living in a remote world

I was asked to write a post about living in a remote world from Janet Hanson the brilliant woman behind 85 Broads who is working with Microsoft Office 365.  So here is one of the two posts. 


ImagesI first started to work in a remote world when many other people in the world were just thinking about going remote.  It was the mid-90’s and I became the second person at Silicon Alley Reporter who was given the nod to go sell ads and build a revenue structure. I was taking zero money but a percentage of everything I brought in…in essence a freelancer.  It was a start-up and there were absolutely no restrictions on where I worked because I set up the rules from the beginning.  I’d come in once a week for a few meetings and would work from home.  We didn’t have an office yet so that was a win win for both of us.  I immediately proved myself capable of getting the job done so who cared if I was working remotely even after the revenues that I brought in allowed us an office space. 

I was working out of my basement in Chappaqua at the time.  It was our time in the suburbs when I was home with 3 kids under 5 years old.  I was losing my mind and was in desperate need of some type of job related activity to get my mind working again.  Silicon Alley Reporter seemed like the perfect gig. 

My day would begin getting the kids to their activities and whatever errands I needed to run and then I’d make my way down to my hole…a tiny office in the basement with the basics; a phone, a set of headphones, a printer, a fax machine and a computer. 

I was getting about 150 emails a day while the phone rang off the hook.  I’d close the deal, print out the contract, send it over and get it faxed back.  Wow…that seems so archaic now.  Soon the company went from a stapled six-page paper rag to a fully bound glossy magazine.  Not only did we have a magazine that was now being sold on newsstands, we began doing large events and an online daily magazine too.

Once a week I would come into the city to meet with whoever needed to see my face and connect with the people in the office.  The office went from being 1 person to 40 very quickly.  What became difficult was that as time went on and I had hired sales people to be in the city while I managed them from the suburbs.  Although I was training them and talking to them daily there was a dis-connect from the community that was being built in the office.  It was even stranger when I didn’t recognize anyone in the office and they had no idea who I was either. 

What was wonderful about this opportunity were many things.  First of and foremost was that I could be home and work at the same time.  I bet I was more productive by myself in a remote situation than I would have ever been in the city with a bunch of people around.  It was great for my kids because I might have been on my headphones doing work yet I was in the kitchen making dinner or picking them up at an activity in the middle of the day because I could. 

There was one particular moment I remember vividly.  I was in the kitchen making dinner and I was trying to close a sale.  I was putting the chicken in the oven while stirring the rice on the stove.  The kids were sitting at the kitchen table doing some activity.  You could hear them in the background and the movement of pots and pan.  Yes, I am a total multi-tasker.  The woman on the other end of the phone says to me, where are you and what are you doing?  I told her exactly where I was and that I was preparing dinner.  She loved it and we closed the deal. 

The work world has changed and the ability to work remotely from anywhere in the world has changed the landscape particularly for women.  I am not promoting that your CFO is never in the office or particularly your head of Marketing or sales because certainly as the company grew I really needed to be present because communications happen when you least expect it.  Yet, there are so many unbelievable women out there who could be an asset to any organization and they aren’t given the chance to do what I did.  There is no doubt that many women who are home now could easily do a kick ass job from their own hole in the basement. 

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Comments (Archived):

  1. Rohan

    Kickass dinner-kids-phone-close-sale story.I’m not capable of such multi tasking. So, nice to know that it can be done. 😀

    1. Rohan

      It’s also amazing how far ahead the world was. Back home (India), we got our first desktop computer in 1998 and that was a pretty big deal. Google became part of our dictionary only around 2002-03. Of course, I’m massively generalizing but that’s in my experience.My real introduction to the virtual world was in university in Singapore in 2006. I vividly remember watching my 1st youtube video in the 1st month of my 1st semester. And seeing my 1st blog a few months later.We’re catching up and trying to make up on lost time though.. 🙂 (India and myself.. ;))

  2. Tereza

    Great post. It’s hard sometimes for people out of it to see this, but easily half of the moms and you’d be surprised how many dads, too, work from a hole in the basement. There just aren’t that many single-income couples anymore. And dads want to be present for their kids too. So the big preference is to work remote and independent and get some passive income going as a foundation.I just read in the Atlantic that through the ages women always had cottage industries working’ from home. Running the farm, sewing clothes + making baskets for sale, whatever they had talent and resource for. and the kids helped. This was serious income.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Etsy gives so many people that opportunity

      1. Tereza

        Yes, totally. And also we’re now in a service economy. People pay a premium for special things and also services tailored to them. Small service providers don’t have everything they need to make a good living. It’s hard to market services which is why daily deals have flooded in to fill the void. But those are not a sustainable marketing tool. So Etsy for small local services where relationships are established online, and then they can take it offline with customers willing to pay full-price for awesome service instead of 60% off for a cheapo. People want and need relationships and the right ones that give them profitable revenue streams. There’s an ocean of opportunity around monetizing these services and helping them market to who they need. When I see a photographer let’s say doing a grouping I tear up bc I know they won’t get good new customers from it and they’ll never get their time back.

