Friday morning found Danette looking enjoying a mountain view from her comfortable spot in the Roanoke Public Library. She finishes up her thermos of tea and checks the local newspaper for weekend events. Danette usually works from home but needed to change up the view for a day of work. She was writing for clients in North Carolina and Pennsylvania and didn’t require a quiet space for a video call. Yesterday’s work included a ZOOM call with a group scattered across North and South America and another call with a client in Kenya.
Danette represents the Boomer generation in the distributed workforce. According to a recent Freshbooks report, 49 percent of the self-employed/freelancers were born between 1946 and 1964. Let’s find out what drives her to her computer each day and why she chooses remote work over the traditional workforce.
Danette, you haven’t always worked from home, have you?
No, I’d been working for years before e-mail even came into being! I had a satisfying career, first in education, then working around the world for a non-profit organization. Early retirement is what shook things up for me. There are a lot of people like me figuring out how to put their skill set and years of experience to use for another 5-10 years before they are fully ready to retire.
Did you dive right into self-employment and remote work?
About two years ago, I met a seventy-year-old woman who had just launched her consulting business. She sat down with me, looked me in the eye and asked, “What do you want to do?” I knew I wanted to coach and train in the leadership arena. There were jobs out there, but my age and lack of a broad network held me back. So, I took an administrative assistant job. I loved the people, but I was bored out of my mind. I began to do some freelancing and personal skill development on the side. I found writing jobs through a freelancer’s website. I formalized my people development skills by gaining coaching credentials.
Yet, I was afraid to launch into full-time self-employment. Finally, a corporate foundation offered me a part-time contract for work in my sweet spot. Even though it was only a three-month contract, I knew that I would regret keeping the traditional job for security’s sake. I gave my notice, and a year later, here I am.
Danette admitted that she experienced self-doubt in the beginning, but gradually, the pieces came together. The years of experience translated into interesting work.
So, tell me….do you work in your pajamas?
Haha! No, I still set my alarm for 6:00 a.m. to get my day going. When I thought about what I wanted for my pre-retirement life, I knew that my quality of life would require exercise. So, some days, when I have video calls, I will put a scarf over my workout clothes so that I look professional from the shoulders up. That’s my reminder to get outside and exercise.
Tell me about your best remote work client.
Of course, I like the bigger jobs for the security of the longer-term work. I enjoy the ongoing relationships that happen when I meet people either on video or in person over many months. I’ve been doing training and coaching for a non-profit that provides clean water around the world. I’ve been to their headquarters and know the people that pop up on their Facebook page.
But I also enjoy the briefer jobs that shift my attention in other directions. I’m called on to interpret for parent-teacher conferences. That keeps my Spanish fresh. I love developing materials for coaches and teachers. Now and then, I’ll do curriculum design for coaching programs or college courses.
What about the worst client ever?
No one has been terrible. But, I have been “ghosted.” I didn’t even know that word until recently, but ghosting is pretty common. It’s when someone you’re working with, either remotely or in the traditional workforce, goes off the radar. I’ve had clients just go away, with no explanation. I’d rather hear, “Hey, we’re taking another direction.” Or “Thanks for your work. We’re done here.”
Will you go back to traditional work?
It would take a really great offer to shift things now. Working remotely has allowed me to craft my life in a way that will enable me to contribute longer, both in work and in my personal life. I have more to give to those I work for.
What we know is all generations find working remotely fulfilling. This is the first in a series of articles that will share perspectives from “real” people I know, from each generation, sharing their experience about working remotely.
We’d love to hear your feedback.