This guest post is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.
As you’re reading this, it’s 80º Fahrenheit and sunny with a light breeze. Not necessarily where you are, but somewhere.
That somewhere is where I’ve chosen to blog for a living. Most of the time, that means Las Vegas. Right now, this being November, it’s Maui. In other years it’s been Mexico or South Africa. I’m untethered from any particular location, and able to give value to my clients while neither shivering nor wearing layers. It’s a lifestyle that I’ve merely adopted, but that Jon Morrow seems to have perfected. Also, it’s a lot less expensive than you might think.
What motivates you? Yes, money, health, family, friendship, I get it. Those are all the universal answers. But what motivates you in particular? Spend a few seconds thinking of an answer, then keep reading.
For me, money and self-determination are motivating factors 1 and 1A. Following right on their heels is the avoidance of cold weather in all its dreary, cloudy, soul-crushing forms. I would gladly starve my children if doing so meant I’d get to live somewhere warm, and if I had children. I might hate winter more than I hate terrorism.
If the idea of blogging on your own terms (and closer to the Equator) resonates with you, understand that the demands on your time will increase. (That’s not a typo. I did mean “increase”, not “decrease.”)
What you need
In this post-industrial society, blogging has few physical demands. In addition to blogging, I run an advertising business. I write radio and TV commercials. You and I happen to be living in 2011, which means that all we need to be productive in certain fields of endeavor are a laptop, a power source, a word processor, and an Internet connection. Oh, and discipline.
If you can’t motivate yourself harder than any employer can motivate you, do yourself a favor and return to your 9-to-5 world before thinking about the remote blogging lifestyle any further. The distractions abound when you determine not only your own schedule, but your own workplace.
The problem with many people who aspire to blogging remotely but who can’t actually make it happen is that they forget one crucial component—“setting your own hours” really does mean setting your own hours. Not, “I’ll blog today, maybe Monday, depending on whether the mood strikes me and whether the fish are biting.” Rather, it’s “From 6:00 to 11:00 tonight, I’m going to apply myself as diligently as a new hire on his first day. I’m going to pretend a boss is watching me on camera. This is my probationary period.”
Remote blogging is a tradeoff, like anything else in life. There’s freedom, but with the concomitant temptation to slack off. With respect to the latter, you’re at a disadvantage to people who work in conventional office settings. Discipline is easy for them, because it’s forced upon them. They can’t take a five-hour lunch break when there are coworkers in the adjacent cubicles. They probably can’t put their feet up and watch TV when the mood strikes them. It’s doubtful they can work pantslessly, either.
Taking the plunge
As a practical matter, researching before you pack up and go remote is critical. One of my favorite working spots is the village of Playa Naranjo (Orange Beach) on the Gulf of Nicoya in Costa Rica.
It’s bucolic, and it’s relaxing, but it’s miles removed from the metropolitan first-world bandwidth that many of us take for granted. Customer support is provided during inconsistent hours, and in a language I understand only the fundamentals of. That means that I have to allot slightly more time to my projects, and upload them in batches. It also means that if I want to travel any deeper into the jungle to look at toucans, I’d better do so on non-working days. But it can be done. It can all be done.
Don’t assume that ease of communication is correlated with human development, either. The fastest Internet connection I’ve ever enjoyed was on a free Wi-Fi network in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. (The Mongolians never had obsolete legacy equipment to dig up and work around, so they started with state-of-the-art.) Months later, my failed attempts to log on to a trusted Canadian network from a hotel a mere five miles over the U.S. border were met with lamentations and the gnashing of (my) teeth. And they charged $15 a day for the privilege.
The remote blogging lifestyle—and it is a lifestyle, more than it is an occupation—isn’t something you want to dabble in and then maybe reconsider. Yes, it requires you to make sure you’ll have the right tools at your disposal and readily accessible, but there’s more. Like finding and pricing a place to stay. And pricing your existing place on the rental market to see if the numbers can pencil out in your favor. They probably can, but it’s better to determine so before you make the commitment.
If you can somehow engineer the remote problogger lifestyle for yourself—and it took me plenty of trial-and-error before getting it right—most of your clients, coworkers and vendors will be disdainful. Fortunately, you won’t be able to hear them over the surf and the ukulele music.
Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (Kindle) and reach Greg at greg@ControlYourCash.com.(physical) or