Remote Resourcing: Tap into a Rich Pool of Digital Marketing Talent
Are you an employer looking to hire remote talent to deal with the mounting day to day challenges faced by your business? Are you someone desperately looking to break away from your hectic day job routine and settle for more flexible work hours, while even earning more?
Whether you’re an employer looking to maximize productivity while cuttings costs, or an eager, hard-working individual in a developing country trying to make ends meet, the idea of getting remotely sourced work at home has numerous benefits and huge rewards for both entities, if played right.
Tech and online marketing companies in particular have a reputation for hiring remote employees who don’t have fixed working hours. As an employer, this is a key area of interest – you already have a prominent web presence and provided there’s a reliable internet connection on both ends, the possibilities are exciting to say the least.
Before we discuss anything else, I’d like to shed light on key benefits to be had when we look at the complete picture from both an employer as well as employee perspective.
Benefits Employers Get to Enjoy
One of the immediate benefits you get to enjoy is zero employee absenteeism – when you have them on the clock, they have no excuse not to work, since everything they need is right there in their homes.
In addition, you can save money and see increased productivity, which we’ll be discussing in more detail later in the article. Again, you’ll find the practice of remote sourcing more common in tech circles since the infrastructure to uphold such an arrangement is readily available in nearly any part of the world.
Minimal Distractions, No Interruptions
In some cases, your remote employees’ production rate may be noticeably higher than your office employees. At the office there can be a constant stream of interruptions no matter what. From the employee’s perspective, picture this for second: you arrive at the office, reach for some coffee and log in to check the day’s tasks. A few minutes into it, and the team manager pops up to tell you he wants yesterday’s report redone right away. You nod and get on with the program, only to be ushered away by Amanda who can’t stop raving about her date last night. Well, you get the drift. That’s office culture.
Widen Your Talent Base
Why limit yourself with geographical constraints when you can widen the talent pool by hiring the best of the best? You might find this surprising, but there is a lot of untapped tech talent, particularly in developing countries like Pakistan, India, and Philippines, where people are quite eager to put their skills to use to make an honest and boast-worthy living.
Now visualize a remote employee who’s passionate and self-motivated and disconnected from all the daily happenings of an office. Interruptions are minimal; he knows what has to be done and gets to it. Remote workers don’t require as much supervision. Build trust in your relationship, and leave it up to your employee to deliver results as is required – chances are they’re a self-starter. And that’s talent you need to hold on to.
You can use tracking software to see what kind of digital marketing research your employees are doing in order to stay on top of current trends. As long as you know they’re spending a good chunk of their daily shifts researching on the latest know-how to keep themselves well-informed, there isn’t much left for you to worry about, really.
Happier Employees; Higher Retention
Can this lead to improved employee retention? Extending the work-from-home benefit can also see you enjoy some benefits in return as well. People working at home are generally more productive and able to work longer hours and get more done, while taking less frequent breaks. Working from home, or any other non-office location for that matter like a library or café, doesn’t carry the stress you typically come across in an office environment. At the end of the day, you have happier employees who are subjected to far less stress than their office-going counterparts. No manager breathing down their necks, no random distractions – just the task at hand and the end goal.
More on Productivity
Let’s touch on increasing productivity levels again and elaborate some more. Even though remotely sourced employees entails lower labor costs, it does not by any stretch mean that you’ll be getting mediocre-standard work. If you particularly happen to be a small business or startup, you can greatly benefit by hiring individuals with a high level of technical skills, while foregoing the cost of acquiring the same level of talent locally, the conventional way. You see, in nearly all regular workplaces, employees get fixed monthly wages, irrespective of how productive they were. Remotely sourced employees either get paid by the hour or how productive they were in a week for example, or in any given time frame. So let’s say, your office employees like to take a long lunch break or frequent coffee breaks, check their Twitter or Facebook feed every hour or two, you’d still be paying them for the non-productive minutes or hours.
Cut Extra Costs
There’s no commute allowance you have to worry about or having to provide a workstation for your employee; what you’re looking at are considerable cost-savings, not to mention the $ you’ll be saving in terms of utility overheads, or parking space for instance.
Speaking of cost saving, when looking for remote employees, it’s a good idea to seek talent from developing countries – as I mentioned earlier, there are a fair amount of people eager to prove their mettle and work hard to make a good living. Let’s say you pay one of your office employees $20 per hour; you can acquire the same talent remotely for $8, maybe less. However, this can vary slightly, given the individual’s skill level and experience, and volume of work sourced. You can imagine the amount you’ll be saving in the long run, thanks to economies of scale tipping in your favor as well as well as the employees’.
Redirect Resources on Core Activities
Going back to the 2008 global financial recession, companies had little choice but to reassess their financial stance and resort to business plans where costs would be fine-tuned as much as possible, while at least maintaining productivity. Remote sourcing started to gain wider acceptance as the recession forced many organizations to employ it as a means of boosting productivity in two significant ways – first, highly skilled talent was acquired at a lowered cost and second, they were able to remotely source even entire departments responsible for undertaking non-essential tasks. This led to businesses being able to redirect resources towards more pressing matters and core activities, and focus more on day-to-day functions falling directly in line with revenue generation.
Go Beyond Borders
Interested in expanding your business beyond borders? A widely popular business practice today is hiring salespeople to build and promote remote markets. However, that’s not to say you shouldn’t hire non-sales people to add value to your business in some shape or form. They can be great resources when it comes to getting familiar with pricing trends, consumer behavioral patterns or even the weather and public holidays – the effect they can have on business, for example. Why waste the opportunity to study a different and unique consumer base who might have the potential to become long-time, loyal customers?
Go Beyond Regular Business Hours
Remotely sourced employees can also prove to be a simple yet highly effective way of extending customer service hours. By remotely recruiting talent from different global regions, your business can capitalize on various time zones to make sure all key operations are managed on a 24/7 basis.
Benefits to be Had by Employees
A little Peace and Quiet
You’re not only eating healthy but being close to your loved ones at all times – this can lead to significantly lower stress levels and make your working day uber-productive. There’s no irate supervisor constantly breathing down your neck or those random distractions from Susie who wants you to approve a new color of nail polish she’s wearing. Maintaining a healthy work/life balance can work wonders for your long term health.
No More Stressful Commutes
Then there’s the commute you won’t be worrying about. Apart from gasoline costs, a long drive to and from work every day can eventually take its toll on your health. Extensive research has confirmed that being stuck in traffic for extended periods can not only be bad for your heart but also detrimental to overall mental wellbeing.
If you haven’t already considered some kind of work-from-home arrangement, it’s worth a second thought. For one thing, you’ll no longer have an excuse for not eating healthy and managing stress levels. When you’re working from home, it’s generally easier to just reach for the fridge door and whip yourself up something healthy while taking a break now and then.
Flexible Hours – More Time for Everything
Ask any work-from-home employee why they’ve gone down this route, and without a hiccup they will tell you how beneficial flexible hours are for their health, apart from getting to spend extra time with the family. You’re also not held back by any ergonomic inadequacies; you get to keep the lighting and seating arrangement for example, exactly the way you like it.
The modern office rarely takes a break. Things just aren’t the way they used to be decades back – you headed back home at closing time and the work day actually came to an end. But today, you’ll see most folks working well past their closing time as the line between a proper work/life balance is increasingly getting blurred.
Getting to eat healthy and spending more time with the family aren’t the only perks. With the absence of a fixed 9 to 5 routine, you can get a quick workout, maybe run some errands or walk a little just to keep the blood moving, as long as it doesn’t cut into your productivity of course. I’ve done a fair amount of work-from-home myself, which we’ll discuss in detail shortly, and let me tell you: it felt GOOD to break away from the stressful office routine.
I didn’t have to worry about losing out on sleep as a result of trying to make it before the clock strikes 9 am. I could take a quick break to stroll on the balcony while chatting with my next-door neighbor. I absolutely loved the routine, getting up from my seat every now and then to have some lemonade or fix myself a sandwich. And then, the time comes to get back to work: I am completely focused, my mind clear and calm.
There are very few (and very lucky) among us who don’t have a frustrating daily commute to work. All you can think about the moment you get out of bed is that oh so wonderful cup of java to jolt the senses, as you grab a piece or two of breakfast (allegedly) on the way out the front door. Just imagine your life with no worries about missing breakfast, or having to rely too much on coffee just to beat the stress, lack of rest or sleep deprivation from the previous day. Or that annoying traffic-packed commute to work every day, not to mention associated expenses.
You’ll be far less likely to take time off from work, so making up for lost productivity or having your pay deducted due to too many leaves should never be a problem.
I’d like to give you deeper insights into my own experience while working for a remote employer and the benefits I reaped as a result.
My Own Personal Workspace
There is influx of talent that lies in developing countries, just waiting to be tapped. Particularly countries like Pakistan, Philippines or India where the economy has yet to reach its true potential. However, despite economic restraints, these three countries have produced some extraordinary talent – the names Moosa Hemani, Jason Acidre, Venchito Tampon Jr or Pratik Dholakiya might ring a bell in the digital marketing domain.
