John Grimley
Writer and Editor
December 16, 2019

Interview with John, an international business writer sharing 15 years of insights

For over a decade, John has worked as an international business writer. See his insights on the state of remote work, freelancing, and attracting clients who are the right fit.

How did you get started with remote work?

I was asked by a client to work remotely in 2002. My role was international business development and marketing. I’ve worked remotely since then except for occasional breaks totaling about two years. So altogether I’ve been working remotely 15 of the last 17 years.

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What are you working on?

I specialize in writing for international businesses and organizations. I also help international business professionals improve their English language skills.

My clients are from all around the world—which I love.

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What's your typical work routine?

I usually work Monday to Friday from mid-morning to late evening. And some additional work to prepare for the week – on Sunday.

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How has your routine changed over time?

It has changed in some important ways. I have noticed that as remote work arrangements have become more prevalent, the ability to secure remote work—via remote means, has increased.

This situation leads to a decrease in in-person networking required to secure work. At this point, except in very rare circumstances, I secure all my work remotely and perform all that work remotely.

In terms of the type of work I perform, its’ focus adjusts depending on my clients, but overall my work focus has not fundamentally changed since I began working remotely.

My writing work did change; however, as blogging and digital publishing became more prevalent. I became proficient in WordPress and social media – which I think is important for professional writers in a digital economy.

To that end, I studied with Squared Online — a digital marketing leadership course established by Google and conducted remotely throughout the world – to ensure I understood everything I could about how writers are being utilized in the digital economy.

Also—since I began working remotely, I did notice a need for business English assistance to international professionals. So, I also became a certified English instructor and now also teach business English online in addition to writing.

Interestingly, many of my business English language students also need writing and proofreading assistance. One of the wonderful elements of teaching online is the ability to interact online via voice and video.

This scenario makes remote work much more enjoyable for me. Remote platforms dedicated to providing these connections between remote workers and clients are wonderful to have. I see them growing in the future as they fill a tremendous need for both clients and remote workers.

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Do you have a dedicated space to work?

No. I travel and work from wherever I might be.

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How do you stay on task?

I take breaks when I need them, so when I return to work, I’m motivated to continue.

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What do you like about remote work?

The freedom. I like to travel where I prefer to be at any given time. And I like the flexibility to be able to run errands when necessary. Also, I can pace myself and work when I’m most able to be productive.

Remote work also allows me to reduce my overhead when I need to.

Also, I can keep the pace of life slower and avoid things like commuting, which can be stressful.

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What do you not like about remote work?

Firstly, the absence of in-person networking in your industry except at occasional conferences.

Day-to-day networking is vital for career progression, and that is, for the most part, lost when remote.

Another challenge that many cite is the isolation that occurs when working remotely. I agree that isolation is a big challenge.

The third challenge I see is being overlooked by clients for additional work opportunities to some degree. For example, in the case of a writer who works remotely, frequently onsite writers will be selected for additional work or more senior roles within an organization.

Sometimes internal resources expand in growing organizations, and your role becomes something that is performed wholly internally and onsite, effectively eliminating it. This situation would not occur if you were onsite.

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What tools do you use to stay productive?

My laptop of course is essential. But I also use Microsoft Office Suite, PayPal, online banking and a variety of services related to travel. I also use Skype, Google Docs, earphones, and a smartphone. Whatever supports remote work—I’m always interested in learning more about it.

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Do you have any advice for remote workers?

I’d say we’re in a long transition to more remote work—and finding organizations who both need your skills and who are willing and able to work with remote workers is very challenging but very important to focus on.

So, my most important suggestion is to try to find clients or employers who want to work with remote workers or who are part of the remote work movement.

It’s important to find clients who understand that just because you’re remote, doesn’t mean that you’d like your role to be eliminated when internal capabilities are found to meet the need you have already been assisting with.

Focusing on clients who understand remote workers and their needs will fundamentally alter your career prospects and work and life stability.

Take time when possible to socialize with others and spend good amounts of time away from work. Often remote work can creep into weekends and late hours. Try where possible to set limits, while maintaining the flexibility to work more when necessary.

It’s not fun to get to the end of a week and realize you’ve worked so much you never had time to have a day or two of rest and relaxation.

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How do you decide priorities?

Every day I assess what needs to be accomplished based on an approaching deadline and what needs to be accomplished on that day—and do both intermittently throughout the day—until I know it’s time to take a break or stop for the day.

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How do you know when to push yourself vs rest?

When I know I can’t accomplish more —I rest. When I am on a deadline, I pace myself to ensure I meet that deadline while at the same time ensuring the final written product will be as good as possible. When I teach classes, I make sure I rest and prepare adequately before each lesson.

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What contributes to being a successful freelancer?

In my experience, a passion for your work will see you want to maintain that freelance and remote life. Also, it’s important when necessary to take a break from remote and from freelancing.

Going back to a regular schedule, or a contract role, performed in one city— can be as refreshing as working remotely. I recommend this as a means by which to sustain a remote work life long-term.

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How do you decide which clients to take?

I focus on clients who need my help and who want to work with me while I work remotely. I focus as much as possible on clients who embrace remote work.

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How does working on your own projects help your freelance work?

It provides a creative outlet which is a nice break from client work—and allows me to return to work more motivated.

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John Grimley

John Grimley specializes in writing for international businesses and organizations. He also helps international business professionals improve their English language skills.

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