How Van Life led to Full Time Remote Work:
Our Portland apartment was filled with stuff. Hand-picked stuff. Every item in our home was something I felt connected to and it ALL had to go. My husband and I decided we’d finally do it: we’d go remote. A couple of summers ago we had tried out a short stint of van life, which was really just camping on BLM lands with our Subaru and a tent for over a month. It was an incredible experience, but one grows tired of baby wipes as their main source of staying relatively clean and a shovel being the closest thing to a toilet. Plus, we had in-person jobs to return to and couldn’t be on the road forever. Even though we didn’t end up upgrading to a Sprinter van or RV and going all in, the experience did what it was supposed to do; it gave us a taste of freedom and travel that we were very intrigued by. About a year and a half after our car camping extravaganza, we were walking to our regular Tuesday haunt, a place called Life of Pie in NW Portland, talking about the possibility of selling everything and full-time traveling. Still, I couldn’t get past the STUFF thing. I loved the comfort of our home; we both did. Finally, my husband turned to me and said “are we really not going to do this because of a couple of bookshelves?” And that was it. I was all in…
Finding Remote Work
Finding a fully remote job is hard. If you’re willing to work full-time, you’ll have a lot more options. We aren’t, so that means piecing jobs together. Whether you’re looking for remote job ideas for RVing or Airbnbing this is a good place to start:
If you have a bachelor’s degree, there are tons of companies that hire native English speakers to teach English to children (and sometimes adults). VIP Kid is a great example of this. You can work from anywhere and you make your own schedule. It can be tough to get a full schedule but you can definitely make some money. The only downside is that they don’t hire residents of Washington, California, or New York due to tax purposes.
Design, Writing, and Editing
- If you have any skills in these areas, you can probably find at least a few jobs to do. There are lots of platforms for getting jobs like this. Just be aware that the website generally takes a percentage of the pay you receive. Places like Craigslist or Facebook won’t, but you also don’t get any security. I’ve used these websites to generate work for myself:
Ask your community for help:
Finding a job in person is hard enough, finding a remote job is even harder. You have to show your whole work ethic, experience, and personality on paper (well, by paper I really mean a screen but you get my drift). I really believe that your community is your biggest asset. Here are some tips to get you started:
- If you know someone who can possibly get you a job, make them a professional pitch:
- Send them a text or ask them in person if they would be willing to hear a pitch from you.
- Email them your pitch
- I found this youtube video helpful in explaining the kind of language you should use. It’s specifically for brand collaborations, but I think the information is helpful.
Follow-up on Applications:
You’d be surprised at how many people fill out applications, upload cover letters and even have great references, but never follow up! Applying online means that you must follow up (I think this is true in real life, too). Following up can be in a lot of forms but here is a system I’ve come up with that has shown results:
- Spend some time checking out a company/brand/or individuals website and social media. Get a feel for what they’re trying to do and pinpoint areas where you think you might be helpful.
- If possible, call the company and ask to speak to the hiring manager. Give them your basic information and let them know you’re interested and would like to talk more in future. Sometimes you won’t even get to speak to a manager, but at least there is a note with your name on it.
- Send an email with your application and supporting documents. Let them know you’re interested and say something specific about their company and how you could be an asset to their business.
- If you don’t hear back, check in again after three business days. I have found this type of respectful persistence to be extremely effective.
Get more work from a job you land
I ended up being able to secure a remote job running a small fitness business based in New York City called Strong & Free. I started out doing what I already knew how to do: branding. I built a website and social media accounts. From there I saw a need for Social Media Management, so I made a pitch and got the go ahead. I saw a need for changing the way that pricing and organization functioned so, again, I made my pitch. You would be surprised by how many yeses you get by just asking and showing up. If you see a need for something, go for it!
I think this is already obvious, but remote work is not for everyone. You must be self-motivated in order to get yourself to sit down, every day, in front of your laptop and get your shit done. I’m running Strong & Free, which means no one is checking in on me to see if I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Plus, I’m alone. All. The. Time. For me, this works. And I’ll tell you why:
- I stay organized. I make plans for the year, quarter, month, week, day. Seriously. I know what to expect and I create time constraints for myself so that I get things done. I pretty much just use the calendar and reminder apps on my phone to do this, but there are tons of resources out there for organizing your work.
- I create reward systems. When I finish a task or a set of tasks, I reward myself with things that don’t cost money. For example, when I finish my morning routine of checking my email and social media platforms, I get to go for a walk outside. This is a set part of my day that I personally look forward to. Whatever works for you will work!
- I FaceTime a friend or family member almost every day. It can get lonely working remotely and it’s important to keep up with your mental health. Getting some social time with friends and family is a huge part of this for me.
- Get into mobile banking. Here’s a resource I found helpful for sending and receiving money while on the road.
Be judicious about how use your time working remotely:
- Think about your time as if you are being paid a set amount.
- I look at all of my work time as if I am being paid $15/hour. When I have jobs, I make sure that I spend $15/hour (or more) working on them. This helps to determine whether or not a job is worth applying for. Sometimes this doesn’t work, but it is a good way to start.
- Set work hours for your day.
- I work Monday – Friday from 8am – 2pm. This is just what works for me. It’s the hours I am the most productive and I like the routine. The best part about remote jobs is that you get to decide when you will work; the only problem is that if you don’t decide ahead of time the work decides for you. That means you end up working way too many hours or procrastinating and working when you don’t want to. So make some decisions and set a schedule.
So, is it really worth it?
For me, the answer is yes, a thousand times yes! Getting remote work can be stressful if you’re worried about money. But the freedom is what makes it worth it. Not only can I work from anywhere in the world, but I also get to choose my own hours and I am the one in control of my labor. If I want to take the afternoon off and go swim in the Adriatic Sea, I can! How could that not be worth a couple of weeks of looking for work?