’t make it work.

Now I have ScanSnap sync set up. This means I can scan straight into my Google Drive. From here I can file receipts, share other documents, or just archive stuff.

Then I throw away whatever the useless paperwork is. I’m not your accountant though. So just take that one with a grain of salt.

I’m gearing up for outsourcing storage and distribution as well as print on demand and drop shipping

We send a lot of stuff by courier. Our students get a big study pack of printed material soon after they start.

Most of this is also online as well, but they really like it printed. I mean really like it.

And then when they finish they receive an exit pack with their certificate and other things.

All this takes up space. I have cupboards full of resources and shelves stacked with study packs. This occupies my home office, garage, and off site storage.

If I want to be a remote worker I need a solution to this. If I want to get my garage back I need a solution to this. And I think I’ve found one.

And I think I’ve found one.

I have a friend at a printing company who will print, store and distribute the study packs. It doesn’t matter that she is in a different part of the country.

What matters is that if we do the printing with her, she’ll store everything. And when prompted, her company will courier this out to our students and pass on the costs to us.

Also, changes at NZQA might mean that we can print our own certificates. At the moment, NZQA prints and ships us the certificate. Then we copy it and ship it to the student in an exit pack.

The paper goes up and down the country twice before it finds it’s home.

Once we can print our own certificates, I can outsource this to the printing company as well. They’ll be able to print and securely ship these as we need.

And I’m looking to get some of our other education resources for sale online with another company.

If it works this will be a print-on-demand, drop shipping arrangement. In other words, someone will be able to order one copy of a poster. This will then get printed and shipped to them.

Normally, this kind of one-off print on demand makes you the enemy of any self respecting print shop. But when it’s a global niche, it’s good business for someone. Even if they’re in Amsterdam.

That’s how I plan on becoming a remote worker. I’ll keep you posted.

Working from Bali is still a way off. Hopefully, though, it means more time for drinking coffee downstairs.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

2 thoughts

  1. I like your thinking alot Graeme.
    Every education org in our little country should be heading down this track.

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