Last Updated December 3rd, 2018

So You Want To Quit Your Job And Work At Home…

So You Want To Quit Your Job And Work At Home...

You’ve reached that point where you don’t want to work outside the home anymore – you’re ready to quit your job and work at home instead. There are many reasons why this can be tempting – the need or desire to care for young children or elderly family members, a too-long daily commute, a job that just really isn’t what you want. Whatever the reason, it’s rarely a good idea to just quit and hope a good work at home job comes along. You need to know what you’re getting yourself into first.

First, let’s look at some of the roadblocks you may face, some of the things that make working at home perhaps not quite as pleasant as you may think. If you’re considering working at home, after all, you’ve probably already thought of most of the positives. It’s the negatives that really determine whether or not you can successfully work at home, however.

Lots of Scams

This is the big one, and hopefully something you’re already aware of. It’s very easy to be scammed when looking for ways to work at home. You really have to be careful, and do your research when considering potential employers or business opportunities. The overeager and desperate fall for work at home scams all too easily.

This is why it may be safer to quit your job after you’ve found a legitimate work at home job. You won’t be so desperate if you still have money coming in.

While many work at home scams are easy to spot, others are more challenging. Sometimes you may not realize that you are in the process of being scammed until during the supposed job interview. Scammers will use the names of legitimate remote employers to hide their scams and build trust.

Anytime you apply for a work at home job, make sure that you’re communicating with the person or company you think you’re communicating with. A Gmail address is one of many signs that it may be a scam.

typing

Benefits Aren’t Always Available

Not all work at home jobs offer benefits such as health insurance. If you’re the one providing coverage for your family, this is a really big deal. And it’s not just health insurance; it’s dental insurance, a 401k, paid vacations and so forth that aren’t so common when you work at home. If you need benefits, you’ve just cut way down on your potential employers. If you want to work for yourself, you’ll have to figure out deal with these things all on your own.

My husband gets the usual benefits from his job, so for us, health insurance isn’t a problem. Retirement savings in my name, on the other hand, are an issue we need to pay more attention to.

A part of why a company may not offer benefits is because they hire remote workers for part time positions only. Other times you may be considered an independent contractor.

That said, there are a number of remote employers who offer benefits. Make this a part of your search if you need benefits.

Isolation

Many people find working from home too isolating. You have no coworkers stopping by when you’re at home, only the other residents of your home. Many people find this far too difficult to deal with and eventually decide they’d rather go back to work outside the home. Others find it perfect. It’s not too bad for me – I’m more of an introvert, but even I sometimes feel the need for more interaction with other adults than I get.

There are a lot of things you can do to handle your feelings of isolation when you work at home. Social media can be a start, as can sites such as Slack. While you have to balance your use of these with having a productive day, they can give you a bit of that social time you would get if you worked outside the home.

Planning time out with friends outside of work hours can also help. It won’t always be possible to get together with people in person, but that’s true no matter where you work. Just do the best you can.

woman thinking

Too Many Distractions

There are a lot of distractions in your home, kids, pets, television, internet access, neighbors, etc. Quick distractions turn easily into longer term issues if you aren’t careful.

I found it to be a huge help when my kids went off to school. Suddenly I had hours of work time with no kids underfoot. It didn’t help with the other potential distractions, but every bit helps. There’s no stopping the cats, however. They love to be distracting.

Controlling distractions involves limiting social media, keeping the television and streaming media turned off, and enforcing boundaries with family and friends. It’s not always easy. But if you want to work at home successfully, you have to do it.

No Supervision

No one is checking up on you when you work at home, at least not directly. Your employer may pay attention to your productivity, or you may have a customer service position that requires you be on the phone at certain times, but there’s still no one right there able to see that you’re slacking off. Some people work well without supervision; others absolutely need it.

You have to accept the responsibility that comes with greater independence when you work at home. Many people find a to do list very helpful in making sure they get done all the things they need to do each day.

work at home distractions

Flexible Hours

Yes, flexible hours can be a negative, a big one! It’s very easy to work too many hours or too few when you have complete control of your schedule. Be ready to keep control of your work hours as you follow this more independent path, for the sake of your income as well as your family time and free time.

Making an effective work at home schedule for yourself is vital. While your schedule may be set by your employer in some cases, other times it’s entirely up to you. It’s up to you to figure out how to make all this work. Experiment if you have to so that you find the most effective work at home routine you have.

Income May Not Be Stable

Depending on what you do, your work at home income may not be as stable as your outside the home job income was. Home business incomes are rarely all that stable, especially in the early days. Jobs may pay on production rather than hourly or salary, and can also be highly variable. If you need a more stable income, make sure the job you take can provide that.

