I Didn’t Appreciate the Benefits of Working Remotely… Until I Lost Them

At one point in my early career, I got bored of working remotely. I’d never worked in an office, so I was willing to try it out. I’m glad I did – but I will say I’m also glad I took up remote working again. After working two years in a standard office job, I started to sorely miss the benefits of working from home.

I seriously appreciate the benefits of working remotely now. It’s not something I’ll take lightly again… However, my two-year experience in an office was invaluable. It taught me a lot about different working styles, dealing with different people and how I can improve my general productivity.

After all, I thought the experience of working in a brick-and-mortar company was invaluable. Back then, I thought my CV was lacking because I had only been “freelancing” for a couple of years (years later, a job coach specifically told me not to play down my experience as a freelancer).

“Besides,” I thought, “I’ll obviously get paid more, get better benefits and be taken more seriously…” All for showing up at a specific time, sitting at a specific desk and keeping up appearances.

So I gave up freelancing and went straight into my first 9-to-5 job. And you know what? It wasn’t so bad: stable money, health benefits, even subsidized transport. It was great!

The first thing to go… Enthusiasm

I never liked school. Don’t get me wrong: I really enjoy learning. In digital marketing, you have to keep updating your knowledge. But I didn’t actually enjoy going to school and being in the same place every, single, day. My new office was the same: I sat at the same desk for two solid years.

This type of routine works well for a lot of people. It gives them a sense of structure. Unfortunately, it made me feel trapped. All of my days blended into one. I lost track of time: life became a series of getting up, coffee, sitting, typing, lunch and going home…

The work was interesting, to a point. But that paled in comparison. I began to dream of days when I’d use my remote working benefits to sit in a new café down the street… Or take my laptop and work from a hotel room in Portugal.

“Forget it,” I told myself, “you’ve a proper job now. And more money than you’ve ever had. This is what “grown up” work is like. Deal with it.”

I realized how independent working remotely had made me

Remote work had turned me into a self-starter. As a freelancer, I had to be organized and make sure I knew where my work was coming from. I had to hit people up and do a bit of marketing. There was no one on my back to get me to do things. I had to be my own boss.

Working in that office had turned me into something else. I became content to wait for tasks. If there wasn’t much to do, we’d sit around and chat. I lost my proactivity… And only waited for directions from my manager.

Basically… I turned into an office drone.

Two years after started, I asked to switch to a remote working set up (Germans like to call it “home office”). It worked out well… Then I found a new job and thankfully, I can be as remote as I like.

I will never take remote working for granted again!

Are All Remote Jobs Flexible?

With remote jobs, flexible work options are a given, right?

Not necessarily.

The main difference between a telecommute position and one based in a office is really quite simple. Work at home jobs are just that – jobs where you work in your own home. All other aspects of the job are the same: you may still have to go to meetings, be available at certain times or even bend to someone else’s schedule.

Essentially…

’Remote’ does not always equal ‘flexible’.

It’s food for thought when you’re looking for new challenges. Admittedly, working remotely often does mean that you’re on a flexible schedule. Especially if your colleagues are scattered throughout different time zones. Often, you’ll have to adhere to only a vague or loose routine in order to facilitate efficient communication.

That’s why it’s important to look at the fine print before you decide to continue with that application.

Remote Jobs: Flexible or not? What I noticed when searching

Whether remote jobs are flexible or not depends on several factors. These are often the same factors that determine whether any other office-based position offer flexibility:

  • The nature of the job: If your job is tending to the needs of customers, you may be required to work in shifts. Call-centers spring to mind.
  • What your colleagues need: Your work could theoretically be deadline-based, but if your colleagues want you on call at certain hours, you may be required to work specific times.
  • Meetings: If you’re needed in a bunch of important meetings throughout the day, it could leave you with very little wiggle-room.
  • If the company is more traditional/corporate then it’s likely you’ll only receive a certain level of flexibility.

Not everyone who wants a work from home position necessarily needs to be on a flexible schedule. For many people, scheduled breaks and lunch hours are usually enough.

Types of jobs which may not be flexible

The Western world at least is moving towards a more flexible work mindset – which is a good thing! However as stated before, the nature of your job may only allow for a certain amount of flexibility. The following remote jobs may not offer as flexible a schedule as you might think.

Human Resources

You may need to be in regular meetings or on-call throughout the day to answer certain questions. This is especially true if you have a lot of different meetings throughout the day. If anything, remote HR jobs aren’t very different from the in-office variety: you just have the luxury of sitting at your kitchen table.

Customer Service

It probably doesn’t matter if you’re mostly answering emails. But if you’re on the phone to customers or chatting with them online, you’ll probably have to work in shifts.

Virtual Assistants

A lot of VAs actually work in accordance with a rather strict schedule. That’s because people need to know when their VA is available in order to speak with them, give them tasks etc.

