WHAT IS REMOTE WORK?
A decade or two ago, working from home might have consisted of answering customer service calls for a company a thousand miles away, doing data entry for a huge medical conglomerate, stuffing envelopes (were any of those job “opportunities” legit?), or selling makeup out of a minivan.
And there’s nothing wrong with that! Tupperware parties are something we can all look back on fondly. 🙂 But working from home doesn’t mean what it used to. Sure, you can still find jobs doing the kind of work we remember from the early days of telecommuting, but today you can also find remote work as a visual designer, data analyst, front end developer, content marketer, product manager, and any number of other roles perfect for remote work.
And it’s not just that there is more variety in remote work. The sheer number of available remote jobs is booming. In 1995, just 9% of employees in the U.S. worked remotely. By 2015, that number had more than quadrupled to 37%, and experts have estimated that at least half the workforce will work remotely at least part of the time by 2020.
It’s easy to see why. The flexibility and other perks that go along with remote work are amazing. Just ask anyone here at Skillcrush, a company founded on an all-remote philosophy, with employees in almost every time zone!
That’s why we created (and continue to update!) this guide—to make it easier for YOU to find your way to a flexible job that suits your lifestyle and career goals.
WHY MORE PEOPLE ARE REMOTE CHOOSING WORK
There are so many reasons to choose remote work over sitting in a stuffy office all day (stuffy offices being one such reason). You probably don’t need convincing, but in case you are just exploring this whole remote work thing, here are some of the top reasons for choosing to work remotely:
YOU CAN WORK FROM ANYWHERE
Home office, front porch, kitchen table, coffee shop, coworking space, RV traveling across America, an exotic beach somewhere, camping in the woods (thank you, 4G hotspot!), or pretty much anywhere else you can connect to the Internet.
YOU CAN SET YOUR OWN SCHEDULE.
Not every remote job allows for this, but a lot of them offer at least some flexibility around when you work. That means if you find you’re most productive from 5am to 9am (or midnight to 4am, or in the middle of the afternoon), you can roll with it. It also means you can live in another timezone without working in the middle of the night! Unless you want to of course.
YOU CAN SAVE MONEY.
You won’t need an entire work wardrobe if you’re working from home every day (at most you might need a few nice shirts for video meetings). And you’ll save a lot by not commuting every day (plus that’s good for the environment). You can also avoid the costs of the big city and choose to settle where the cost of living is lower, and your paycheck goes further.
YOU CAN MAKE MORE MONEY.
If you live somewhere with a low cost of living and median income, but work for a company based in an area with high wages, you may get paid based on where the company is, not where you are. That means you can live in the middle of nowhere but make the kind of salary you’d make in NYC. (Some companies scale salary based on where you live, so keep that in mind!)
YOU CAN BE MORE EFFICIENT.
This one might come as a surprise, but meetings done via Google Hangouts or Skype always seem to stay on task and operate more efficiently than those that happen in person. Plus—here’s a dirty little remote work secret—you can multitask during a lot of meetings (especially if you’re only needed for one small part).
IS REMOTE WORK RIGHT FOR YOU?
Maybe working remotely sounds like a dream come true, but can you thrive remotely? Will a flexible job make you happy AND productive? There are a few characteristics common to highly effective remote workers.
You don’t have to be a natural at all of these to enjoy remote life, but keep in mind that these are the characteristics you’ll need to cultivate in yourself to stay productive and effective in a remote job.
The great thing about most of these skills, though, is that there are tools and techniques you can use to help keep yourself on track. You can use gamification apps for keeping yourself motivated and project management tools to keep yourself organized and managing your time, for example, to set yourself up for remote work success.
Here are the questions you need to ask yourself before going remote:
ARE YOU SELF-MOTIVATED?
When you work remotely, you don’t have a boss looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re doing your work. You don’t have a time clock to punch at the beginning and end of your shift. Maybe no one will notice if you take an extra hour for lunch. You have to be able to motivate yourself to get your work done each day.
ARE YOU GOOD AT MANAGING YOUR TIME?
It’s super easy to get distracted when you work from home, and suddenly it’s 10pm and you realize you still have four hours worth of work to get done and a 9am meeting. Oops. You have to be able to manage your time effectively so that you aren’t constantly rushing to meet a deadline.
ARE YOU AN ORGANIZED PERSON?
Now, everyone has their own organizational system. If your version is organized chaos, and it works for you, then that’s fine. But if you have no system and can never find anything, that’s going to make most remote jobs rather difficult.
