Someone once told me that my ability to work remotely was like having a “super power.”
And I think I have to agree with him. I’ve been working remotely, full-time, for a U.S. company for about three and a half years now—and honestly, I could never go back to working in an office or having a location-dependent job.
Now with the recent pandemic, I feel especially fortunate to have a remote job.
Many people might say I have the best of both worlds. I have the freedom to work wherever I want (when not in quarantine of course), but I also have the job security (and some of the benefits) that come with working full-time for a company.
Now, if you want true freedom, then I might suggest going freelance. But then you’ll have to worry about things like taxes and stable income.
There are pros and cons to both, but if having a steady paycheck and benefits are important to you, then you’ll probably want to get a remote job.
See the difference?
Great! Now, ready to find out how to get a remote job? Read on.
STEP 1: Decide if you (really) want to work remotely
Before spending your time looking for a remote job, decide if you actually want to work remotely long-term. I know it sounds like a dream to many and honestly, to me, it really is. But I have a lot of friends that wouldn’t want to work remotely full-time. They like going into the office and having that in-person social interaction on a daily basis.
Obviously now, with the current pandemic, many people don’t have much choice but to work remotely. Regardless, it’s still worth considering whether or not this is the right path for you long-term. If not, maybe you could look into short-term gigs, like teaching English (or something else) online, user testing or freelancing, rather than committing to (and spending the time looking for) a full-time remote job.
Personally, I’ve found that I thrive in a remote work environment. I love having the flexibility to sleep in until noon. To get up and run errands whenever I need to. To be able to work from a beach in Thailand or my father’s condo in Florida. To not have to worry about that dreaded commute every day. To not have to dress up for work…and the list goes on.
Disclaimer: When working from home, I normally don’t look quite as put together as I do in that banner image there. I pretend to look something like this…
When in reality, I look a little more like this (only less posed)…
But alas, I had to look a little nicer for the photo here, so you wouldn’t think I’m a complete bum. Hopefully you don’t now!
My point? It’s nice to not have to dress up for work.
And if I’m craving some people-time, I can always go to a coffeeshop or coworking space. Problem solved!
But that’s me.
If you love the social interaction that comes from the workplace or if you’re someone that needs direct supervision to get work done, then remote work might not be the best choice for you. Give this some serious thought before moving onto the next step.
STEP 2: Decide what you want to do
Okay, so you’ve decided that you do want to work remotely. Now, it’s time to decide what it is that you want to do (if you don’t know already).
Easier said than done, I know.
Determine your strengths
Start by thinking about your strengths. As Marcus Buckingham, author of Now: Discover Your Strengths, describes it:
…[a strength is] not something that you’re good at, just like a weakness isn’t something that you’re bad at. A strength is an activity that strengthens you. That you look forward to doing. It’s an activity that leaves you feeling energized, rather than depleted.
For me, my strength is blogging/writing. Am I the best blogger in the world? Absolutely not. But I think I’m pretty decent at it. And I know that I love doing it; time flies by when I’m writing in my blog, and I always feel fulfilled after I publish a blog post.
Think about the activities that you aren’t just good at it, but that you love doing. The ones that make you feel energized after.
Check out job descriptions
Once you’ve identified your strengths, start browsing through a remote job site (more on that in step 5) and see what jobs stand out at you. Based on the job descriptions, write down all of the job titles that sound interesting to you and require your strength(s).
But be realistic. For example, if you don’t have any experience in marketing, but are aiming to be Director of Marketing, then, hate to break it to you, but that’s just not a realistic goal for the immediate future.
You might have to start out doing something that isn’t exactly what you want to do (like Marketing Assistant)–and then work your way up.
Also think about what it is exactly about the job description that attracts you. From there, maybe you can narrow down your ideal job title even further.
For example, does social media excite you? Maybe Social Media Assistant would be a better title to go after than Marketing Assistant. Or do you love the idea of writing email marketing newsletters each month? Then perhaps you could look for a job in just email marketing.
You get the idea…
STEP 3: Figure out how you work best
Are you most productive in the wee hours of the morning? Late hours of the night?
It’s important to know, because when working with a remote team, you might have to adapt a bit to a certain schedule. Some teams allow for complete flexibility, but others (like the team I currently work with) are more structured and require you to be “in the office” during certain hours.
