Author's note - I wrote this article in 2018 when I was driving through Mexico running my marketing agency Optimotive. That was some years ago but much of this advice has stood the test of time. Please enjoy.
So you want to work from home as a marketer, eh?
I mean, let’s be honest, as marketers, most of our job is online anyway.
I sometimes joke that I should own a Chromebook since most of my job is in Chrome. (I actually have a Razer Blade, which is a really nice machine).
But it is not enough to just stop going into the office. Working remotely is a skill in itself.
It can introduce new challenges you will never encounter in an office setting.
This is especially true for marketers. Everyone always seems to need something from marketing. And marketing is deeply tied to all aspects of the company.
So, this is a list of 9 tips for remote work based on real experiences working as a digital nomad in a marketing capacity.
I’d also like to address something I saw in a lot of other articles I read while writing this piece.
It seems to me like 99% of work from home advice boils down to “don’t be lazy”, “have a routine”, and “stay organized”.
These are valid pieces of advice… but not exactly groundbreaking.
So I won’t talk about any of those things in this article.
Rather, I want to focus on specific actionable advice, as well as some gear I recommend you buy.
So without further ado… let’s get into it.
1. Use separate Chrome profiles to split work/home
We marketers use a crazy amount of different tools and software to do our jobs.
Sometimes, they can overlap with personal accounts as well.
It’s really annoying when you have to keep logging out of Facebook, Hotjar, Adroll, Mailchimp, and every PPC platform under the sun… just to log in again with different user info.
So, a nice way to sandbox login information is with chrome profiles.
You can set them up by going to the top right of Chrome, clicking your profile photo, clicking “manage people”…
…and then clicking “create new person”.
Now, you can switch profiles in the top right of Chrome whenever you want.
Each profile has a completely separate set of passwords, bookmarks, cookies, and extensions.
And even better, it keeps you logged in to accounts even when you close the profile.
So you can work all day on one profile, and switch to your other one at night.
2. Use video calls as much as possible
Getting face time is key for building and maintaining relationships.
Truthfully, there is no real replacement for in-person conversations.
Which is hard for remote marketing jobs, as you won’t be around in-person as much as at the office.
However, the next best thing that I’ve found is video calls.
Seeing everyone’s faces on a conference call goes a long way.
They are real humans! Not a faceless voice coming out of your speakers.
So with this in mind, my advice to you is to try to push to always do video calls with clients or your team.
Digital Nomad Pro Tip: Video Call With Bad Wifi:
I frequently find myself in areas with poor wifi while traveling. In this situation, it can be difficult to stream video without the call freezing up.
To get around this, I use wifi to share my video and stream the screenshare. For my audio, I dial in from my phone.
That way, wifi won’t interrupt your audio even if the video lags.
And, if I need to screenshare a presentation, I have someone else on the call run the screenshare.
Then, I pull up an offline version on my computer to follow along.
3. Frequently send micro communications
There is an old Chinese proverb that I made up for this article:
The perception of work is just as important as actually doing the work when someone else is paying you.
I wish that simply putting in the work and achieving results was good enough.
In this world you would be automatically recognized by your team. Naturally praised. Make more money out of pure merit. And make people happy. Just by doing your job well.
But… that is not how reality works.
We humans are social creatures and in order to work together we need to tell each other what we’re doing.
Your team has their own problems to deal with. They probably don’t know or care what you’re doing most of the time.
When you’re in an office, the perception of getting important things done happens naturally.
But with a remote marketing job, you need to make sure everyone knows you are still around, and working hard on shit that matters.
So, a great way to “hack” the perception game is to send frequent micro communications.
For digital nomads, it depends a bit on your particular job function.
Generally, I like to send updates on new market/channel opportunities, positive-trending metrics, and results of marketing tests.
For example, on the topic of advertising and PPC, I might report on things like:
- Leads generated from new campaigns
- Updates on split test winners/losers
- Keyword opportunities for new campaigns we could test.
On the content marketing side, I might look at:
- Recent organic website traffic growth
- New keywords I’m ranking for
- Exciting new backlinks.
I think you get the idea.
4. Set up a Deep Work Calendar Block
When you’re working remotely, sometimes your calendar can get booked up with meetings that seem to only exist for the sake of having meetings.
This seems especially true when people want or need something from you.
If you are serious about getting “real” work done like I am, all these meetings can get in the way… and suddenly you’re working 80 hours a week just to keep up.
As a remote performance marketer, it’s often in my best interest to minimize meeting time and maximize time spent building campaigns, generating leads, etc.
Now, don’t get me wrong– I think there is a time and place for meetings. Like building client or team relationships.
