Two years ago, Jacqui Pittenger quit her office job because she saw a chance to have a much better life through remote work. Her husband travels a lot for business, and if she could untether herself from an office, she'd have the chance to cross continents with him. Knowing that his steady income and insurance coverage provided some safety, she made the leap. Now she enjoys working holidays in Australia, Hong Kong, Brazil, England, Israel and more — and says she makes more money working through oDesk than she did holding a full-time office job.
— Jacqui Pittenger / oDesk Freelancer
Get out of the office and live a little.
Only a month after joining oDesk as a freelancer, Jacqui began working for the company itself, and we've taken all the time we can get from her. At this point, if it's not a profile or a job posting, anything you read on our site probably passed through Jacqui's hands.
Her first paying gig came purely based on presentation. "The employer hired me without an interview to redo his LinkedIn profile. I scored the job just by having the best-written profile!" At the end of her first month, she interviewed with oDesk's director of marketing, won the job, and soon made herself invaluable. She's quick to extol the values of a long-term relationship.
"Landing a steady gig with oDesk itself certainly made life a lot easier — I haven't had to actively look for work since my first month on the site," she says. That's not to say she doesn't pick up contracts with other employers, too. "I could probably make more chasing more technical positions," she says "but I love my niche at oDesk."
The Movable Office
Many remote workers are balancing multiple responsibilities as they log time online. Jacqui's constantly changing environment has made her an expert at fitting work around whatever comes up. She's logged in from airports and cruise ships, found WiFi in hotels and McDonalds, and served a client operating mostly on California time from five continents. If you need to know how to pack the right adapters to plug into any outlet on Earth, Jacqui's your woman. And if you think managing a working relationship across a handful of time zones is a challenge, Jacqui is who you go to for advice.
Advice for Employers:
Adapting to Distance
- "Far-flung team members may seem like a hindrance, but there are many people more than happy to work unusual hours to accommodate your needs."
- "My favorite collaborative efforts? When I work on something all day, then hands it off to a team member working the opposite side of the clock. It's like getting two or even three days in one!"
- "Be specific in your communication. You can't always expect someone on another continent to just read between the lines."
- "Appreciate the diversity. Team members from different backgrounds bring different perspectives — and solutions — to the table."
"When actively traveling, I have to schedule in specific times to work," she says. "I figure out what I'm doing for the next few days so I know when I need to work first thing in the morning and when I'll need to be working in the evening."
There are specific challenges to her lifestyle: Can you get WiFi on a cruise ship, and will they charge more per hour than you're earning? (No problem, you can log on only briefly to upload cached work logs.) But also the same problems anyone faces when they choose remote work.
"Lack of office interaction was the hardest thing to get used to," she says. "I keep an instant messenger open all day. Everyone knows they can ping me whenever — I don't expect them to keep track of whether it's the middle of the afternoon or the middle of the night where I am. If I'm there, I answer. They know I don't mind — I truly appreciate being kept in the loop. And they seem to get a kick out of asking what continent I'm on for that day's meeting."
Flexibility means finding creative ways to overcome your circumstances, not creative excuses for failure to get your work done.
A Tolerance for Flexibility
"It doesn't bother me that the lines between work and play time are fuzzy," Jacqui says. "But that's not for everyone. Setting office hours and sticking to them can be a good thing. I've done it from time to time — especially when I'm in an inconvenient time zone."
She says more people should make the leap to remote freelancer when the circumstances in their life line up for it. "Sitting in the same office every day is boring," she laughs. "WiFi is your friend. Why work somewhere boring when you could work somewhere beautiful?"
Freelancers: Building Relationships from Afar
- Identify overlapping work hours and make it clear when you're available and when you're not.
- Send daily progress reports at first, and take the initiative to schedule regular live (voice or chat) meetings to improve relationships and build communication.
- Take time to get to know each other as people — not just as boss and worker. You build a better relationship and get better work results.
- Speak up when there's an issue. It's the only way it will get resolved.
- Be flexible! Sometimes your dream job might mean working strange hours.
Freelancer Data Sheet
oDesk user since:
8 paid jobs
Range of rates: