Day 26: 10 Tips if You've Never Worked from Home Before
When we first started RVing back in 2014, we knew very little about remote work. Being location independent or a digital nomad was just starting to trend as a cool hashtag.
But by now, almost everyone has a little taste of what it’s like to work from home, and working from an RV isn't too different—except you probably have way better views!
If you've never worked from home or if the idea of managing a business on wheels is a little intimidating, let these tips guide you.
1. Set your hours and decide how much you want to work.
Congrats, you have a whole new level of freedom. There’s no boss around pressuring you to pretend you’re being productive. There’s no accountability to stay camped in front of the computer screen from 9 to 5.
You get to decide how much you want to work.
As an RV entrepreneur, the pendulum will swing one of two ways at first:
- You spend too little time working and don’t get everything finished and don’t make enough money to sustain yourself,
- Or you spend too much time working and forget that this digital nomad thing is supposed to be fun!
Before my daughter was born, I said my ideal work week was 20 hours. Other than the weeks leading up to our annual conference when I work 40-60 hour weeks, that was enough time for me to do everything I need to do. Now that I’ve got a baby at home, I end up working only during nap times which is closer to 15 hours/week. For every one thing I check off my to-do list, I swear three more appear.
On the other hand, in late 2017, I launched my book, Heath & I had a major ongoing client project demanding most of our time, and we hosted our second business conference. We worked so much and for so many hours that we burned ourselves out big time.
There’s no set number of hours you need to work each week. Everyone is different. And that number will fluctuate based on your business. We are always super busy all winter but in the spring, we take things easy for a couple of months.
Think about everything you need to get done in a week and how long it will take you. I do this using Trello to organize my tasks and list them like this:
- Finish blog post (3 hours)
- Write weekly newsletter (1 hour)
- Pay taxes (15 minutes)
- Schedule social content (45 minutes)
- Reply to Grace (5 minutes)
This helps me batch how I should get my work done, plan my days, and see just many hours I need to work that week.
If your mobile business involves working with multiple clients, you’ll also want to set specific hours for when your clients can reach you—and note that those hours may change as you change time zones.
2. Batch your work.
If I want to be truly productive, I can’t write a blog post, then hop over to a client project, then reply to some emails, then go finish up that blog post, then fix an issue on my website. Everything will take way longer than necessary and I’ll lose momentum by hopping from one task to the next.
Batching is one of the easiest ways to get your work done more efficiently. All you do is intentionally set time aside for doing similar tasks. Specifically, if those tasks are ones you end up doing every week or every day. This way your brain is fully focused on doing a single type of work and you aren’t being pulled away (physically or mentally!).
For me, this looks like intentionally not checking emails or social media when I know I need to write. If I get caught up in the world of notifications and quick tasks, then my energy and creativity get zapped before I even open up a blank document.
Other ways to batch include:
- Choosing one day of the week and scheduling all of your meetings for that one day, no exceptions
- Recording podcasts or videos all on one designated day
- Carving out three hours each morning to write (blogs, newsletters, reports, etc) and opening your afternoons to admin tasks or ongoing projects
- Making a list of all the updates you need to do on your website and tackling them all at once
The real key to batching is actually finishing a project fully and then moving on. Once my writing is done today, then I can work on my taxes without distraction.
3. Find your balance.
Being a digital nomad or RV entrepreneur or location independent or remote worker—whatever you want to call it!—means you have that control over your days which can bring a whole new, unexpected set of problems.
Thinking back to #1 (figuring out how much you want to work), you will crave work-life balance more than ever before. You may sometimes feel like a workaholic and other times feel totally lazy. (That’s all normal by the way. We’ve gone back and forth many times over the past six years!)
Back in 2015, it was our 2nd year of RV life and we were trying to make this lifestyle sustainable. We had a client paying us $2500/month that wanted us to drive out and work with them in person in Silicon Valley. So we spent our winter in California, took five days to drive from Cali to Texas, and spent almost the rest of the year with our RV parked at the same $360/month RV park in Austin, Texas.
It was a very boring travel year for us, but during that time we built up our business, paid off like $15,000 of student debt, and set ourselves up to be able to continue RVing.
During this time, RVing wasn’t sexy.
It wasn’t anything like our first year on the road in 2014 where we crossed off all 50 states and were in a new state every 3 days and it was go-go-go adventure all the time.
Neither route was sustainable.
Staying in one place was boring.
New places every 3 days didn’t leave us with enough time or bandwidth to grow a business to make money to afford to travel.
And sometimes (or more often than I’d like to admit over the years), Instagram and Facebook had us feeling that traveler's guilt. We would be in a season of staying one place, and our friends were on the beach in the Keys. Or we would be hopping around the Keys and feel guilty because we weren’t working.
And I think a lot of those feelings and stresses and frustrations could have been eliminated if we’d learned sooner to find our balance. And learned that that balance would change year over year or even quarter to quarter.
For some of us, that might look like setting hours and saying I will not work more than 20 hours a week or I won’t open my laptop Friday-Sunday or I will be available to customers every single day while I travel because that’s important to me and my business. Every person or couple or business will have different needs.
There’s no perfect balance that works for everyone, but whatever your days look like, you should be able to get your work done + appreciate the lifestyle you’re living. Too far one way or the other and what’s the point of being an RV entrepreneur?
Right now, Heath and I are traveling as a family about one week out of every month. That has been the perfect balance for us with a toddler and a pregnancy and selling a business and starting a business all in this year. And sometimes that doesn’t feel like enough. Like we’ve only visited half a dozen states this year and three national parks like we need to kick our travel butts in gear. But that’s the balance we’ve found that is right for us right now.
