What is Remote Work and How to Start Working Remotely

how to work from home

The phrase “remote work” is thrown around a lot today, but what does it refer specifically, and how would you start doing remote work for yourself if you were interested?

Defining Remote Work

Remote work looks different for many people, but the basic idea is that you’re doing your work in a location-independent way. Instead of having to be in an office or at a specific location for work, you can choose where you work.

For some, this means adopting the lifestyle of digital nomads, traveling around the world doing work on their laptops and devices from whatever city they’re in. Others take a more relaxed approach and create at home to complete their work without leaving the house.

There are 2 basic categories of remote work:

  • Remote Employment

Some jobs offer fully or partially remote positions. These are mostly tech-related jobs or jobs that can be done exclusively through a computer and phone, with no personal interaction required. Many workplaces still prefer people to be in the office and do their work onsite, but the trend is turning towards more remote work positions in the future.

While a 2016 Gallup report stated that around 43% of American workers sometimes work remotely, employees doing remote work is often less popular than freelance contracting.

  • Freelancing

Freelancers are people who work as independent contractors to complete work on a project basis. They are not official employees of a company but are contracted to complete a specific set of work. Although freelancers may work on numerous, consistent projects for the same client, they are always working as a hired third-party.

As a freelancer, you have control over where you work, your working hours, what you do, and how much you charge. You’re working on a performance-based system.

These categories fully encompass remote work. There’s a lot of variety within each category and flexibility with how it looks, but the majority of remote working jobs will fall into one of these two categories. It’s your choice to see which one makes the most sense for your living situation.

What Work Can Be Done Remotely?

Unfortunately, not all jobs can be transformed into remote jobs. Working remotely is mostly limited to jobs that are done on computers or over phones, maybe with the occasional meeting. You can take a computer and phone anywhere and do your work from there. If you’re doing work that requires a specific set of equipment (that you cannot own yourself), a service job, or a job that requires more personal interactions, remote work may not be possible.

Many remote workers do jobs that rely heavily on computers and technology. Writers, accountants, video editors, consultants, and social media managers are all examples of jobs that are commonly done remotely.

If you’re doing work that doesn’t require you to be at a specific location, your job could likely be done remotely. Some jobs could transition to being partially remote, while others cannot be done remotely at all. Examples of jobs that can’t be done fully remotely include hairdressing, scientific research, and construction.

How to Start Working Remotely

Getting into remote working is simpler today than it was before, but still feels like a big step if you’re used to working out of a specific location. You have a few good options for jumping in:

1. Partially Remote Work

One way to gently enter the world of remote work is to ask your current employer if they can offer you a more flexible arrangement that allows working from home a few days. Not all employers are willing to do this, but some may be open to the idea if you’ve demonstrated your ability to work on your work and meet performance goals.

In reality, most people don’t start working remotely little bits at a time. It’s easier to go all in and look for work that doesn’t require your physical presence in the office.

2. Freelancer Marketplaces

There are numerous legitimate, reputable freelance websites you can join and advertise your skill of choice. These websites work to connect freelance workers with clients seeking that type of work. You’ll have the opportunity to put in applications for certain projects, build up your reputation on the site, and draw from a larger pool of clients.

Freelance marketplaces are a great resource, but they do come with some disadvantages. Firstly, you have to work hard to stand out in the beginning. You may have to start off working for very low rates just to get some positive feedback on your account before anyone with a better budget will hire you.

The other big disadvantage of freelance marketplaces is the fee structure they charge. Connecting you to clients doesn’t come cheap. Fees can be anywhere from 2% – 5% on the low end all the way up to 20%+ on the higher end. While there are sometimes ways to reduce the fees you’re paying per project, you will always have some type of fees to pay to the website.

Despite these downsides, freelancer marketplaces offer you a safer way to start working remotely with some sense of security in your payment. It’s easier to find work on these sites, and payment for projects will usually be held in escrow with dispute resolution options in case the client refuses to pay upon completion.

3. Creating Your Own Work

If freelance marketplaces don’t appeal to you, you can do the same thing on your own. Make a good portfolio for yourself, usually in the form of a website or LinkedIn account, and source your own clients. If you’ve already got some connections, or you’re really good at marketing yourself and cold calling, you’ll be able to slip into this pretty seamlessly.

It could be harder to start out this way. Unless you’re already familiar with your field and how the whole client interaction process works, you might face a steep learning curve the first year you’re sourcing your own clients. However, in the long run you could end up making more because you’ll be avoiding hefty fees charged by marketplaces.

4. Applying for Remote Work

You might be surprised just how many remote working jobs are available. Searching through job posting websites, you can find a long list of remote work that you could apply for if you’re qualified. Companies frequently post advertisements for remote positions online. Keep in mind that because of the location-independent nature of remote work, the number of people applying for the jobs could be large. You might face a lot of competition.

Remote work can be rewarding and challenging. It could be the next step that will drive your career forward, or a side hustle you can do outside of your normal 9-5 job. As long as you’re flexible, self-motivated, and willing to learn as you go, you’re likely to find a way to make it work well for you.

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