How to Work Remotely, From Very Rural Locations

Aliza Sherman, co-owner of Conversify, a social media marketing company, founded the first woman-owned, full-service Internet company -- Cybergrrl, Inc, back in 1995.She also founded Webgrrls International, the first women’s Internet networking group that grew to over 100 chapters worldwide in its first year. Today, she's a social media expert, a pro-blogger, and one of the women on Fast Company's list of "The Most Influential Women In Technology: The Bloggers." Here, Sherman shares 4 tips on how to stay in the social media and blogging game while working -- and living -- in a remote location.

I recently moved to Tok, Alaska. Where, you ask? Tok, about 80 miles from the border of Canada along the Alaska Highway.

There are many things I'm facing here in Tok that remind me of the days I was living -- and working -- in an old RV while driving around the road for over a year. Getting high speed Internet, for example, is a challenge here.

I've put together some tips for doing business from very remote places based on my experience working in Alaska and in some less populated parts of Wyoming. You may not be moving to remote places, but some of these tips can also work for road warriors who travel to less connected places.

1. Internet Connectivity
If your work requires being connected to the Internet, you may find yourself spending more money than you expected to get a fraction of the speed you may be used to in the big city. I'm paying about $200/month for DSL (with my local phone company) at 1/8th of the speed and with 1/2 of the bandwidth allowance. To add another 5 Gigs bandwidth allowance to my 10 Gig limit, I've also purchased and am using a USB cable modem from AT&T for $60/month on top of the cost of DSL.

I've heard mixed things about satellite Internet. For some in rural parts, satellite is the only option for a connection. Because of the work I do, the unavoidable latency of a satellite Internet signal makes it a less than ideal solution for me. The monthly cost for the level of speed I'd want would be about the same as DSL although purchasing the satellite dish would run about $600-700.

Explore every possible option for connectivity before making your final decision.

2. Postal Delivery
What do you do when you live in a place where the houses don't have numbers? Most people where I live get all of their mail - and even FedEx and UPS deliveries - at the local post office. There is no pickup and delivery, however, going out of here to other parts from either of the two major express shipping companies. So I'm getting to know my postal office workers as well as the shipping schedules. All mail must be ready to go out before 10:00am Mondays through Saturdays. Mail is available in your PO Box around 3pm.

Identify the best shipping method or methods in your area and prepare to rely on the USPS, if you can get to them.

3. Hiring Help
Ask any business owner in a rural area about one of their main challenges, and I guarantee they'll list "finding reliable help" as one of the issues. When you have a very small pool from which to select workers, you can run out of options quickly. Many of the qualified, skilled workers in small communities are already employed. But when it comes to rural places, word of mouth is one of the best ways to suss out candidates for a job.

I recently hired a part time assistant after she heard that I might be in need of a babysitter. I had spread the word around town before I even arrived by calling around to the school and other places asking for referrals to a babysitter. In small towns, word definitely travels quickly. Within a week of being in town, this person was already in touch with me seeing if I had an opening. Since I already found a babysitter, I asked if she'd be interested in assisting me with work-related tasks. I'm not sure I would have found someone qualified so quickly if it hadn't been for the grapevine.

Tell folks you know and trust and who know and trust you when you are looking for help and get faster and better results than advertising in the local paper.

4. Getting Support
Anyone who works from home can tell you about isolation. Now magnify that feeling ten times or more when you are working from home in a rural or remote place. Now, more than ever, I rely on my online communities. Twitter is my watercooler and news feed. Facebook is my coffee klatch. LinkedIn is my ongoing networking event. Without these connections, I'd not only lose my edge in my industry but probably lose my mind. Having such a strong network of support online makes having #1 -- connectivity -- so much more critical.

Hone your online networking to make meaningful connections with peers. But don't fail to reach out in your community to find other like minds. Someone else could be sitting in their own rural home office just a few miles down the road wishing they had someone like you to connect with. To survive and thrive in a remote place, you need to get out into the community and actually meet people face to face. Some things -- like an actual handshake -- will never become obsolete.

How do you stay connected and stay sane in really rural or remote places?

[Photo Credit: MoBikeFred]

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1 Comments

  • Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin

    I have been working from home for over 25 years, and for the past 12 from a home office at the end of a dirt road in a county that backs up to Great Smoky Mtns. National Park and the Cherokee Indian reservation (Qualla Boundary). Even DSL is not available here. The satellite internet service I use is certainly slow and lacking in bandwidth, but it was a joy after being on dialup for several years. And, I've made the pig's ear into a silk purse of sorts, by using my need to occasionally go to a coffeeshop for high-speed use a way to network, converse, and generally escape the isolation of working from home in a rural setting.