“We’re looking for somebody local.” That is a response I get so many times when looking for freelance work. It prompts an almost immediate “ugh” response from me. I completely understand though. I’m sure the agency, business or person I’m emailing has a very similar response. “Ugh, another out of area developer applying for an in-house position.”
It’s time to clear the air on distributed work. In this article I’m going to dissect reasons I’ve gotten for why remote work is frowned upon when it really should be embraced.
My career as a web developer has mostly kept me in the service based industry side of things. When you’re working with companies in client facing roles it opens you up to a unique type of criticism. Worst of all though when companies are burned it leaves a lasting impression. So many agencies I speak with will flat out not work with freelancers or remote developers just because someone in the past has burned them.
The issue with this is that bad employees or contractors are everywhere. It doesn’t matter if they’re 5 feet from you or 500 miles away. If they don’t care then they don’t care and the results are going to be poor either way. Your goal, especially when working with freelancers who are even harder to hire for, should be to get the best person for the job regardless of their location. You should also never let the lack of professionalism from Developer A influence your opinion of Developer B. You’re going to miss out on many opportunities to hire outstanding developers if you do.
It’s fair to say that this is probably the number one knock against remote work. It certainly makes communication more difficult if your culture isn’t accommodating to people not in office. Over the years however a lot of tools have been coming up that make it easier to communicate whether you’re in the same office or not. Things like Slack, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Google Drive, Dropbox, and the list goes on make it a breeze to connect with people.
Communication is also about effort. Perhaps the biggest distributed team in the tech industry has a great saying. “Communication is oxygen“. People I work with are never going to wonder where I am or the status of a project. Why? Because I’m extremely proactive making sure I’m ahead of the game when it comes to informing people. I never want to be in a situation where I’m out of sight and out of mind to somebody.
Distractions & Trust Issues
On paper you would think that people who work from home encounter more distractions on average. I say that’s false however. Anytime I’m in an office type setting it makes myself more readily available for someone to just come up to me and ask me a question. When I’m working from home I’m able to control when I answer these types of requests allowing me to get more work done.
There are also issues when it comes to people doing what they say they’re doing. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to picture your developer laying on a beach somewhere when they say they’re working on your project. Likewise there may be a situation where the person just falls off the face of the earth and you never hear from them again. Again, these are issues that come down to the type of person you’re working with. It might be a good idea to invest in improving your hiring process if these are the types of individuals you’re ending up with.
Doing Remote Right
I’ve been working full time remote since early 2014. Don’t let me fool you. Like anything remote work has its pros and cons. Generally though the flexibility it affords me to be able to spend time with my family, work on hobbies/chores, and also take on additional work to boost my income is irreplaceable.
When we work together you’re going to get someone who is as dedicated and professional as if I was sitting across the desk from you. I always establish built in status points in project timelines to ensure you’re always up to date on where your project is. In addition I make myself readily available for yourself and your team should you need me to hop on a call or answer any questions.
Remember to keep an open mind, as well. As the world becomes more connected distributed work forces are going to become more and more the rule instead of the exception. We’re just scratching the surface.