What to look for in a remote employer

There are so many posts about what an employer should look for in a remote worker, but it goes both ways. A remote employee is selecting the company they work for just as much as a company selects their team.

Here are a few things I look for in a remote employer. I use this list to ensure I only work with amazing clients.

p.s. I linked a few employer-targeted posts at the end of this article, in case you’re wondering what traits to look for in a remote worker.

Absolute musts in a remote employer

In order for good things to happen, your clients need to be on top of things as well. These are a must for me when selecting my clients.

1) They have other remote workers, or a remote-first culture

Working at a cafe | What to look for in a remote employer

When a client has worked with other remote employees, they have an idea of what to expect and what’s needed from their end for success.

Just like a remote worker should have previous remote work experience, a remote employer should have previous experience hiring remotely.

If you’re your clients’ only remote worker, the road ahead isn’t impossible, but it becomes much more difficult. I’ve had a few clients with this setup, and it felt like I became a “fake employee.” Whereas many of my colleagues knew each other by face, they’d easily forget a name on a screen (me). That means I wouldn’t get CC’d on important emails, and things fell through the cracks more often than normal.

Ask your clients if they have other remote workers, or a remote-first culture before you decide to work with them. If the nature of their business is remote (ie. SaaS or e-commerce), you’re fairly safe as they’re used to operating virtually. Otherwise, make sure they have some experience with virtual employees.

2) They respond quickly to your emails/messages/PM comments

Mailboxes | What to look for in a remote employer

Your emails shouldn’t feel like snail mail

I’ve had multiple clients who don’t respond to any of my emails, causing projects to drag along months longer than needed. Once I wrap up everything I can, I’ll let them know that I won’t be renewing my contract, and then get a panicked email saying “wait we still want you to do [insert long list of anything they could think of].”

These clients aren’t bad people, and no one sits at their desk scheming about how to leave remote workers hanging in the balance. But that is not the best way to work and get things done, and the people who do this are not ideal clients for a remote worker.

At this point, I will usually say something along the lines of “I’m happy to work with you to complete [action points] for the next 3 months. After that I will turn over documentation so that the next person knows exactly what has been done and how to take over.”

If you’re already stuck with a client who doesn’t respond to you in a timely manner, try to complete the tasks on your plate and set them up until the next person can fill in. This could be completing a website build, or making sure they have blog posts scheduled to go out for the next few months.

After that, create or update your process documents, and then make a graceful exit.

3) They compensate based on skills and position, not location

Globe | What to look for in a remote employer

“Oh, you’re in Thailand right now? Can we negotiate your rate?”

“Nope, bye.”

The price I charge for my time doesn’t change based on where I live. I move around enough that it’d be impossible to calculate it reliably anyway.

Many remote workers are also digital nomads; they travel to a new destination every month, and hop between timezones like no one’s business.

You can politely explain that your rate is based on your time and compensation expectations, not where you’re living at the moment.

If they still insist on negotiating price based on location, run the other way. Not only is it rude, it shows that they care more about your geographical location and saving a buck than hiring you for what you have to offer.

These are nice, but not necessary

The following things are benefits and perks when it comes to analyzing your remote employer. They won’t make or break your success at the company, but they sure are nice.

1) They bring everyone together on annual trips

destination pins | What to look for in a remote employer

A few awesome remote companies take all the members of their team on an annual trip so everyone gets to meet each other in person. This gets expensive, so don’t expect it from bootstrapped startups or small companies that are still maintaining a budget.

A few companies that do this include Zapier, Buffer, and Modern Tribe.

2) They offer learning and development

Books | What to look for in a remote employer

Whether to put this on the list of “needs” vs. “wants” was a difficult decision, but it ended up in the nice-but-not-necessary section because it isn’t necessary for your company to send you back to school in order to do good work.

In order to be successful at what you do, you must always continue learning and developing your skills. This can be done by reading articles online, taking advantage of webinars, attending local conferences, and reaching out to industry leaders (or just follow them on Twitter for nuggets of wisdom).

I always appreciate it when a client has an education budget set aside for their team, but it isn’t something I expect. Learning is something I do on my own, for my own benefit, and it’s my own responsibility.

3) They show their appreciation

Gift | What to look for in a remote employer

One of my favorite clients gave me a bag of coffee beans for Christmas, which shows how well they know me. Another one sent me a free copy of his awesome ebook. Multiple clients have given me wine to show their appreciation…do I have amazing clients or what?!

Even a simple thank you email or note on Slack to let you know you’re doing a good job is appreciated. When you work remotely, it’s hard to pick up on the tone of your clients, and sometimes it can feel like you’re operating in the dark.

“Thank yous” aren’t essential to doing a good job, but it does show you what caliber of work is appreciated. It’s also great for retention!

On the flip side of the coin; What to look for in a remote worker

As promised, here are a few of the many articles on the best qualities of a remote worker.

Notebook and laptop | What to look for in a remote employer

And if you don’t want to read through those articles, here’s a summarized version.

A good remote employee should;

  • Be able to prioritize
  • Have previous remote work experience
  • Lean towards action;
  • Have an entrepreneurial mindset
  • Communicate well
  • Report regularly
  • Not crave recognition
  • Be accountable, responsible, organized, trustworthy, self-motivated, adaptable, reliable, and results-oriented

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