With remote jobs, flexible work options are a given, right?
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.
’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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
’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:
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:
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!
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.
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:
Customer service (which is a pretty big telecommute industry anyway…)
Design (in some cases, can also be considered “tech”)
Marketing (mostly digital marketing, though)
Recruitment & HR
Online Teaching (not as many…)
…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.
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!
In bygone days, the most common remote jobs were in tech and IT.
By and large, that often meant you had to be a developer in order to work remotely.
The reason? I’m willing to bet it’s because programming is damn hard to do. Many business owners lack the expertise. Unable to find suitable talent to fill certain positions, they had literally no choice but to hire experts from a distance. And good for those experts, too: they had a powerful skill that they could leverage.
As a result, remote working culture has become an incredibly powerful force within the tech and IT community. You can see this in the open source community: the majority of projects are carried out and executed remotely. Contributors come from all over the world. The likes of GitHub and various project management philosophies (such as Kanban) contribute to creating smoother, more efficient workflows.
For many of us who prefer to work remotely (i.e., not put up with petty office politics and other pointless bullshit) – things are a little harder. For the most part, jobseekers will stumble across plenty of job boards which unfortunately simply direct to the same few non-tech remote job postings. That is, unless you’re looking for a job specifically in tech.
If you’ve got experience in this field and love it – then great! Use that to your advantage. Having a set of highly in-demand skills will help you land a job you can do from anywhere. So, that’s one type of person sorted.
However, many of us still ask…
…is it possible to have a non-tech job that is also a remote role?
The simple answer is: of course.
However, there’s a big BUT:
Regardless of what job you’re going for, you still need relatively good computer literacy. Hell, every single office-based job requires it. Thankfully though, you don’t have to be a tech wizard.
That’s why I decided to whip up a list of some of the most common non-tech remote jobs out there. I’ve included a broad list of expected tasks and even salaries. Bear in mind, though: salaries are present in US dollars, because that appears to be the most common currency roles provide their information in.
PLEASE NOTE:Although finding a remote job these days is still a challenge (less so if you’re in the United States), it is getting easier. Statistics show that remote work is on the rise.
Non-Tech Remote Jobs: Administrative
You’ll be surprised to learn that a lot of administrative roles these days don’t necessarily require a “hands on” approach (at least in the physical sense). Administration is keeping things organized. These days, it often means keeping files in order and making sure that an organization ticks along smoothly.
Which is why the following jobs can easily be worked from anywhere…
“Project manager” is quite literally someone who manages projects. It’s pretty self-descriptive. However, many tend to sit in offices by themselves and communicate with others at a distance. You may be required to go to meetings or at least attend one via Skype. However, it is quite possible to land a project management role without having to spend too much time in the office.
Pay:Most project managers’ salaries are calculated on a yearly basis. You can expect USD$60,000/year.
Schedule Setup: It depends on the project, but for the most part you can expect 9-to-5. However, it also depends on the company you’re working for.
I don’t know much about accounting as a career. But I do know that the majority of roles can be performed pretty much anywhere. Traditionally, many companies want their accountants onsite. However, they often tend to sit in a room by themselves. Sometimes they travel to meet clients. In theory, it can be pretty easy to find an accounting job. You could even be self-employed with several clients, and only occasionally travelling for face-to-face meetings.
Pay: On average, accountants tend to earn around USD$45,000. As with project managers, it depends on the company and the country you or the company is based in.
Schedule Setup:As an accountant who mostly works alone, it is entirely possible to have a very flexible schedule. Many tend to follow a 9-to-5 routine.
Managerial roles vary, but plenty of office-based roles can and are worked remotely. Since many companies have distributed, worldwide teams – higher-ups can often demand flexible schedules and location independence. Travel for meetings and events may be necessary.
Regarding pay and schedule setup – it depends heavily on the specific company and the role.
Many offices have closed, many have downsized. But in spite of this, administrative assistants are still necessary. The only difference is that files are now stored on a cloud.
Virtual assistants provide administrative services and support. They may also have other duties. Typically though, a VA will…
Maintain calendars, set up meetings.
Carry out (virtual) administrative tasks.
Make travel arrangements.
Handle accounting and billing.
Deal with customers/clients.
Pay: Virtual assistants can earn around USD$15.00 per hour. USD$2,400 a month. Or, USD$28,800 a year.
