How To Travel & Work Remotely As A Couple

Photo by: d’n’c

The freedom to work from anywhere is a wonderful benefit of being an internet-based freelancer.

But what if your significant other has a career that is paper intensive and demands constant face-to-face interactions?

This was my situation when I met my soulmate Rebecca four years ago.

I’d been self-employed for years and was used to traveling and working. Rebecca was an attorney working for a law firm that required frequent in-person meetings and court appearances.

Breaking Free

We’ve taken many trips over the last couple of years and Rebecca has been able to continue her work remotely for weeks at a time. We’d like to share how we were able to break free from the traditional demands of one of the most paper-intensive professions.

With a bit of creativity any couple can find a way to work remotely.

While our techniques for remote work as a lawyer will apply to other occupations, our solution won’t work for every situation. We want to demonstrate that with a bit of creativity any couple can find a way to work remotely.

Here are the steps Rebecca took.

  1. If necessary, fire your boss.
  2. Simplify through technology.
  3. Develop strategic relationships.

After achieving the ability to work remotely, Rebecca developed a 4th step: Little tips & tricks can have a huge impact.

1. Fire your boss

Rebecca left her job to start her own firm.

This step is not necessary in all situations. Tim Ferriss’s Four Hour Work Week offers step-by-step advice on how to convince your boss that you are more productive when not working on-site in the office.

For those of you who don’t want to bother with bosses, going self-employed is a great option.

The right technology should feel like magic.

2. Simplify through technology.

The right technology should feel like magic. It should simplify tasks and make life easier.

We researched law firm management software and went with one called Amicus Attorney. This gave Rebecca a solution for digitally managing all of her client files.

The next step was reducing paperwork. She started off with a small scanner and a sheet feeder, but it frequently jammed. Eventually she upgraded her photocopier lease to include one with a network scanner. Now her paralegals can quickly scan all incoming letters and documents and associate them to the proper file in Amicus.

To work remotely, we needed a VPN (Virtual Private Network) solution that would allow her to access her server from anywhere. We found a solution that was absolutely magical.

Hamachi is an amazing zero-configuration VPN solution. It doesn’t require any hardware or access to routers. We started off using the free version, then eventually went with a commercial version for only $40/year.

After testing and working through any issues of remote access from home, we were able to start traveling and working from other places.

When we first started traveling, we used a tiny travel wireless router to share my Sprint broadband connection. Now Rebecca has her own Sprint broadband device.

3. Strategic Relationships

When Rebecca first went self-employed, it was just her and a secretary. She developed relationships with other sole-practitioners so they could cover for each other in court as needed.

Rebecca was soon able to hire several associate attorneys. Now she has lawyers who can not only cover for her in court, but also meet with existing clients and sign-up new ones.

One of the most valuable employees is Rebecca’s Office Manager. She keeps everything running, manages accounting, and handles initial communications with clients. This allows Rebecca to only deal with critical issues while away from the office.

4. Little tips & tricks can have a huge impact.

Rebecca offers this advice:

While running a law firm remotely, I’ve picked up a few tricks that make working remote much easier.

  1. Cord Bag – Having duplicates of all of my power, usb, and sync cables makes life much easier. I keep them in a travel bag and never have to remember to unplug a cord from my office and pack it.It sounds so simple, but it makes traveling much easier.
  2. Portable Printer – Lawyers are used to dealing with paper. With my portable travel printer, I’ve been able to print up documents to sign on the spot. This has saved many mediations by having both parties sign before leaving mediation and later changing their minds.Sometimes I find it easier to make global edits to long documents by using pen and paper. My portable printer makes this a breeze while traveling.
  3. Quickbooks Online – When I first started my firm, Quickbooks Online was a handy way to keep track of the firm’s finances while traveling. Now my office manager does such a great job of running things, I rarely have to look at it. But it’s always there if I need it.

Rebecca Long Okura
Managing Attorney

Rebecca has been running her own law firm for three years now. The steps listed above didn’t happen overnight.

Don’t worry if you are not immediately able to quit your job or hire reliable employees. Start planning things out and take one step at a time. You’ll be amazed at what is possible when you combine desire, planning, and creativity.

Learn More About Remote Working

Anywired -Blogging legend Skellie provides information on working from anywhere. Check out the article on mobile offices.

The Newly Rich – Four Hour Work Week, family style. The author shares his experiences on moving to Mexico with his family for 2 months in this article.

Location Independent Living – Taking remote work to the next level, this blog offers information on how to be truly location independent. I enjoyed the article on marketing your business online.

Do you have any questions or experiences in working remotely that you’d like to share? Please leave a comment below.

Comments (32)

  1. Hello there.

    I absolutely love this story. I am a Sr. Communications Specialist at Intuit in Mountain View, CA and our PR team is constantly looking for companies with compelling stories that we can pitch to the Media. It is a good opportunity for your company to gain exposure through Intuit and it would cost absolutely nothing. Is there anyway I could speak to Rebecca so I can learn more about the business and how your company uses QuickBooks Online? I would love to pitch a story like this to various legal publications throughout the U.S. Thanks for your time.

  2. @Amy – Thanks for stopping by.

    @Troy Marcyes – Thank you for your interest. I passed your info to Rebecca. I’m sure she’d love to be mentioned in legal publications.

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  4. Congrats to Rebecca for taking her practice remote and making the most of the technology that’s out there! Great advice for anyone wanting to take that first step!

    I’ve been practicing law completely online using a web-based application (Virtual Law Office Technology or VLOTech) for over two years now and it’s been great. I’ve been contacted by a large number of attorneys who also want to find ways to create a better work/life balance. Some want more freedom to travel and others want to work from home. The technology is available to do a variety of different work options. It just takes some creativity and patience.

  5. @Sheryl – Thank you so much for featuring this article on your site. I really appreciate the support.

    @Stephanie – Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to the VLOTech launch this Spring. Please keep us posted.

  6. Part of the joy and adventure of managing Long Okura, P.C. has been working with my life-partner, Sterling Okura. His advice and insight have been pivotal in helping me accomplish professional goals using technology. I hope that his article helps other couples spend more time together, playing and working.

    @Troy Marcyes- it was great speaking with you today about our law firm’s use of Quickbooks Online and how integral that technology has been for Long Okura, P.C.

    Thank you for the PR opportunity. I look forward to seeing the article published.

  7. Sterling – this is a brilliant article. I didn’t think lawyers could work while travelling. It really shows that the possibilities are there for anyone who has the imagination. Thanks for sharing.

    I will definitely be checking out Quickbooks online. At the moment I use Sage and it just isn’t flexible.

  8. @Rebecca – Hi sweetheart. Thanks for the comment. Can’t wait to see your firm featured in legal magazines.

    @Cath – Thank you for stopping by and for your kind words of encouragement.

    Quickbooks online is a breeze. The basic version comes with 3 logins so you can have one for yourself, one for your accountant, and one for a bookkeeper. I use it for my business and love it. Not sure if there is a UK version, if not, there should be.

  9. Sterling,

    I can personally vouch for home-working as it’s something I often do. Our clients can do so too.

    I think document management/scanning is now beginning to take off – perhaps a little more slowly in the UK – but I see lawyers now comfortably working from home.

  10. @Sarah – Thank you for the kind words and welcome to the blog.

    @Ian Denny – Your extensive IT Management background must have been really helpful in setting up your home office. Yesterday I had a twitter exchange with Nick Cernis (Put Things Off Blog) about the outrageous gas & transit costs in the UK. Sounds like working from home can save hundreds of dollars each month.

  11. You’re right – petrol is currently the equivalent of $2.18 a litre! I must admit that I tend to work from home to escape distractions and improve productivity.

    Our business is really exciting at the moment, and I don’t like to miss out on the fun! I’m a big on-the-move worker and find connected mobile phones (Microsoft) are extremely useful – especially for live email and calendar items.

    Outsourcing the telephone answering made a huge difference to us – I can now get out and about and still take calls which hit the office number first.

  12. Hi Sterling,

    I read this post the other day (didn’t have time to comment), and it really made me think how jobs can be done from remote locations, often in a relaxing atmosphere, and those on the other end of the telephone or email are none the wiser.

    I see this as a trend that will become extremely popular in the coming years. Yours is a post that warrants being bookmarked as you covered the subject so well.

    Congrats to Rebecca for landing a story on Intuit/Quickbooks.

  13. @Ian – I’m not a big MS fan, but do love my HTC 6800 w/ windows mobile & broadband speeds through Sprint. I use it to check gmail, calendar, and vitalist.

    Using an telephone answering service sounds like a great idea.

    @Barbara – Thanks for stopping by. Speaking of relaxing atmospheres, while in Hawaii the other week I wrote a blog at the beach a few feet away from a rare Hawaiian Monk Seal (it’s very endangered and the first time I saw one). Still waiting to get the photos from my girlfriend’s digital camera so I can post the article.

  14. This is great. A long time dream of mine has been to travel (not just vacations, but longer journeys). I think the technology may finally allow a small office lawyer to do that and break from the shackles of the desk. Thanks for the informative post!

  15. @Barbara – The pictures were just of me working on my laptop at beach, and of the Monk Seal. But I did do a new post based on your assignment. Thanks for the idea.

    @Matthew S. Crider – Thanks for the note. I love your website. The design is fresh and the quote is great. It rare so see such a well designed site in the legal industry. Good luck with breaking free from the shackles of your desk.

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  21. Sterling, this is certainly an inspiring story. Human beings are at different stages of awareness when it comes to what is possible. For those individuals who have business experience already or, like the idea of being their own boss, the situation you describe is ideal. The lives of some people have evolved through the technological age which makes them computer literate and self-directed learners. Such skills are useful when embarking into new kinds of entrepreneurship. To believe you can do something prompts you to grasp inner knowing that convinces you what is possible. When in doubt, look in th mirror.

  22. I wish my hubby and I could work remotely together. He would have to completely change careers for that, as he is a dance instructor, and there is no way to do that from home. Unless he marketed online videos. 🙂

    ~ Kristi

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