The fact of the matter is, even some of the best qualified professionals in developing countries don’t quite make the kind of living they have studied for, or don’t get their share of earnings, given the amount of back-breaking work they put in. Working for a remote employer opens up the gateway to a higher pay scale and exposure to a plethora of essential and sought-after skills.
I am one such individual who went down this route and would like to tell you what a typical day in my work-from-home job looked like.
Unlike most remotely sourced employees, I had a day job at the time, after which I was required to give my remote US employer about 6 hours, 5 days a week. I’d get paid a little extra for working on weekends as well. Pretty soon I realized I had to dedicate more energy to the remote work as it was highly demanding and I was sacrificing a fair amount of sleep to juggle between both jobs. I ended up taking a break from my day job to direct all focus towards the remote work.
Any typical day would start with logging into the virtual workspace at the same time each day. I’d check my email first, followed by using a Project Management Tool like Trello to map out daily tasks.
Half an hour into it, and we’d all be asked to rally up for a virtual meeting – a link would be provided which we’d open to communicate with our Project Manager via a conferencing program “join.me”.
Our virtual office space was nowhere as big as what you’d expect from a typical office; there was our CEO along with three of his subordinates. All software development and engineering related work was remotely sourced to India, managed by about 8 individuals. The graphics and designing aspect was handled by a team of 6 individuals from Pakistan, while I was specifically looking after the SEO and PPC aspects.
Our boss was a fairly open kind of guy, discussing any and all development-related issues first and foremost in the meeting. We could conveniently use the ticket system to view the status on current tasks or track the progress on customer requests and query resolution. In addition, company announcements or news were also talked about in this meeting, while appreciations were handed out generously to individuals sporting a good track record and high levels of productivity. The boss was also quick to hand out criticism when the mark was not met, however, there was never a moment it wasn’t constructive.
As far as query tickets were concerned, customers could raise concerns or queries without our intervention through the internal ticket generation system: they would log in to generate a complaint, request or feedback ticket. These were assigned to the appropriate personnel depending on weather they were development, engineering or SEO related tickets.
These meeting would usually last an hour after which I’d bury myself in daily to-dos and assigned tickets until the shift ended.
The boss had designated a person internally from the US office to keep customers attuned by giving them overviews on their website development and other projects. These were given every 15 days or more frequently, if our customers desired. In addition, three other individuals were also internally designated to:
- Keep a check on my digital marketing tasks – how rankings and conversions are performing, how much of the budget has been spent on task x or y, how many conversions have taken place on the service page, or which landing pages are the top performing ones.
- To oversee all engineering related and resource management tasks, and;
- To oversee design aspects.
As you can see, it was a tightly knit network where our progress was always tracked and everything was accounted for.
Then there would be weekly meetings between myself, the boss and my Project Manager. We would discuss aspects like how well the respective campaigns were performing, strategy for dealing with underperforming campaigns and what we could take away from the most successful ones.
A software called Desk Time was used to log our sign in or shift start time. This was one amazing piece of software I tell you; it would track what websites you’re visiting, every shred of content you viewed on the web, the programs you opened on your computer etc. Certain programs were termed “productive” like Gmail, Skype or MS Word Docs – any program used to work on the project or deal with tickets, while the use of social programs like Twitter and Facebook for instance, were strictly termed “non productive”.
Each week an open and frank email would be sent to all remote sourced employees to highlight total number of productive hours for each individual, while complementing those with extraordinary work output and/or efficiency. In addition, non-productive activities and hours were also highlighted. And finally, a monthly email was sent to highlight everybody’s productivity and efficiency as well as shortcomings or inadequacies. The highest performers were given a reasonable bonus.
These meetings were a real eye-opener for everybody; people realized fast that the pressure to perform was ever present, and anybody not performing up to the required standard might have to face a little bit of embarrassment one way or another. In one particular case, a guy who had just started working alongside me was let go ‘live’ in one of our meetings, as a result of not upgrading his outdated headset and internet connection, even though he was asked several times to do so. You’d get maybe about ten days at most, to bring yourself up to speed, before getting fired. Yes, I know it sounds harsh, but you really needed a decent system in order to effectively communicate in those meetings, which was fair and also the key to getting the job done.
I’ve got to hand it to the guy in charge for enforcing this check and balance system the way he did. We were constantly on our toes to perform at our level best and motivation was always high. My advice to you is always have a decent PC or laptop with the latest software and updates. It doesn’t have to be a very fast or beefy gaming-level PC, but something that is good enough for video conferencing and fast, uninterrupted internet access.
