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.

mountains location independence
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!

The Burning Question for Writers: Should I work for content mills?

Getting paid to write on the Internet – sounds like the best gig ever for some people. And I’ll admit: there were times when I really, really did feel like I had it all. I could set my own schedules, and everyone I worked with was behind Skype and/or email (no one used Slack in those days… I think).

As a budding copywriter, I needed somewhere to hone my skills. As I mentioned in a previous post, the first place I started was at so-called “content mills” or “content farms”.

To be honest, I don’t really like the sound of the name. They sound a lot like “puppy farms” or “kitten farms”.

cute puppies from a farm
And no, puppy farms are not as pleasant as this picture. Look them up if you have too… I won’t be held responsible for the ensuing tears.

Tell us this much then… what are content mills?

In the broadest sense, content mills are money grabbing bastards who suck honest workers dry a business that makes most of its money selling content. This could be content for SEO, press releases, advertising copy, blog posts… You name it.

In essence, the business model is pretty sound. The client pays big, fancy monies for a batch of articles – the more well-written they are, the better. The company then gets money and, of course, pays the writers. Some many content companies/agencies that also hire writers full or part-time and given them stable hours and pay. How nice.

But this particular breed of company, known as a content mill, will almost exclusively outsource all of its writing to freelancers. Not necessarily a bad thing.

But then we get to a rather touchy subject…

How much do content mills pay?

Yuck. The truth is, the vast majority of these word farms (in my experience) pay very, very little. It’s pretty normal to be paid US$3.50 per 500 word article (bear in mind, these articles are churned out one after the other… And fast. Although I don’t do it anymore, I could still easily churn out five or six basic, 500 word articles an hour).

So, in theory, I could be making US$10.50 per hour. Convert that to euro and I’m getting… About 8, almost the same as “minimum wage” jobs.

I’ve also written for platforms which paid upwards of 12 euro (yes, euro!) for a 500-word piece.

And of course, it depends on the content farm itself.

A decent few pay pretty well – but normally at the higher levels (depending on the score you get in their test… which many will give you). Often these companies are more than just content mills, though. They usually have their fingers in many pies.

So, should writers work for these companies?

Let’s phrase the question differently. Ask yourself: What will I get out of it? This is business after all, and you’re a business if you’re looking to do freelance work. If there’s a healthy supply of articles most of the time and you can do them with an average level of effort… Go for it. When I started getting real clients, I kept the content mills for slower times (interspersed with TEFL training work).

The real danger of content mills comes from when you’re earning all your income from them: and have no time, space or energy to find other clients/jobs. But that’s a danger that goes far beyond copywriting – all freelancers are prone to this trap.

I work full-time now, but I run my own projects on the side and pick up the odd bit of freelance work here and there… When I have the time and energy. I would absolutely do some work for a content company again – but only if it were a bit of easy money for a few hours work here and there. Never again will I write for $3.50 an article.

Ever.

Digital Marketing for Beginners: How to (Not) Get Overwhelmed

Even if it isn’t your main field, selling anything online involves at least some digital marketing knowledge. You don’t have to be a SEO expert or even the world’s best copywriter (you can hire people for that).

On the flipside, you may find online marketing interesting and want to break into the field. Additionally, you may want to learn as much as possible.

And that’s when many people find…

…that with the amount of information out there, learning even the basics of online marketing can seem overwhelming.

Most books and articles about digital marketing (especially for beginners) often seem to skip this rather important lesson.

But it’s true – there is a TONNE of info out there. It can seem intimidating for anyone starting out. So, whether you’re a beginner, want to promote your services or sell a product… Take these three points into account.

Endgame & Experience: What digital marketing beginners must consider

1. Remember – It’s all about the goal

Forget about becoming an online marketing wizard. It’s a tool: learn to use that tool effectively in a what that it helps you achieve your goal. If you’re setting up a blog for example, your goal is to get readers.

And in this case, there are two things you can do:

  • Write/create engaging, helpful content that speaks to your target audience.
  • Share it – that’s where you can look into relevant social media sites, and simple strategies to attain more readers.

HELPFUL TIP!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed about where to begin, sit down with a blank piece of paper. Think about what you want to achieve, then write it down. Now, think of at least two ways you could reach that goal.

If you can’t think of it, search for the information.

For example, if you’d like to expand your blog’s readership, you could search “ways to expand traffic to a blog”. Don’t completely ignore any other information the resources supply to you, but don’t get too bogged down in it. Stay focused!

 

Wisdom comes with age (aka., experience)

Of course, this advice isn’t just for digital marketing beginners. I’m talking to the more experienced marketers out there, too. Sometimes it is helpful to sit back, reflect on experience and realize that you already have the resources to tackle the current problem. You’ve just got to pull it out of your mental filing cabinet.

