Angela Tague is one of the many writers who transitioned from traditional journalist to content marketer. She not only uses words to tell a story, but is a skilled photographer who understands the importance of images, as well. While she never set out to start her own business — the idea wasn’t even on her radar — she has mastered working for herself and being location independent. Learn more about how she became a remote worker, and what suggestions she has for professionals new to working outside of four office walls.
Tell me about your career trajectory. How did you become a writer?
As a child, I was always writing stories, whimsical poems and logging my ideas in a journal. This play with words continued into high school, where I wrote music reviews and feature stories for the school newspaper. I also shared poetry in the literary magazine. Naturally, I decided to focus on words in college. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a degree in Journalism & Mass Communications, I worked primarily in print media as a photojournalist and features reporter.
As life does, my career path took a few turns to teach me new things. I’ve held the titles of portrait photographer, cashier, columnist, telemarketer, retail store manager and executive director at a non-profit.
In August of 2009, I left my last newspaper job and declared my small business as a content marketing writer and journalist my full-time career.
How did you foray from traditional journalism into content marketing?
One night as I was digging through pages of notes from an evening school board meeting and writing up the story well after 10 p.m., I knew there had to be a better way to make a living writing than working all hours of the day and night.
I told my boyfriend (now husband) that hour-for-hour I made more money with my weekend freelancing than I did at the newspaper. And, if I ventured out onto my own I wouldn’t have to work 9-5 p.m., then again in the evenings photographing sports events and covering meetings. The newspaper hours were draining with no signs of improving, so I made the leap!
How did you go from being traditionally employed to working at home?`
I never planned to start my own business and work from home. After reflecting on my career in 2009, all signs from the universe pointed to giving it a try on my own. My last newspaper job didn’t offer any medical insurance, holiday pay, retirement plan or traditional employer-paid perks so I wasn’t giving up any company benefits.
I only had hourly pay and job satisfaction to evaluate. Although I loved the communities I covered, the stories I wrote and photos I shot, I knew I could do that type of work elsewhere. Plus, freelancing paid better, and I could do it from home in cozy clothes with my dogs by my side.
You’re vocal online about your autoimmune struggles. What’s it like managing a business when you’re also managing your health and the unpredictable issues that come with that?
Yes, I love to speak out about seeking balance in our lives and discovering what works for you in terms of work, self-care and creating happiness. About a year before I left my newspaper job in 2009 to go full time with my writing business, I got sick with a condition called Steven Johnson Syndrome. I was in bad shape for a little over a month, which in-part triggered my immune system to fail and start attacking itself. In the following years I was diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease and atopic dermatitis. These have since triggered additional health issues.
Managing a business and daily chronic health conditions tests my managerial skills daily. I mentally stay atop of everything by practicing acceptance for where I am today (health issues and all) and focusing on gratitude for my abilities and achievements. On the tangible side, I engage in an insane amount of planning. I work ahead on projects to allow for wiggle room when I need to put self-care above a work task on my list. This way I still meet deadlines. I also have systems (checklists, reminders, notes) in place to help me move through my projects, piece by piece. I’m addicted to Google Calendar to keep me on track!
What’s the most important reason you like working remotely?
Working from home allows me the flexibility to take care of myself in a healthier way than when I worked in a newsroom, spend more time with my family and friends and manage my specific health needs. For example, my celiac disease, multiple skin conditions, hypoglycemia and gastropareis are all controlled by how and what I eat. It’s easier to care for my dietary needs at home where I can cook and snack as needed!
What are the challenges of working from home?
I’m a very social person, so for me, the toughest part about remote work is isolation. I occasionally will work at a local coffee shop or the library, but those settings aren’t perfect either due to random noise and interruptions.
Honestly, I’d rather be home at my cozy desk with my heat pad, music and pets. To be sure I get some socialization in during the week, I go to yoga classes, visit with friends, plan lunch dates and run errands on my breaks so I’m not always at home. I’m the gal who happily chats with strangers in line at the post office or grocery store.
What is a typical day in the life look like for you?
No day is really typical since I never know what I’m going to wake up to. Stiff fingers, brain fog, low blood sugar dizziness, extreme fatigue and random inflammation in my body pops up whenever it wants. Right now I’m working to be as flexible with myself as possible and rest when needed, which may mean sleeping in, then going back to my desk later in the evening or on the weekend to make up my missed working hours.
On a good health day, I linger over a hot mug of chicory (I can’t have caffeine) and take a short walk around the neighborhood to loosen up the stiffness that comes with having RA. Once I get to my desk, around 7:30 or 8 a.m., I like to do the deep creative and focused work including research, interviews, outlines, writing and editing. Then my husband comes home for lunch and we eat a quick meal together. During the afternoon I tackle admin work like invoicing, emails, social media, website updates and marketing my services. On my breaks I like to take naps, meditate, do yoga, go for walks or check on my garden. I think nature is very healing!
What tools keep you functioning well as a remote worker?
My core tools are very basic: email and a digital calendar. I consider my email like the front door of my business. I try to respond promptly and be courteous when conversing with anyone since all of our communication is virtual.
Google Calendar is where I map out everything from work tasks and breaks, to personal appointments and social events. When something pops up, it goes on the calendar. It’s my reminder system and roadmap for each day.
When it comes to collaboration, there are so many wonderful tools out there to connect me to the marketers, strategists and editors I work with. I enjoy using Basecamp, Gather Content, Google Docs and digital marketing platforms like ClearVoice, Contently and Skyword.
I can’t forget to mention Insight Timer. It’s a meditation app that helps me stress less and realize that all of this is indeed manageable!
My desk is a mess. What does your workspace look like?
The hubby and I are restoring a historical 1912 Dutch Colonial home filled with original woodwork in Iowa. I claimed one of the upstairs bedrooms as my office.
I prefer a desktop computer with a full keyboard and two monitors. To my right are my Three-toed Eastern Box Turtles in a 72-gallon aquarium. Behind me are multiple bookcases filled hardcover books, framed photos, greeting cards and meaningful trinkets. To my left is another bookcase filled my daily must-haves, including a paperback thesaurus, manual notebook logs (technology does go down!) and my AP Stylebook.
Just off my office is a small room that used to be a sleeping porch back in the old days before conventional air conditioning was invented. Now it’s my little zen den where I practice yoga, meditate in a hammock and make crafty things.
Here’s my favorite question: Where do you see yourself in five years?
I will be writing and creating each day. I hope my client roster is filled with companies focused on wellness, entrepreneurship, small business and how to make a living as a freelancer.
I also plan to be healthier and more content than I am at this moment, because we are always growing and learning. Each day I’m taking steps to understand the world around me, how I can work more efficiently and take better care of myself.
I sure hope we have our vintage bathrooms remodeled by then, too.
Since you’ve been at this for a while, I’d love to know what advice you have for current or new remote workers.
You have to be your number one cheerleader. There’s no boss hovering over your shoulder or co-worker reminding you about that meeting. If you want to be successful, day after day, put in the effort. Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing and express gratitude for this opportunity.
It’s not easy, but the innate flexibility and personal achievement that comes from building a successful business or becoming a valuable team player while working remotely is immeasurable.