It’s no secret that the popularity of remote work has reached new heights. In fact, as of 2021, 55% of businesses worldwide now offer some variation of remote work.
With its growing adoption across the globe, you probably know someone, or even several people, who’ve switched to remote work by now.
Maybe you’ve been hearing positives like “more flexibility” and “greater work/life balance” thrown around, which has left you wondering, “what is remote work, anyway, and is it right for me?”
You’re certainly not alone in this interest.
Remote work is continuing to thrive for good reason; it boasts a whole host of opportunities for both personal and professional development.
Because of its benefits, an incredible 97% of workers reported a desire for some degree of remote work in 2021.
To have your questions answered about working remotely, continue on. I’ll cover all the need-to-know details.
What is remote work?
Working remotely means you can do your work from anywhere you choose, without needing to commute to a traditional office space.
Basically, all you need is a computer and a solid internet connection to make it happen.
While remote work is far from a new concept (office culture didn’t start to become widespread until the 19th century), it makes more sense than ever to complete modern jobs remotely thanks to the myriad of digital tools at our fingertips.
You may relate to commuting an hour or more roundtrip to an office, only to work entirely on your computer and pop into some meetings that could’ve just as easily been an email.
More and more people are finding this a waste and opting to look for remote jobs instead; likewise, an increasing number of companies have realized the benefits of remote work and are shifting the way their company operates to reflect that.
In fact, with remote work improving factors like efficiency, productivity, and flexibility (as well as other bonuses like reducing carbon emissions from commuters) it seems pretty clear that it’s only going to become more prevalent from here on out.
Is remote the same as working from home?
But wait, what’s the difference between working from home and working remotely, then?
While there’s an overlap, remote working is even more flexible than working from home.
With remote work, you’re not restricted to a home office, though you can still choose to work from home if it’s the best option for you.
It’s more of a semantic difference between the two, admittedly – if you get a work-from-home job, you’ll likely still have the option to go to a coffee shop to do your work.
This semantic difference may also lie in the origin: work-from-home has evolved from corporate-type jobs, where employees were often permitted to do their work at home under temporary circumstances or in a hybrid way, like 2-3 days out of the week.
This has grown to the point where some companies offer fully at-home positions, though they may still require face-to-face meetings on occasion, keeping the employee tethered to their city of residence.
Yet many companies are completely embracing remote.
The key idea of remote work is that you can do your job from anywhere that’s not the office: you could decide to do your work from home, a coffee shop…or in an Airbnb halfway across the globe.
Remote work then has been a trend for freelancers and entrepreneurs for quite a bit longer than it has been for traditional employees – think digital nomad.
Yes, being fully remote means that you won’t need to step into a cubicle to do your job at all, and this can look a few different ways depending on your working situation and preferences.
What does working remotely look like?
One of the main benefits of working remotely is the flexibility it brings. Remote work has many faces, and as a remote worker, you get to decide.
For some, it might include a high degree of independence and part or even full-time travel. For others, it might involve a home office or workshop, frequenting coworking spaces, and plenty of collaboration and networking.
How and where do people work remotely?
If you want to give remote work a try, one of the first questions you’ll want to answer for yourself is what type of working situation you want.
Let’s go over two of your main options so that you can get a picture of how working remotely might look for you in each scenario.
If you’re a remote employee, it means that you’re employed by a company, but you don’t have to go to an office to do your job.
So, where do you go?
This situation often means creating an office from home, setting up shop in a local cafe, or going to a coworking space in your area.
The main ingredients needed here are good WiFi, outlets, and certain digital tools (usually determined and provided by your company) like Microsoft Teams or Google Workspace to stay on top of your workflow and communicate with your boss and coworkers.
You’ll typically still be expected to follow a work schedule dictated by your employer and be fully available to work on tasks, attend virtual meetings, and otherwise communicate with your team during those hours.
Often though, remote employees have more freedom with their schedules than their office-working or hybrid (mix of office and remote) counterparts.
This can be a great option for those who want the stability of a salary and routine and who enjoy the team dynamic that often comes with employment.
And with the increasing number of coworking spaces popping up around the world, traveling could be very doable for you as a remote employee.
So, what is freelancing?