In the years that I’ve worked at home, I’ve earned as little as a few hundred in a month, and as much as $10,000. If I relied too much upon a particular number, we could have a lot of problems. Fortunately, we have a stable income from my husband, and while it’s not sufficient on its own, it’s enough that mine can vary without hurting our financial position significantly.

switch to home office

Once You’ve Faced The Negatives…

If the negatives haven’t scared you off, it’s time to look at making things a reality. As with any other job hunt, you’re better off if you start searching while you’re still employed. You’re less desperate for work this way, less likely to fall for scams because you need the money so badly, and many people believe you look better to potential employers if you’re currently working when you apply.

There are a number of things you need to do when you want to get started working at home. Planning your job hunt out is a huge help.

The first thing you need to do is update your resume for your work at home job hunt. Remote employers look for some of the same things other employers do, but they also expect more independence and initiative from their employees. They’re looking for people who will thrive without supervision.

The best work at home jobs for you will usually be related to what you do right now. Sometimes making the switch to working from home requires a complete career change, but look for positions that relate to skills you already have. It will make your search easier.

If you don’t have the skills for the remote jobs you want, get them! This may be something you can do before you quit your job to look for a work at home job or something you do after.

Jobs such as medical transcription and medical coding, for example, require training. You have to pay for that training yourself – employers won’t do it for you. But with training and possibly some outside the home experience, these may be great career choices.

You will also need to set up a home office. How you go about this will depend on the kind of work you will do from home. Do you need absolute quiet and privacy, or can you have other people come in while you work? These things make a big difference.

laptop

Be Ready For A Long Job Hunt

Many people find the amount of time it takes to find a work at home job frustrating. What they forget is that it takes a long time to find an outside the home job too.

One common estimate for job hunting is to expect to take one month of job hunting for every $10,000 a year you expect to earn.

This isn’t exact, of course. It varies tremendously by industry, the timing of your hunt and many other factors. But it gets the point across.

Job hunting isn’t fast. You’re fooling yourself if you expect otherwise.

If you need things to get moving faster, you have options. You may not always like them, but they’re there.

The first is to get an outside the home job if you’re unemployed at the current time. Earning money is a necessity for most people. Don’t dismiss opportunities only because they aren’t ideal.

You can also take on freelance opportunities. The work may not be as steady as you’d like, especially when you’re just starting out, but once again, it’s better than nothing. And sometimes freelancing can pay better than working for someone else. That freelance business you start might just be your new career.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated November 19th, 2018

Beware The Secret Sister Gift Exchange

Beware The Secret Sister Gift Exchange

I’m seeing the secret sister gift exchange all over Facebook right now. I have a few friends who are participating, and it just makes me wince. Simply put, the secret sister gift exchange is a pyramid scheme, and illegal.

A lot of people don’t understand that. $10 seems like such a small risk, and it is. But the odds of receiving the promised 6 or 36 gifts is poor, especially since it depends not only on how well you recruit people into it, but how well your recruits bring people into the deal as well.

How Is The Secret Sister Gift Exchange Supposed To Work?

The basic premise is so simple. You send your gift to the person whose name appears at the top of the list you receive. When you send the list to your recruits, you remove the person you sent a gift to, and put the second person’s name at the top. Your name becomes the second name on the list.

There is often a push to do this quickly so that everyone gets their gifts in time for Christmas. Your six people send to the top of the list, and their people, now totaling 36 people, send gifts to you. It sounds wonderful.

Legally, however, this falls under the same laws as chain letters and lotteries. It’s not something you want to mess with. Not many people will get in legal trouble for doing the secret sister gift exchange, but why try your luck? It’s a federal crime, according to the Post Office. It also may be a crime by the laws in your state.

If you have any doubts, check out this notice on Facebook from the USPS. It explains things pretty well.

Do The Math

If you do the math on the secret sister gift exchange, you can quickly see why it will quickly run out, even if everyone finds enough people and everyone sends their gifts. Both of those are pretty iffy themselves.

Six people each finding six people means they need 36 people. Those 36 people need a total of 216 people, who need 1296 people. Keep this going for five more levels, and you need 10,077,696 people. That’s a difficult number, but not completely impossible. Highly unlikely, of course.

It only takes 13 levels to get beyond the entire population of the planet. Even assuming some people participate more than once, it’s not going to happen.

This means it won’t take long at all for people to have trouble finding someone to send gifts. Many people who try to join in won’t get anything in return. Most will simply fail to get a full six people sending gifts, and their people in return will have trouble finding enough people.

You might get a few gifts, but usually, that’s it. Between the number of people needed for everyone to get their gifts and the difficulty in recruiting people, it’s just not going to go that well.

There are also gift exchanges where the focus is on wine. It has the same problem as this one. Just don’t join in. The wine version also presents challenges in shipping it legally.

Talking Friends Out Of The Secret Sister Gift Exchange

It can be hard to call this out as a scam. I’ve seen people call friends names for trying to explain why the secret sister gift exchange doesn’t work or is illegal.

I would imagine that most people have trouble admitting the problems with the gift exchange because they’re already invested in it. They’ve promised to send a gift to someone else, or have even sent it already.

