“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
A few years ago, I became interested in this topic. My first exploration took place more than 10 years ago, when I used to coordinate ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) for Venezuelan schools. I also taught computer “science” to grades K-12 students and teachers, and one of the topics on my courses was “future trends”. We explored telework, telecommuting or remote employment as part of this. At that time (year 1999) it seemed an excellent idea for people who lived in remote areas, people with disabilities or chronic illness, people with social or mental issues or just people who didn’t want to spend 1-2 hours or more just to go to and come back from work.
I became very interested in this topic because I am a fan of “pay for delivery” work, as opposed to “pay for time spent at” work.
Let me explain: employment is an exchange of your life-time for a few $$$. It may or may not have the “reward” or “worth” component that makes you feel happy and fulfilled as a person. Studies show that people “work” a few hours a day but almost never the 7-8 hours they were supposed to work: they extend the breaks, spend time in the washroom, checking social media sites, talking over the phone (about un-related issues), solving problems from their private lives or talking to co-workers. A lot of people take sick leaves when they are not sick: they are just tired or overwhelmed with the expectative of spending yet another 7-8 hours behind a desk or at closed doors.
When you are paid for “showing up”, you need to be at work from 9-5 and you are expected to deliver something (goods or services), but a lot of people deliver the minimum and then take a break…
When you are paid for your true delivery the relationship is much fairer: you are clear about the targets and expectations, you deliver and then you can go home. You can now use your free time to do all those other things you need or want to do with your life.
Remote employment can provide this, but you need to make sure you find the right one for you and that you are fit for this. It is not for everybody.
The first barrier is to be able to discriminate legitimate opportunities from scam and fraud schemes. The Internet is plagued with these schemes and scams, so you need to understand what remote employment is and what is not.
What is remote employment?
- Working from a location far from the organization who delivers the services/goods (it may be from home, from a satellite office, library, coffee shop, etc)
- It is a contract between you and the employer or buyer of your services
- It may be a full-time or part-time employment contract or a self-employment/entrepreneur model
- It requires that you deliver: the time you invest in the task is up to you, from the buyer or employer’s perspective, the important two pieces are: quality of delivery and deadline submissions. In some cases you may need to be on “work mode” for a certain window of time, but you may not be “working” all the time.
- It is as serious as any other job and may require more time, discipline and investment, specially at the beginning
- It requires lots of specialized skills, sometimes with higher level and competitiveness than regular jobs
- It applies to certain jobs or industries, not to all.
What remote employment is not?
- It is not an “easy” job
- It is not working in your pyjamas and whenever you want or from a beach
- Not all the jobs can be done “from home”
- It is definitely not for everyone
Benefits of teleworking/remote employment:
- Environmental benefits: reduced carbon footprint
- Reduced costs for gas, car maintenance, parking, working clothes, lunches and coffees…
- You own your time, you control your priorities and agenda
- More time to be with family and friends, volunteer and do other things that interest you
- You may be able to transfer or write off expenses related to your work, such as utility bills, supplies, maintenance and repair, etc. and also have a credit in your taxes
- If well planned, you can work from almost anywhere in the world, allowing you to take longer vacations, attend to events that are important for you and your family, etc.
- You will be paid for delivery, not for the time you invested in heating your chair J
Drawbacks or disadvantages:
- Reduced socialization – potential isolation (you can reduce this if you do other things with your life and put boundaries)
- You’ll need to invest in good quality equipment and skills training/upgrading without knowing if you’ll find an opportunity soon (but this is similar for any job, right?)
- You pay the bills (telephone, electricity, Internet, etc.) – but you can also declare them to reduce your taxes if you become self-employed/home office registered
- In most cases, you won’t have benefits such as healthcare, EI, etc. (but you could plan to pay for them by yourself)
- Some jobs are contract, so the income is not fix or stable (you may learn to deal with this through planning)
- May mix your private life with your work life (again, discipline, boundaries and planning are important)
- If not careful, you may miss deadlines and start procrastinating (planning…!)
What industries or types of jobs have more opportunities as remote employment?
- eLearning (teaching, coaching, advising, developing curriculum and media for online or distance learning models)
- Design, marketing and social media industries: from web-designers to social media or communications coordinators there are many jobs that are well suited to be done from home/remotely
- Administrative and support jobs such as typing, receiving and redirecting calls, call-centre and customer service, proofreading, specialized document translation or writing, etc
- Consulting: for specialized professions or industries, niches.
How can you know a remote employment website/job ad is legitimate?
- Check the website for credibility: it has to be a strong, formal website with links and information well developed that describes the entire organization, not just this “opportunity”
- Lookup the contact, check there is a real address or phone number and that the website is registered to a real organization, not to an individual
- Google the company and check for warnings and reviews
- If you are following a job ad, make sure the job description is well developed and that is clear what they are asking for
- If it seems too good to be true, it is probably not true: jobs don’t focus on how much you will earn, but what skills and experience you should bring and what you are expected to deliver
- If the company is bragging about how others have become rich or is asking you for an “investment” or a money transfer, run away as fast as you can and report the scam!
What are the typical skills and equipment they ask for?
Equipment: Some companies will provide you with equipment, but this usually happens when you have already worked for that company and have reached an agreement to start working from home. In most cases, they will expect you have the basic equipment to do the job, and they will pay you just for delivery and deadlines.
The basic equipment you should have includes:
- A reliable computer, better if it is a PC, not a laptop
- Reliable Internet connection, landline is better than Wi-Fi or wireless, most companies insist in this
- A dedicated phone if you are going to be taking calls (such as in customer service, support or consulting, marketing or sales)
- A good printer, a fax machine and a scanner
- Licensed programs to work with applications for writing, design, etc.
- A reliable email account and good Internet presence they can check (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
- A backup plan (they won’t care if your computer or printed crashed. You have a commitment!)
Skills: It is not a set of “typical” skills as each job requires different sets. But most remote or online jobs ask for similar basic skills:
- Comfortable with Internet (Web 2.0) technologies
- Good typing skills, including accuracy and speed
- Advanced knowledge of the applications you are supposed to manage for the job (i.e. Photoshop, AutoCAD, MS-Publisher, MS-Word, etc., each job may require a different set of software skills)
- Able to work well with media: producing videos, using webcam, Skype, etc.
- Above average writing skills (mostly for those dedicated to write, proofread or design with wording for others)
- Knowledge and experience on online service delivery (mostly for coaches, instructors, consultants, advisors, etc.)
Do you have to “invest” anything when preparing for remote employment?
In some cases, a few websites charge a small amount to make sure people connecting are serious about employment. Some would charge an amount for training. The only way to know if this is legitimate and “fair” is to see what you are really getting for your money and make sure all the transactions are transparent.
Companies (real employers) won’t charge for anything and they may require a face-to-face or Skype interview before closing the deal.
Where can you check for remote employment?
There are a few specialized (and tested) websites that dedicate to these jobs. In most cases, you will find these jobs through real companies websites, universities or colleges that offer online instruction or media publication websites that have electronic versions and/or blogs.
You can explore the following websites for more informal/one time contract remote employment:
Contract World Canada: http://www.contractworld.jobs/work_at_home_jobs_canada/01_home/work_at_home_jobs_home.html
Some links to get more information:
Virtual Assistants Association: http://www.ivaa.org/
Blog about eLearning careers and telecommunting: http://christytucker.wordpress.com/instructional-design-careers/