Also while we’re on the subject of participating in meetings, make it a habit never to get distracted while working. Have your system and workspace in a room where there are no distractions coming from pets, your family or friends, roadside and/or environmental noise etc. You get the idea. Your room lighting should be “adequate”; not harsh enough to have your screen giving off a nasty glare or dim enough to cause eye strain and undue fatigue. Have fixed times allotted for breaks, and try not to go for unnecessary coffee or snack breaks; it’s going to cut into your productive hours.
Remotely sourced jobs are quite demanding and require serious hard work as well as focus. Before making any commitments you must get in the mindset that you will be keeping up with standards set by your employer, and in order to gain valuable experience, insights and benefits. When you start working for one such employer, how work is done in your country or your specific work culture goes right out the window. Learning to be flexible really pays; competition is stiff, and you need to bring your A game to the table.
As far as my employer was concerned, all hiring was being done through LinkedIn, though many remote employers like to rely on employment portals like Monster.com, Inbound.org, WeWorkRemotely or Freelancer.com to find prospects. So wherever you have your professional profile, make sure it is up to date and has all details pertaining to your achievements, capabilities, skill sets, experience, academic background etc.
After finding me on LinkedIn and expressing interest, my employer followed up with a Skype video session to get better acquainted and ask some technical questions revolving around the job description. Again, you should have the latest software installed on your computer, an antivirus or malware protection to make sure everything runs smoothly, and of course a headset and webcam that performs when it’s supposed to!
A remote employer might put you through a background check. There’s absolutely no reason to be concerned, even if this may not be the norm in your country’s work culture. Just cooperate and let things flow along smoothly. You’ll most likely be on probation for a month or two during which you’ll be given a chance to pick up on all the required skills to do the job well, after which your performance will be assessed. Given my experience and eagerness to work hard and deliver results, I was fortunate enough to be given permanent status in two weeks. After the probation period ends, you’re going to be given a contract which you’ll sign and email back to the source.
Even though production hours ranged between 5-6 hours a night, it was a tough act to follow. Our boss empathized with us and eventually decided to designate a person in each remote zone to take us all out once a month to eat at our favorite place or maybe take in a movie – anything to break away from the routine and enjoy the fruits of our labor. On one condition though: we were required to take photos of the outdoor activity and send a copy of total expenses incurred that night back to our boss. He’d take care of the rest, and we were more than happy to oblige!
Here’s another perk of the job: those of us who honestly couldn’t get a faster system, our employer would provide an allowance to take care of that. And those who had underperforming internet connections even got a monthly allowance to upgrade to a faster one. As you might imagine, developing countries don’t quite get to enjoy the same lightning fast internet speeds you would find elsewhere in the world. And given the economy, a high end PC or laptop can cost an arm and a lag. Our employer fully understood this and lent a helping hand whenever possible.
After just a few months of consistently living up to my employer’s expectations, here’s what I gained:
- I was initially hired to fill in an entry level position – online advertisement executive and promoted to a higher position with considerably more responsibilities by the time my second month was coming to an end.
- The 30% salary boost was nothing to complain about either.
- At times, I’d disagree with the boss’s outlook; I had ideas of my own, which he welcomed so eventually I had enough leeway to devise my own strategies. At the end of the day, all they wanted were results.
- With time moving forward, I was given more authority, custom-designing digital marketing strategies which the boss happily approved.
- Before I knew it, I started making 10% monthly bonuses. My “Desk Time” (productive hours) was high, and the strategies I was presenting lead to high conversions.
- If I had to sum it up in just one sentence, I’d say I was lucky enough to gain insights into how things are done in a foreign, more advanced and better equipped work environment. My confidence soared, as did my communication and people skills. I learned the value of hard and work and dedication and how it opened my eyes to new possibilities. Well okay, that’s a few sentences actually!
Working for a remote employer is a chance to broaden your horizons while working in a competitive, high growth, high rewards environment. You’ll be able to manage stress levels better than ever, while eating healthy and staying active. Do you really want to skimp on a chance to upgrade your skills set and people skills to equip yourself for more challenging and evolving workplaces in future?
Challenges Faced by Employers and Employees
Even though hiring remote talent to run your business smoothly works out great for yourself as well as your remotely hired employees, it comes with a unique set of challenges as well.
- The more obvious ones naturally have to do with collaboration and constantly keeping a check on work progress through various kinds of software. However, employers shouldn’t go overboard with tracking their employees. A little bit of leeway is acceptable.
- Some employers might ask you not to mention details of work experience or skills gained on your CV. This is not a major cause for concern; however, if you are looking to score points on your CV, you should ask beforehand if they are willing to let you add experience gained to all your professional profiles.