4. Maximize your travel days.
For a while, travel days were a wash for us. We got NOTHING done. Then we started trying to squeeze in some work before we hit the road and ended up having RV park employees knocking on our door telling us we were past check-out time.
But we’ve learned a lot about how to make sure our travel days aren’t losing us a workday or stealing a day off.
If you want to feel productive and call a drive day a workday, you can make the most of your travel days by:
- Listening to industry podcasts or audiobooks
- Calling to check in with clients, mentors, and friends
- Recording voice memos for yourself (when I’m working on a book, I send myself soooo many audio messages!)
- Handling calls you’ve been putting off (i.e. insurance companies, suppliers, airlines, anything you can do that is hands-free)
- Having meetings with your business partner
Or if you’re spending most of your time in the passenger seat instead of behind the wheel, choose a couple of tasks you know you can tackle during the duration of your drive. I typically choose admin tasks that are easy to look up from if I need to help Heath navigate. Such as:
- Updating our website
- Replying to emails and comments
- Keyword research and brainstorming blog topics
- Scheduling posts for social media
- Reaching out to podcast guests
You’ll also want to carefully plan your routes and what times you’ll be driving. Will you be hitting rush hour traffic in a major city? Can you leave one hour earlier or later to avoid it? A little planning can save you hours of time spent in traffic and get you there faster.
5. Use all the tools.
In the next lesson, I list out 30 different tools that make running a mobile business way easier. Some are free, some are paid.
Use what you need and make working in an RV a little easier.
6. Get dressed.
My new year’s resolution this year: get dressed every day.
What can I say? I like to aim high.
After years of working from home, I slowly developed a terrible habit of spending the whole day in my pajamas. (Pregnancy and life with a newborn did not help!) And while it didn’t necessarily affect my work, it did affect my mindset. It was harder to start the day, easier to get distracted, and naps were soooo much more tempting.
So this year I started getting dressed as soon as I had my coffee each morning and it was like sending a little signal to my brain: “Okay let’s start the day.” And I’m not getting too crazy here. I’m wearing shorts and a t-shirt, not a blazer and heels. There are no shoes or makeup required for this step. But you gotta at least switch out of your jammies and kick the day off right.
Plus now if someone knocks on my door at noon, I don’t have to spend five minutes looking for pants.
7. Take weekends! (!!!!!)
It is HARD to take a weekend off as an entrepreneur.
First of all, you rarely know what day of the week it is.
And second of all, your business is your life sometimes. Or at least, it can feel that way. You can’t just turn off your brain while you’re hanging out at home when it’s also the place where you hustle on the daily.
This is how you become a workaholic.
Fortunately, there’s an easy remedy.
Take your weekends!
This doesn't have to be Saturday Sunday. It doesn't have to be the same days each week! But you do need time off.
I like to stick my computer in the pocket behind our driver’s seat so that it is completely out of reach. Out of sight, out of mind. If taking weekends seems too hard, just try spending one day without opening your laptop. There may be a long list of work you NEED to get done ASAP, but the burnout will hurt you worse than taking a day off.
Your brain (and your family) will thank you for it.
8. Use a VPN.
Virtual Private Network.
Sounds fancy. Sounds slightly intimidating. But it’s simpler than you think. A VPN is going to protect you online. As my friend David says, “It’s not a matter of if you get hacked. It’s a matter of how bad it is when you do.”
He works in cybersecurity and has taught us a ton about how we can protect ourselves online when we are traveling and constantly connecting our devices to public wifi networks. (We have a podcast interview with David here for more cybersecurity tips.)
My friends Kara and Nate recommended SurfShark to us. This particular VPN service will:
- Access locked content safely
- Block others from seeing your location
- Keep sensitive data secure
- Protect you from hacking, identify theft, malware, tracking, and ad manipulation
If you’re managing multiple clients’ passwords or handling sensitive data (think taxes, finances, anything you wouldn’t want a hacker to have), using a VPN can help keep you and your business safe.
9. Reply to emails quickly.
Some people are amazing at email. I love working with my friend Jenny because she is so good at email. She tells me what she needs, sends me the files, and the project gets done wham bam.
Some people suck at email. You send them multiple follow-ups. They reply a couple of weeks later asking where something is and you have to resist saying DUDE I ALREADY EMAILED THIS TO YOU JUST READ MY EMAILS.
Now if you’re working remotely and traveling full-time, there’s a chance some people will view your lifestyle as a vacation. Which is why fast, clear communication is so valuable. It makes you instantly more professional and reliable. (You’ll also want to notify clients ahead of time if you’ll be out of reach and put up an autoresponder saying “I’ll be off the grid for 7/3-7/8. Please contact [email protected] for immediate assistance.”)
The faster you reply to your clients’ emails, the faster you get projects done, the happier your clients will be.
10. End your workday.
This is a tip I heard years ago that I unexpectedly loved. Just like we get dressed and drink coffee to start the workday, we need something to signal the end.
For me, it’s checking my email on my computer. I reply to any that I can—ones that won’t result in me continuing to work for another hour, but short ones that are easy to clear out of the inbox so I don’t have them nagging at me. And then I close the computer. There’s no work left to do until tomorrow.
Maybe you write tomorrow’s to-do list. Journal and reflect on your day. Put your computer in a drawer.
Whatever your short ritual is, do something to end the workday.
You killed it. Now it’s time to relax.