This is the final part of a four-part series focused on finding success through building your career online.
Historically, the idea of working part-time and remote is at odds with the concept of career development. But then again, historically we used to wear crocs. History is not always the best case study. Yet the question remains: is it possible to forge a career through working remotely online?
The answer is a resounding yes.
Yet it also rests on how you define a career. Some people may say that a career is that stable job you’ve hung onto for a lifetime, that hasn’t changed much in the last decade, and matches 30% into your 401k. But when we talk about career, what we’re really talking about is the pursuit of consecutive, progressive achievement in your professional life. Like leveling up in Words with Friends, just more useful. It’s this ongoing development that you undertake as part of your “calling” that separates a career from just spending a very long time behind the same desk.
If we take this latter definition of a career, then developing a career remotely online is not only possible, but even preferable. While online opportunities are spreading faster than a high school rumor, so are all sorts of learning and community building possibilities too. From Coursera and Udemy though to Google and YouTube, there are countless ways to keep learning, improving and developing your online career.
But whether you’re an online teacher, freelance designer or expert in chameleon-psychology who consults from a beach in Tahiti, building a career online is also not like drinking tea at the Ritz. It won’t be served up on a silver platter. Very seldom can it only happen at 11am. And occasionally the option to add sugar will be notably absent. Developing a career successfully means putting in a little hard work. But do it right and soon enough you’ll be sleeping as if you were in the Ritz.
So how do you go about doing this?
You become a P-R-O
As a professional or upcoming professional in your field, your online successes will rely heavily on your ability to excel in the following areas:
Patience. In the beginning, work will likely come slowly. This is normal. Nobody who ever started building a career on their own was a success story overnight. They key is in your persistence and positivity in building up your work. Use slower periods to learn more about your craft, or to research better ways to market yourself, or refine your portfolio. Remember that every little bit of work counts towards the larger goal of building an actual career. This also means that while you may be working from your living room, or having a meeting in a pair of hot pink pajamas, in your client’s mind you’re sitting in a pristine office dressed in your finest on an internet cloud. Always act the part.
Relationship: Remote work relies entirely on your ability to build close and trusted relationships with your clients, even if they are 4-year old kids (shout out to you online teachers). To develop your career, you will need to continually nurture these professional relationships. The people or businesses that you work with will either pay you, or recommend you to other people. Therefore relationships are the foundation for your success. You might be coming off three sleepless days of summer flu, but when you meet with your clients, have a hot cup of lemon and ginger beforehand and go in all smiles.
Obligation: Remember that everything you do in your career will stand to benefit you. In a regular job, the obligation to perform work for a client belongs to the company you work for, and your performance is buffered by this relationship. One bad day won’t make too much difference to your paycheck. But developing your own career means you are directly responsible for the outcomes of your work. Be sure it is consistent, high quality and on time. Consistency, especially in terms of availability, is often the key to getting your feet off the ground.
Taking your career to the next level
Once your online career has begun to take shape, it doesn’t mean all efforts in career-building grind to halt. Just the opposite. To sustain momentum and keep yourself relevant and motivated, it helps to start thinking more broadly about how you can participate in the industry as a whole.
Meet-ups, Conferences and Events. Remote work can occasionally have the unintended side effect of making you think that you live on the moon. While not having to deal with the 90-decibel lawn-mower breathing of your colleague may come as a relief at first, some people struggle to adjust to the sudden isolation you are able to achieve (or are forced to endure) by working from home. The solution is to engage in various activities with other members of the industry. Creating your own meet-up is the ambitious, extroverts approach, but you can just as easily join online forums, or attend events in person. It has the added benefit of keeping you updated trends and other people’s techniques in performing similar work.
Workshops and Webinars. In the beginning of this blog we spoke about career building as progressive achievements in your field. Continuing to learn and educate yourself will keep you at the cutting edge of your own industry. Online workshops are a great way to do this, and many websites offer free courses too. Maybe you feel like you’re an expert in your own right, and want to share your experiences with others? You can also choose to create webinars and if you’re good enough, even get paid!
As you work towards building your career online, remember that it is a process. Things won’t come easy at first, but the rewards are huge. Keep learning, and keep engaging in activities that will serve to enhance not only your skills, but your relationships and networks too. Soon you’ll have a hard time believing you ever worked in an office in the first place!