It’s worth a try, even if the friend who posts the gift exchange won’t listen. Someone else might.

Be polite when you try to discourage friends from this. No one will respond well if they feel foolish. You should also remember that the people participating don’t mean to scam or cheat anyone. They’re trying to do something fun. No one in this means any harm by it.

That doesn’t change the legal issues. Or the fact that eventually there are people who won’t get anything in return.

Then there’s the risk in putting your personal information out there for random people. You may know all the people you recruit into the gift exchange, but it’s the people they recruit who will be sending you gifts, and they’ll get your name and address too. Are you comfortable with that?

Alternatives To The Secret Sister Gift Exchange

It may be better to suggest setting up a basic secret Santa gift exchange, where everyone in a group draws a name and buys for one other person. No grand promises of dozens of gifts. Just a simple gift exchange among friends. It’s much simpler and legal when you avoid the chain letter aspects of the secret sister gift exchange. Best of all, you know that everyone gets a gift.

If you want something to feel good about, donate to a local cause. There are lots of wonderful causes out there, and even a $10 donation will be welcome. You won’t get a gift back, but you will have done something good.

As illegal actions go, this is a minor one, and I doubt many people ever get prosecuted for it. But why take the chance when a simpler gift exchange works just fine?

secret sister infographicClick for full size

The secret sister gift exchange isn’t the usual kind of scam I write about here, but it’s popular enough I consider it worth a mention. If you’d like to learn more about work at home scams, take a look at the ones I’ve covered on this site.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 22nd, 2018

5 Common Work At Home Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

5 Common Work At Home Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

Most people make some mistakes when they’re working at home. There’s a learning curve, easier for some than for others. A part of the problem has to do with common misconceptions about working at home. Still, if you’re aware of the more common work at home mistakes, you may be able to avoid them.

You can make these work at home mistakes whether you’re self employed or work for someone else. It doesn’t matter who sets the rules or determines what hours you need to work. What matters is how these mistakes impact the productivity of your work at home day.

work at home childcare

1. Too Little Childcare

Most parents who work at home do so specifically because they don’t want to use childcare. They have visions of working at home and being a good parent at the same time.

The problem is that this doesn’t always work. It works better for some than for others, but most people who work at home have times where they really need someone else watching the kids.

That even goes for me. My best work hours are when my husband can watch the kids, or they’re asleep. It’s hard working when they’re awake and needing my attention. It’s not that I use the phone in my work and need quiet – they’re just distracting.

Be realistic about any childcare needs you may have when you work at home. Make sure you schedule calls or meetings at times when the kids won’t be an issue. You don’t necessarily need to hire someone to care for your child, but you do need to make sure you can appear as professional as necessary.

You may not need to get this perfect. There are circumstances when people will be very understanding if you say you’re a work at home mom or dad. Other times this may not be so. Be very aware of the image you present to your managers, supervisors, and/or clients. It can make a huge difference.

What About When The Kids Are Sick?

It can be extra difficult to work at home when the kids are sick. They may actually need you at times that you’re supposed to be working. What then?

How you deal with this depends on your family’s situation. Don’t assume that just because you’re the work at home parent that you’re the only choice to deal with a sick child. You may not be.

Sure, if your child doesn’t need you all that badly but does need to stay at home for the day, you may be able to keep working as normal. It’s one of the advantages of working at home.

But if a day off work is necessary, think about which parent can afford that. It may not always be the work at home parent. Sometimes you’ll be the one who can’t get off work, and the work outside the home spouse will need to care for the sick child.

cat computer work at home

2. You Allow Yourself Too Many Distractions

You’re home, the TV’s there, you’re online, what distractions will you resist? You may believe that you can work while you watch a favorite show, but can you really? How much will it slow you down? And can you resist when the dog is being so cute?

And then there’s the house.

The house just gets to be a mess sometimes, doesn’t it? Especially if you have kids around. It’s way too easy to take some time out to make your house look a little better when you ought to be earning a living.

Moving a bit of laundry quickly probably isn’t so bad, although folding it may take more time than you ought to give during your workday.

The problem comes in when you do too many household chores at the wrong time. If the laundry needs to be done that day, try to work around it without allowing it to take over what should have been your work hours. It’s your balance to strike – only you know if you can stand the extra wrinkles in the clothes if you don’t fold the laundry right away or if you’ll lose less time overall by folding them immediately.

Limit the distractions, and you’ll be much more productive. Pick the times you allow them wisely.

This can be best handled by creating a work at home schedule for yourself. Set aside times for the things that might otherwise be distractions. You can make a block of time where you can play with the cat, walk the dog, or have fun with the kids.

Some Distractions Are Okay

You don’t have to work in perfect silence if your work doesn’t require it. Appropriate distractions can help.

Many people like to listen to music as they work, for example. They may even find that it helps with productivity.