While these are three of the most common types of job with limited flexibility, there are many more. At the end of the day, a job isn’t just about your skills or the specific tasks you’re needed for. You’re there to help a company get things done and grow: sometimes, that means less flexibility.

 

The Path to Location Independence

Maybe you can imagine how excited I got when I learned that location independence was actually a thing.

I mean, I got really excited. Having grown up in several countries, I never liked the idea of being tied to just one.

It does sound like a flight of fancy. Though practically speaking, it’s possible (especially for full-time digital nomads). Yet how many people actually achieve it? For the most part, it seems to be the domain of successful business people and/or the independently wealthy. Certainly, the rise of remote working as a more accepted style of employment has also helped. But for the individual who simply wants to choose where they live -regardless of employment- it can seem that bit more daunting.

mountain range mist feet
I wouldn’t advise moving to the top of a mountain, though. The wifi usually sucks.

Here’s the thing, though: Being location independent doesn’t mean you want or have to flight from one country to the next. Since you’re independent, you can choose to stay in the same damn place for the rest of your life.

That’s the whole point…

…your choice of location is up to you.

The Real Definition of Location Independence – and how to achieve it

Location independence can be considered a lifestyle. It means you’re not dependant on being a specific geographical location – for any reason. Of course, there are many implications that come along with this. Many take it to mean that they can work from anywhere, but it goes further than that: you don’t have family obligations, you don’t have property that you must oversee, there isn’t a wild tiger that you have to defend your bear cubs from, etc.

When talking about digital nomadism though…

The only factor limiting most aspiring nomads is the job they work to earn money, survive and live.

The truth is that even today, most companies don’t offer full-time remote work straight off the bat.

But for most people, the path to location independence requires work and planning. Just like anything in life. There are lots of industries that provide the possibility – in theory. But it’s not as simple as getting a new job.

Often, it helps to have a bigger plan:

  • Look at your current situation. Ask yourself just what it is about it that you don’t like. Do you hate going to the exact same building every day, at the exact same time? Does your daily commute knock ten hours out of your week? Look at these problems closely and see how they can be solved.
  • When thinking of career, consider whether freelancing is a viable option. The truth is, not everyone is built to be a freelancer. Or to set up their own business.
  • Would you be happier maybe with a mix of both? Perhaps commuting to the office one or two days a week isn’t so bad. You can do most of your work from wherever you want, but you still get a bit of facetime with your boss.
  • Or perhaps you really just want to get out there and see the world, and holidays are NOT enough. For digital nomads, this makes total sense!

For digital nomads, work and career are still highly important

As a digital nomad, you’ll miss out on a lot of career opportunities by refusing to be tied to one place. This is a sacrifice you’ll have to seriously consider. For those who find it difficult to get a full-time remote job, there are alternatives. Freelancing is one of them, but also consider contractual work.

If you’re in an industry that doesn’t lend itself to location independence, it may be time to switch careers. See what transferrable skills you already have – and apply them to something new. But with that we’ll give one small hint: don’t just go for a job because it’s remote. You must at least be competent at it and enjoy your work.

 

Europe Remotely – A Jobseeker’s Review

I decided to do a review of Europe Remotely for one simple reason: I live in Europe.

Germany, to be more specific.

During my job search, I found plenty of telecommute positions located in far-flung places. The United States, Canada, Australia… Even New Zealand (not that there’s anything wrong with that…).

I have no problem working for a company in a different time zone. I’m quite happy to compromise occasionally and work a few odd hours during the week. However, certain remote companies do seem to have an issue with me being in Europe.

How do I know?

Well…

’Remote – US & Canada Only’ frequently appears on job advertisements.

Not all of them, mind you – but this notice appears enough for it to get tedious. So I dedicated part of my job search to finding jobs specifically located in a European time zone.

When it came to platforms focusing on Europe… It was slim pickings. Then, I found EuropeRemotely.com.

Is Europe Remotely any good then?

I guess it depends on your definition of “good”. As a job board, it’s laid out in a pretty standard manner. This is the first thing you see when you log on:

europe remotely first page

I mean, it’s pretty much what you want. A list of remote jobs based in Europe… No fancy frills, nothing. As a job seeker, I didn’t really give a hoot. I scanned the list and looked for positions in my field (namely, marketing/copywriting).

And damn… There are a lot of tech and software jobs.

Which is good news for software developers, web developers and IT people. Seriously. If this is your industry, and you either live in Europe or don’t mind working for a European company then keep this platform in your bookmarks.

Scrolling down a little further though, Europe Remotely showed me this:

europe remotely first page 2

Ah, so they do divide it into categories. That’s handy.

After that… There’s not much else. Well, a blog with three posts. Thankfully, the jobs are regularly updated. Even for techies though, they are rather minimal. This platform’s definitely worth a look now and then but don’t rely on it!