ARE YOU GOOD AT SETTING BOUNDARIES?
Don’t worry, a lot of remote workers struggle with this. But when your “office” is 8′ from your bed, knowing when to unplug, stop working, and take some personal time can be tough. It’s a valuable skill to have if you want to be a happy remote worker.
WHAT REAL REMOTE JOBS LOOK LIKE
One remote job is not like another. In fact, they tend to fall on a “remote spectrum.”
For example, some remote jobs allow you to work at ANY time of day (even the middle of the night), while others have set schedules (customer support roles come to mind, although that is not always the case!).
And when it comes to location flexibility, you might be able to do a marketing job from anywhere with a 4G hotspot, while a design job that involves working with large file sizes might keep you more rooted to your broadband Internet.
The point? Find out exactly what “remote” means before taking a job. Here are a few models of what remote jobs can look like:
You are never (or very rarely) required to go to an office.
REMOTE A FEW DAYS A WEEK:
Maybe you work from home 1 or 2 days per week. The structure around this setup can be more rigid, with restrictions on when, where, and how you work outside of the office.
For example, it’s common for employers to offer things like “Flex Fridays,” where yo work longer hours throughout the week and take Fridays off.
You are expected to work at the office, but you don’t need to ask permission to take a day off or take a long lunch.
Remote jobs really do fall on a spectrum, so you’ll want to find out just what “remote” means before taking a job.
REMOTE JOB BOARDS
Now that you know what kinds of remote jobs are out there, it’s time to start seeing what’s actually available. Here are twenty leading job boards that are either dedicated to remote jobs or have a sizable collection of remote job openings included.
FlexJobs has over 50 career categories, with jobs ranging from freelance to full-time, entry-level to executive. The best part? They screen the jobs before posting, so you don’t have to dig through shady opportunities. The site currently hosts more than
20K job listings including part-time and freelance opportunities!
WE WORK REMOTELY
Sponsored by Remote, the book by famed 37Signals founders, this job board is a catch-all of remote jobs from customer service to web design to programming. With the catchy subtag “Office not required,” and the cache of the 37Signals brand behind it, this site is sure to host remote opportunities at some of the hottest tech companies.
Working Nomads delivers a curated list of remote jobs right to your inbox. Choose daily or weekly emails to make the remote job search come to you.
Remotive is a bi-monthly newsletter for remote workers that also has a pretty robust listing of remote jobs. They break it down by job type—sales, support, product, engineering, marketing, etc. to make it easy to find the kind of job you’re looking for.
SKIP THE DRIVE
With a great name, a great resources tab (listing authors to follow and sites to check for help in the remote job world), and a decent listing of remote jobs, this site is true to its eponymous mission. Use what the site provides, you can completely skip that ugly morning commute.
This job board features only telecommuting jobs from technical writers to paralegals. Started by a stay-at-home mom frustrated with the job search for legitimate remote jobs, the company is still run by an entirely remote team. Plus, the blog has great tips,
such as this article on how to take on a remote gig for the holiday season.
This site is a Skillcrush dream come true. PowerToFly is focused on matching women in tech with work-fromanywhere
jobs. Join the talent database, go through the vetting process, and get matched for a “paid trial,” a 2-4 week test period to make sure it’s a good fit for both you and the employer. Started by two moms with serious tech chops, this company is perfectly poised to make your remote job dream a reality!
Remote.co hand-curates their list of remote jobs. They include customer service jobs, design jobs, developer jobs, recruiter and HR jobs, sales jobs, and other remote jobs (things like writers, managers, etc.). You can search or browse by type.
Jobspresso has expertly curated jobs in tech, marketing, customer support, and more. You can search their job listings or post your resume to be seen by potential employers.
Want a job working in European time zones (whether you’re from Europe or not)? Then check out EuropeRemotely, full of job listings from companies that are happy to work with remote developers in European time zones.
Jobscribe sends you a daily email with remote job listings at tech startups. You can specify whether you’re looking for design, front end development, back end development, mobile app development, or marketing jobs.
Wfh.io focuses exclusively on remote digital and tech jobs. They include remote jobs in product management, software engineering, web engineering, customer support, marketing, and more.
Outsourcely pairs up remote workers with employers seeking both full and part-time employees. You can browse for jobs by category: design & multimedia, web development, writing & content, customer service,sales & marketing, and more.
GitHub has a category devoted to remote jobs on their website. Because it’s GitHub, the jobs are all development-focused, with listings from all over the world. (GitHub also posts their own openings on this board!)
