The First Remote Update Ever!

Welcome to the first edition ever of The Remote Update for July 2016. This is the start of a monthly blog post series where I share with you how my previous month went. I will discuss what I am working on, where I am, what went well / did not go well and the lessons learned.

This is an opportunity for me to draw the curtains back and show you what life is like as a remote worker. It’s a chance for me to connect with you: to answer your questions, to seek your opinions, and to share with you a bit of my life. Let’s get started!

 

Personal: Family Visits and Managing the Work-Life Balance

Looking back, July was a pretty hectic month here in Chicago! My parents visited me and my sister and stayed with us for an entire month.

My sister and I live together, so it was the four of us in the same apartment. Needless to say, we had a lot of family time!

Mom and Sister Visit Chicago - The Remote Update July 2016

It was interesting because this was the first time my parents visited me after I quit my job in February. The last time they visited me, I was working a 9-to-5 in an office. So during the weekdays I wasn’t home during work hours. There was a clear separation between work and life.

Nowadays I work from home most of the time and have my own routine, so this was a change for me.

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Managing Distractions at Home

For some reason, I found it hard to stick to a disciplined schedule with my family here. It was the little things, like:

  • Taking the time to sit down for breakfast and eat real food. Instead of just drinking a quick protein shake and getting right to work.
  • Minor distractions or conversations throughout the day.
  • Feeling guilty about spending the holed up in my room instead of spending time with family. Even though I’m working fewer hours than I would have in an office.
  • Feeling pressure to not work and spend time with family things after dinner.

The tiny things somehow put me off my groove and I felt a lot less productive last month. When I reflect on why, it has much more to do with my own issues and not because of my family being here.

When I made the choice to quit my full-time job, I did it so that I could have full control over how I used my time. I wanted to spend my time on the things that mattered to me. This means that I should be able to:

  • Take time to enjoy every meal of the day.
  • Take breaks throughout the day with my family.
  • Stop working after 5pm and relax.

But I don’t do that. Instead, I spend the vast majority of my time working every day of the week. It is up to me to change things and to structure my time better.

 

Family Highlights

In the end of the day, I still had a great time with my family here. I took them to one of my favorite events in Chicago, called Jazzin’ at the Shedd! This event takes place in the Shedd Aquarium after hours. They have food stations, bars, and live jazz music set up. It’s the perfect way to enjoy a Chicago summer.

Jazzin at the Shedd - The Remote Update 2016

The outdoor area of the Shedd Aquarium

 

Jazzin at the Shedd 2 - The Remote Update July 2016

The amazing Chicago skyline behind the outdoor area of the Shedd Aquarium

We also had time to make a trip to Wisconsin to visit my dad’s best friend from college.  We didn’t plan this out. But we ended up going the same week that Summerfest was happening. We were so lucky that we were able to get tickets to what is the largest music festival in the world. I really liked the vibe in summer Milwaukee and it’s definitely somewhere I would like to visit again.

 

Summerfest 1 - The Remote Update July 2016

Entrance to Summerfest

 

Summerfest 2 - The Remote Update July 2016

Summerfest from above. Taken from a ski lift.

Personal goals for the month:

1) Get back into a strong personal routine.

Waking up early (between 6-7 am) and going to the gym 5 times a week.

2) To have a work-life balance.

Not working after dinner and to minimize working on the weekends.

3) Work more productively

I am trying out the famed Pomodoro Technique. This is where you split your work time into 25-minute intervals separated by 5-minute breaks. I really like it so far and have been using the app Focus Keeper

 


 

Tandem Designs: Wrapped up Two Client Projects

For those of you who don’t know, I run a creative agency with my sister called Tandem Designs. This month we wrapped up two projects:

 

HPA Logo - The Remote Update July 2016

Hyde Park Angels

The HPA project was a website development project. I worked with a designer the client selected to build out the website on WordPress. It’s the biggest project we’ve ever taken on!