But, a lot of organizations have Delayed Action Syndrome… where people throw new meetings on the calendar instead of deciding on a course of action here and now.
So, what do we do about this?
One trick that I use is the Deep Work Calendar Block.
It works best with shared team calendars, and here is how to set it up.
Pick a 2 to 4-hour chunk of time you want to keep open during the day when you know you do your best work.
For me, this is early in the morning, from about 7am to 11am.
Now, set a recurring calendar invite to yourself for “deep work” during that time.
And that’s it!
What ends up happening is two-fold.
If you are the one scheduling meetings you will see the block and try to schedule around it.
And if other people are looking at your calendar, they will notice your block and also schedule around it. Or they will drop the meeting request if it isn’t that important.
Sometimes you will have to break the block.
But magically, it seems to hold most of the time, and you can get your deep work done in peace.
5. Use automated reporting tools
One of the big benefits of working from home is that you can choose how to allocate your time.
Want to go to the gym at noon? Done.
Sleep until 10 and work late? That’s now possible.
Within reason and team/client expectations, obviously.
Now, what’s interesting is how this incentivizes how you spend your time. Let me explain.
In an office where you’re expected to stay until 5pm, it doesn’t really matter if you finish your day’s tasks early. You’re still at the office.
But working from home, that changes. You can shuffle around your schedule to optimize your lifestyle and also get your work done.
Of course, I recommend doing this in a way that mutually benefits you and your company. i.e. if you only "need" 4 hours per day to do your job, use your new free time to test new marketing strategies and working as a leader within your company.
Scraping by with minimum effort will only hurt you in the long run.
So… let’s unpack this a little bit.
A big way to free up time is by getting creative about automating and streamlining aspects of your job.
And I don’t know about you, but a big part of my job as a marketer is to report on analytics.
There is just so much damn data coming in from every PPC channel, marketing platform, and fancy analytics software in your stack.
So, one trick that I use is to set up automated reporting so I always have up to date metrics in one location.
My go-to tool for dashboards is Databox.
It is super easy to connect to your core marketing software stack. And they have great client management capabilities if you work at an agency.
It can be a little bit of work to set up all the integrations you need to get up and running. But you’ll thank yourself later.
Instead of pulling up 10 different tabs in Chrome and copying numbers into a spreadsheet… it’s all there at a click.
Oh, and if you want some options:
- Cyfe is a good cheap alternative that I’ve used that’s almost as good
- Grow.com is supposedly good too, but it’s mad expensive, so I’ve never tried it myself.
**disclaimer – I am not paid by Databox, I just like their software**
6. Use Google Docs for remote collaboration
This is a simple one.
But… it blows my mind sometimes when I start working with a new client and they are still sending Word docs, Powerpoints, and Excel files back and forth.
I find that I end up doing a lot more bouncing back and forth on edits to documents that might happen over one’s shoulder in person.
So, I put the extra effort in to convert the whole team (or at least my main points of contact) to using Google Docs.
To be specific, here are the ways a remote marketer can use Google Docs in their day-to-day:
- I mainly use Google Slides for presenting on marketing to leadership and pitching strategy. This is awesome when you need to go back and forth to put in the extra polish so your deck is airtight for the top brass.
- I use Google Sheets for research to analyze market research like keyword data. You can even run pivot tables and other advanced analysis functions in Sheets these days.
- I use Google Docs for content marketing collaboration like writing articles and eBooks.
7. Install key marketing apps on your phone
This advice may be counter-intuitive to what most people say about putting your phone down:
“We are addicted to smartphones, going offline is healthy, etc. etc.”
To the contrary, staying plugged in on your smartphone can be a benefit when you’re working remotely.
As I mentioned above, one of the benefits of remote marketing jobs are that you have total control over how you schedule your day.
For example, I like to take a break from work around 11:30 to 2:00 to go home, make lunch, walk around town, and chill for a bit.
However… during this time I’m not MIA from my clients.
If they need something from me that’s urgent, I’ll get a call/text/Slack/email about it, and you better believe I’m on it right away.
That’s where this tip comes into play.
A lot of marketing tools have apps as well.
And these apps can save you a ton of time shooting back a quick response to your team while you’re away from your laptop.
For example, Google Analytics, Google Ads, HubSpot, Buffer, and MailChimp, all have apps!
Remember tip #3 to send quick micro communications?
Well, lightning fast responses to your team can sometimes be even better.
Especially if the request comes from top leadership. You’ll definitely want to get on it right away.
8. Buy this noise-canceling headset
Personally, I cannot stress enough how important this is, especially if you are working from coffee shops.
