After I left university, I began immediately working as a copywriter/designer at a small advertising agency. I’m sure we all know the ungodly hours required at an advertising agency. Even though I was finally earning money some good money, I felt I never had the time or the energy to spend them. I was exhausted in just three months.
I had heard of freelancing and working remotely in my university days. But that felt like a zero-calorie chocolate ice-cream- too good to be true.
I didn’t have the experience or the contacts to get work like that.
Then, I got married. I left my job due to some personal reasons and the fact that I was ready to leave at the slightest excuse. The first few months were bliss. Relaxing. Getting up at my own time. But in a few months, I was restless. I needed to work.
My husband is also from the advertising field. Thankfully, he helped me get a remote job. This was on Upwork. The pay was low, but at least it was some work. At that point, I only wanted something to work on.
The experience from that small job helped me land more jobs on Upwork. All this was happening while I delivered two kids and had a lot on my plate. Sometimes I couldn’t work. Sometimes I had no work. But I was in a good zone. It was exhausting but this was something I enjoyed doing.
A few years later, I got the confidence and the know-how to start my own blog. I created the entire blog on my own just by watching YouTube tutorials and help from our reliable buddy, Google. This blog started bringing my good, consistent work. People could now see what I had done. So they gave me work.
I am currently working with four active clients. The first is a Keto Nutritionist. I won’t name her because I’m not certain she would be comfortable with that. I create blog posts for her and optimize them for SEO.
The second one is a fairly new Vastu Consultant business. I’m managing her social media pages.
The third is Candy Co, a business that sells loyalty program to small businesses. I write blog posts for them also.
The fourth is a very busy entrepreneur, Jerica Rossi. I am helping her compile an email list. That’s more admin-based work, but I usually don’t say no to nice clients like her.
I do have a few other clients who aren’t active right now. I usually have to wake them up by emailing them. We do a couple of things and they go back to hibernation. But that’s cool with me. I know they are there and on slow months, I can get some extra work.
I start work after sending my son to school, having my breakfast and making the home look a little bit presentable (because with kids it’s never entirely clean).
The day before I usually have my tasks listed down for the day. That way I can just get to the work, without wasting any time. I work for two hours straight. Then I get a little break. I do the rest of my duties as a mother and a homemaker. If I feel that I have accomplished a good portion of my tasks, I give myself a treat by watching Netflix or going out to catch up with a friend.
The next part of my work starts in the afternoon, with the kids playing, watching TV or simply unwinding in their strange way. That’s when I believe I can do justice to my work and to my kids. I finish off my work tasks. These usually are proofreading or going back to check the work I have done previously.
When done, I shut off my laptop for the day. I don’t think about work again until I go to sleep.
That’s when I list down the next day’s task on a piece of paper (I’m kind of old school in that way).
My work from home isn’t very glamorous, I’m afraid. It’s just my laptop and a notepad. I move around the house, working wherever I feel like.
I do have this fantasy of creating a fancy office in my home, with a work table and a huge wall-to-wall cork board. Some cute office supplies complete the picture.
At this point, I don’t say no to any work.
I feel I’m learning with every new client and every new project.
I know that if I plan well and ahead of time, I can always meet deadlines. It takes a bit of a planning.
There are times when I don’t have enough work, but I fill up that time playing Lego and talking about dinosaurs with my possibly-future-paleontologist son.
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As I mentioned earlier, I am old-fashioned when it comes to organizing and planning. I just keep a notepad and a diary to keep track of my work. If you’re working remotely, you know that a lot of your time is spent in front of the screen. So, the notepad is my detox for all the screen time.
In terms of apps that I’m using, there’re many of them.
I use Buffer to schedule social media posts. That makes it easier for me to schedule the entire month’s posts and get ahead of my work schedule.
I use Canva for my social media posts and other graphics. It has some really great templates without you having to fret over font types, colors, and layouts. I often use Photoshop occasionally to compliment with Canva.
Google Drive helps me communicate blog posts and other documents with my clients.
If you are working remotely, then being productive is crucial. It’s a non-negotiable. Some of my productivity tips and tricks are:
I’m a list person. I have a list for everything. Work. Grocery. Things to do. Things I wish I could do. Lists help me stay organized. I make a to-do list every night for the next day. In the morning, after breakfast, I decide how much time I should give to each task. I try to finish each task within my allotted time limit. I cross out all the tasks I finish. That gives you some satisfaction and you move on to the next one instantly.
I treat myself almost daily. If I finish all this work on time, then I spend one hour doing whatever I feel like doing. It could be watching Netflix. Going out with friends. Or even baking something special.
I cut myself from the world when I’m working. Unless a task requires me to communicate with my client, I put my phone outside my work area. That way I won’t feel like checking on my messages every few minutes. I also sometimes turn off the Wi-Fi on my cell.
Recently, I have started listening to podcasts. When I am cooking or doing something that requires little attention, I listen to empowering podcasts. I feel that sets my day for productivity. There’s so much information in podcasts and you listen to these amazing people who have achieved so much in life.
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The best part of working remotely is the flexibility you get.
With kids and family, I strongly believe that at least one parent should be working flexible hours. It’s not possible for my husband since he’s working in advertising, so in our family, it’s me.
I find that remote working lacks a support system.
You don’t have someone you can pass off the work to if you aren’t feeling well or you have an emergency.
Emergencies happen. And when you’re working remotely, most clients expect you to be more punctual with your deadlines.
It doesn’t take a lot to be a successful freelancer.
You need your prospects to know that you have the experience and the know-how of the job.
When talking to a new client, show them what you have done. Show them what you can do for them. Write a cover letter geared to their business. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy letter listing your achievements since high school. In fact, a shorter one gets read quicker.
If you’re new, you might have to compromise on your rates. But be selective. Choose work that will help you grow or help you get new clients. Working for your grandma for free probably won’t.
Give your clients what you are promising, and do it on time. Adding something extra once in a while will help you get more work.
If I’m working as a blog writer for a client, I offer them suggestions for their social media pages. The chances are they will offer you more work if they like your suggestions. Repeat work from the same clients is the best way to get more work because, with each new client, you are spending extra time building rapport and developing a communication system.
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Ayesha Umair is a freelance content writer and communication designer, working from sunny Dubai. With her two very active kids in the picture, hers is a sleep-deprived soul. Catch her writing her heart out on her blog.
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