Interview: Aleyda Solis, from remoters.net & Orainti

1. What do you do for a living, how did you become a digital nomad or remote professional and where you are based now?

I’m an International SEO Consultant, I have my own SEO consultancy called Orainti with clients all over the world, Europe, the US, Latin America & Asia. Additionally, at the same time, I’m also co-founding Remoters 🙂Digital Nomad - Aleyda Working at Airpot

I became a digital nomad when I became an independent consultant a year and a half ago and to travel a lot, first because of work, mainly because I was invited to speak at conferences and do trainings. I started to make the most out of this trips to really get to know the places where I travelled, taking a few days off, following up with work while doing it.

Then I realized that I was already doing my job on the go and from wherever I was, so I started to accept more speaking engagements to places I wanted to know besides going on leisure trips far more often as I could see that I can also balance work when I take them: I can do my consultancy from wherever I am and I have never been happier!

Being my own boss and location independent has been the best professional decision I’ve taken in my life -after having worked many years in small to large companies, in-house and agency side, sometimes also remotely- as it provides me the best possible work-life balance (one that I can completely control) and a lifestyle that fulfills my hunger to be always learning, discovering new places, cultures and people. It’s a freeing experience!

When I’m not traveling I’m based in Madrid, Spain; which is the city I call “home” now, although I’m originally from Nicaragua and have been living abroad already for 9 years, since I came to study to Salamanca, Spain. What a ride it has been since then!

You can find me in twitter at @aleyda, LinkedIn and my site.

2. Do you work by yourself or in a team?

On one hand, I do my SEO consultancy work by myself (and directly with clients) at the moment although there’s someone else who help me with more administrative and operational tasks. I’m about to hire someone also to be able to delegate and have a small team.

I’ve wanted to wait as much as I can as working with more people means more coordination & communication requirements and work… and I’ve been enjoying my independence too much 🙂 It’s always about trade-offs to be able to evolve though.

On the other, we’re 3 people at Remoters!

3. How many people work at your company? How many of you work remotely? / Where do you work from (where is the team based)?

We’re 2 at Orainti. We work remotely and when we’re not traveling we’re at Madrid.

With Remoters we’re 3. We work remotely although do meet-ups once in a while in Madrid.

4. Why did you decide to start working remotely?

Conference Drinks in LondonThe first time I worked remotely was a few years ago, in 2012; when I started to work in-house for the digital marketing department of a Russian company: All of the team members were distributed across Europe and the US. It was my first “remote” experience and I really loved it. We all had meetups once in a while whether in Montenegro or Moscow; but the day to day job was being done remotely.

This first experience opened my eyes to the remote work setting and then when I became independent it just happened naturally that my clients came from all over the world, not necessarily from where I was and made me realize that I could now leverage my former remote experience.

5. How do you keep connected with the team and clients? Do you meet somewhere frequently? If this is the case, where and how often?

With clients I have an ongoing communication whether with Skype calls or Gotomeeting for more reliability; as well as project management systems such as Basecamp and Asana.

With team members we use Skype, Slack, Google Docs and Trello to speak and coordinate work.

6. Which are the biggest benefits and advantages that you have found by working remotely?

The lifestyle I have. I’m able to set my own flexible work schedule, to be able to spend more time with the people I want and to travel not only for work but for leisure, balancing both, which is something I highly enjoy.

7. What are the biggest challenges you face working remotely and how do you overcome them?

While In JapanCommunication and time differences with clients. It’s a must that everything is documented and have a well established work process, to avoid miscommunication issues. Sometimes also by having clients that are at completely different timezones (and me traveling completely different places) requires extra attention to effectively schedule calls and not missing them. Sometimes because I’ve forgotten about this I’ve needed to wake up at 4 am while in Chile or at 1 am in Japan to do follow-up calls, when they could have been easily re-scheduled for a much better time.

In the past -when I was still working for an agency some years ago- I also worked remotely while being the only team member working from my location when the rest was together in one, and after a while, two locations. This can be certainly more challenging as you’re the one “disconnected” from the rest and requires more attention and effort to keep up, as sometimes the existing processes and workflows at the companies are not thought for the one person working remotely.