- A certain communication barrier exists, particularly where the employees are not very fluent in speaking a second language; at times, instructions can get misinterpreted or unexpected outcomes are seen as a result. Employers must make it a point to clearly and explicitly mention ALL required skills and essentials while posting a job listing.
- Internet connectivity issues can spur up unexpectedly and cause a lag, which can get extremely annoying to the point that some employers end up terminating their contract with remote employees.
- Some remote employees are already engaged with a full-time job, and in some cases, their organizations are not very keen on approving employment with a second employer.
- For a fact, you can’t keep a check on all employees all the time or their work habits, so you’re not completely sure if you’re getting all your money’s worth.
- Perhaps one of the biggest challenges faced by both entities is a lack of ‘face time’. You don’t really have the benefit of bumping into each other in the hall way, ask about each other’s family or what they thought of the game last night. When you’re communicating over web space, every gesture, every word you choose to communicate has to be that much more deliberate and intentional.
So how do you deal with these unique challenging of communicating with your employer remotely and vice versa?
Here’s what I recommend employers do:
- Make sure employees know what the ‘default’ channel for all communication and collaboration is. If there are problems, devise a secondary form of communication/collaboration to rely on. Keep everybody in on the loop at all times. For instance, if the internet connection breaks down on either end, let them know what the secondary form of communication is – email, phone call or both, for instance.
- Don’t overdo it with the tracking software; employees find it distracting and on occasions, counterproductive to have someone constantly breathing down their necks, barking orders. Explain the task, then step back and wait for the work to be handed in. Underperforming employees can always be assigned a supervisor but they must be aware of it.
- Clearly list ALL job criteria in detail when posting job listings; leave no stone unturned.
- If you foresee any communication barriers or internet connection problems, discuss them at length before agreeing to hire.
- If remote employees are already engaged in a full-time job, ask them beforehand if their current employer has a problem with working after office hours or if it goes against their contract.
- You must let your employees know beforehand about how their progress is going to be tracked so they can draw out expectations and plan their productive hours accordingly.
What employees should do:
- Maintain an ergonomically productive environment at all times – appropriate lighting, comfortable desk and chair, a PC/laptop that is equipped well in terms of connectivity along with the latest software.
- Minimize distractions and environmental noise as much as possible; yes, that means no visits from friends or family at odd hours, TV or music blaring in the background, or your pet whining because you forgot to feed him.
- When employers hire you to do a job, do it to the best of your abilities. Do it sincerely and honestly. Remember, it’s a chance to gain exposure, valuable insights from a foreign employer, and plenty of opportunities to pick up new skills and experience. Comply with all the terms and conditions willfully. If something is unclear or you have reservations, voice your concerns before getting hired.
- If you have an old computer with outdated software, or internet connectivity issues, don’t be embarrassed about it – be transparent and let your employer know about any possible barriers to communication and collaboration. The worst that can happen is you’ll be asked to upgrade your system and internet speed before agreeing to take responsibility. In some cases, your employer might be willing to help you out in this regard.
- If you are engaged with a full-time employer already, let your remote employer know about the hours and days you’re working there. Don’t jump the gun and commit to working hours that you’ll have difficulty managing. Again, be completely honest and upfront and tell them if you’re able to manage both schedules effectively or not. In any case, you might need to quit your full-time job first, or agree to work for your remote employer on a part-time basis or fixed hours on certain days of the week. Though this largely depends on how flexible your remote employer’s willing to be.
- I can’t stress enough on the importance of getting enough rest each night and eating properly throughout the day. Rather than having three full meals each day, I’d recommend spreading your meals out evenly over five smaller servings, to have a steady burst of energy. Avoid too much caffeine and keep your water/fluid intake high. Any job that requires sitting long hours in front of a PC screen requires extra care on your part in terms of nutrition and rest.
- Take breaks, but within a reasonable time frame and frequency. They should not cut into your productivity.
- It’s only natural that your employer would want to keep a check on your productive hours and use some kind of software to track your progress. Plan your day in advance, and keep yourself completely free around the hours that are required of you. It’s a commitment, and you must honor it. Be cooperative, and if your employer wants to conduct a background check, help them out in any way you can.
What Can We Take Away from This?
This whole culture of working remotely should be encouraged. It’s an opportunity for employers to cut costs while upping productivity, and a chance for employees to gain valuable exposure as well as diverse skills.
There’s a lot of untapped potential and work talent to be found in developing countries, and if you haven’t already looked into the possibilities that are in store for you, you really should.
You just cannot beat the benefits it offers over a conventional office-style working environment.