I currently live and work from Barcelona, Spain, but I work on Eastern timezone, so have to be on Slack and available from 8:30AM to 12PM each day (which is 2:30PM to 6PM my time). One of my colleagues, located in Vancouver, Canada, has to wake up at 5AM each day! Not something I would want to do, but hey, it works for her.
Bottom line? If you find that you aren’t at all a morning person or you like to go to bed by a certain time, then these are things to keep in mind when applying to jobs. Make sure you check out the time zone you’ll be working in and think about whether or not it would be a good fit for you.
STEP 4: Create a tailored resume & portfolio
Your resume is the first impression that employers have of you. So it’s got to be good.
It should be one page, typo-free, and formatted nicely. Put it in reverse chronological order, with the most important information “above the fold” or at the top of the page.
Don’t get too fancy with the formatting. Use a basic, modern font that’s easy to read. And make sure it’s easily skimmable (so don’t cram too much onto that one page).
Tailor your resume to the job you’re applying to
Your resume should also be specific to the job you’re applying to.
For example, if you’re applying to be a Technical Support Specialist, then your job tutoring English back in college is probably irrelevant and should not be on your resume at all–that is, unless you can find a way to tie it back in to the role somehow. So if the job description says that they are looking for someone who works well with people, then that tutoring job could be relevant as long as you can show how you worked well with people.
No relevant experience yet? Don’t worry! Focus on the pertinent skills you have to offer, any relevant academic projects you may have worked on in the past, and then accompany that resume with a killer cover letter directed to the hiring manager, explaining why you’re perfect for the job.
Pro Tip: Keep one big resume, with all of your previous job titles, skills and accomplishments, that you can use as a reference. Then when you’re applying to jobs, you can cut and paste from this file to make relevant, tailored resumes.
Tailor it to remote too
Also remember that you’re not applying for a typical job…remote jobs require unique skills. Your future employer is going to be looking for signs that you’re autonomous and can work independently. They’ll want to know that you’re a problem-solver and a good communicator.
In addition to tailoring your resume to the job you’re applying for, here are a few things to include on your resume:
1. Online tools
List any online tools that you’re familiar with, like Slack, Google Hangouts, Google Sheets, WordPress, Zoom, Zapier…
Be specific here, if you can. For instance, WordPress recently released an editor called Gutenberg. If you’ve worked with it in the past, then this would be a good thing to mention as well, since it would show that you’re fairly up to date on the latest web trends.
Link to your portfolio or blog on your resume (a bit more on that below).
3. Side projects & initiatives
A few years ago, my brother started an eCommerce business selling meal replacement drinks. It didn’t work out in the end, but he was able to put that experience on his resume (and use as a story to tell in interviews). And he ended up scoring a great job in San Francisco as a result (an in-office one…but it does have the possibility to work remotely).
Employers like to hire people that are motivated and take initiative, so side projects and initiatives are good things to include on your resume. If it’s something that you’re still working on, just be sure to make it clear somehow that your project won’t interfere with the job in any way.
Much better to say something like “Wrote and published blog posts that helped increase traffic by 150% in 6 months” than “Wrote blog posts”. It’s not always possible, but if you have any results to show from your previous experience, definitely include those. Even better if they are specific numbers.
Don’t forget a portfolio
If you don’t have one already, you’ll also want to create a portfolio that shows off your skills. If you’re just starting out, then think about what you’ve created in school or any side projects you’ve worked on.
You could also start a blog if you want to show off your writing skills. Or create a few designs if you’re looking for a design job.
When I was just starting out, I created a very basic portfolio that included some papers I’d written in graduate school, along with links to my blog. Nothing fancy but definitely better than nothing!
Whatever you do, don’t skip this step, because a portfolio is essential if you want to be taken seriously by hiring managers.
STEP 5: Start looking for jobs
Once your resume and portfolio are good to go, it’s time to start looking!
There are a ton of websites that post remote job opportunities. My personal favorite is weworkremotely.com. Companies have to pay $300 to post an ad on the site, so the companies on there tend to pay their employees quite well (at least $15 an hour depending on the position, but generally much more than that).
