Let me get this out of the way: I’m very lucky and I know it. I work for myself, doing something I love, and I get to do it in a variety of fabulous locations across the globe. Melbourne, Manila, Brisbane, Hanoi and Siem Reap have all been home to my office over the seven months that I’ve been operating my own business.
Working remotely is the dream, but working alone never has been. The flexibility and variety of running your own company is exciting and rewarding but it doesn’t come without its challenges. Below are just some examples of the unexpected difficulties I’ve faced since starting my business.
I am definitely a people person and even when I’ve been in roles that have been frustrating or, at worst, toxic, there have always been people around whose company I enjoyed. Working for myself and by myself a lot of the time means that I can sometimes go all day without speaking to anyone. The result is that my partner James walks into the apartment after a long day of talking to people at his workplace to be greeted by a hyperactive chatterbox desperate for human conversation. I’m grateful that he’s so tolerant of the fact that I’m unable to shut up for at least a good hour after he gets home.
Lost in translation
While we’re extremely fortunate these days to have access to so many great ways to communicate across distance and time zones, things can sometimes get lost in translation when relying on phone calls, emails and Skype. These modes of communication involve a certain level of a disconnect that can sometimes be challenging. Yesterday I visited a client in person for the first time and we were able to communicate much more efficiently and arrive at agreement on a complex matter in a way that had previously proven difficult and protracted to manage via email.
No one is giving me feedback
When I was working in marketing in the corporate world, everyone had an opinion about what I did. I would constantly receive suggestions about how an idea could be altered or improved, or even that it was just rubbish. Who could have imagined that I would ever miss this? But of course, often part of what makes a written piece or project amazing is the different opinions and perspectives that others bring to it. My creativity was often inspired by good, constructive feedback. Though this process continues to happen during my work with clients, I still sometimes miss the shared brainstorming and ongoing collaboration that is part of working within a larger organisation.
This is what started me thinking about writing this piece. This morning as I was getting ready to head out to meetings in Melbourne, I was trying to find my favourite pair of undies. Not a big deal, right? However, this particular pair works best with my favourite jeans. No doubt some of you are laughing right now, but I know everyone has that one pair that they love. It’s not like I don’t lose things regularly. Usually I just dig around until I find whatever it is, most often in the wash basket. Except that this morning there was a gut-wrenching moment – yes, I do realise it’s slightly ridiculous to admit to this in a world plagued by war, starvation and poverty, but that’s genuinely how I felt – when I realised exactly where they were: sitting in a drawer in our apartment in Manila.
Luckily, most of these challenges can be dealt with. I have already started putting in place systems and processes that ensure communication with clients is easy and clear. Regularly scheduled trips home to Melbourne allow me to meet often with clients, which mitigates translation issues and some of the loneliness. Most excitingly, I now have a team that I work with. Although we all work remotely, we can talk to each other, bounce ideas around and even, when we happen to be in the same city, work side by side.
As for the undies, well, I guess I’ll just have to buy some identical ones to keep here in Melbourne.
Seriously, I’m not really complaining. I’m having the time of my life, but I think it’s important to be honest that it isn’t all sunshine, coffee and lying by a pool, no matter what my Instagram feed looks like … Sometimes, you just want your favourite pair of underwear.