Are Data Entry Jobs from Home Worthwhile?

When I started freelancing and working remotely, I was willing to take anything. That included doing menial, mind-numbing tasks. If it made me money. Writing content made sense: even though I initially made relatively little, it still added up to a pretty alright hourly wage.

Then, I stumbled across a range of different data entry jobs that could be done from home. I was intrigued, so I investigated further.

But wait… What is data entry?

Data entry is simply a task. Data entry, in essence, is simply a task. It’s a part of the general work day for a number of professions: copywriters, programmers, virtual assistants and many more. In the olden days, it was a typical “basic” office job. Of course, nowadays it is entirely possible to do this job remotely. After all, only a computer is necessary (and you have to communicate with your superiors… but you don’t need to be physically present to do that!).

…typing various forms of data into electronic formats. This can be Excel sheets, Word documents, etc.

As a fresh-faced freelancer, I thought this would be an excellent way to earn some money. Possible even develop new skills or introduce me to new concepts. There were both full-time and part-time remote positions advertised: naturally, these seemed perfect to me.

After some investigation, I saw what data entry jobs from home really look like

I’m not saying all data entry jobs from home aren’t worthwhile. What I am saying though is: don’t get your hopes up. In this type of remote job, your role is to follow instructions down to a mark. Often all you need is a basic laptop with a good Internet connection. The specifics of what you do is down to the client/company you’re working for.

Tasks could simply include organizing or transferring data. Typically, there are really only two types of legit data entry jobs people do from home. They can be…

  • Small, micro-tasks (such as with platforms like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk) which don’t pay very much. Maybe a couple of dollars here and there.
  • Then the “full-time” variety… Which is often part of a much larger job description, which you will also need other skills for. Virtual assistants, for example.

If you avoid the scams and are looking for something genuine, you need to expand your skillset or look for more specialized jobs. No matter what the Internet promises you, most of these jobs are basic, grunt labor. You’re never going to make thousands of dollars by simply pressing a few buttons. Not legally, anyway.

So what should I really be looking for?

You shouldn’t be specifically for data entry. Remote job positions that often require ‘menial’ tasks are very common… These days, they’re known as VA roles. However, these roles also require a much broader range of skills! The more skills you have, the better pay you’ll command and the better the quality of remote job you’ll find.

Virtual assistants are essentially there to assist others in any time-consuming tasks that need to get done. The creative department needs a few images/videos quickly edited, SEOs need a few articles uploaded quickly, the CEO needs his next trip to be booked… That’s what the VA is for.

VA positions also pay better than a lot of data entry jobs… And they can be done from home!

Remote Career: 4 Entry-Level Jobs to Kickstart the Career YOU Want

I check out a lot of freelance and remote job boards with an unholy level of regularity. I do this so I can keep abreast of how the telecommute “industry” is doing. Even though I have a full-time job, I’m always on the lookout for new challenges.

At the same time, I spend a portion of my time checking out various online communities. I want to see what kind of questions people are asking and how they are being answered.

One of the most common questions that “newbies” (I use the term lightly) pose to the “remote work community” tends to go along the lines of…

…how do I find an entry-level remote job?

From that, it’s easy to deduce that they are simply looking for a position they can work remotely, without any prior experience of working remotely. That’s understandable, except there’s one thing you should probably realize…

…’working remotely’ is not a career path.

Just like “office worker” literally does zero to describe your profession, “remote worker” says nothing about your job. The only thing “remote” means is that you can do that job (whatever it is) from anywhere you like.

So, here’s a little secret for all you seasoned, mid-and-late career professionals who are wondering about “entry-level” remote jobs:

…there’s no such thing!

If you work in any job within the knowledge economy (i.e., primarily done on a computer) then you have telecommuting experience. I am willing to bet you have telephoned people, emailed people, used Slack/Skype/Telegram/MSN messenger (in the Olden Days)… all while sitting in the office. Maybe you were contacting people in the office next door or halfway around the world. It doesn’t matter, you were doing exactly the same thing that thousands of remote workers do every day.

The only difference? You’re sitting in an office and they’re at home/at a coffee shop/on a train.

For seasoned professionals, if the desire is strong then getting a remote job shouldn’t be a problem. Your core skills and experience are more important. “Telecommuting experience” is little more than icing on an otherwise well-rounded donut.

pink donut
Delicious

“Entry-Level Remote Jobs”

Now, if you’re only just starting out in your career… That’s a different story. You may want to do something, anything – as long as you can do it remotely. So, you may be wondering what industries you ought to start off in.

Well, you’re in luck. There’s a crapload of them. Some can lead to great things but they aren’t necessarily the most well-paid (at least not at the beginning).

The greatest advantage is that they allow you to get started building and expanding your skillset. When beginning anything new though, you need a starting point. For those who want a telecommute job, it can seem intimidating. It may seem that these jobs require years of experience, high qualifications and impressive portfolios.

