Last week, I shared a short post about how working from home has been a transformational journey for me. That post led to several messages from those who are interested in learning more about remote working.
To answer your questions, I’m sharing with you some tips, insights and other resources that can help you get started as you think about whether remote working is for you.
Throughout this article, I would be using the terms remote work, working from home, freelancing and being an independent contractor. Although these four terms could indicate working outside of a traditional office, take note of the nuances that you need to know.
- If you work from home, you literally don’t need to leave your home to get things done. You can work, usually at your own time, with zero commutes needed. In my experience, ‘working from home’ is a permanent work setup as agreed upon with the one who hired me. Some, however, define working from home as a temporary arrangement for office-based positions that provide a bit of flexibility.
- As a remote worker, you’re working outside of a traditional office. You could either be working from home or any location. You could be employed via an agency or through direct hiring. You might be required to work from 9 to 5.
- Freelancing allows you to work wherever you want — from your own home or from any location you wish as long as you have a fast Internet connection. As a freelancer, you are a self-employed individual. Many freelancers work on a per-project or a per-hour basis.
- An independent contractor is self-employed and operates much like a freelancer. The major difference is that independent contractors usually have longer contracts than freelancers do.
My Career Path: From a ‘9-5 Job’ to Freelancing, then to Consulting
My freelance journey began in 2008 as a part-time freelance writer
While teaching college students from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m., and teaching ESL to Korean students from 6-9 p.m., 3x a week, I was also doing freelance writing usually at night till the next day when I had deadlines.
I was a skeptic when I started as a part-time freelance academic writer. But I also got attracted to the idea of doing what I loved — writing — and getting paid in dollars while working from home. So in February 2008, I wrote my first article at EssayWriters.net.
While many freelancers encountered problems of not getting paid or not getting paid on time, I didn’t have that problem at this company. I had my account active for more than nine years without any problem with getting paid.
I left teaching to work from home full time as an independent contractor
In 2010, I left the academia to join a Singapore-based online media intelligence company as a social media research analyst, and a month later as the head of the editing and training team. It was a full-time, work-from-home arrangement as an independent contractor.
It was new to me at the time, but I was super excited although leaving my comfort zone at the university was then risky for me.
It turned out that joining this company was a huge blessing to me and my family. As an independent contractor, I had no benefits just like what employed individuals had, but with this company, I got much more than the usual benefits. It literally opened so many opportunities to me:
- All-expense paid travel opportunities – I’ve traveled to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia at the time.
- Opportunity to work with people from the Asia-Pacific region including Singapore, Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Hong Kong.
- Getting paid on time on a monthly basis.
- Paid maternity leave although at the time I’ve just worked in the company for seven months.
- Bonuses of at least 60% of my monthly pay.
- Travel and food allowance for our monthly face-to-face meetings with my team here in the Philippines.
- Free access to Lynda.com, which is now LinkedIn Learning, Degreed, and other learning tools.
- Opportunity to work directly with the founders and chief officers – I consider this a huge benefit because of the tremendous learning involved.
- Being able to work from home full time was a major benefit to me!
- I was happy with my job, with my team and with what I was doing.
At the time, I didn’t have the freedom to choose the time I wanted to work because we had daily, weekly and monthly deadlines, but I didn’t mind at all. Why? Because after the 9-5 working hours, I could do more things like upskilling and spending quality time with my then small kids. Still a winning work setup for me!
I mentioned some of these benefits and opportunities I received back then to let you know that working as an independent contractor doesn’t mean you’re not getting any benefits. In my case, the benefits were much more significant to me than any benefits I received before I joined this company.
It’s really just all about mindset. Don’t just look for the “benefits.” Look at the opportunities, including professional development, that are available to help you thrive.
Yes, in the corporate world, you get benefits like health benefits, etc., but if you look at career opportunities within the organization, there is almost nothing waiting for you.
I’ve talked a lot of professionals who wanted to leave their corporate jobs because they’re no longer happy, but they’re afraid of “losing” the benefits that a corporate job offers.
I had the same mindset before I jumped in to full-time freelancing. At the time, I had 3 kids and all of them enjoyed 100% free tuition in the university where I taught.
So my major “fear” back then was “losing” that benefit of not having to worry about where to get tuition fees for three kids — education here in the Philippines is very expensive so receiving free tuition for them is a huge benefit.
What I learned, however, was that that “fear” was not real.
Yes, you don’t have the benefits in black and white, but if you consistently do a job well done, you will get amazing opportunities not available in the corporate world.
I transitioned from freelancing to consulting and training in 2017
Because of so many freelance opportunities that came through my door through LinkedIn, I hit the six-figure monthly income in 2016 (in PHP) as a result of a lot of hard work servicing a few clients who all found me through LinkedIn.
To cut it short, in 2017, I finally transitioned from doing freelance works to LinkedIn training and consulting full time working with both international and local clients — and I’m still working from home.