Freelancers, on the other hand, are self-employed. This means you get to be your own boss, create your own schedule, and, of course, work on your tasks and projects wherever and however you want.
As a freelancer, you’ll contract your services out to individual clients, agencies, or companies.
Many freelancers opt to use a freelancing website, like Upwork or Fiverr, which provides internal messaging, workflow trackers, and secure payment options to facilitate how you work with clients.
Most freelancers are also remote workers and benefit from the greatest job flexibility.
As a remote worker in freelancing, you can likewise choose to work from home or some beachside hotel in the Caribbean.
Going at things on your own does come with its challenges, which is why I provide the tools that teach you how to confidently talk about and price your work to ensure you set yourself up for success.
What jobs can be done remotely?
You might be surprised to hear that the option to work remotely is not limited to a select few industries.
In fact, the option for remote work is possible for a variety of job types.
Of course, it does cater exclusively to jobs where work can be done digitally. That is any job where at least most of the work can be done on a computer.
But with advances in software, this covers a lot of ground now.
The reality is that, somewhere between email and teleconferencing, remote work has become possible for pretty much anyone who would normally be at a desk generating ideas, solving problems, and communicating.
So, unless your profession requires you to actually repair, trim, paint, plant, bake, brew, or build something tangible, you can most likely shift to remote work too.
A number of industries and departments have been responsive to the remote work tendency, where many positions—traditional and innovative—can be found at varying levels of experience.
Here are just a handful of jobs where remote work could be an option:
- Virtual assistant
- Coaching and Consulting
- Customer Service
- Fashion styling
- Finance and Commerce
- Film and Music
- Sales and Marketing
- Translation and transcription
With ideation, communication, and other industry-specific tools all available digitally, you might find the transition to remote more seamless than you previously anticipated.
The pros and cons of remote work
Of course, remote work has both pros and cons and may not be for everyone.
Deciding to embark on a new path with your career requires some analysis–weighing the pros against the cons, determining how much value the pros hold for you personally, and evaluating if there are steps you can take to mitigate the cons.
Let’s go over those pros and cons to help you weigh if remote work is a good fit for you.
Healthier work-life balance coupled with higher quality output
Academic studies and real-life experiments have provided ample evidence that the rigid 9-to-5 setup is not the ideal scenario for anyone.
Employees all too frequently lose attention, sacrifice family relationships, and burn out.
Meanwhile, independents and entrepreneurs sacrifice creativity and innovation, and the employers and clients who depend on their services also forgo the quality that happy, healthy, thriving providers might have yielded.
Productivity inevitably increases when people have the autonomy to distribute their time and energy in ways that suit their unique personalities, physiologies, relationships, and current situations.
Everyone has a different rhythm that’s influenced by a plethora of factors.
Remote work arrangements can really empower people to find their stride, lead healthy lives, and deliver top-quality work.
More purpose, creativity, and freedom
Ikigai, a Japanese concept roughly translated as one’s “reason for being,” has been popularized as the sweet spot between talent/skill, passion, and generating value that both meet people’s needs and pays the bills.
Remote work and especially freelancing can allow people the freedom to take up hobbies and to explore different career paths. This, in turn, can enable them to find a niche or purpose that not only serves a certain sector or community but is also very fulfilling on a personal level.
Travel and personal/ professional development
One of the best aspects of remote work is the opportunity to travel.
But, besides just being fun and exciting, travel can provide invaluable personal and professional development too.
The ability to travel can improve an individual’s empathy, perceptivity, and communication skills that change how they see the world and face challenges.
Travelers also have to develop a strong sense of adaptability and creativity, even when just doing daily activities in a different environment with a different set of resources.
Obviously, this impacts personal growth, but it also has an effect on one’s professional life.
As a traveler, you might be able to offer unique insights to your company or clients and develop new workflows, strategies, and solutions as you observe how things are approached around the world.
Cutting down on costs, waste, and pollution
On a more global note, remote work can really reduce waste in ways that brick-and-mortar workplaces cannot.
At one point, it may have been necessary for workers to pay for gas and make a repetitive daily commute.
Likewise, it was maybe once inevitable for companies and startups to pay for rent and utilities at a physical office location.
But for so many, these costs just aren’t necessary anymore, and they’re draining our resources instead.
