5 Surefire Ways to Grow Your Remote Business Many people dream of having their own business, and today, that dream often extends to doing so remotely. But what does it take to make that dream a reality?
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As I sit in my home office atop a mountain in Upstate New York, I realize there were no mistakes in growing my business — just a lot of missteps that turned out to be part of the path up the mountain of growth. I never imagined being fortunate enough to move back to my hometown and still have a successful business, let alone a business that's now thriving even more than when I ran it out of a brick-and-mortar location. It makes what my team and I have achieved all the more fulfilling.
Still, transitioning to a fully remote operation isn't as simple as it may sound. But what is, really? That said, some realizations and dedicated practices were game-changers for me. If you're considering this shift for your business, hopefully, these pointers will help you, too.
The new nine-to-five
A big part of why people become entrepreneurs is to escape the nine-to-five grind and have more freedom. But the opposite often happens. As a business owner, you know the buck stops with you, and that heady responsibility is hard to turn off.
For me, if I wasn't actively supporting my business, I was at least thinking about it (okay, more like obsessing over it). Admittedly, I wasn't prepared for that, and it was a hard realization that my new day job from home was more like working without end. And that wasn't sustainable or effective.
In a remote business, there's even less separation between work life and home life than you had when you commuted to an office because, most of the time, they are the same. Additionally, when you can easily work anywhere, it's quite tempting to do that one quick thing, which inevitably leads to another, then another.
It's a fast road to burnout when work consumes you, and in the creative world, a mind that isn't firing on all cylinders often misses. This led me to my second realization: If I wanted to change the situation, it was up to me.
That's where the concept of entrepreneurial freedom comes in. I'm in control of how I work, where I work, and when I work. I decided I needed to be more intentional with boundaries and dedicated practices to power up my remote business without it overpowering me.
Related: How to Become an Entrepreneur
Building a remote business
Everyone has their own motivation to go remote. Mine was the opportunity to move back to where I grew up, a small town in the Adirondack Mountains so that I could raise my children here.
But I knew I still needed to be able to grow my PR agency when I was literally away from it all — not just my old brick-and-mortar office, but away from the connections and conveniences of a bustling city. So, I devised a list of guidelines and best practices that became the ingredients of my "secret sauce" for success in a fully remote environment:
- Have a dedicated workspace. This is a must. That separation between home and office, which I mentioned before, is paramount. When I walk into my home office in the morning, I switch into business mode, and when I walk out, the work stays there. (Well, for the most part — I'm a work in progress!)
- Draw the line. When I talk about boundaries, I don't just mean setting them for work hours to allow myself time to recharge. I also mean setting boundaries with your team and your clients. When you work remotely, everyone knows they can technically reach you anytime, and some will have no problem doing so. Sometimes, that's fine — it's one of the advantages of having a flexible schedule.
But it's important to communicate that no one is expected to be available 24/7. It's a bit trickier with clients who want to access you at all hours, so I've found that setting working hours on my calendar and email (and out-of-office notifications for vacation) is a subtle way to remind them that I'm likely not online at 10 p.m. or 3 a.m. That's not to say I won't respond promptly to pressing situations, but you don't want to set that expectation.
- Always check in. "Out of sight, out of mind" can hold true when it comes to growing your revenue remotely, and you definitely don't want to be off the radar of your clients and potential clients. To mitigate this risk, schedule more interactions with them than you did when you met them in person.
Here's what I do: For every in-person coffee I would have had before, I now create three touchpoints with the client. Email, text, and calendar invites will become your best friends.
- Have team meetings driven by intention. Raise your hand if you've worked in an office where it seemed like meetings were held just for the sake of holding meetings. In a remote business, productivity matters even more, so it's important to have an intention behind every meeting you schedule.
Whether it's brainstorming, project updates, troubleshooting, sharing best practices or celebrating wins, the intention makes the session engaging, not just seeing faces on a screen. At my agency, we've found that theme-directed meetings work really well for us to stay connected and on task.
- Come up with systems for accountability. When you hear grumblings over growing a remote business, they're often centered on the issue of accountability (or the presumed lack thereof). But with all the project management tools available today, that argument is completely moot. My team likes Asana and Google Docs, but your team may prefer other software. The key? Ensure you clarify procedures and train your team thoroughly on using your chosen system.
Is my approach perfect? No! But it has netted results. Not only has my business grown more since I went remote, but I can honestly say that I have more work-life balance than before. And when I drink my coffee while looking at those beautiful mountains out my home office window each day, I know the future is bright!