Here are a few other websites where you can find a remote job:
- Flexjobs.com (you’ll have to pay for a membership, but many people seem to think it’s worth it)
- Working Nomads
- Angel.co (and filter for remote)
You’ll probably want to avoid the typical job sites, like LinkedIn, Monster and Indeed, since the majority of jobs posted on there are in-person.
Believe it or not, but LinkedIn isn’t the only social media site where you can find a job. Join Facebook groups catered to remote jobs and digital nomads and do a search for your job title. Search on Twitter for keywords like “remote” and “hiring.”
Check out the top companies hiring for remote positions and follow them on social media for updates.
Believe it or not, but I actually found my current job on Facebook (via a Facebook group for remote jobs). I was working as a Proofreader at the time, in an office job that I was not happy or fulfilled at. I posted in the Facebook group that I was looking for a job as a Virtual Marketing Assistant and my boss responded, saying he was looking for a Content Marketing Specialist.
We joke about it now, but funnily enough, I was never even interviewed for the job. I sent my now boss some writing samples, we exchanged a few emails, and boom – I started working. My family thought it sounded like a scam, and I myself was worried it was too good to be true. But it all worked out.
Here are a few lessons that I’ve learned through landing my remote job:
1. Experience isn’t always necessary (and don’t listen to naysayers who tell you otherwise!)
Before landing my current job, I didn’t really know much about marketing at all (but I had some writing experience, including blogging in my personal blogs). When I told my brother that I wanted to land a remote job, he told me, “Good luck…I think you’re going to need to put in time at a company and get more experience before that’ll happen.” Guess what? He was wrong. Just a few months later, I landed my remote job.
So if you don’t have much experience yet, don’t fret. There are plenty of entry-level remote positions out there that will hire you without experience.
2. Get your foot in the door first
I started out as a Contractor working just four hours a day, which I think definitely made it easier for me to get the job. A few months later, I moved into a full-time position.
Looking back, I got really lucky, because for other positions at the company I work at, my boss generally gets over 500 applications for each position and has a very long, intense hiring process. There’s a whole lot of competition, and it’s not easy to get hired. The same goes for most other remote positions, especially now with the COVID-19 crisis.
My advice? Like I did, consider looking for a contract (or freelance) position to start out — it’s less of a commitment from the employer’s end, so generally these types of jobs are easier to get.
If you want a full-time job, then you could also ask the employer if there’s a possibility to move into something full-time down the road (my boss had told me there was).
3. Try ALL avenues
What happened to me (finding a job on Facebook and having my boss reach out to me like that) was obviously really unusual, especially given my lack of experience. I got really lucky and somehow a job fell into my lap.
But it does go to show the importance of trying all avenues (yes, even posting in Facebook groups like this one). Don’t be shy! The worst that can happen is nobody responds.
Just be as specific as possible in your post. Say what type of position you’re looking for and link to your portfolio if you want to.
STEP 6: Apply, apply and apply some more
Remember that you’ll most likely be competing with a lot of people. But don’t let that intimidate you or scare you away. Just be sure to put some thought into each job you apply for.
Read through the job description carefully. I’ve found that many employers (including my own boss) will ask applicants to include something specific in the application to prove that they read through the entire job description. The ones that don’t follow the instructions are filtered out.
Beware of scams
You know what they say: If something seems too good to be true…it generally is (except in my case!).
First and foremost, trust your gut. Check the email address of the hire contact. It should come from a legitimate company domain (ie: firstname.lastname@example.org). If it comes from a hotmail, gmail or non-company domain, then there’s a good chance it’s a scam.
And before ever handing over credit card or personal information online, make sure that the website is secure (the website address should have a lock icon next to it and it should start with https:// and not http://).
This should go without saying, but never ever hand over money, accept checks or pay for something upfront. Some job scams will ask you to pay for your credit report to be reviewed, buy a certain software or deposit a check and then send money elsewhere. Sketchy but it happens. Don’t fall for it.
If you’re ever unsure about a company, do a quick Google search, typing the company name + scam. And see what turns up.
If you don’t find any information about the company at all, then that’s also almost a surefire sign it’s a scam.
Stand out from the other applicants
The hardest part about applying to remote jobs is finding a way to make your application stand out.
Many remote jobs still require cover letters, but others just ask a series of questions, like “why should we hire you?”