Basically, it’s water, electricity, gas, money, and valuable time that could be better used somewhere else.
Not to mention the renewed sense of energy and focus that individuals experience from eliminating the commute.
And, with fewer commuters making repetitive daily trips, our cities benefit from a reduction in the noise and exhaust pollution that come with driving.
Communication, information, and resource access
Communication is foundational, and digital communication is still relatively new. So remote work, which depends on digital forms of communication–email, text, video calls, and workflow platforms –can present some challenges.
We lose out on things like body, language, tone-of-voice, and being able to peek our head over the cubicle to ask a quick question.
Plus, physical workspaces often offer resources like libraries, printers, and other tools that can streamline your work.
Some steps you can take to meet these challenges include:
- Brushing up on text and email etiquette or even developing a digital team dialect
- Testing and troubleshooting software and technology
- Being organized with your information, resources, and tools
It’s also important to be proactive about knowing the software and devices you’ll need to best complete your work.
Dedicated coworking spaces can also help to fill in these remote-work access gaps—in the case that every so often you need a printer, strong WiFi connection, or those times when it really would be best to meet face-to-face.
Adjustments to routine, schedule, and boundaries
Traditional work settings often have a sort of built-in routine and schedule. There are clear on-hours and off-hours, and when you’re not physically there, you’re not likely to be solicited.
Remote work can blur these lines.
Digital communication gives us 24/7 access to each other, and we can all too quickly find ourselves working at all hours of the day with little sense of work-life separation.
When you take on remote work, it’s important to take an active role in creating your own routines and work-life separation in order to avoid chaos and burnout.
It’s also crucial to communicate boundaries, timelines, and appropriate hours of contact with your team and/or clients.
If you’re in a situation where your workspace is also your living space, using public spaces like cafes, libraries, and coworking spots can give you a change of scenery. This also helps you designate spaces of rest and spaces of productivity.
It’s worth noting that working from home or in public spaces can also challenge you with new types of distractions. But, these aren’t too different from the types of distractions you might find at work.
Being able to focus will still involve communication—but in this case, rather than with your coworkers, it might be with your family and neighbors or the barista who wants to chat.
The human side of things
Depending on your remote work setup, you may sometimes feel lonely.
Digital communication is an amazing tool and always improving, but it will never replace human connection.
Even the most introverted people need to have some human interaction, and while group work isn’t the preferred work modality for some creatives, collaborations also spark innovation.
But, as a freelancer or remote worker, there are definitely ways that you can collaborate, connect with people, and get some much-needed human interaction.
For starters, working from a public space can help some feel much less isolated.
And when it comes to collaboration, you might be surprised by the number of networking events you can find in cities across the world, including the one you’re currently in.
Also, don’t forget to cultivate the professional and personal relationships that you already have.
How you can get started working remotely
So, do you think you’re ready to make the switch?
If you’re convinced that remote work is right for you but aren’t sure where to start, keep reading for some practical steps you can take.
First, you’ll need to brainstorm and do some research.
Make a list of your resources, experience, skills, and work-life needs.
- What are you good at, and how can you use that to provide a product or service for others?
- What skills might you need to hone in order to take your work remote?
- What do you love doing? Where can you see yourself in the future?
- What will your starting costs be? Do you need a laptop, a camera? Do you have what you need to start already?
- What’s your preferred work style?
Take a few minutes and sit with these questions. Grab a pen and paper and let the ideas flow.
Based on your unique situation and goals, you can begin to map out a plan for what kind of remote work situation is right for you.
This will probably include deciding if you want to pursue remote work as an employee, a freelancer, or an entrepreneur.
If you decide that remote employment is best for you, you’ll then need to research whether your company already has remote employment options or how you might put together a proposal in order to communicate with your employer how remote work will be mutually beneficial.
In the case that remote work simply isn’t possible with your current organization, you can start researching remote-work-friendly organizations. I’ll list some great resources below.
And if you decide to take the freelancing route, you’ll want to again be clear on your skill set, what you plan to offer, your ideal client type and work set up, and then get ready to put yourself out there.
What skills do you need for remote work
As a remote worker, you’ll need to be able to take initiative and adapt to unique and changing circumstances.
It goes without saying that adaptability, patience, and flexibility are par for the course.