If there’s an emergency in your home, obviously you want to be distracted from work to deal with that as well. Teach your family when it’s okay to distract you from work and when to leave you alone.

work at home too much

3. Working Too Much

While you want to look professional, there is such a thing as working too much. Work hours are work hours, family or personal time are yours. Give yourself enough hours away from work to recover and enjoy your life.

Don’t forget to take breaks too. 15 minutes to refresh yourself every couple hours can give your productivity a boost. Just because your work at home hours are flexible doesn’t mean you have to work them straight through. That’s a bad idea.

The right amount of work depends on the needs of your job or business and the income you need to earn. Don’t treat yourself worse than you’d allow an employer to treat you. There may be times where you have to work a ton of hours, but don’t do that to yourself all the time.

Starting up a business, it’s not that uncommon to hear of people putting in 12-16 hours a day or even more. They want success that bad. It’s rough, but sometimes it’s what has to be done.

But you can overdo that. Some people burn out from working so many hours. That’s not good for your home business, no matter how badly you need to succeed.

Take at least one day off every week, and preferably two. Spend time doing things other than working. Have fun.

A comfortable home office with a door can help with this. When you’re outside of work hours, close that door and do not go back to work until it’s time. That physical separation between home and work can help in many ways.

The Flip Side

The flip side of this is taking too many breaks.

I don’t just mean the kind of breaks where you walk away from your computer. I also mean when you spend a little time on social media in the middle of your day, or play a game for a few minutes.

How quickly do those things add up?

Think about it. And be smart about your breaks.

work at home professional

4. Not Expecting To Be Treated As A Professional

Many work at home parents feel as though other people don’t treat them as serious professionals. Sometimes it’s that other people can have trouble recognizing that working from home is just as serious as working outside of it – it took my mother-in-law years, but she gets it now. Other times it’s that you don’t appear to take your work hours seriously, so why should others do so?

Be a professional. Don’t be the one everyone turns to when their kids are sick unless your work hours really allow you to do that. Do the favors that you would be able to do if you had an outside the home job, not the ones that take away from your work hours and income.

This includes your family. While you want to be there for them, do your best to keep your work and their needs balanced. As mentioned above, this can include paid childcare.

If it helps you to dress professionally to feel professional, then do it! There’s nothing wrong with dressing professionally even if no one is going to see you. On the other hand, if you can be productive in everyday clothes, that’s fine too. Dress in whatever way makes it easier for you to act the professional you are and be productive.

Are Pajamas A Mistake?

Some people will swear that the ability to work in your pajamas is one of the great things about working from home. Others consider it to be one of the worst work at home mistakes you can make. Which is it?

That depends on you.

Can you be productive in your pajamas?

Will you feel like taking a nap because they’re so comfy?

Will your boss or clients see you in them?

Think about all of the things that could go wrong because you wore your pajamas while working at home? Is any of it significant in your case?

If you can be productive while wearing pajamas and no one will see you, go for it! But if wearing PJs while you work at home will cause you problems, dress a little nicer.

work at home technology

5. You Don’t Take Enough Advantage Of Technology

You work at home. You’re online all the time. How much more advantage could you be taking of modern technology in your work?

Possibly plenty!

Upping your tech game doesn’t have to be difficult or scary. Many of the things you can do to make your work at home time better aren’t difficult at all.

For example, if you don’t have a separate phone number for your home business, it’s easy to get one without having a new phone line installed. Sign up with a VOIP provider, and you’ll have a phone number completely separate from your home phone.

I use Google Voice because it’s free and I rarely need to make or receive calls in my business. If you’ll be making a lot of calls, you may need a better service, but Google Voice suits my needs.

You should also have automatic backups set for your data, especially the important stuff. There are lots of cloud backup companies that will help keep your data safe, even if your home is destroyed in a disaster.

I also suggest keeping a local backup. A 1-2 TB external backup drive doesn’t cost a fortune, and gives you a copy of your data in your home for in case your computer dies. It’s nice to know that you won’t have to download all of your data unless things go really, really wrong.

Can You Be Productive Away From Home?

One of the things people tout about working from home is the ability to get away from home and keep working. Coffee shops and coworking spaces are popular options. But are they right for you?

This depends on the work you do and how well you cope with the possible distractions.

Coffee shops and other such places are potential workspaces because technology makes them so. You bring your laptop and connect to their wifi or your data plan, and work just like you would at home.

Or do you?

If you want to work away from home, be sure that you will keep focused on work, not on socializing. Just because technology makes it possible doesn’t mean you should do it. But if it helps, do it!

Don’t Let Work At Home Mistakes Stop You

If you’ve come to realize that you’re making a lot of mistakes while working at home, don’t feel bad. Most of us make mistakes, especially when learning how to deal with working at home.

What matters is how you deal with your mistakes after making them.

It doesn’t matter if you feel as though you’ve gone through the work at home school of hard knocks or if you’ve had a relatively easy time of it. What matters is that you keep going. You haven’t completely failed until you give up, and even then, you can move onto something else and still succeed.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 17th, 2018

So You Can’t Work From Home Stuffing Envelopes. What Can You Do?