Unfortunately, a thoughtful, personalized application isn’t always enough. So try to get creative and think of ways that you can really knock the socks off of that hiring manager.
As mentioned, remote employers like people that take initiative. So try and surprise them by doing something that they didn’t ask for.
If you’re applying for a job as a Technical Support Specialist (or a job that requires WordPress skills), you could create a simple website on WordPress, catered to the company you’re applying to of course, that proves your technical prowess (this is actually how my colleague landed a job at our company).
Or if the position is for a Content Marketing Specialist (like my role!), you could propose some blog post ideas that you have.
If you’re not too camera shy, you could create a video introducing yourself (some job applications even require this).
Anyway, the ideas are endless!
Pro Tip: If you don’t have a gmail account, I highly recommend creating one (if nothing else than to apply to jobs). There are some companies that will only consider your application if you apply from an email address that’s gmail.com or your own domain. Why? A gmail account makes you seem tech-savvy. Anything else (like Hotmail, AOL or Yahoo) just looks very outdated and 90s. Might sound discriminatory, but hey, first impressions matter!
Don’t get discouraged
Applying to jobs is definitely time-consuming if you do it right. As they say, looking for a job really is a full-time job. Especially when it’s remote.
It can feel discouraging to get rejection after rejection (or no response at all). But don’t let this get you down. Remember that it happens to everyone. And all it takes is just one response. One company. One hire.
So don’t give up.
That said, if you find that you’re applying to a ton of jobs and not getting any responses, then it might be a good idea to look at your approach and see if there’s a way you can do things better.
When you get a rejection, you could even ask the person who emailed you why they didn’t choose you. Was it due to a typo in your resume? Was it because your cover letter sounded too generic?
Whatever the reason, you might be able to get some helpful feedback that you could use moving forward. What do you have to lose by asking? My thoughts exactly.
STEP 7: Prepare for the job interview
So you’ve landed a job interview. Amazing! Somehow you’ve managed to stand out from the other applicants and make an impression on the hiring manager.
Now, it’s time to prepare.
Remember that remote employers are looking for certain skills, so you’ll want to have some stories prepared that show off those skills and prove you’ve got what it takes.
Here are a few skills that your hiring managers will want to see:
When working remotely, you won’t have anyone looking over your shoulder to make sure that work gets done. The hiring manager you speak with is going to want proof that you can handle projects on your own.
Think about what you do to ensure that things get done in your current job. For example, maybe you set a task list each week of the tasks that you need to complete, prioritized from most important to least important. Or maybe you set goals independently and plan projects on your own from start to finish.
These are all things you’ll want to mention to the hiring manager you’re speaking with.
On that note, remote hiring managers want to hire people who are self-motivated and take initiative. Those that don’t have to be asked to do things and instead, just do it. Those that come up with new strategies or ideas without being prompted.
Think of examples of when you took initiative to get something done, professionally or non-professionally. For example, maybe you wanted to learn Spanish, so started a Meetup group for wannabe Spanish-speakers. Or perhaps your previous job required some design skills, so you took a design class in your own time.
It might seem like a small thing to you, but those are the types of things that you’ll want to share with your interviewer.
3. (Excellent) Communication
When working remotely, you have to be very intentional about communication. Long delays in response time just don’t fly.
When communicating with your hiring manager, be quick to respond to emails and ensure that the emails you send are clear (easy to understand) and free from typos and grammatical errors.
Make sure that you have an excellent wifi connection for your interview. If you have spotty wifi at your house, then go to a friend’s house for the interview. This isn’t the time when you want your wifi to drop!
And always have a backup on you, like a phone hotspot that you can use in case the internet cuts out (I learned this the hard way after living in Brazil, where power outages were a regular occurrence!).
You should also make sure you have a good pair of headphones (with a microphone). On my computer, I don’t need headphones to communicate, but if I don’t use them, it results in an echoey sound for the person on the other end. Not ideal.
Choose a quiet space for your interview, distraction-free. This means no interviews in coffeeshops or around noisy roommates or children!
And pay attention to the background of your call too (if you’ll be on video). The last thing you want is to lose out on the job because you had a sloppy bedroom or dishes piled up in the sink.
