While being a remote employee or independent contractor is quickly becoming both the norm and the desired way to work from anywhere on the globe, it still comes with its fair share of challenges. Fortunately, there are solutions. From creating a healthy work-life balance to preparing for tax season, here we recap the 10 biggest challenges remote employees and freelancers face on a regular basis, and—more importantly—how to solve them.
1. Lacking community
Challenge: While you might not think twice about leaving the office life behind, lacking the exposure to a community of colleagues and collaborators is one of the most cited complaints among remote workers.
Solution: Be proactive about building a community of peers with similar lifestyles and remote setups. How you choose to approach this is completely up to you. Coworking spaces provide engaging and lively areas to work and socialize, and a majority of the memberships are held by remote workers, meaning that you’ll instantly be amongst peers.
Another popular go-to for remote workers is leaning on technology to help with networking, and these online interactions can often lead to in-person meetups between members. Sites like Facebook and Meetup, for instance, have specific remote work channels for different cities around the globe.
2. Creating a work-life balance
Challenge: When your home is your office, it can be difficult to “turn off” at the end of the workday. Outside of the parameters of a normal work life, checking emails at all hours of the day and working overtime from your home office can quickly become part of the routine.
Solution: Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean that you should always be working. The quickest way to burn out as a remote worker is to never allow yourself to take needed breaks, and that’s why having a healthy work-life balance is so important.
So what’s a remote worker to do? Create rules for yourself. Whether it’s informing your team that you’ll be unavailable after 6 p.m. on work days, not allowing yourself to work once the sun goes down, or promising yourself two full days a week to be work-free, putting structure into your life to ensure a healthy work-life balance is a must.
3. Finding work
Challenge: If you’re a freelancer, you may find yourself constantly looking for work and picking up new gigs every few months. Finding work can be especially challenging as a remote worker living a nomad lifestyle.
Solution: One of the most exciting aspects of being a freelancer is that you’re working on different projects (and for different people) all the time, but acquiring new work often means seeking out new work. Networking is one of the most important aspects when it comes to finding new clients.
To that end, joining a remote job database platform can be extremely useful in finding legitimate, paying work. Sites like Remote.com use artificial intelligence to help align professional remote workers with managing remote hirers in their field.
4. Keeping in touch
Challenge: When you’re off-the-grid and working independently, it can be easy to go days without communicating with your team.
Solution: Make an active effort to update your manager on a daily or weekly basis, even if it’s only with a summary email. Free tools like Google Hangouts and Skype make face-to-face communication between remote teams a breeze.
Further, tools like Slack and Trello provide a way for entire teams to remain in communication and on the same page about work. Many remote teams also use such tools provide social communication for their remote employees, creating “water cooler channels” for non-work related discussion.
5. Lacking Motivation
Challenge: Sometimes, when there’s nobody looking over your shoulder, you might lack the needed motivation to get things done on your own time.
Solution: When you’re working remotely, staying productive is key to your success. Everybody runs into moments when they’re lacking the motivation to get work done, but if it becomes a long-term issue, you may want to consider restricting yourself from common distractions.
Productivity apps exist for the sole purpose of keeping people on track. Freedom is one of the best, allowing you to lock yourself out of distracting social media websites (or the entire web if need be!) for set periods of time. Need help prioritizing? AND CO’s Task Manager bumps up your most pressing tasks first, allowing you to push other tasks off your plate for the time being.
6. Staying Organized
Challenge: If you work for multiple clients, you likely have a lot of client information to stay on top of, proving to be a challenge for those who struggle with organization.
Solution: Creating a system that works for your workflow is the best way to go about staying organized when you’re dealing with multiple clients. Whether that entails using a software system, being heavy-handed on spreadsheets, or using a printed organizer is up to you and how you best work.
The best piece of advice here is to stay organized from the get-go. Once you fall behind on keeping track of your mounting tasks and projects, it can be a hassle to try and catch-up on the details. Save yourself the headache and creating a system that works for you from Day 1.
7. Getting paid
Challenge: Getting paid as a freelancer can be tricky, and tracking down payments often becomes a struggle if you aren’t being paid within a reasonable 30-day period.
Solution: Don’t be afraid to continually check-in on your payments from your contracted gigs. Additionally, using third-party sites that use payment processors are ideal for making sure you’ll be paid before you even complete your work. Escrow accounts help facilitate quick, safe, and easy payment options for remote workers. Have a particularly tricky late-paying client? AND CO’s Williams&Harricks tool allows you to send a physical demand letter for $3.
If you’re working full-time for a company and still not receiving your payments on a regular timeline, talk to your supervisor or the HR department about confirming a consistent pay plan. Many remote employees will also put their workload on hold if their employers are behind payment of more than 90 days.
8. Preparing your taxes
Challenge: A majority of part-time and contract remote gigs pay without withholding taxes, which means that being prepared for tax season becomes important long before April 15.
Solution: Keep track of your numbers. If you’re not having taxes taken out of your paychecks, you’ll want to self-calculate how much you’ll owe in taxes on each paycheck and set that money aside. Many freelancers also choose to pay quarterly, which is advised by the U.S. government to avoid paying a late fee penalty. Not sure what to save? There’s a free calculator for that.
Furthermore, keeping track of your deductions and work expenses throughout the year (rather than trying to remember them all while you’re filing your taxes) is a smart move to make. Be sure to hang on to any relevant receipts or paperwork.
9. Feeling isolated
Challenge: Along with feeling like you’re lacking an office community, working from home all day can also have you feeling physically isolated.
Solution: One great (and affordable) solution for those feeling isolated or going a little stir-crazy in their home is to head to a local coffee shop or library to make use of the free WiFi amid a mellow, yet productive, environment.
If you prefer to work from home, set aside time to take brief walks around your neighborhood during the day to escape the confines of a quiet home. Making trips to the grocery store, local parks, or a neighbor’s house can provide you with social environments.
10. Keeping track of your earnings
Challenge: When you’re receiving an income from multiple sources, it can be easy to start cashing checks without taking note of the totals, leaving you in a bind later on when you want to assess your earnings.
Solution: Either creating your own spreadsheet or using freelance accounting software where you can enter in your financial earnings from various employers is ideal for keeping track of your income and its sources. This type of information is important not only for allowing you a simple way to assess your income, but it also helps ensure that you’re not missing any paychecks or direct deposits in the shuffle of things.
Always be certain that you’re keeping track of your projected income, as well as what individual clients should be paying you.
Remote work comes with challenges, but along with those come incredible opportunities for personal and professional growth. What tips do you have for other remote workers? Let us know in the comments below.
Remote.com is the leading community for remote and freelance work, connecting over two million professionals via a curated job posting platform. Join now to connect with industry shaping professionals and change the way you look at the world of work.