So You Can't Work From Home Stuffing Envelopes. What Can You Do?

What comes to mind first when you think about work at home jobs? Some people still think of the classic envelope stuffing and data entry jobs, even though those are more likely to be scams than not. There are very few companies that legitimately need employees for such jobs. You really can’t work from home stuffing envelopes.

Fortunately, there are lots more work from home jobs you can do, even if you don’t have a lot of experience.

There’s So Much Out There

The first thing you have to do is quit assuming that there are only a few kinds of work from home opportunities out there. It’s just not true.

In fact, not as many people think to look for ways to work from home stuffing envelopes as did back when I started this site. It used to be a common question. I still hear it once in a while, but not like I used to. There’s more awareness of the many possibilities out there. Work from home opportunities aren’t all low level, low paying jobs.

While lots of companies refuse to allow employees to work from home, many do, so long as the job is something that can be done remotely. Once you start looking, you may be amazed by all of the jobs that can be done from home. There are even entry level remote jobs out there.

Better yet, some companies offer benefits to their remote employees, just as they do for those who work in the office. You won’t get benefits if you’re a contract employee, and few give them to part time employees, but if you’re full time, you have good odds of getting benefits.

If you have job experience, just do a search to find out if people are doing the same work remotely. You might be surprised.

If you don’t have experience, take a look at how many possibilities there are. You may have to get some training and/or experience to qualify for some jobs, such as medical coding, medical transcription, software development and so forth, but that’s true if you work outside the home as well.

online job boards

Job Boards

Many job boards have work at home jobs listed, even if they don’t specialize in them. They may allow you to select “remote” as a location in your searches to help you find such jobs.

The challenge when using any job board is avoiding the scams. Scams are incredibly difficult to avoid, although you can catch the signs of a work at home scam if you’re alert. Some are sneaky, and it may be difficult to catch on until the interview, but there are often warning signs of work at home scams.

There is a remote job board here on this site. I do my best to keep it free of scams, but I have no doubt that I’m not perfect at screening them. New work at home job leads are added weekly, and I like to think you’ll find it a useful resource.

Freelance Job Websites

It’s also a good idea to check out freelance job websites such as Upwork,  as well as any of the many other freelance websites out there. They can be competitive, of course, but they also give you access to a lot of leads.

Freelancing doesn’t sound appealing to everyone. You have to keep looking for clients rather than having a single employer, and that may be a pain. But it has advantages too. You may be able to get a small project or so while looking for more steady work. You can use it to build your resume.

It also may not be as different from working from an employer at home as you may think. Many home based jobs are considered contract positions… not always accurately according to the IRS, so be careful. That means you have a lot of freedom as to when and how you get your work done, so long as it gets done. It also means you need to understand your tax position so you get it right when they come due.

Don’t assume that freelance writing is your only option. That’s far from the truth. While there are tons of opportunities out there for freelance writers, there are many other freelance businesses you can start.

Freelancing is not an instant solution for most people. It takes time to build trust with enough clients and to build a solid reputation.

The advantage to freelancing is that you can do it at the same time as you do other work. You don’t have to be otherwise unemployed. Freelancing can be a side gig until you’re successful enough to make it your regular income.

start home business

Start Your Own Business

It’s almost cliche, but not all work at home has to be a job. You can start a business, whether you join a network marketing opportunity, make and sell your own crafts, start a daycare, start a blog or something else altogether. Starting a business of any sort is risky, but it can be worth the risk.

Any business you start is going to require some new skills. It doesn’t matter how well you know the basics of whatever your business is or how much you love it all, you’ll be learning all kinds of new things too. It won’t always be easy or fun, but if you succeed, even the tough times will be worth it.

There is so much that goes into starting any home business. Blogging is popular because it sounds so easy, for example, but it’s not as simple as many think. Neither is network marketing. Both have a lot of people trumpeting how easy they are, and a lot of people struggling to make it happen.

Of the two, I prefer blogging. It’s affordable and you don’t have to press friends and family to buy from you. It takes relatively little effort to start a blog, and from there you can figure out if it’s for you. If not, you don’t have a ton of leftover products to sell or use.

If you want to go into network marketing, make sure you get all the facts you can about any opportunities you consider. Don’t just glance at a quick fact sheet on the opportunity. Find out what you can about the churn rate of distributors. See if they include distributors who aren’t earning any commissions at all. Some studies have shown that 99% of MLM distributors lose money. Are you ready for that risk?

If you decide to start a home business – any home business – remember that they all come with risks. No business is a sure thing. You will need to work hard even when things aren’t going right. That’s just the way it is. But you don’t have to accept an excessive amount of risk if you don’t want to.

 

Turn Your Current Job Remote

This one is a long shot if your current employer doesn’t already have a policy allowing employees to work remotely. If you can make it happen, however, it’s one of the safest ways to work at home.