    2. Tereza

      Just to finish — it was the Industrial Revolution which created sharp lines where they did not exist before. Where the man had a job outside the home and got paid for it and the wife worked inside the home and did not get paid for it, and the outside job was enough to subsidize the significant unpaid work inside the home. We’re moving away from that very quickly and so I think any businesses that support home-based businesses are an excellent bet on the future.

      1. Gotham Gal

        Totally agree.

  3. TanyaMonteiro

    Love this story. You’d be a brilliant Magazine Editor/Producer/Creator

  4. Deirdre

    Fantastic story.  This really speaks to me… I can’t tell you how many people (mostly women, but some men) are wondering what to do from home, and aren’t sure how to jump in.  The latent talent out there is astonishing…

    1. Gotham Gal

      There is so much talent out there not being utilized. Especially women who took a hiatus to raise kids.

  5. Laura Yecies

    This is one of the great things about technology, in particular mobile and cloud technologies – it gives us flexibility in geography and often in time.  This is a huge enabler for rentry mom’s and generally people who want a non-traditional work arrangement.

    1. Gotham Gal

      is anything traditional anymore? i know it isn’t in your world or mine.

  6. pixiedust8

    I’m interviewing for a job and I’m going to lobby to work from home one day a week, and if that works, open it up to the possibility of two days a week once I get established. We’ll see if they are open to it, but my position is sort of like a consultant anyway, so it may work. I’m not totally sure I’m ready to go back to work (I am writing a book, have a young child, and have an idea for a start-up I’d like to explore), but if they let me work from home, I couldn’t really pass that up.My old division REALLY discouraged working from home (although it was an odd philosophy, because about 40% of the overall company worked from home), but the engineering head had no issue with people working from home, and I know a number of people said they would never consider leaving the job because of that set-up. It’s great for retention, so I don’t understand why more companies don’t do it. (Although I think that there needs to be a strong onboarding process that people do in person).

    1. Gotham Gal

      Many people (mostly women) who have opted to work from home or opt for a shorter work week end up taking a smaller salary because that is what the company offers them. I highly recommend sticking to what you are being paid now and if they are not satisfied that you are not performing at the level you did before then there is another conversation to be had. Most women who end up going the route of one or two days at home and a shorter work week perform just as if they were working 5 days a week. The benefit for the company is that they pay less money and get the same performance level. The benefit to the person is that they get to have flexibility but I really feel strongly that they should not make a dime less for that flexibility.

      1. pixiedust8

        Yes, you are right. There were two women at my old job who worked a shortened work week. One didn’t work Fridays, and stuck to that religiously, although she worked very hard the other days of the week. The other (my boss) supposedly knocked off at 3pm every day, but ended up working full time plus. She would work for hours at night, and I’m sure she was getting paid less than she would otherwise. I’m okay with less money if I could really not work one day a week (barring serious emergencies, of course)

        1. Gotham Gal

          A man would never agree to less cash. Negotiate!

          1. pixiedust8

            I will! 

  7. Natasha Gajewski

    Living that dream now.  Only it’s kind of hard.  I think that working from home is a double edged sword.  I’m  envious of my husband who “gets” to leave the house, dedicate a solid, undisturbed 8 hours to his work (we’re both our own boss), and come home to dinner on the table, with homework all done.  My day moves in staccato fits and spurts, and often runs till 1am.  Because my gig is in the ramen, pre-rev phase, we can’t afford to hire help.  Plus, my kids actually, really need me!  BUT WHAT MAKES IT ALL WORTH IT THIS:Two days ago, I felt like throwing in the towel.  Too many bugs, too many late nights, too much uncertainty. But my 9 year old, who’s been watching me build over the past 6 months, looked up at me and said, “Mom, you just have to get it done.  You’ve worked too hard to give up now.  Just get it in the app store and make a little money.  I want to go to Disney.”And that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t work from home.

  8. pankaj

    i created a video on the subject of remote work back when i was one. you might like to see it. after doing it for three years however, i decided i needed to be in office for a while :)the video –…