When looking to hire people, my boss asked applicants to send their resume as a link. He was shocked at the number of people that didn’t know how to do that (hint, if you don’t know either: Google Drive or Dropbox are your friends here).
Unless your role is super technical, you don’t have to be a tech wiz to land a remote job. But hiring managers like to hire people who are comfortable trying out new tools and can figure things out on their own.
Because when working remotely, you won’t have an IT department around the corner to come and fix things for you. Nor will you be able to rely on a colleague sitting next to you to walk you through a tool you’re unfamiliar with.
To prove your technical skills, let your interviewer know of the platforms and software that you’re familiar with or your HTML knowledge. Talk about those times when you figured out how to use a tool on your own or do something technical, without any help.
Okay, not exactly a skill, but equally as important as one. Hiring managers are looking to hire people who are genuinely excited about the job. If you’re only interested in the remote aspect, they’ll be able to see right through that. And news flash: you won’t last long if that’s the case.
So share your (hopefully genuine) enthusiasm with your interviewer. What makes you excited about the position and the company?
Talk about the ways that you’ve been involved in your industry, whether that’s attending local conferences and meetups; reading blog posts; or listening to podcasts. And ask questions!
Come up with a few stories to share with your interviewer that will show off all your remote and job-specific skills, and jot them down in bullet point format. Then practice with a friend to get their feedback.
Why stories? Because stories are more memorable than just facts. 22 times so, to be exact.
Also check out the LinkedIn profile of your hiring manager to get inside their head and get an idea of who you’ll be speaking to. If you notice a common interest, you could bring it up in the interview.
Just try not to get too nervous and put too much pressure on yourself. If this interview doesn’t work out, there will be an even better opportunity waiting for you down the road.
STEP 8: Come up with an elevator pitch
Your elevator pitch is a 30-second speech that tells people who you are, what you’ve achieved and what you have to offer. It’s called an elevator pitch because your speech should take no longer than an elevator ride.
Your elevator pitch should be a memorable and attention-grabbing summary of your background and achievements; what makes you special; and what types of opportunities you’re looking for.
Write this down and practice saying it aloud so that it sounds genuine. You should be ready to share this with anyone, whether that’s in a job interview, on the subway, at a networking event, or, hell, on the elevator in your apartment building.
After all, you never know when you might run into someone who’s looking to hire (remotely) so it’s important to be prepared.
Work permits and such
So you’ve found an awesome remote company (or two) that you’re dying to work for. But…the company isn’t based in your home country.
Now I know what you’re probably wondering: Will I need some sort of work authorization in order to work there full time?
Good news here! Most remote companies don’t require this. But, as a foreign employee, you won’t be on their payroll either. You’ll technically work as a contractor, rather than an actual employee (even if you work full time).
That said, if the company is a decent one, you should get reimbursed for the same benefits (like paid time off and healthcare) as a regular employee.
As for salary, there are some companies out there that base their employees’ salary on where they live. But there are many that don’t.
As mentioned, I currently work full-time for a U.S. company. I started working there while I was living in the U.S. (where I’m from), and then shortly after, I started traveling all over–without a fixed or permanent address (although I’ve been using my father’s address for tax purposes).
I currently live in Spain, but my salary hasn’t changed. So I’ve been able to save 2/3 of my salary (which I could never do if I were living the same lifestyle in the U.S.!).
My advice here? No matter where you live, apply to remote jobs at companies that are based in countries with a high cost of living (like U.S., Ireland, Australia, England…). And focus on companies that set your salary based on your performance, not on where you live.
So you’ve made it to the end of this article. Congratulations!
If you follow the steps outlined in this blog post, you’ll be working as a remote employee of an awesome company in no time.
To sum up, here are the steps to take to get there:
- Decide if you want to work remotely
- Decide what you want to do
- Figure out how you work best
- Create a tailored resume and portfolio
- Start looking for jobs
- Apply, apply and apply some more
- Prepare for the job interview
- Come up with an elevator pitch
At the end of the day, try to focus your energy on job titles and companies that really interest and excite you. If you do that, your genuine excitement and passion will shine through and you’ll be that much more likely to get hired. Guaranteed.
Still got questions on how to get a remote job? Or tips to share on how you did it? Get in touch or share in the comments below!