The more you promote, the more you research and think of different ways to expand your product’s reach, the better you’ll get. You WILL make mistakes along the way. Don’t fret if you’re not reaching your goals in the early stages.

Using blogs again as an example, don’t worry if your first ten posts only get a couple of views/likes. You can always recycle old blog posts – if the content is still relevant. You can still update them.

If your site isn’t optimized well, you can run an audit and fix the issues. With time, testing and seeing results… You’ll get better and develop a feel for what works and what doesn’t.

KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

Simplicity is the key to being focused. Even in digital marketing, where many things seem hopelessly complicated. If you’re settling down to write an engaging post – focus on that post’s topic! Don’t go off on tangents. Don’t suddenly panic and start adding more keywords, shoving them in places where they decrease the quality of the content.

(Tip: You can do that later, in peace and quiet. If you feel it will add something and increase traffic!).

In terms of keeping things simple, I’ll use affiliate marketing as an example.

By design, affiliate marketing is ridiculously simple. You’ve got a link to a product or service. Another person clicks on it, makes a purchase… Voila! Fancy monies.

Your task here is to promote that link as much as possible. To maximise profit. It’s done in countless ways, and that’s where it gets complicated – paid advertising campaigns on various networks (Taboola, Outbrain, Facebook) or through organic search, or through social media… The list goes on.

It’s just important not to lose sight. Digital marketing can be overwhelming to beginners due to the volume of what it encompasses, but in the end the goal is the same – expand reach, promote presence and sell. Focus on these goals, educate yourself and it will come to you.

The Part Time Digital Nomad

I have a confession to make.

I’m not really a digital nomad.

Sounds weird, doesn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel. I need to travel. Staying too long in one place gets me itchy. I can’t even work in the same corner of the room for too long. I switch between living room and kitchen. Between city and country.

I sometimes work at my company’s office – mainly so I have regular face time with my colleagues. Which I value. But it’s not entirely necessary.

I absolutely have the freedom to randomly go and live in Spain for a few months. Or spend time with my family in Ireland, whilst still working and enjoying “normal” life with them.

Which is what prompted me to address this topic. Simply put…

…most digital nomad blogs put an emphasis on not ‘not having a home’. But there is such a thing as a ‘part time’ digital nomad. And, for the majority who want to enjoy location independence, this suits them just fine.

The point of being a remote worker and/or a digital nomad is that you get to choose where you live and spend your time. Some are very happy spending most of their time in their lovely little village in the South of England, thank you very much.

The whole point is the freedom to choose. And that’s what I focus on.

The (accidental) digital nomad

I remember going to a digital nomad meetup in Cologne, Germany. I went with my partner, who is a software engineer and works full-time for a company in London (he lives in Bonn, Germany). We were curious to meet others who might be living in Cologne for a while. To hear their stories, to experience different perspectives.

The vast majority of people there were ‘newbies’ – they worked at ‘stationary’ jobs. They were intrigued by digital nomadism and remote working (or perhaps just looking for drinking buddies – a most admirable pursuit).

Up until this point, I didn’t consider myself a real digital nomad. I spend a lot of my time in either Cologne or Bonn (they’re neighboring cities). And Ireland. And the UK…

Every single person we spoke to was… new to the concept, and curious. But that was when it dawned on us…

…we were the only ‘actual’ digital nomads there.

I visit family and friends in different cities/countries frequently. If it’s a long stretch of time, they’re usually working their day jobs and living their normal lives. So, I simply adapt my schedule to suit them.

So, how much “digital nomading” do I actually do?

At the moment… Not much (by my standards). Generally speaking, quite a lot. Life is something that should be focused on family, friends and following our passions. Work, projects, and writing are my passions – when I’m not doing those, I’m either spending it with people I care about. Or throwing myself into new situations, meeting new people and discovering new ideas/perspectives.

I travel as much as necessary. In practical terms, I like to get out of Cologne at least once a week. I like to get out of Germany several times a year. Some of those are holiday where I do very little work: many of those times involve visiting friends and spending time with them.

So, can you be a digital nomad and still have a permanent home?

Absolutely. So far, I haven’t seen this idea touted on many of the great blogs I’ve read. Which is understandable. They’re gunning for the big picture, the ultimate freedom. But what I have to say is…

…location-independence can also mean retaining the freedom to stay in one place – the placing of your own, personal choosing.

You can have a permanent home (or two, three… depending on your budget), spend a lot of time in one place and still be a digital nomad. You have that freedom. You’re location independent – it’s up to you to define it. Since every situation is different, the best thing you can do is speak to others who’re following the same dream of location independence.