Landing.Jobs doesn’t have a huge remote job board, but they do carefully curate their listings. Unlike most job boards, though, they let you filter for jobs that are fully remote, partially remote, or remote within commuting distance.
The job board for web professionals. Just click the “wireless logo” (you’ll recognize it) and filter by remote jobs. Beautifully designed and easy to use, as you’d expect from a job board for creatives and developers!
Dribble is a great site for designers to find their next gig. There’s a location tab right on top where you can click “remote / anywhere” and be off to the races finding your next work-from-home gig.
Always dreamed of working for a startup, but don’t live in a startup city hub? Head over to AngelList, a top site for startup jobs. When you search for a job on AngelList, click on “Job Type” and choose “Remote OK.”
Stack Overflow is a go-to jobs board for many top tech talent, especially web developers. Type in “remote” in the location field and you’ll bring up a list of more than 2,000 jobs that fit the bill.
Remote OK tags all of their job listings to make it easy to filter for just the listings you want. You can filter jobs posted by recruiters, the level (junior, senior, etc.), the type of job (sales, marketing, design, dev, and more), and even whether they’re tech or non-tech jobs (though even the “non-tech” jobs—things like analysts and marketers—will benefit from some basic tech
TECH IS THE BEST OPTION FOR WORKING REMOTE
Here’s something you’re probably going to notice as soon as you start poking around on those job boards—there are a LOT of remote tech jobs available.
Yes, there are jobs out there that you can do from home that don’t require any kind of tech skills beyond the basics, like using email.
BUT, and this is a BIG but, there are way more options out there for remote employees who want to work in the tech industry or in tech jobs in other industries. That doesn’t just mean web development, though!
Visual designers, content marketers, data analysts, and customer support specialists, for example, can all work in the tech industry without taking on highly technical roles. But understanding the basics of code—things like HTML and CSS—are a big asset even in those roles.
And if you’re into problem solving or you like puzzles, then code is perfect for you. Learning front end development, WordPress development, or a programming language like Ruby might lead you to your dream job.
In fact, one of the most in-demand tech jobs out there right now is web development. In 2014 alone, web developer jobs grew by 4%. That’s huge! And tech jobs in general are among the highest paid (especially for those without a degree).
Here are the steps you should take if you’re ready to start learning the most in-demand tech skills.
STEP 1: LEARN HTML & CSS
HTML & CSS are the building blocks for everything on the web. Every website out there uses HTML, and virtually every modern website uses CSS, too. Knowing HTML & CSS skills alone can be the basis for a lot of tech careers, from web designer to content marketer. If nothing else, HTML & CSS allow you to better understand the way the internet works. That’s
important if you want to spend your time working on the web.
HTML & CSS skills also make it easier to learn other coding languages in the future. They give you a solid foundation to every other tech skill you’ll learn.
STEP 2: LEARN DESIGN SKILLS & SOFTWARE
True, there are tons of tech jobs out there that don’t fall under the umbrella of “designer,” but even the ones that aren’t design-focused can benefit from knowing the basics of good design and, as importantly, commonly-used design software.
If you’re a developer, for example, you’ll be getting files from designers all the time. Knowing how to use the programs those designs are created in makes your life much easier if you need to dive into the way those files are set up (and saves you having to go back to the designer to ask for help). It’s also nice to know the underlying design theory that might have led to some aesthetic choices in a design.
Or let’s say you’re a content marketer. Knowing how to add text to images (and have it actually look good) so that you can use them in a blog post or share them on social media is handy, even if you have a designer available for bigger projects.
The main programs to familiarize yourself with are Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Sketch, though learning to create your own designs in any program (even a phone app!) is better than no design skills at all.
STEP 3: LEARN A PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE
QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE YOU’RE HIRED
Here’s something to remember now that you’re stressing about getting all those tech skills: When applying for a remote job, it’s not just about being qualified—you also want to use the hiring process to find out if a remote job will work for YOU. After all,
this is all about finding a job that fits YOUR life.
While you’re going through the hiring process, you’ll want to ask all the usual questions you’d ask of any employer before you accept a job offer: things like what the company culture is like, what your expected job responsibilities would be, and what the
metrics for success look like.
But there are some additional remote-specific questions you should find out the answers to before you accept a new remote job. You can ask some of these during the interview itself, or wait for a job to be offered to you. The key is to ask before you
accept a job, so there aren’t any unwelcome surprise responsibilities or expectations along the way.
ARE THERE SET TOOLS YOU’LL BE EXPECTED TO USE?
