Working Remotely? Don’t Let Your Employer Skimp on Salary

Remote work and telecommuting offer huge benefits to everyone. In fact, there are more perks for employers than there are for employees.

Firstly, overheads (heat, lighting, subsidized food/coffee/drinks) are significantly reduced. Greater flexibility means happier, more motivated and ultimately more productive employees. This has the knock-on effect of reducing employee turnover (yet another reduced cost for the company).

As an employee who works remotely, you may however feel like the company is doing you a favor by letting you work from home. Many of us have heard the phrase “be grateful you have a job” ad nauseum. Even if the job sucks a little. While a full-time remote work arrangement is fantastic (especially for digital nomads) – there is a slightly negative side-effect.

Quite a few telecommuters may think…

Well, they’re already giving me a lot of freedom… Maybe I shouldn’t be too pushy about asking for a raise/more money.

After all, you can also save a lot of cash. Location independence means fewer transport costs, a home outside of an expensive city center. It’s a pretty neat deal. Hell, you can even move to that cheap, creepy cabin in the woods if your little heart desires.

cabin working remotely
…just make sure you have Internet!

Some employers may (knowingly or even unknowingly) capitalize on this attitude and use “remote” as an excuse to pay less. A lot of us don’t feel compelled to complain about this unfair treatment, mainly because working from home is such a huge benefit.

Well, that’s nonsense. Costs or no costs, you deserve to be paid what you’re worth.

You’re still doing the same job. Producing the same (or sometimes better, according to the data) results. Maybe you’re a web developer working on code, a social media manager improving engagement, brand awareness and ultimately profit. Maybe you’re a wizard VA who just gets shit done – in time.

The only real difference is that your in-office counterparts are… Well, sitting in a different building.

That’s not a good reason to feel like you shouldn’t ask for more. Oftentimes, the salary we draw is also equated to time spent in the office. For office workers, perceived productivity begins the moment they sit at their desks. Or when they turn on the computer.

For remote workers, it’s trickier: that’s why so many of us overwork. There’s still the misconception that if you’re not in the office, you’re not really working (or, you’re slacking off completely).

Salary negotiations when you work from home

The good news here is that asking for a raise isn’t a telecommute-specific problem. Even in-office workers may not see their boss/supervisor every day (depending on how big the company is). It’s still something you have to “prep” yourself for. When working remotely, you need to contact them directly.

So, what should you do if you want a raise? Before asking, keep the following in mind:

  • Avoid text. Don’t ask for a raise directly via emails or Slack messages. Important issues like this shouldn’t be conveyed over text. Simply write a message and request a phone call/video chat (or in-person meeting, if it’s possible to comfortably travel to the office).
  • Make a list of your accomplishments. You need to show concrete proof of why you should get more money. If your job directly affects profit (you’re a media buyer who makes $1,000 a extra a week since, for example), show them the number. If your job doesn’t directly impact profits, point out your strengths and how they’re ultimately helping the company and workflow. You don’t have to actually read this list out during the conversation but make sure you keep the points in your head and work them into the conversation.
  • Practice pitching. Sit in front of the mirror, imagine the situation and run through it a few times. You can never truly predict how a conversation will go, but practicing can help to ease your nerves on the day.

It’s very easy to have a slight inferiority complex when it comes to work (especially for women). Remote workers in particular may feel they don’t deserve as much, despite often doing a lot more. However, times are changing and for many professions it is no longer viewed as a perk or a privilege – but a right.

Are Remote Work and Travel Really a Good Mix?

The year’s drawing to a close and this has been playing on my mind. Especially since I’ve done a lot of it this year. Remote work and travel seem to go hand in hand… but sometimes I just wonder how well these two things really mix.

I’ve worked from home (read: “remotely”) for a long time. I’ve also traveled and worked, sometimes simultaneously. This year, I’ve really been abusing those privileges. Planned and unplanned stints to Spain, the Black Forest, the windy city of Hamburg… And constantly going back and forth to Ireland (thanks, Ryanair, I guess…).

The true beauty? Only a fraction of those journeys involved actually using my vacation days.

Amidst this traveling though, I wondered…

With all the extra stress and planning involved, are travel and remote work really a good match?

Is it better to sit at home and focus? With only the occasional stint to the coffee shop? In some cases, I’d say yes (at least for me). Then again, it often depends…

Successful remote work and travel

The fact that digital nomads exist tells us that successful remote work and travel probably does happen. Of course, a lot of that is self-reporting, so it should be taken with a pinch of salt. A nomad’s lifestyle often involves hopping from city to city, country to country. Very frequently, too. But is this actually feasible for the majority of people? Or would most of us pass out from the stress?

I’ll be honest here. If anything, I’m more of a part-time digital nomad. I don’t think I’d enjoy the hustle, at least not long-term. When it comes to work, I’m very focused, very proactive and communicative with my team: but add the extra stress of constantly organizing flights and sorting out accommodation, I think I’d go spare.

That’s just me though. I guess I’m more of an opportunistic digital nomad rather than a “part time” one. I use my remote work privileges to travel when the mood strikes.

How to (effectively) travel and work remotely

Okay, so remote work and travel can be done by some people – especially those who thrive on constant activity. But if you’re a remote worker who still wants to at least occasionally travel, it’s good to keep a few things in mind.

  • When it comes to a job -any job- remember: it’s still a damn job! You cannot shirk responsibility because, oh no, you’re now on a plane and there’s no wifi.
  • If you are “working on the go”, prepare for it. This is easier for freelancers than full-time remote workers, of course. If you’re traveling that day, let your teammates/clients know you won’t be available at certain times. Don’t just randomly disappear in the middle of the day.
  • Be equipped! If you’re traveling on trains and buses, make sure you have enough battery power. And enough mobile data!
  • Be mindful of timezones and adjust your worktimes/arrangements accordingly.
  • As always, communicate if you have any problems and let people know.

A lot of this is just common sense. Which unfortunately isn’t all that common.

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!

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.

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.

4 Entry Level Remote Jobs to Start Your Career

Entry level remote jobs are plentiful.

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

Content writing and copywriting are definitely skilled positions – but entry level jobs in this field are the best way to practice those skills. While earning a bit of money (even if its not a lot). Many businesses offer these as entry level positions in the hope that they can train someone to become a persuasive wordsmith. Copywriting was in fact the first remote job I ever had – working as a freelancer and simply selling my words. And believe me, I wasn’t paid fantastically well. Not at first, anyway.

For those who have a passion for writing, this could probably be one of best entry-level jobs to get a foot in the door and kickstart a career.

Content Moderation

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

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

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.

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!