The Way We Work

Whether you are a software developer or a freelance editor, a few basic rules of thumb can make the difference between contract work success and failure when working remotely.


1. TALK to your clients. Without regular voice contact with your employers, you can gradually lose that personal connection that can keep communication solid and the work flow steady. Given Skype and other voice-over-Internet options, you don’t even have to pick up your cell phone to talk and the expense stays minimal. What’s more, you can get face time via the Internet too. Take advantage of it. If regular conversations aren’t happening naturally in the course of work, take the initiative to schedule them.

2. Set your own HOURS. And keep them. While being a remote worker gives you the freedom to make your own hours, it’s not always the best idea to make them up as you go. Having a routine and sticking to it is  key to productivity and vital to maintaining consistent contact with your employer or team. In fact, having your basic “office” hours on your voicemail and your email signature can be a huge help to the people who depend on you.

3. ELIMINATE distractions. Career contractors have to maintain a level of self-discipline that doesn’t come naturally to all of us. If the television, your cell phone, your neighbors, or anything else is distracting to your work, it has to be controlled. Take charge of your work environment during your office hours and eliminate the distractions. Having a designated space in your home — a home office — does seem to be the best choice for most contractors. Close the door to anything and anyone that does not contribute to your productivity.

5 tips for successful remote work

4. Have a COMFORTABLE place to work. We might not all agree on the best and most productive place to work, but being comfortable while you are working  should be at the top of your priorities. If working from the couch gives you a painful kink in your neck, it needs to stop. Work in an environment that feeds your senses in ways that make you productive. If you aren’t physically comfortable while you work, it will eventually catch up with you. Your work will suffer and so will you. It’s worth a monetary investment to get comfortable. Your chair, the height of your screen and keyboard, lighting, etc., will all affect your personal comfort.

5. Pursue excellence in your CRAFT. If you aren’t passionately connected to your specialty, you may find it hard to pursue success as a contractor. Subscribe to a trade publication, attend conventions, or simply keep up on trends in your field through the blogs and newsletters. But always stay on the cutting edge of knowledge and progress in your chosen career field. If you aren’t emotionally invested in doing a fantastic job for your employers it will become obvious to them rather quickly. Long-term success requires your long-term passion for excellence.

These five basic truths were the same in 2006, the year that oDesk Team member John D. first wrote about them. Read his take on remote work success here.

Tamara Rice

Freelance Writer and Editor

Tamara Rice is one of several freelance writers on the oDesk Blog team. She joined the oDesk marketplace in 2009, after more than six years on staff at an award-winning national magazine.