No worries about scams.

No fears that your own business will fail.

But all that doesn’t mean it’s free from risk.

The big risk is that you will become invisible to your employer. They don’t see you work, so they don’t consider you for promotions. It can mess with your career path if you aren’t good at bringing attention to your accomplishments.

Employers can also suddenly change their minds about allowing employees to telecommute. They can haul you back into the office at any point they want.

If you decide to telecommute from your current job, make sure you know how you will keep in contact with your employers and coworkers. Make sure you understand all the policies you will be working under. Be super productive so they have no doubts that you can keep doing the job no matter where you are.

work remote

Free Yourself From Your Work From Home Assumptions

The notion that stuffing envelopes is a possible work from home opportunity isn’t the only bad assumption people make about working from home. They also make incorrect assumptions about what working from home is like.

If you haven’t worked from home before, prepare for the challenges. It’s both easier and more difficult than you think.

The easier part comes in once you get things going and you know what you’re doing. You’re connected to your employer if necessary, and you know what needs done. No commute. No boss looking over your shoulder. When you need a snack, you can raid your own refrigerator and not worry that a coworker has stolen your lunch. It can be amazing.

It can also be pure torture.

Many of the challenges you’ll face when you work at home depend on your particular situation. If you don’t have kids, for example, you don’t have to worry about distracting them. Too bad there are so many other possible distractions. Just consider these:

  • social media
  • email
  • online chat apps
  • texting
  • the whole $&%# internet!
  • television/streaming
  • household chores
  • pets
  • kids
  • spouse
  • other family members
  • friends
  • the gym
  • naptime
  • neighborhood noises
  • clutter
  • procrastination
  • isolation

You might be surprised by how much some of these can affect you.

Isolation, in particular, can be bad when you work at home. It’s not an easy thing to lock yourself away in your home office to work all day. If you want to be productive, that’s often what it takes, yet feeling isolated can make you less productive.

Be prepared to face the fact that working from home does not work for everyone. Some people are much happier working in an office with coworkers all around.

If that turns out to be the case for you, that’s fine. You tried, and you learned something about yourself. It’s okay to choose to go back to working outside the home.

But if you continue to work at home, make sure you learn to deal with the distractions and the challenges. Many people find working from home to be highly satisfactory. The only way to find out if it works for you is to give it a try.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 8th, 2018

What Remote Work Skills Do Employers Want?

What Remote Work Skills Do Employers Want?

Remote jobs can be highly demanding. Not only do you have to do the job competently, but you also have to deal with all the distractions of being at home or wherever else you work. If you don’t have the skills to deal with these challenges, you won’t do well. Employers know that. So what remote work skills do employers want, and how can you demonstrate them?

Demonstrating great remote work skills is one of the keys to landing a legitimate work at home job. The more of these you can demonstrate to a potential employer, the better your chances will be.

All The Regular Skills Of The Job

The skills required of the job itself are the same as if you work in the office. If you don’t have what it takes to do the job in an office with all your coworkers, you certainly don’t have what it takes to work remotely.

Employers may offer training for some of these skills. Sometimes this training will take place in the office, which is one of the reasons why it can matter where you live.

Regardless of how much training they provide, there will be some expectations for skills you already have. Customer service jobs, for example, will expect you to have a good phone voice and some experience dealing with customers. A software developer position will require you to know the right programming language.

If you don’t have at least most of the skills listed in the job description, you probably shouldn’t apply for the remote position. As with any other job, it’s something of a wishlist from the employer, but you must be sufficiently qualified for the position that the employer is comfortable with the things you will need to learn.

These skills should be clearly mentioned in your resume, and you should be ready to discuss them in an interview. A potential employer may require that you demonstrate a particular skill as well.

technology skills

Technology Skills

You don’t have to be in a high tech job from home to need some solid technology skills. Your employer will not be willing to teach you the basics of how to use your computer, even in an entry level job. They will expect that you can use your computer competently.

This may include some basic troubleshooting. Your employer will not hold your hand through simple problems. You may have to notify them if a problem limits your ability to work for a time, but if the problem is on your end, you should have some notion of what to do, even if all you can do is call your ISP.

If a potential employer asks about your technical skills, talk about times you have handled a problem with your computer. It doesn’t have to be something big – most people have not taken their computer apart to fix a problem – but you should show that you know what to do about a computer crash, a virus or other common computer problems.

Your computer should be up to date, of course, with appropriate security software. You should also have a high speed internet connection. Some employers may require that you have a wired connection rather than wifi for security reasons.

If your interview is via Google Hangouts or Skype, make sure your computer is completely set up for a video chat. Test it with a friend or family member who can do a practice chat with you. You don’t want to look bad by finding out that your video camera or microphone isn’t working right. Prepare beforehand so you can troubleshoot any technical difficulties before the interview.

communication skills

Communication Skills

Keeping in communication with your employer and coworkers is one of the most important remote work skills. Just how important depends on the kind of work you’re doing.