Nothing ruins a conference call quicker than shitty audio.
And as remote marketer, everyone at the office on the other end is judging you extra hard when the connection drops. Even if the Polycom at the office is just as bad.
“Hello? Hey, you’re breaking up a bit, yeah, sorry, could you repeat that for the fourth time?”
So the question here is not “should I get a headset” but rather, “which headset should I buy?”
Luckily, you don’t have to spend an hour or two Googling “best Bluetooth headsets”. Because I’ve already done that and field-tested many of the top options.
And no, Airpods don’t count.
I’ve owned several high-end noise canceling headsets. Including ones from Blue Parrot, Jabra, and Plantronics. And there is one headset that outperforms them all.
That’s the Plantronics Voyager U5200.
It’s small, packs a long battery life, and most importantly, its noise canceling is damn good.
I’ve literally been on conference calls in airport terminals with no background noise while using this thing.
Make sure to get the optional charging case too, it’s completely worth the extra money.
The only downside is that your chances of looking like that guy on the bluetooth headset go up to about 100%. But it’s a small price to pay for clean audio.
Digital Nomad Bonus Budget Headset Recommendation:
The second headset on my list would be the Jabra headset with the orange cord and boom mic.
The Voyager is pretty expensive and the Jabra one is less than half the cost.
You don’t get wireless/bluetooth, but the noise cancelling is still pretty good.
And let’s be honest, we’re not wearing a headset for style points, it’s all about functionality here.
2023 Edit - You can also use a software solution called Krisp that does a pretty decent job. Getting one of the above headsets still has better audio for calls but Krisp is a good option if you don't have a real headset on you for some reason.
9. Plan for backup wifi when traveling
So of course, when we talk working from home, working while traveling also comes up.
This is what I am currently doing. I live as a digital nomad.
And when it comes to work + travel, we need to talk about wifi.
A strong internet connection is absolutely essential to working remotely while traveling.
A lot of the time you don’t know how fast your wifi options are until you get to your destination.
So, it’s always good to have backup internet options. Because the wifi at your Airbnb might be unusable… or perhaps every coffee shop in town has glacial wifi speeds (this happened to me recently in La Paz, Mexico).
Here’s how I tackle this.
Start with wifi at your Airbnb or hotel. Your home is your first line of defense. Make sure to check the box for wifi in your Airbnb search, or check the hotel’s amenity list.
You can’t always guarantee that the wifi will be fast enough for you, especially outside of the US. Fast wifi in some towns may just be a couple mb/s, not the firehose of data you’re used to.
The next tier of access is local coffee shops and coworking spaces.
This site lists coworking spaces around the world. Chances are in most major cities you can find a coworking space these days.
If you don’t want to pay for a coworking space, or you prefer a different ambiance, there’s also coffee shops.
I almost always work in coffee shops and find them by running a Yelp search with the “free wifi” filter checked.
You can also find good coffee shop work spots by running a Google Maps search for “coffee”, and then checking people’s reviews to see if they mention working/studying. Or, looking through the listing’s photos for laptops.
Now, sometimes both those searches turn up nothing — especially outside the US in smaller towns.
When that happens, I find that driving or walking around town can yield sightings of “wifi here” signs outside some cafes.
I’ll then connect on my phone and run an analysis on Speed Test‘s mobile app.
So, we’ve secured wifi at home and in town.
We’re good right?
Not quite — we can go one deeper.
In the US/Canada/Mexico most US carriers have 4G available with some data caps which you can use as a backup by running a mobile hotspot.
I used this a lot while road tripping through the US, because I was able to get some work done in the car while moving between towns.
Also, occasionally I was able to connect via 4G in small towns that had no wifi options.
For international 3G/4G, you can get wifi pucks that connect to local cell towers or satellites for a daily or monthly fee. I actually just ordered one from Tep that I’m looking forward to testing soon.
2023 Edit - I used that Tep wifi puck for a few years and it worked OK. But I never had that great of an experience with wifi pucks. These days I would just get a solid local SIM card and connect to your phone's hotspot instead. I always get a local SIM in every country I live in.
So, you think you can handle a remote marketing job now…
Working remotely is an incredible thing that we are able to do these days.
I mean really, how awesome is it that it’s possible to do your entire job from the comfort of your home? Or in my case, from a beach in Mexico, which is where I wrote this article.
So whether you’re currently in a remote marketing job, or even if you are just thinking about it right now, my hope is that you learned something useful from this article.
With that, I leave you to go forth and make the most of your digital nomad workstyle and lifestyle.
Remember, “someday” is not a day of the week.