The client needed a blog, video library, team members, news pages, among others. All these elements needed to be editable from an admin dashboard.

The whole project took around 2 months to develop and I built a custom WordPress theme from scratch. I learned a lot about WordPress!

This project was a huge opportunity for us. HPA is the largest angel investment group in the Midwest and the has a strong national reputation. Doing a great job for them would increase our profile and visibility. It could even lead to opportunities with their portfolio companies, members, and network.

 

Doris Duke Fellowships Logo - The Remote Update July 2016

Doris Duke Fellowships Program

This was a design and development project that my sister worked on using Squarespace. The Doris Duke Fellowships identifies and develops leaders in child development. The program is administered by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.

This was a smaller project in comparison to HPA. But it was a wonderful opportunity for us to contribute to an important social cause and mission.

 

Ongoing Support for Completed Projects

Our next step is to discuss with our clients if they need ongoing maintenance services. If that’s the case, we can negotiate a retainer agreement with them.

In a retainer agreement, the client pays a monthly fee that guarantees a fixed number of monthly work hours.

The benefit is that we all save time by not having to negotiate a quote for simple monthly maintenance tasks. The client also has the peace of mind that they can count on us when they need to.

 

Upcoming Projects and Business Development

As for future projects, we start working with a non-profit legal firm in a few weeks time. I’ll let you know more information about it once we complete the project.

I am also currently working on new business development opportunities. In the past, we relied on a scattershot approach.

We did everything to reach the largest number of people possible. I attended networking events, sent out cold emails, and visited coworking spaces.

Here’s what we found out from our old strategy:

  • Almost all the prospective clients that we found through ended up not being good fit for our business.
  • The clients we received through referrals were the ones we enjoyed working with the most.

We now choose to be very selective about who we work with,  because:

  1. We want to be valued for our expertise, not for our price point. If a client wants to look for the cheapest bidder, that is not us.
  2. We have our way of delivering projects to provide the most amount of value for our clients. Our clients have to trust our expertise.

Our new strategy relies on client referrals and warm introductions. Since we are almost done with our scheduled projects, it is time to look for new ones.

 


 

The Remote Lifestyle: Continuing to Grow the Blog

While managing family time and running a creative agency, I still find time for my passion project The Remote Lifestyle. 

This month was huge one in terms of defining the growth strategy for the blog.

 

My Frustration with the Low Number of Blog Subscribers

It is strange for me to be sharing this with you, but I want to be as transparent as possible. One thing that has been frustrating me is the low number of subscribers I have on the blog.

Mailchimp Screenshot - The Remote Update July 2016

At the time of writing, I have 42 subscribers, which include my family and friends.

I didn’t understand why at first. My blog was well-written and better-designed than 90% of the blogs out there. But my readers weren’t converting.

I spent time doing research and reached out to my existing subscribers. Here’s what I found:

  • There are no incentives for readers to subscribe the blog
  • There is not enough traffic to the blog
  • The readers aren’t getting enough value from my content

Below I’ll go through each of the bullet points in detail to show you how I came to that conclusion and what I am doing now.

 

Creating Opt-In Leads to Incentivize Subscribers

On the website, I have forms that allow readrers to subscribe by entering their email address. But they have not been working well.

I realized that this was because I didn’t provide an incentive for readers to subscribe. On many blogs, you’ll see popups that say “Subscribe to our blog and get our free e-book on x, y or z”. These blogs give their readers something in exchange when they submit their email addresses.

I thought that just by having good content, readers would subscribe. But that was very naive of me to think that I could grow a subscriber list without doing the same.

