Emma Heuston
Founder and Principal Lawyer
October 14, 2019

Interview with Emma, a founder helping companies shape their remote work policies

Emma carved out her own remote work niche—see how she manages her own virtual law firm while maintaining work/life balance.

How did you get started with remote work?

My first experience with a remote job was in early 2014 as a freelancer for a legal precedent writer.

I loved the freedom of working remotely (as I had a young child at the time) and actively looked for a remote role to better manage my work/life balance.

I began to work as a lawyer at Partner level in a law firm in late 2014.

I worked for four years in that law firm before starting my own virtual law firm in early 2019.

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What are you working on?

At present, I am building my virtual law firm, “The Remote Expert”. My firm specialises in remote work arrangements, including helping solopreneurs who work from home or those who hire remote team members.

The Remote Expert provides advice on compliance with laws relating to remote work, has template remote work policies, and otherwise assists businesses in doing things differently.

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What's your typical work routine?

I base my work hours around my son’s school hours, where I can. Life doesn’t always work out that way, but it is a good goal to aim for.

I try to eat the frog first up in the morning - which is doing the hardest task(s) first.

My day is built around school hours, and I schedule most meetings and complicated drafting work where possible during those times.

The afternoon (from 3 pm - 6 pm) will be a mix of work and parenting, so small tasks are best at that time, such as scheduling my social media or responding to short emails.

My best advice is if something is critical to get done, it should get scheduled in your calendar to ensure you leave yourself enough time and space to do it.

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Do you have a dedicated space to work?

Yes – my office is at home, downstairs. The best part is that it is in a separate part of our house, and I can shut the door to my office on the weekends/ evenings to provide some semblance of separation between work and home.

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How do you stay on task?

My Trello board is great in terms of adjusting my “to do” list. I also diarise due dates in my calendar and make sure I am proactive rather than reactive.

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What do you like about remote work?

I love the flexibility and freedom that remote work provides. As an employee, I had a lot of that. As a solopreneur running my own virtual show, I have even more, and I love it.

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What do you not like about remote work?

It can be hard to establish boundaries between work and home life. Particularly when there is a busy time at work or a stressful matter I am working on, the temptation is great to go downstairs and keep working crazy hours.

I have to remind myself to rest. My test is to ask myself, “would I be working on that now if I still worked in an external office?”

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What tools do you use to stay productive?

Trello, Acuity scheduling, Dubsado workflows and making sure everything is synced between my desktop, laptop, and phone so if I am out and about I can find my schedule or documents at the touch of a fingertip.

Trello is like having a screen of electronic post-it notes, and it has weaned me off my addiction to the paper variety. In fact, I don't keep a paper to-do list anymore, which is surprising as I never thought I would break that habit.

My Trello board has six columns:

  • Column 1 is my "To Do" list of tasks for me where I put them in descending order from most urgent to least urgent and can drag them about if necessary to re-order them;

  • Column 2 is my "Done" list, I move my tasks as they are completed to this list during the day and delete them at the end of the day. It helps show me my progress as the day progresses.

  • Column 3 is my "Meetings" list for the week. Again they get moved to the "Done list" after they are completed.

  • Column 4 is a "To Do" list for my VA.

  • Column 5 is my VA's done list so I can see where she is up to; and

  • Column 6 is a column with random article ideas for content that I can add to when an idea strikes me. Because Trello is on my phone, I can add to the list anytime or anyplace.

I am relatively new to Dubsado, but at present, I am working on setting up workflow processes around leads and template emails, so I don't have to keep tabs on a matter as it progresses. I have also integrated Dubsado to my website, email, and my accounting system, which makes things easier also.

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Do you have any advice for remote workers?

Make sure you are active in reaching out to your employer and/or colleagues. If you need social contact, arrange it regularly. Schedule it in, so you don’t miss out.

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How do you decide priorities?

Firstly, I look at client deadlines and always respect them. Then I look at how long I have had a project and what I need to do to finish it or move it on.

It is often like juggling, keeping all the balls in the air at once to make sure everything is moving.

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How do you know when to push yourself vs rest?

I have fibromyalgia, so rest is very important. Sometimes pushing myself is necessary to get a deadline reached. However, careful planning and communication with clients means I rarely end up in that situation.

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How do you decide which clients to take?

I try to take the clients that fall within my zone of genius.

If I know another professional could better help a client or I may not have time to meet a client deadline, I will let them know upfront. You have to guard against promising too much when you can’t deliver.

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Biography

Emma Heuston

Emma Heuston, Founder and principal lawyer at "The Remote Expert", is a lawyer with a passion for remote work.

Emma operates a virtual law firm from her home near Byron Bay, Australia and implements flexibility as a way of life. She is skilled at drafting and reviewing existing flexible work policies and employee handbooks and employment agreements or variations to employment agreements which document remote work arrangements. As a former remote worker and manager of a remote team, Emma is uniquely placed to understand and appreciate the challenges and benefits of remote employees

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