If you’re a transcriptionist, for example, much of your communication will have to do with feedback from QA, updating your schedule, and attending required trainings.

If you’re working as a software developer, on the other hand, you may be in near constant communication. This is why many remote teams use Slack and other programs to keep in communication. It’s necessary. You need to know immediately when something is changed.

In all cases, you will need the ability to communicate clearly through email and/or chat. If you cannot express yourself clearly this way, you will have a lot of trouble working remotely.

The biggest challenge you may face with remote communication is that it’s asynchronous. It’s not like when you’re talking face to face or on the phone. When something is emailed or posted to Slack or a group chat, the rest of the group may not respond right away.

This makes it important to know if there are certain times of the day when you are expected to check in on Slack or elsewhere. You don’t want to miss out on vital information about the project you’re working on. Attending online meetings and checking in regularly is vital.

Employers may consider what they can see of your communications skills throughout the interview process, as well as consider the skills you’ve used in other jobs. If you’re awkward about talking to a potential employer on the phone, they will probably have doubts about your ability to talk to customers that same way.

time management

Time Management Skills

Time management can be especially difficult for remote employees. It’s far too easy to start a little late when you don’t have to make it to the office. It’s also easy to let distractions decrease your productivity.

If you have good time management skills, you can be even more productive as a remote employee than you would be at the office. Employers know this and expect it.

There are a variety of time management techniques you can use. The right technique is the one that works for you and your job. Here are some to consider:

Whichever time management technique you use, make sure that you get the most important things done during your workday. Showing an understanding of priorities is a big part of using your time wisely.

One big mistake people make is trying to multitask. As a general rule, it doesn’t work. Multitasking can make you less productive.

Instead, focus on one thing at a time whenever possible. Get that thing done before you move onto something else.

critical thinking

Critical Thinking Skills

As a remote worker, you will need to come up with solutions to problems on your own. This makes critical thinking skills vital.

There may be times when you have to get help from a coworker or supervisor, but you need to know when it’s okay to get help versus handle things on your own. No one will be happy to hear from you about problems you should have handled quietly on your own. They’ll be even less happy if you try to handle something on your own that you should have gotten help with.

It can take time to learn the difference.

You can show critical thinking skills in an interview by figuring out what kind of critical thinking the employer wants to see. If you’re expected to analyze data, bring up an example of how you do that.

Any time you’ve solved a problem at a different job can be an example of critical thinking. The best examples to use in an interview are the ones most closely related to what the new job wants from you.

An interviewer may also ask you to demonstrate critical thinking skills by solving a hypothetical problem. Most will be more interested in how you came up with a solution rather than in seeing you come up with a particular one. Be ready to explain how you solve such problems.

organization

Organization Skills

Keeping things organized is key to successful remote work. You don’t want your work files all mixed in with your personal stuff, and you certainly don’t want to accidentally share personal things with your boss or coworkers.

With many remote jobs, a lot of being organized comes down to how you keep things on your computer or the company server. There are a lot of options the company may use.

They might use Google Drive or Dropbox for shared files, for example. Trello, Asana, or Basecamp may be used for project management.

If you have experience with these tools, they may be worth mentioning as a part of how you kept a project organized. Employers need to know if you have familiarity with the tools they prefer to keep employees organized and in contact.

self-motivation

Self Motivation

A remote employee has to be self motivated. You don’t have a supervisor who can come and look over your shoulder while you work. Your employer may or may not notice right away if you’re working as much as you should.

You know who should notice?

You.

As a remote worker, you have to motivate yourself to get the job done, no matter the distractions around you. If you have a strict schedule, you need to stick to it. If the only thing that matters is that you get the job done on time, you get the job done on time.

To show a potential employer that you’re self motivated, you need to give examples.

Start with the parts of the job that interest you. You could express your enthusiasm for the products the company offers, for example. You can also discuss any experience you already have in the industry and how that will help you in the job.

If you have been in the industry for a while, discuss any special training you’ve had, conferences you’ve been to, and so forth. This shows that you’re motivated to learn more about the industry and keep up to date on what’s happening in it.

Training you’ve acquired on your own rather than waiting for an employer to provide it can show a lot of self motivation. If you can talk about a skill you learned because you realized that you needed it, do so.

If you have experience working remotely, you can use this to show self motivation as well. Remote employers often prefer people who have worked remotely before and are familiar with the challenges.

adaptability

Adaptability

Remote workers may have to deal with a lot of changing situations. It can be greatly different from working in an office where everyone works more or less the same hours, and if you need to talk to someone, you can go find them.

For one thing, your coworkers may be spread out around the world. You may not all speak the same language. Sometimes things will go wrong for you that aren’t affecting your coworkers, and vice versa. Other times you may have to help bring a new coworker up to speed.

You must be able to deal with all these situations.