I brainstormed all the different opt-in leads I could create. They include:

  • eBooks
  • Video or Audio content
  • Checklist or cheat sheet
  • Private blog content
  • Online course
  • List of resources and tools

With that in mind, I set out to create my first set of downloadable resources. So far, I’m working on the following three things:

1) An eBook on personal branding for remote workers

Personal Branding eBook Cover - The Remote Update July 2016

2) A PDF guide on learning to code online

Ultimate Guide to Learning to Code for the Web - The Remote Update July 2016

3) A PDF list of productivity resources that I can’t live without

11 Lifechanging Productivity Tools - The Remote Update July 2016

They are all almost complete! In the next few weeks, I’ll start incorporating them into the website to see if my conversion rates go up. Fingers crossed.

 

Driving More Traffic to the Blog – Social Media

The traffic to my blog has been increasing in the past few months. But it’s not as high as I would like it to be. In the last month, we had an average of 20-30 visitors a day, making a total of 938 visitors.

Organic Search Traffic - The Remote Update July 2016

This was annoying because I spend quite a bit of time promoting my posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Medium. So I expected better.

I went through my analytics to see if my content promotion helped.

Social Media Traffic - The Remote Update July 2016

Twitter was the most effective channel by far, followed by Instagram and Facebook. This is good because in the past three months I’ve grown my Twitter account from 300 followers to 2,500 followers. So I know to keep doing what I’m doing on Twitter.

Twitter Followers - The Remote Update July 2016

As for Facebook and Instagram, I need to place less emphasis and time on them right now. I will focus on Instagram in the future because it is the social media outlet with the most potential.

As for LinkedIn and Medium, I’m hardly generating any traffic through them. This makes sense because I’m posting my articles directly on their platforms. I will continue to post content there to build up my content library and to build up credibility. I’ll figure out how to make those work later.

 

Driving More Traffic to The Blog – Organic Search

While looking at my analytics, I noticed that my organic search numbers were very low.

Organic Search Traffic - The Remote Update July 2016

This had to change. Content promotion via social media is only helpful when you first post an article. I believe strongly that all my blog posts are good. So I need to make sure I do myself a favor and get them on Google’s search results pages.

Backlinko Logo - The Remote Update July 2016

The problem is that I know very little about search engine optimization (SEO). Thankfully, I stumbled on Patt Flynn’s Smart Passive Income Podcast Episode 176 where he interviews Brian Dean from Backlinko. It was a complete eye opener!

I read through the articles on Backlinko and quickly spotted all the mistakes I was making with my content. In the next month, I will follow Brian’s strategies this month and see how that goes. If you have any questions about SEO you should check out his website. It’s well worth it!

 

Creating Value for My Readers

When I first started The Remote Lifestyle, I felt that I knew my audience well. I considered myself to be the archetype of my audience. But over the past few months, I felt more and more unsure.

I decided to reach out to my subscribers to hear their feedback. I wanted to know more about them: who they were, what problems they faced, what they wanted to do in their lives. It also important to hear their feedback on the blog, what they want more of and what they want less of.

I am so thankful for how many readers were willing to hop on a call or meet up in person to offer feedback and suggestions.

With their help, I refined our list of content ideas and have a better understanding of who my readers are and how I can help them.

 

Announcing The Remote Podcast and More Guest Posts

I want to take this opportunity to share with you a new project that I am working on called The Remote Podcast. It is a podcast series where I interview remote workers one-on-one about who they are, why they decided to go remote and how they did it.

It’s a great chance to learn more about the different types of remote opportunities available. It’s also a chance for you to hear the stories of other people already living the remote lifestyle.

The Remote Podcast Album Artwork - The Remote Update July 2016

I realized that it’s not enough for me to just share my experiences on the blog. To make the blog a valuable resource, we need to leverage other people’s experiences.That’s why along with the podcast, I will be focusing on getting more guest posts on the blog. The guest posts will feature topics that we have not yet covered.

 


A Big Thank You to My Readers

Thank you for letting me share this with you. Since I quit my job in February, I have had so much fun working on my creative agency and the blog. I am humbled to be able to share my experiences with you in the inaugural Remote Update. 

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for me please feel free to leave them in the comments section below. I always respond to everything!

I appreciate you and wish you all the best in August!


 

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