Remote work can feel like a “coming-home” for creative and independent personalities who are stifled by ineffective group work and empty meetings.
That said, strong communication skills are still a must.
In order to make working remotely work, it’s important to be proactive, organized, and clear about workflow expectations.
As I’ve touched on, you don’t need to be a tech expert to make remote work a reality for you. You just need to be tech-comfortable.
It might go without saying, but the ability to use a computer and the internet is a necessity for remote work.
Plus, having familiarity with word-processors and communication software like Zoom is important. Social media platforms are also becoming more and more helpful for remote workers.
You might also need to learn to navigate workflow platforms and automation systems and use cameras, microphones, and video or sound editing devices and software.
It really depends on what you do.
How to find a remote job
So, you’ve weighed things out and decided a remote opportunity could be a great option for you. But how do you actually find a remote job?
No worries, I got you. Here are some actionable steps you can take to find and land the remote job of your dreams.
1. Check out remote job sites
The first step is pretty straightforward. There are several different remote employees and freelance job sites you can check out to see what opportunities are available for you today.
I’ll list out five of my top picks for the best jobs sites to start your search with.
I’ve said it before, Flexjobs is one of my favorite job sites for both remote and freelance opportunities.
Why do I think they’re great?
For one, you won’t have any trouble finding opportunities. They boast an astounding 30,000+ jobs available in over 50 work categories.
But the best thing about them? Flexjobs hand-screens every single job to guarantee a secure, spam-free job search for seekers.
We Work Remotely states being the largest remote job marketplace in the world. In fact, they connect as many as 130,000+ users each month to remote opportunities.
Yes, on the search for remote work, they offer a free, easy-to-use site with an advanced search feature to help you find and narrow down the best remote jobs quickly.
Another great option for remote work is Jobspresso. They’re a long-standing remote job board with a strong reputation by leading remote companies, like WordPress and Trello.
They offer a wide range of remote opportunities in fields like programming, customer support, and more.
Upon signing up, you can upload your resume to take a more passive approach, letting interested companies come to you based on your relevant experience and other specifications.
For those who want a job that’s flexible across time zones, Working Nomads is a remote job board designed specifically for the nomadic.
The site hand-picks interesting jobs over five different job categories: DevOps and Sysadmin, Golang, Nodesk, customer service, and sales and marketing.
Though they’re a smaller job site, they’ll lead you straight to jobs in those categories without any extra hassle.
Guru is a premium freelancing-specific marketplace that hosts jobs from over 800,000 clients worldwide each year.
Whether you’re a writer, programmer, or marketer, you’re likely to find a great opportunity on Guru.
One interesting feature they offer is the ability to collaborate with others in a team; this could be a great way to ease your transition into solo-working as a freelancer.
2. Tailor your resume and portfolio samples
Once you’ve seen what opportunities are available and appealing to you, be sure to tailor your resume and portfolio samples to appeal to those jobs.
If you already have ample experience in the field, building your portfolio should be pretty quick. Highlight projects you’ve worked on independently, and create a small case study that explains the what, why, how, with your end results to show.
This will show that you’re capable of working well independently.
And if you don’t have any experience yet, don’t fret. Create a small, targeted sample that will show the hiring manager or client that you have skills directly relevant to the position.
With a tailored resume and portfolio, you’ll be one step ahead of any competition and sure to stand out.
3. Perfect your pitch
You never know when your dream remote job will present itself to you, so you should be prepared to market your skills when the time comes.
What I recommend is a basic value proposition formula: “I help X do Y by providing Z.”
The idea is to have a concise statement that succinctly summarizes what you do and, more importantly, the problem-solving value you bring.
It only takes a little brainstorming, but this proven formula will be very useful to have prepared ahead of time.
Is working remotely right for you?
You now have a clearer picture of what working remotely is and why it’s rapidly gaining traction.
Though remote work presents some personal and professional challenges and may require an adjustment from going to an office, the benefits are extensive.
For some industries, remote work may not be possible, but as technology becomes more sophisticated, more industries will turn to the remote work arrangement and more people will take up the lifestyle.
If you’ve weighed out that working remotely will be a good lifestyle fit for you, I’d be willing to bet that with all of the freedom and flexibility it provides, there’s a strong chance you’ll enjoy it.