And of course, they do… if they offer a high wage. But many companies are also willing to hire absolute beginners and train them.

So, what I’ve done is compiled a small list of the four most common remote jobs that can be done at entry level. These are essentially “foot in the door” options. At the very least, they can still be a wonderful way of gaining experience. You’ll very quickly learn about what you really want… and what you don’t want.

Content Writing & Copywriting

old typewriter 500x

Writing of any kind is more than just a skill. It is a craft to be shaped and honed over many years. However, professionals with basic writing skills are needed for a number of tasks. Namely, writing content. These “entry level” jobs are posted online with a high level of frequency and are the perfect place for any aspiring copywriting to practice their skills, becoming a persuasive wordsmith.

Copywriting was in fact the first every remote job that I had. I worked as a freelancer back then, simply selling my words. It wasn’t paid well by a long shot – at least, not at first. But that was more to do with the places I was looking.

If you have a passion for writing and just want something to kickstart your career – content writing could be the perfect introduction.

Content Moderation

facebook social media

Content moderation requires a lot of attention to detail, and a lot of speed. You are essentially “cleaning up” the content of a brand’s page. For example, if a company has a Facebook page promoting something, you probably don’t want to have too many rude, negative and sexist comments on it. That’s where content moderation comes in: essentially, you ensure that content (often user-generated) adheres to specific guidelines. Offensive or irrelevant comments are deleted.

While this job often doesn’t require previous experience, you do need to have a good eye for detail. Another challenge is working fast and ensuring that a page or a channel is spanking clean – and lives up to community guidelines.

Virtual Assistance

alone botanical casual virtual assistant

Much like content writers, VAs can command a high wage and many companies wanted experienced people. But again, there are plenty of smaller companies and start-ups that are willing to hire someone with little to no experience. Virtual assistance can involve anything from simple content management (posting stuff on a website, updating Facebook/Twitter posts) to doing general admin: organizing cloud files, booking hotels or answering emails.

Customer Service

woman yellow phone customer service

Customer service jobs exist online too. Many “call center” jobs can and are done from the employee’s home: depending on the company. But customer contact also takes place through the medium of writing. Which can mean answering customers’ emails and queries, or replying to them through social media channels.

In fact, this type of job can be very versatile. Even though it isn’t the best paid (at the start), the salaries for customer service reps tend to be on the stable side.

Remote.co – A Jobseeker’s Review

Remote.co stands out for me because it’s more than just a remote job board. They actually style themselves as a resource for digital nomads and remote workers.

It’s not just for employees, either. Their blog contains a lot of information about managing remote teams.

After applying through jobs on this platform, I found it useful to skim through a few of their articles. Which was a nice break, especially since applying for jobs can really take it out of you.

So, how is Remote.co useful to work at home job seekers?

Beyond providing general advice, there’s a section on Remote.co dedicated to remote workers. In fact, there’s a list of remote workers who’ve shared their insights on various questions people ask. Which I think is really important: sometimes, you can get really bogged down in your search and forget about other perspectives.

Some of the insights include…

  • All about going remote (the how, why, different motivations people had, etc.)
  • What it’s actually like to work remotely (Do they keep a regular schedule? What are the pain points and how do you address them?). These insights are especially useful for those starting out in their remote careers.
  • The best way to find a remote job, what industries these remote workers’ companies are in, etc.
  • Remote life: how their job has impacted their lives outside work, how work/life balance in general compares to being in an office.
  • And a section that addresses digital nomads

As stated before, Remote.co puts an emphasize on providing advice for employers who have remote teams/individuals working for them. It’s not only focused on those looking for a telecommute position. So even beyond a job board, it’s a pretty holistic resource.

What remote jobs are on offer?

I was quite impressed with the selection of jobs and industries available here. As well as how regularly it was updated. As usual, the most frequent remote positions were those in the area of tech, IT and software.

There was a substantial number of ads in the following industries as well:

  • Accounting
  • Customer service (which is a pretty big telecommute industry anyway…)
  • Design (in some cases, can also be considered “tech”)
  • Online Editing
  • Healthcare
  • Marketing (mostly digital marketing, though)
  • Project management
  • Recruitment & HR
  • Sales
  • Online Teaching (not as many…)
  • Transcription
  • Virtual Assistance
  • Writing
  • …and a “miscellaneous” section.

Evidently, Remote.co’s job categories are very, very detailed. Which is good – although if you have a number of different transferrable skills, you may want to search in several categories. Restricting yourself to one will seriously limit the job suggestions.

Conclusion

I’m keeping Remote.co on my list of top remote job sites. They were invaluable to me during my search – and I managed to get into two interview processes through this platform. Although I haven’t joined it yet, they even have a community you can join. Definitely useful!