8. Do you think that you have lost something by working remotely?

The only one thing I feel I’ve missed is the chance to discuss issues “face to face” with another colleague; although I’ve replaced this by chatting through messaging systems or social networks with trusted colleagues with whom we exchange point of views and ask for second opinions. I have also the privilege that as I’m usually going to conferences and networking with people it’s easy for me to keep connected, exchange ideas, communicate with others and not feel isolated, etc.

In the past I’ve also gone to co-working places where I ended-up mostly exchanging ideas, meeting new people, etc. but where I found it was more challenging for me to concentrate to do work besides email, so whenever I’m at home I prefer to completely focus on doing work that requires maximum attention from my part staying at my home office for this and when I’m traveling I work from whenever I’m staying (I always make sure I have a good Internet connection).

9. Which are the benefits and disadvantages for them to work with someone remotely? Have they ever told you something about it?

Aleyda Solis - Conference SpeakerThe biggest benefit is that they’re working with someone who’s highly motivated and able to see much more than the typical SEO consultant, as when I travel for work and go to conferences I don’t only share but also learn from others, exchange ideas, tests, experiences, etc.

Thanks to this I also have clients from completely different type of industries, places and sizes, which again, give me a unique type of access to information and experiences that’s not common for an SEO only working for companies from one place.

The disadvantages? I don’t really think there are. They see me and I’m as involved working with them as if I’d be working from the same place always in their same city.

10. What’s the working philosophy and environment you look to have?

Flexibility and freedom is the key. Work when you want from wherever you like. At the end of the day I’m sure I end-up working more hours than the typical person with a 9-to-5 job in a big company for which they need to go to the city center every day -I used to have that type of job once-; but I’m much happier now as I do it on my own work standards, pace and settings.

Feeling that you’re working to develop something you believe in and also owns is also priceless. As I quote I read the other day said: “Life is too short to spend it working in someone else’s dreams”… and I would also add “and to live it with outdated, imposed schedules and not your own standards” 🙂

I’ll start building a small team now for my SEO consultancy, 5 people top; as I have more and more clients and I have already needed to say no to some that I wish I had availability for them, so it’s now time to grow, even if that means a bit of more coordination and communication work from my part. My philosophy for my team will be: work from wherever you want, have complete flexibility on your schedules, all that matter is that sh*t gets done and clients see their results and are happy 🙂

11. Which places, cities, countries have you work from since becoming a remoter? Which has been your favorite one?

Spain, UK, Belgium, France, Turkey, US, Chile, Japan, Ireland, Sweden, Germany, Colombia… and I’m about to leave next week for Munich (SEOktoberfest) and then Las Vegas for the first time, very exciting! My favorite place until now has been Japan, it was just a magical experience.

12. Which type of place do you work from in particular? Coworking spaces? Coffee shops? Somewhere else? Why and which are your favorite ones?

Imagine - in NYCWhen I’m doing work that requires focus and a lot of analysis or for conference calls, I prefer to do it from where I’m staying that usually have a better Internet connection than any coffee shop. Otherwise, if it’s about writing emails, etc.

I love to go to coffee shops. I know it’s not very “trendy” but Starbucks is my coffee shop of choice when traveling to find reliable wifi and comfortable space to work wherever I am. I’m going to start using now WorkFrom.co to start trying new coffee shops where I know I’ll be able to work.

13. Can you describe a typical work day in your life?

I start my day whether by reading news, sending & replying to emails, monitoring SEO processes results, testing & experimenting. I try to leave analysis work to do later in the morning or early afternoon and clients calls and follow-ups whether at first time in the morning or later in the afternoon, I’m flexible on this as I have clients at different timezones.

14. How do you manage work-life balance?

I try to maximize the time when I’m at home with my husband and dog and also travel with him as much as possible -although we need to plan it well ahead because of our dog-. 🙂 They help me to find balance and always allocate time to things different than my job (which is sometimes difficult for me as I love what I do).

I also set times to do things I enjoy in dependence of where I am: If I’m traveling then it’s a must to allocate at least half the day to discover and visit new places, meet new people who do what I do, if I’m at home then to finish work at a certain time to go to the park to bike or walk with my dog, for example.