If the entire company is using Sketch and you’re a die-hard Photoshop user, you’ll want to be prepared to make the switch. Same goes for things like Google Hangouts vs. Skype, HipChat vs. Slack, etc.
IS THERE AN ALLOWANCE FOR TECHNOLOGY OR OFFICE PURCHASES?
Some companies offer their employees a set starting or yearly allowance for things like new computers, office furniture, and other things that make working from home easier.
ARE THERE SET MEETING TIMES YOU’LL NEED TO BE AVAILABLE FOR?
Or set hours you’ll need to be working every day?
IS THERE ANY TRAVEL REQUIRED?
Some distributed companies have yearly retreats or other in-person meetings you’ll be expected to attend. Better to know this upfront.
IS THE COMPANY TRAVEL-FRIENDLY?
If you want a remote job so that you can have the freedom to travel, make sure the company hiring you is happy with that. Will they be okay if you need to change around your schedule for flights? Or change up working hours when you’re in a wildly different time zone?
IS THAT REMOTE JOB LEGIT?
While we’re vetting, let’s talk about verifying jobs. If you spent any time at all looking at “work from home” job listings even a few years ago, you’re probably wondering if all those remote job listings are actually real jobs.
There are a few ways to make sure that the remote job you’re applying for is actually legit (and some red flags that tell you they aren’t).
Is the job posted on a legitimate remote job board? If you’re finding it on one of the huge general-purpose job boards, then it’s hit or miss whether the job is legit. But if you’re finding it on a site like WeWorkRemotely or through a site like FlexJobs that vets every job listing, then you’re probably set. Is the company’s website focused more on what they provide to their customers, or does it focus more on why you should work for them? While that’s not 100% foolproof, for the most part a company’s website
should be aimed at their customers, with job openings a secondary part of the site.
Consider working with a reputable recruiter. There are recruiters out there who specialize in remote work, so look into those.
When you get into the interviewing process, in all likelihood you’ll have a phone and/or video interview with whoever is doing the hiring (or possibly with more than one person at the company). While some companies do everything entirely via text-based
communication, a phone call or video chat with a real person is a good sign.
GET READY TO GO REMOTE
Getting a remote job isn’t ALL about your hard technical skills, like HTML & CSS. In fact, if you have a video interview, you better believe they want to see how well you can handle a video call before hiring you and talking to on video every week!
If you want to prepare yourself to be a flexible remote worker (with hiring managers eager to add you to their team), these are some tools and habits to get a feel for now:
START TRACKING HOW YOU SPEND YOUR TIME.
Programs like Harvest and Toggl can tell you how many hours you spend working, and how many breaks you take to watch videos of kittens. Start tracking your time so you can tell hiring managers how great you are handling your schedule without someone looking over your shoulder to keep you on task.
EXPERIMENT WITH MANAGING PROJECTS DIGITALLY.
Instead of relying on a whiteboard in your office or your notes from meetings, start using programs like Asana for delegating tasks and checking off your list. When you’re working remotely, there’s no bulletin board for managing projects—make sure you can keep projects rolling, no memos required.
PRACTICE COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR TEAM DIGITALLY.
Remote workers RELY on email, but that doesn’t mean they want more of it. Start honing your communication skills so that you embody the “less is more” principle. Communicating as a remote team involves a delicate balance of chat, email, and other media, and learning to avoid overwhelm while keeping everyone informed is major.
LEARN TO USE VIDEO CHAT PROGRAMS.
Like Google Hangouts and Skype, and make sure you’re up to speed on best practices. Did I mention communication? When
you’re not in the office with your team, you need to be efficient when you DO catch each other on video. Even if you’ve never had a remote job before, knowing how to answer questions about your workflow, communication, and time management strategies is super important when it comes to landing you the remote job you’re after. If a hiring manager mentions
Asana (hint: it’s project management software) and you think they’re talking about their morning yoga class, they might not think you have what it takes to join a remote team.
THE TOOLS OF THE TRADE
The big ones here are Google Hangouts and Skype. Pro tip: Make sure you have good headphones to avoid annoying echoes while you’re on calls
The two most common team chat apps are Slack and HipChat, though there are others.
TIME TRACKING SOFTWARE
Just because you’re not punching a clock doesn’t mean you don’t need to track your time. Harvest and Toggl are two popular options.
Sharing files by email is so 2006. Drive lets you share and collaborate on documents in real time.
PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
There are so many options out there for project management. The most common you might see, though, are JIRA, Basecamp, Trello, and Asana.