How to Get Started in Remote Work

Malecon, Puerto Vallarta

Malecon, Puerto Vallarta

Finding a remote job is hard work. In the last couple of years remote work has really caught on and the supply of remote jobs has not kept up with demand. That means that there are many more people looking for remote work than there are available jobs. The competition for remote jobs is fierce!

I think the main reason for this is that most companies are not “remote ready.” For remote companies to be successful, they have to operate by different rules than brick and mortar companies, but I talked about that in a previous post. It would be a really good idea to go and read that post now and then come back to read this one. It will give you a broad sense of what culture is like at a remote company.

If you have worked remotely, worked for a startup or owned your own business then you likely have the skills to work remotely. Unlike a traditional job, where you show up at time X and leave at time Y and put in your 40 or so hours, most remote workers set their own hours, they decided where they will work from and have to be self-motivated to get things done.

The research on remote work is clear. Remote workers get more done in less time. When you are working in an office with your team, you have little control over your time and distractions. The focus tends to be on how many hours you work, not what you achieve and you waste time commuting.

Let’s look at the skills most remote workers need:

  • Self-discipline

  • Time management

  • Stellar written and verbal communication skills

  • Competence with communication, collaboration, PM, CRM and other common apps used by remote teams

Ways of thinking or mindset:

  • The ability to develop a deep trust in your team members and managers

  • The ability to be completely transparent

  • Have a bias towards action

  • The ability to focus on results

Remote work is not for everyone. Some folks have a hard time being alone all day, some can’t focus on work when they are at home, they get distracted by kids, pets or chores. Some people have a hard time engaging in work unless someone is cracking the whip. I like to work from my home office, other folks like to work from coffee shops or co-working spaces. These more public locations can help with loneliness or whatnot.

If you have the skills and mindset I talked about above, then you're ready to look for remote work!  If not, then you need to acquire those skills and that mindset if you want the best chance to succeed. Look for a future post where I’ll address this.

Like anything important we do, the work we do to prepare is often the most important. Thorough preparation makes for easier execution. I always advise folks who are looking for work to start by creating a success inventory if they don’t have one. Here is a sample success inventory. It lists all the successes you have had related to work. It’s best to focus on times you either made money, saved money, increased efficiency or decreased expenses in your work. No matter what a company tells you they care about, what they really care about is making and saving money.

Now that you have your success inventory, you will use it to write resumes, cover letters and prepare for interviews. Start by picking the niche you will apply for. It’s best to pick a single focus for the job you want, for me it was Project Manager. Then create a resume that focuses on showing your achievements in your niche and your remote work skills/mindset. Use your success list as proof you can do the job.

Next, optimize your LinkedIn profile to match your resume and highlight your niche and remote work experience. The skills and mindset I talked about are what need to be highlighted for remote work and they are transferable so even if you’ve never done remote work, these skills will make you remote work ready.

Now you know what jobs you want to apply for, and you have what you need to start applying. Now it’s simply a matter of persistence and networking. You can use this document to find remote job boards and remote companies. Apply for every job you are well qualified for.

Join all the freelancer's sites, like Upwork, that you can.  This is a great way to get experience with remote work. If you are a native English speaker and have a 4 year degree, consider getting a TEFL certificate and get a job online teaching English. The pay is good, up to $20 an hour and it’s another good way to get remote experience.

Beware of scams. If anyone ever asks you to pay them to give you work, it is very likely a scam. If your job includes recruiting new team members and you get a cut of what they sell, it’s very likely a scam. If a company wants login info to your bank account, it’s a scam. If it’s too good to be true, it’s a scam.