If your internet goes down, for example, you should know how to alert your employer to the problem, set things in motion to get it fixed, and if it will be down a significant time, know what you can do so that you will still be productive.

Often enough, this means having a Plan B in place.

An alternative place to work, for example, will help you if your internet is out. Spending the day in a coworking space can give you internet access when your home internet will be out for hours.

Language barriers can be a significant problem, but employers may have something in place to help. There may be a language in common as a job requirement, for example. There may still be difficulties due to misunderstandings, and you should be prepared to deal with such issues as best you may.

focus

Focus

A good remote worker knows how to focus despite all the distractions of being remote. Just as you have to keep your socialization with coworkers to a reasonable level when you work in an office with them, you need to keep focus on your work when you’re remote.

There will be distractions, even if you’re alone. At the very least, there will be the temptation to surf the internet, binge watch a favorite show or otherwise goof around.

It can help to know what time of day you’re most capable of being focused. This may be the time that you think most clearly, or when you can get everyone else out of the house so that they don’t distract you. Planning your work at home schedule around this is a huge help.

When possible, do your most important work when you can be the most focused on it. Depending on the job, this may not be possible, but do the best you can.

Remember that your focus can be improved by taking appropriate breaks. A 5-15 minute break every few hours allows your brain to relax. It also gives your eyes a chance to look somewhere other than the computer screen, which helps them relax as well.

Taking breaks may seem like time lost when you’re in crunch mode, but they can actually improve your focus and help you get done sooner. Don’t skip them.

time zones

Awareness Of Time Zones

Time zones can be a significant challenge if you’re a part of a remote team, especially if the team is distributed worldwide. If you can’t cope with time zones, you won’t impress a potential employer.

Let’s say your phone or Google Hangouts interview is at 1 p.m. EST, but you’re in Colorado. Do you know what time your interview will be at locally?

You’d better, or you’ll miss it.

When you know your team crosses time zones, you must remember to include the time zone when scheduling meetings, and taking the differences into account. A time that is convenient for you may be late night for someone else. If that’s not routine for the position, you’ll annoy a lot of people.

Obviously, if the team is worldwide, you won’t always be able to have meetings at times that are convenient for everyone. It’s quite possible that the inconvenient times may fall on you.

Be ready for the fact that some meetings will occur at a time that is best for people elsewhere in the world but not for you. In some remote jobs, this is a fact of life.

Other times, the difference will be a matter of just a few hours, but that difference is vital in scheduling. A 4 p.m. PST meeting isn’t going to make people in an EST zone very happy unless they usually work that late.

work-life balance

Work-Life Balance

Maintaining your work-life balance can be challenging when you work at home. They have a way of inching into each other.

Kids and pets wander into your home office when you’re working. You have trouble leaving work alone when you should be focusing on your family. The quality of your work suffers.

These days even people who work in an office can have this problem, as smartphones and email make it so easy to keep in touch with home and work no matter where you are. But when you work remotely, maintaining those boundaries makes an even bigger difference because home and work are in the same place.

Having a comfortable home office with a door you can close is one of the easiest ways to keep a boundary between your home life and your professional life. Teach the rest of your family that when you’re in there, they need to let you work.

Then, when you come out of the office and are done for the day, be done. Don’t go back to work and ignore everyone. Your family needs you too.

Having good work-life boundaries keeps you fresher when you work. You aren’t so stressed from having too little time with your family.

professional

Professionalism

A lot of different things go into showing professionalism when you work remotely. How you’re dressed won’t matter to anyone but you unless you do a video chat. Instead, you show professionalism in other ways.

A part of this is simply getting your work done on time and getting the job done right. No one will consider you a professional if everyone else has to constantly correct your mistakes.

It’s also more professional if you do a good job of keeping your home life and work life separated. While many people understand if your children come into your office while you’re working, it won’t look good if that happens every time you’re talking to someone on the phone or on Skype.

Showing professionalism during an interview is vital. If there’s one time you need to show that you can keep your office free from the distractions of being at home, this is it. A child or your spouse coming over to interrupt your interview tells the potential employer that you will have a lot of distractions while you work, and so might not be as productive as another employee.

You don’t want that.

If you’re being interviewed on video using software such as Google Hangouts or Skype, make sure your home office is clean. You don’t want a mess behind you to give a potential employer a poor impression of you.

If you don’t have a home office, of course, make sure that whatever part of your home you’re using during the interview is neat and clean.

Keep Building Your Remote Work Skills

No matter how happy you are with your remote work skills, there’s always something you can improve.

Some things will be obvious, such as the need to keep up in your field. No employer will be happy if you let the skills you need for the job go out of date.

Other things you may have to recognize for yourself. If you find that you aren’t as focused as you should be when you’re working, that’s an issue you need to handle. Same for if you realize that you’re getting disorganized in your work.

Sometimes this is as simple as taking a class. Other times you will need to find a way to improve a problem on your own. There are a lot of books on self motivation and such that may help.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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