15. How being a remoter / digital nomad has changed you?

It has given me this strong sense of “freedom” and control of what I do and in general, of my life and career. It has open my eyes and my mind to new ways to do things, different beliefs and knowledge, get to know many more people, -I always try to coordinate a meetup with local SEOs & online marketers wherever I go-, expanded my interests and I’ve also become far more self-aware: of who I am, my motivations, what drives me, my goals, my weaknesses and strengths and what I value the most. I feel far more fulfilled as a person and professional.

16. What do you do to avoid distractions when working?

Some the techniques and tools that are handy for me to avoid distractions are:

  • The pomodoro technique when working, to balance the amount of time I completely focus on what I’m doing and taking small pauses; controlling procrastination.
  • Setting specific times to answer emails and messages, especially when I’m on the go; so whenever I need to really focus on doing work I eliminate potential distractions.
  • Using Trello (now also with Toggl) to manage & track my tasks, establishing a number of critical or must-do tasks as a goal to do for each day and which I can’t miss. Whenever I stop focusing I think on my goals and go back to my Trello list!

17. What would you say to companies that don’t believe in hiring people working remotely?

Meetup with local SEOs in Santiago, ChileThat they’re losing the opportunity to hire some of the best in their sector since they’re self-restricting on doing it so in their own city or town. It’s crazy! By hiring people to work remotely they will also be providing a far more flexible and enjoyable work environment and day-to-day to their employees focused on being productive.

The 9-to-5 “go physically to the big office” at the city center, makes you to spend 1 or even more hours commuting to do something that you could perfectly do from anywhere is just a non-efficient way to work we have just inherited from the past without questioning if it makes sense anymore…. it doesn’t, thanks to our current technology & online reality.

Also, some companies (and people in general) think that the remote way of living is only something that young people will like to have as they will be able to travel, nonetheless, they should think that people from all ages who are not into traveling would highly enjoy to have a lifestyle where they can really choose their location to live and establish themselves not restricted by their work location. I can see many more smaller towns getting benefit from this.

Young families who want to spend more time surrounded by nature for example or people who really enjoy to live near the the sea or the mountains.

That’s the thing with location independence: You choose where to work from; if from a specific place or on the go. If from small towns or big cities. If from the sea or mountains. Or across all of them!

Some obvious benefits for companies:

  • You will be able to hire the best people with broader type of experience in your sector without the location as a restriction.
  • You’ll have happier employees who will enjoy of a flexible, more balanced lifestyle where they have more control.
  • You will likely save money as you won’t need to spend in physical offices and related costs.
  • You will have a more efficient communication, coordination and documentation processes, that will be key to establish to effectively operate in a distributed environment. This will require more work at the beginning but you’ll end up having more efficient and process-driven operations thanks to this.

18. Which tools do you use that facilitate your life as a remoter?

At a boat in the Bosphorus in IstambulMy Macbook Air of 11′ is the best to travel. So light and still very powerful (I added extra RAM & upgraded everything when I bought it a couple of years ago and still works as a charm). I have a OnePlus One as a phone which is actually great to reply emails on the go as it’s the perfect size (phablet) to be comfortable while doing it so.

Skype & Google Hangouts, Basecamp, Slack, Trello, Google Docs and Dropbox to save important documents that I’ll need to access wherever I am.

To travel: I use Foursquare, Tripadvisor &  now also NomadList. In the past I’ve created this presentation with tips of people who travel for business… many of this can definitely be applied for digital nomads too.

19. Which places would you like to visit next -enjoy and work from- in your remoter journey?

The destinations I’m going later this year are Bogotá, Brighton, Munich, Las Vegas, Czech Republic & early next year to Dubai. Other destinations where I’d like to go next year are Australia, South Africa, Canada & Brazil.

20. Which is the best of working remotely? Which is the worst?

The best is being able to travel, being location independent. The worst is the challenge to have a good enough internet connection when you’re traveling, -I end-up buying local pre-paid SIM cards, for example-.

21. Which advice would you share with people looking to start working remotely?

Life is too short to spend it working from a closed office and at a location that you don’t truly enjoy. Whether you want to travel the world and work while you do it or you just simply want to be able to choose your own ideal location to live and work from. It’s time to make the world your workplace and become location independent!

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