Schedule Setup: This is highly dependent on your boss.
You may be given completely flexible hours, and simply have to perform administrative tasks by a set deadline. Or you may have to follow a strict 9-to-5 schedule. Some employers require their assistants to be available to talk for at least a few hours a day. Therefore, this job can depend on time zone.
Non-Tech Remote Jobs: Creative
“Creative” is a very broad description but it does help describe the following roles. Remote and flexible setups often suit the more “creative” roles. Coming up with new ideas doesn’t always happen in the strict time slot between 9 and 5. While it works for some people, this isn’t always the case for others. Many of these roles are also outsourced, so finding freelance positions is a lot easier.
This job title is pretty self-explanatory. You’re given raw, recorded material and it’s your job to edit it into something suitable according to specific guidelines. It can be anything – camera footage, sound effects, graphics, special effects. While there is a higher demand for video editing professionals in the world of online media, this job goes far beyond that.
Pay: Video editors can earn US$44,357 on average per year.
Schedule Setup: Once again, this is highly dependent on who you work for. Like a lot of creative jobs, video editing can be done freelance affording you more flexibility.
This is arguably also a tech job (I mean for God’s sake, you are designing websites so why wouldn’t it be?) but it’s also a highly creative position. In addition, there’s little to no coding involved (having a basic understanding of HTML and CSS will help, but for the most part you’ll have a developer for that!). UX Design is an up-and-coming field with demand rising across the world. Simply put, it involves designing websites, software and other pieces of technology in accordance with the needs of users. You’re designing machines for humans.
Pay:UX designers can earn US$83,000 on average per year.
Schedule Setup: Once again, this is highly dependent on who you work for. Many professionals in the field will also freelance.
Remote working seems like a dream come true for many. Yet I’ve met a considerable number of employees who, although they’d like the freedom, don’t feel comfortable with the set-up. That’s understandable. I will say that right now at my job, I very much feel like the remote environment is a bit of a hinderance.
Aside from the flexibility and the ability to work in an environment that suits you, remote working can give you the feeling of… Well, not doing much.
Remote working is an AWFUL and FANTASTIC setup.
It’s pretty awful if you like being around people. It’s also awful if there are quiet times at your company and you literally have nothing to do. Sitting at your kitchen table, still drawing a salary and having nothing to do (so, you go clean the bathroom or whatever) – it can be pretty discouraging.
On the flipside, you can end up getting a lot of housework done. Those who commute two hours a day often don’t have the luxury of simply having that much time.
Why remote working really is terrible
If you’re used to a traditional office environment, a remote setup can be a huge adjustment. Offices have a specific flow to them: you show up, you turn on your computer, you get coffee… A lot of those jobs allow you to ease into the workday. Simply arriving at work, saying hello to colleagues and spending that first hour “settling” in is often counted as work. Even if you haven’t really produced anything.
In a remote setup? It’s pretty different.
You’re mostly going to be judged by what you produced. Have those files been organized? Have you emailed those ten people? Written these eight articles? Solved these three problems?
But wait, there’s more: If you do actually need to speak to someone, you can’t just walk across the room and talk to them. They won’t be sitting next to you. No, you’ll actually have to write to them. Or phone them or organize a call.
Which often means you really need to think about what it is you want to ask. You need to take initiative. That’s quite difficult for some people.
Some good news… why remote working is fantastic
If you’re someone who doesn’t like being in the same place every day, remote working’s got a few good points. You don’t have to sit at your desk: you can move to the kitchen. If you’re sick of being in the house, you can take your laptop and go sit in a café (just keep an eye out for wifi, or use your own network).
If you hate getting up early… Well, your commute is pretty quick. You more or less have to walk a couple of steps to the computer. Some people don’t even bother getting out of bed – they just open the computer and start working.
Since you’re being judged on your communication skills and results, remote working does have the odd side effect of actually making you a productive worker.
There were tonnes of remote jobs advertised. Literally thousands. From all over the world. It also didn’t appear to be a scam: since this platform’s been around for a REALLY long time. So I decided to give FlexJobs a good, old-fashioned review from a jobseeker’s perspective.
When I put this site through the Wayback Machine, it told me they’ve been around since 2007. I remember them from when I started freelancing in 2011 (along with something called “All Stay At Home”… which doesn’t seem to exist anymore).
