How to Make the Switch to Working Remotely (and Keep your Clients)

I was hooked and I really wanted to know more. It turns out that Shellie is not just convincing in her pitches; she’s doing a great job at arguing her case in more pressing situations too.

Shellie was freelancing for a client who required her presence in the office. In fact, he was adamant that working from home was not an option. Here’s how Shellie managed to convince this client to agree to remote work.

Last fall, I told my long-term client that he didn’t need me anymore. Didn’t need me in his office every day, that is.

Here’s how I convinced him I could be more effective, work more efficiently, and get more done in less time by working remotely.

Knowing my client was a bit of a skeptic when it came to anyone working remotely, I needed to carefully plan my approach, build my case, and make a slow transition. I’d even heard him utter the words, “if you’re not in the office, how do I know you’re actually working?”

So I knew I had to be persuasive in my approach.

How I Came Up With a Plan for Working Remotely

1. I gathered my data.

My client was a results-oriented guy, so I knew he would respond well to some good ol’ empirical data.

For two weeks, I decided to do a deep dive with my time tracking in order to capture the amount of work I was already doing outside the office walls.

In the corporate marketing world, project feedback is provided by stakeholders in various time zones, and comes in at all hours. Since we were often facing tight deadlines, it was imperative that these communications be attended to as quickly as possible if we wanted the work to stay on schedule.

As project manager, I had been routinely responding to emails and updating our project records outside of my office hours.

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I also tracked how much time I spent working independently while in the office.

Like many successful business owners, my client’s calendar was packed with back-to-back meetings. I had started to notice that whole days would go by when I didn’t see him at all. And, since we utilized robust project management tools, the majority of our project-related communication was happening online, rather than in person.

Being able to quantify that the majority of my work was already being accomplish “virtually” was crucial. This information clearly demonstrated that not only was working remotely possible, it was essentially already happening.

2. I pointed to past experience.

About six months prior, my client had to take an unexpected business trip to Europe right in the middle of a particularly busy time. Fortunately we were able to complete several projects and deliver them on time, and on budget.

When I was making the case for working remotely, I made sure to remind him that we had already established a pretty successful roadmap for working virtually during the time when he was away – thanks to Skype calls, Google docs and our Basecamp to-do lists.

This was an effective way to alleviate his “work from home” fear.

3. I collected and presented the benefits.

It was one thing to make the case that working from home wasn’t going to be all that different, but I wanted to take it a step further.

I approached my client with the following proposition:

“We’ve had some big wins recently, and I feel that we are really working well together. But, I’ve been thinking about how we can do even better, and I have an idea I’d like to share…”

I then outlined three tangible ways a virtual work arrangement could increase efficiency, and actually save him money.

No commute = no down time

Since I wouldn’t be commuting to the office each morning, I’d be able to spend that time sorting through emails, confirming meetings, prioritizing tasks, and updating my client’s to-do list. That way, the moment he walked through the door, he could hit the ground running.

Not paying for seat warming

The majority of my work needed to happen at the beginning and at the end of traditional office hours, leaving big chunks of time when my input or participation wasn’t required.

Having set “office hours” meant that my client was often paying me to be in the office “just in case”. Working from home would allow me to arrange my schedule so that I am available during those peak times.

Less distractions, more productivity

While office environments can be fun (impromptu karaoke sessions, foosball tables, Game of Thrones recaps by the printer), the same fun atmosphere tends to compromise productivity.

I gently explained that, while collaborating with the team was still important, working remotely would allow me to stay ruthlessly efficient. And completing my tasks faster would translate into my client spending less money.

4. I suggested a trial run.

Change can be hard, so after presenting the benefits, I asked my client to give the new virtual arrangement a try for 30 days.

Not having to make a long-term commitment right away made it easier for him to say yes, and I was confident that once the 30 days were up, there’d be no going back.

The Results

Making the shift to working remotely was smoother than I had imagined. The initial trial period provided an opportunity for us to establish a rhythm and work out the kinks (not that there were many).

Since then, our processes have gotten better and we’re completing projects faster than ever.

Our virtual work arrangement motivates us to be better prepared for each interaction. Instead of having several different conversations about a single project, we make a concerted effort to gather all pertinent information and questions so that we can cover every one of those questions during a single phone call.

Instead of informally making requests in hallway, or leaving a hard-to-decipher note on my desk, my client is increasingly using the various online project management and collaboration tools we have in place.

By receiving information that is clear and accurate, and not having to follow up to fill in the gaps or ask for clarification, I am able to get tasks completed more quickly, and get them done right the first time.

As a result, my client has been able to bring in new business.

And since I am working more efficiently and have greater flexibility, I’ve been able to learn new skills that I can offer my client. Truly, a win-win situation!

By assessing your current situation, gathering data, demonstrating the benefits, and offering a trial run, you just may find that you’re ready to tell your boss or client that they don’t need you in their office anymore, either.

Already made the switch? Let me know how you made it happen!

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As Type A Productions, Shellie Anderson has been providing project management, content management, and proofreading services to a variety of clients for over seven years. In her free time, she enjoys herding her two backyard goats, gardening, and catching errors in restaurant menus.

3 thoughts on “How to Make the Switch to Working Remotely (and Keep your Clients)”

  1. Excellent article, Mickey. I was afraid of the isolation that would come with working from home. But I find that some people don’t understand that when you say you are working from home that you are actually working. They feel free to drop by any time knowing I am home. It’s difficult to get your friends and family used to that concept, that I’m trying to keep business hours. I’m just not going to an office.
    Thanks for sharing.

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