Here’s what you need to know before you ditch the office.
Not all remote work jobs are the same but it took me awhile to figure that out. When I first thought about working from home, it was when my oldest two children were little. This was the early 1990s and there weren’t a lot of choices then.
Most people worked in the office of their employer or, in the case of salesmen, from their car while traveling through their region.
Sure, there were C-suite executives, like the CEO, Vice President, or Chief Financial Officer (CFO), who got to “work from home” as a perk of being top-level management. Occasionally, other salaried management such as a Department Director or Manager could work from home, but it wasn’t an option open to hourly employees.
For the majority of people back then, work from home was something you did on the side, after the kids were in bed or while they were in school.
The goal of working from home for most people was to earn extra money to supplement the income from your day job so you could make ends meet.
Many housewives were getting into franchised opportunities with Avon, Mary Kay, Tupperware, Pampered Chef, or Thirty-One products, etc. Other work-from-home jobs involved getting paid by a company to stuff envelopes, make widgets, or some other mundane, repetitive task.
But for most of those, it didn’t pay well enough to cover the bills and put food on the table.
To top it off, many of the work-from-home jobs advertised were scams. I’d heard horror stories of people who worked long hours making widgets or stuffing envelopes, only to not be paid for their work.
Work from home just wasn’t a realistic choice for me as a single mom.
The income wasn’t stable enough, the risks of getting scammed were scary, and the startup costs to franchise were high.
Work-from-Home jobs have changed.
But as technology has progressed, remote work has replaced work from home and it has come to mean a wide variety of things. Progress has opened the door for people in all types of careers and at all levels of the work hierarchy. Working away from the office, not just occasionally, but on a regular basis, is no longer just for C-suite executives and salaried management employees.
In fact, there are huge numbers of people who do remote work from a beach, from a country other than their country of origin, or because it gives them the freedom to travel frequently.
Remote work has exploded further because of the COVID-19 shutdown. Not only is the option more available to people at all levels but more and more companies are considering it out of plain necessity. They need work to be done and they’re willing to make accommodations that previously seemed unnecessary and out of reach.
If you’re thinking about a nontraditional work option, meaning something other than 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in an office all day, here’s what you need to consider so you can make an informed decision.
What makes sense for you when it comes to your workspace? Maybe you long to spend the day working from the beach in a tropical location by yourself or with your family. Perhaps you’re happiest when you’re spending time outside. Perhaps your happy place is inside, where you can have the perfect temperature, no bugs, and all the conveniences of the modern world.
It’s really important to figure out what type of workspace best suits you so you can choose the work option that will complement your natural desires.
Solo work or teamwork
Maybe you thrive on the energy that comes from working in groups. If this is something that is important to you, if you really enjoy interacting with other people as you work, you need to know that.
On the other hand, if you do your best work solo, away from distractions, that’s important to know, too. Some people prefer a combination of solo work time and teamwork. There’s really no right or wrong answer, but it is important to understand what works and doesn’t work for you.
Another big decision when it comes to work is how self-directed your workday is. For many people, working for one employer means you go to work, you do the job you were hired to do and you come home.
Some jobs have very clear job descriptions without much room for self-directed work. Maybe you like having a clear-cut job with tasks given to you so you know exactly what to do each day. If this is what you like in your workday, keeping this in mind when choosing a remote work option can help you find a good fit.
But perhaps you prefer to have more input into what your day-to-day work looks like. Maybe you don’t mind long workdays. And maybe you want to be totally in control of what your workday looks like, what tasks you choose to do, and when. If this is what you like, entrepreneurship might be ideal. The amount and frequency of self-directed work should definitely factor into your decision about the type of remote work you choose to do.
Do you like having deadlines for getting work done, given to you by someone else? Or do you prefer to work on things at your own pace, without the structure that tight deadlines bring?
Many different types of remote work, such as journalism, include short turn around times or hard deadlines. If deadlines are something that stress you out, taking a remote work opportunity that involves lots of deadlines won’t be the best fit.
When I first started freelancing, deadlines kept me productive. It was important to me to keep my promises to clients and meeting deadlines was a way that I could do that. But I learned I was also a huge procrastinator, especially for projects that I wasn’t really passionate about. I’d put the work off and end up staying up all night to finish something on time. This way of working added a lot of extra stress to my workdays.
As I gained more experience and learned more about what I enjoyed in my work, I started choosing clients that didn’t have tight deadlines.
As a freelancer and entrepreneur, I realized I could choose the clients and the types of projects I worked on. So I just chose projects and clients where deadlines weren’t vital. I also learned that just because I could turn work around the same day, didn’t mean I had to promise that to the client. I could build flexibility into my schedule by giving them a date that was three days or a week away.
If you’re a single parent, the stability of income is really important, especially starting out. A steady paycheck is necessary to ensure you can pay the bills, put a roof over your head, and put food on the table. Having children who depended on me for their basic necessities, meant I couldn’t risk the unpredictable income that being self-employed or working solely as a freelancer entailed.
It’s easier to freelance on the side while working a full-time or part-time job with a paycheck. It means long hours which cut into family time, which isn’t ideal but is manageable. For me, it wasn’t until my father passed away and I had the luxury of a small inheritance check coming in every month, that I could make a serious push toward full-time freelancing.
So it’s okay if you can’t just quit your job and jump full-time into freelancing. Figure out what will work for your situation. Just get started.
How to design your ideal remote work job.
Remote work is a broad umbrella category that includes virtual work, freelancing, co-working (sharing an office and overhead costs), contract work, consulting, telecommuting, self-employment, entrepreneurship, etc.
Remote work typically involves some amount of work hours away from a traditional office setting. It can mean you work for one client or employer or multiple ones. You can work from your home occasionally or completely, from a branch office, from the beach, or even from a coffee shop or other space equipped with internet access.
It involves a steady paycheck or it can be more fluid with income coming in all at once and sporadically throughout the month or year. As a freelancer, I developed a system that allowed me to ramp up my freelance income when I wanted it, or ramp it down when I needed more flexibility in my schedule.
The perfect combination of all these factors may not be easy to find in a remote job opportunity. But when you know which of these factors matter most to you and at what level, you can choose the remote work options that best suit you to create your ideal combination.
Take some time right now and think about the factors I’ve outlined above. Make a list of them and even create a scale for each factor so you know where you want to be for each one.
Keep your analysis in mind as you consider remote work opportunities.
This will help you ditch the office and move into a remote work opportunity that will ensure you have the level of flexibility and other factors you need.
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Meg Stewart has been freelancing for nearly two decades. She’s a multi-passionate skill hoarder and the intersection of freelance writing, technology, and teaching is her sweet spot. Freelance Filter was founded to help writers get paid and help solopreneurs do business better. Meg and her family, (along with two dogs, two cats, and two leopard geckos), live in Northeast Ohio.
e in Northeast Ohio.