It’s a good sign Flex Jobs has lasted this long.
So let’s get down it, asking the most important questions first.
Is FlexJobs legit?
Lots of people are asking this. It’s understandable why you’d think they’re a scam. Especially since there are so many work from home scams at the moment. Of course, the telecommute job industry is a little savvier nowadays (though you still ought to be careful). But after reviewing them, I’ll say this: FlexJobs is definitely legit.
They’re no different to Indeed.com or Monster. In fact, if you do a quick search you’ll find many of the jobs posted elsewhere. That does take a bit of work, though.
So then, what’s on offer for remote job seekers?
Quite simply: job leads. However, applying for a work at home position through FlexJobs comes at a cost. Literally. The price is usually USD$15.00 per month. Jobs are divided into a rich range of different categories. Here you’ll likely find a remote position for almost every kind of job that you can do from home.
This is the stickler, though.
It’s often the cost that keeps people from using the platform. Which is totally understandable. There are a lot of pros to paying for and using their service, though. First and foremost, you have one, single place from which can apply to all relevant positions.
Seriously, it cuts out a lot of time from your job search. Secondly…
They filter out the work from home scammers.
In fairness, job boards like Remotive and Working Nomads do the same thing (for no subscription fee). But with this particular platform, you know you’re safe.
If you’re still humming and hawing about the cost, here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of FlexJobs:
Work at home scams are screened out!
The categories and number of telecommute positions here is… Amazing. Really, up until this point I haven’t seen a wider selection on any remote job board.
Links are posted to the original job advertisement: though, to be fair, a lot of job boards do that.
Accredited by the US Better Business Bureau (if that means anything to you… I’m not American so I have no experience of what it’s worth).
The cost! They’re not expensive, really. A lot of people don’t like having to pay for a job board, though. Myself included.
Most positions advertised are published elsewhere. Which means you just have to spare a little more time to find them yourself.
Should I use FlexJobs?
Truth be told… That’s completely up to you. If you’re willing to shell out around US$15.00 a month, then go for it. You could consider it an investment. However, more people are willing to pay with time rather than money. Since its free to search for open positions on Flex Jobs, all you have to do is go through their listing. Then, search online to see if there’s another platform you can apply through.
Digital nomadism and remote working would simply not be possible without the sophisticated tools that everyone carries around in their pockets these days. You cannot work for a company from home without a computer – or even Internet. Hustling for new clients and jobs while on the go as a digital nomad is also impossible, unless you have access to the countless freelancer platforms out there.
But just what are the main tools that digital nomads and remote workers need?
Surprisingly, you can be as minimalistic as you like. You can have as many or as few of them as you want… As long as you get the job done!
SIDE NOTE: I didn’t use a smartphone for YEARS. And it was perfectly fine.
The Bare Essentials for digital nomads and remote workers
A Good Laptop
It goes without saying, really, but a laptop is essential. Of course, if you’re the kind of remote worker who primarily works from a home office – you can easily get by with a desktop. But if you’re a digital nomad or a remote worker who’s fond of changing their physical surroundings regularly… You need a laptop that’s not only reliable, but that can also take a beating.
A Decent Internet Connection
You’ve got to make sure that your Internet connection is fast and reliable… Especially if most (or all) of your meetings are held remotely. AND – you should have an emergency backup. I would suggest getting a good data plan (you can scout for deals… though it may take a bit of time).
For the first few years of my remote career, I eschewed smartphones and preferred to do my work ONLY when I was at the computer. These days, they’re pretty much essential: you can access work files and communicate from anywhere. Running late and won’t be in a meeting? You can keep up communication with a quick message.
And even if you use it for nothing else… Smartphones are simply miniature, mobile routers that can help you setup a quick hotspot if you’re caught somewhere without wi-fi. Sorted!
VPNs, or virtual private networks
There are plenty of ads online trying to sell different VPNs… Some of them are good, others not so much. Not only do they encrypt your data, but they also give you full access to the Internet. What? That’s right: your Internet access is restricted based on your location. If you live in the UK and use Google, your search results will be tailored to Britain. For digital marketers (especially SEOs), a VPN has become essential.
For everyone else… It just makes sense to encrypt your data as much as possible.