There are many benefits as a creative to working in an office. When it comes to team-working, there’s no substitute for being able to physically interact with colleagues, throw ideas around, crowd around a screen together, and thrash out ideas.
Turning up at a regular time each day, greeting everyone and catching up on their news, both work-related and otherwise, can be an empowering ritual that gets you in the right headspace to start creating outstanding work. It can all form part of a company culture that makes your team as a whole function together like an organism, and become more than the sum of its parts.
Unfortunately, though, that Platonic idea of office life is not the reality for everyone.
The downside to offices
Personality clashes, endless meetings, irritating personal behaviour, disagreements over the air con (too hot? too cold?), annoyingly loud phone conversations, tedious arguments over petty things like who hasn’t contributed to the milk and biscuits fund. All of these things can combine to make you start hating life in the office.
Moreover, even if office life itself is a dream, the commute itself can be a killer.
Even if public transport does run to time and isn’t overcrowded (a rarity in the UK), a couple of hours on a train or bus every day is a big chunk of time out of your day. And the money you’ll pay for the privilege may run to thousands over a year.
A growing trend
All of this is making remote working a growing trend across the industry. Freelancers are leading the way, of course, but even if you’re a salaried employee, many design agencies are encouraging remote working, as a way of saving the company money.
And if you own your business, the cash savings that can be made through remote working become even more attractive.
Ask yourself whether you need to rent or own expensive office space, when so many creative businesses now operate entirely based on remote employees, with no central office at all. In the design world, Brown & Co is one of the best-known examples, while in the social media space, Buffer notoriously ditched its office just after growing to 50 people: you can read how and why it did so in this blog post.
If you fancy the idea of remote working, read on, as we offer you six pro tips for making this increasingly popular lifestyle work for you.
1. Work out where
The joy of remote working is quite simply able to conduct your business from anywhere you like. Typically, that might be in a home office, where you can set up your space exactly as you like it, with the music you want to listen to, without fear of offending others.
You might also want to break things up, though, with occasional days at cafes or co-working spaces. If you’re looking for a good co-working space, then Work From is a good place to start, as is Croissant.
Alternatively, you might want to divide your time between home and a regular office. You might get agreement to “embed” yourself at a long-term client’s workspace. Or you could even spend a month or two as a “digital nomad”, working abroad in any country you like that has internet. Good sites that can help you work and travel at the same time include Selina and Be Unsettled.
The point is, it’s up to you. Embrace that sense of freedom, and it can feel incredibly liberating. As Job van der Voort, CEO of Remote.com, puts it: “Remote working allows for a more flexible life. Rather than live by the schedule and on the location of your employer, you can choose where you want to be based - and organise your work around your life, rather than the other way around.”
2. Embrace the Cloud
If you’ve spent a long time working in offices, you’ll be used to storing large files and data-heavy assets on a physical computer network. The good news is that in 2019, cloud file storage is cheap, easy to use and super-reliable. So the first thing you need to do is pick a system such as Dropbox or Google Drive and get yourself organised.
Both are free to get started with, although once you start loading them up with serious amounts of data, you will begin paying. The amounts, though, are still relatively small and affordable, and far outweighed by the cost-saving benefits of remote working overall.
There's also a wide range of platforms that can help you communicate with collaborators and clients, from text-based services like Slack to video chat tools like Google Hangouts, which is nowadays much more reliable than Skype. You’ll probably have used some of these already in your office life, but as a remote worker, expect to get more closely acquainted with them than ever.
Also don’t forget that while it’s easy to get seduced by technology, sometimes a good old fashioned phone call can be more friendly and efficient than time wasted messing about with stuttering video and scratchy internet sound.
3. Protect your passwords
Without office-based systems and IT staff to protect you, all your remote working activities are vulnerable to sabotage; everyone from mischief-making hackers to professional identity thieves. So it’s important to protect yourself with a good level of security software.
In particular, keep your passwords secure by using a service such as 1Password, which is easy to use and offers a robust level of protection that’s suitable for small businesses. Add the extension and app to your devices, and never forget a password again.
4. Get a virtual address
Although today’s technology allows you to work wherever you want, it’s still handy to have a real-world address that people can send business mail to. If you’d rather that wasn’t your home, then the simple solution is to get a virtual address with a service such as Mbe.co.uk.
This service is not only affordable but unlike the Post Office allows you to add a registered business address, something you'll need, for instance, for tax purposes.
5. Streamline your activities
Remote working is all about simplifying and streamlining your activities so that you can perform tasks quickly and easily, wherever you are.
The good news is that whatever you need to do, there'll be an app for that. For example, if you're dealing with international clients, we recommend Every Time Zone, which makes it easy to keep track of when they're awake and at their desks.
More broadly, stay organised with Things, a desktop and mobile app that syncs your to-do lists, so you always have them at hand. If you haven't used it in a while, take another look at the latest version has been redesigned from the ground up, and really sings.
Of course, it's also important to streamline your business finances. So we’d highly recommend Coconut, which serves your invoicing, banking and accounting needs in one, simple-to-use app.
It's a current account made especially for freelancers and self-employed people where everything takes place in the cloud. This not only helps make your life easier, it means you can go paperless, keeping your activities light and nimble in the way every remote worker needs. For example, Coconut delivers outstanding, professional-looking invoices, purely digitally, that you can file from your phone or tablet, wherever you are.
The service also helps with estimating your tax and sorting expenses. For instance, it estimates how much tax you need to save and automatically categorises your transactions as you spend; features that make it much easier to complete your accounts and file your tax return on time. You can download Coconut for free on iOS or Android.
6. Be proud of yourself
Remote working might have once been something you need to explain to people, even apologise for. But attitudes have changed.
Throughout the creative industries, there’s a growing recognition that you no longer need an office to create great work and run a successful business. And, in this environmentally enlightened times, it’s something you should be shouting about.
So take pride in your lighter carbon footprint. Boast about how you don't need to commute, and have a better work-life balance as a result. Tell people how you’ve gone paperless. And in more prosaic terms, stress to your clients how you can pass all these savings and more onto them.