I’ll be the first to tell you that Remote Year is a lot of fun. A LOT. There are pub crawls, and bike rides, and weekend side trips, and mid-day kickball games that end in a rousing round of flip cup in the middle of a Bulgarian city park. Not exactly normal. What remains normal, though, is the need to earn a living. We’ve gotta pay for those side trips, after all. Over the past two and a half months of my participation in Remote Year, I’ve found that there are a few misperceptions about this program and work. I’ll clear up a couple of them here, and then share a little about my own work experience over the past two and a half months.
“It doesn’t look like you do any work at all.”
Not a week goes by when I don’t have a friend, family member or random Instagram follower who makes some comment along the lines of, “I do wonder sometimes whether you guys get any work done.” <— A direct quote from my friend Simon.
Believe it or not, we do get work done, it’s just at a different pace than is familiar to most people back home. Earlier this week I led a networking event that we called Professional Speed Dating. Participants were each given one question, and throughout the course of an hour, we were paired up with fellow Remotes for 5 minutes at a time and tasked with quickly asking/answering each other’s questions. The question I was given to ask was, “How has the work you do (your output) changed since being on RY?” One aspect of my friend Jeff’s response really resonated with me. He said that he has found that “work expands to fill the time you give it.” What may have been a 40-hour work week back home can often be condensed into 30 hours when you’re motivated to be super-productive, cut out useless tasks/meetings from your day and focus on the priorities in both your personal and professional life. Sure, there are times when deadlines or clients demand extra attention, and there are definitely people in our group who do stick to a 40-hour schedule with their employers, but most of us are focusing on trying to make the time we are working the most productive we can so we have the time to squeeze in as much as we can.
“So, Remote Year provides you a job/clients, right?”
So many people who apply to RY think they are applying for a job. Nope. Nope. Nope. The best way to think about Remote Year is to consider it a coworking/co-living organization. You bring the job, they provide you the infrastructure and support to do that job while traveling internationally. The careers represented in our group are vast, but the characteristic they all have in common is that they can be done from a laptop and a mobile device. We have software engineers, web developers, UX designers, copy writers, project managers, marketers, sales reps, translators, online educators, travel agents, IT managers, accountants, business consultants, life coaches, recruiters, social media consultants, solopreneurs, online matchmakers and even a real estate agent. I’m one of three freelance art directors/designers in our group. It’s cool to see the broad array of skills and experience in the group, and even cooler to see collaborations between different people pop up organically.
My working experience so far
I had been working as a freelance art director/graphic designer for six months before setting out on Remote Year. I’d had the great fortune to have a contract that helped me transition from full-time employment in the agency world into a freelance career. It was an ideal setup for my first month of Remote Year because it provided me stability while I figured out the dynamics of living, working and adventuring with my fellow Remotes. Plus, I really enjoyed the work and my clients.
My contract ended just as our RY cohort transitioned to Morocco, where the digital infrastructure wasn’t as consistent as it had been in Lisbon. I used that to my advantage to spend a little less time burying myself in work and more time to focus on developing my photography skills, kicking off this blog and explore the amazing Moroccan culture. I still had several client projects that I worked on, and some cool new client opportunities came my way, too, but I didn’t put much emphasis on seeking work; work just kinda came my way.
This month, I’m starting to shift my attention. Much to my surprise, I’ve found that I really love freelancing, and I’m now determined to make this a sustainable career, not just a career break. In order to do that, I need to start being more methodical about how I position my business, and I need to actively seek clients and projects that excite me. To be completely transparent, that’s where this blog comes in. I’m excited about using it as a tool to communicate with clients and prospective clients in addition to my friends and family. I plan to sprinkle my posts with infographics I create (you can see some examples here and here), and share insights about design trends and insights I discover during my travels. Perhaps I may even inspire you to spread the word to potential clients to check out my portfolio and my Hello Creative Solutions website. (hint, hint)
And with that, it’s time for me to sign off so I can start preparing for a client phone call to kick off a new project. Cheers to the weekend!