Remote work is the future of work. Now’s the perfect time to get on board
Because I’ve personally experienced the multiple benefits of remote working and freelancing, which have literally transformed the way I work, live and spend time with my family, I’m glad that many are interested in learning more about the possibilities that remote working can bring.
Remote work is the future of work, and with digital capabilities, many companies globally have started ditching office spaces and hiring remote workers.
With the worsening traffic situation especially in EDSA and around Metro Manila, you might be spending so much time just traveling to and from work, which leaves you tired when you get home — with almost no energy to spend quality time with your family.
Imagine, if you spend 3 hours daily commuting to and from your workplace, that’s 15 hours a week, 60 hours a month and 720 hours per year. Imagine what you can do with those 720 hours, which is equal to 30 days.
It’s like having a 13th month for free to use for yourself and to spend with your family. I didn’t realize this myself until now that I did a computation.
Think about it. Working from home can give you an extra 30 days each year. And you can use that time to grow professionally or spend quality time with your family.
It’s absolutely a fantastic idea. And it’s for real.
Benefits of Remote Work
Based on my experience in the past nine years as a remote worker and freelancer, here are the benefits of being a self-employed professional:
- More time to spend with your family
- Earn a living while staying home with your kids
- No commute – Saves you time and money
- Work on your own schedule (except for scheduled meetings)
- Work anywhere as long as you have a fast Internet connection
- More time to upskill and grow professionally
- Opportunity to work with people from around the globe
- Capacity to earn more while working fewer hours
- Financial independence – Your capacity to earn is high if you work efficiently and effectively
- Attend your kids’ school activities without the need to file a leave of absence, etc.
- You can be present in family gatherings while still have a chance to work if needed
- Generally a politics-free working environment
But before feeling too excited at the thought of working from home, which sounds more like a dream come true for many, you must realize that it’s not all bed of roses when you are a remote worker or freelancer.
Yes, there are tremendous benefits to working from home or working remotely, but the truth is, this kind of work style, which will also be your lifestyle, in general, is not for everyone.
Remote working also has its downsides, especially if you haven’t acquired the skills needed to thrive in this work setup.
The Downsides of Remote Work
While there are tremendous benefits to remote working and freelancing, the downsides are also present. These could include:
- High operating expenses – You need your own laptop and other tools, you pay for your electricity and ISP.
- The tendency to overwork – Work is too accessible so you’ll be tempted to work at any time whether it’s working hours or not.
- The tendency to slack and procrastinate – Without discipline, it’s very easy to get distracted and not get things done properly and on time.
- Chasing after clients if you don’t know what you’re doing. – If, as a freelancer, you rely on marketplaces instead of doing the marketing yourself, you’ll be in a cycle of famine and feast. This can be a painful cycle.
- The tendency to feel lonely and isolated – It can sometimes feel like you’re all alone working and grinding all day, especially if those around you don’t understand the nature of your work. When you start earning more, you wouldn’t want to see yourself become idle, i.e., not working or not earning, so you prefer to work rather than go out with your friends. For others, remote working can cause stress.
- Lack of focus – It takes time to develop discipline and focus, so at the beginning, it could feel like working from home is all chaos and firefighting. Through time, however, you’ll find your sweet spot in terms of productivity. But hopefully, it happens before you feel burned out.
4 Remote Working Career Paths: Choose the Path That Can Make You Thrive
There is no single path to landing remote jobs. Based on my experience and of those around me, there are at least four career paths that can help you transition from the corporate office to remote or work-from-home jobs.
OPTION 1: Apply at companies that directly hire independent contractors
This was my starting point when I dove in as a full-time remote worker. I enjoyed financial security, a rewarding job, a supportive team and a work-from-home setup for six years.
This path has armed me with the confidence and the right skill sets needed to thrive in the next stages of my career. Looking back, I was grateful to have the courage to then get out of my comfort zone and take the road less traveled, as they say.
OPTION 2: Use LinkedIn to find and get found by potential clients hiring freelancers
When I left the academe in 2010, I wasn’t aware yet of the power of LinkedIn. But in 2014, I discovered how powerful LinkedIn was in helping freelancers get found by their ideal clients.
The majority of my “success” in freelancing is because of my LinkedIn presence. My LinkedIn presence has also helped me land freelance writing and editing jobs that helped me earn at least $3,000+ monthly in 2016, with the potential to earn more.
At the time, I’ve turned down other freelance job opportunities because I could no longer handle them with the time I had.
Later on, I learned how to do sub-contracting so I could serve more clients, increase revenue and also help other freelancers earn.
It was a milestone for me at the time because I’ve been working in the corporate world for 11+ years, and when I resigned with advanced graduate degrees, I was getting only around $700 per month.
If you’re just getting started, you have to realize that you can do this, too, and possibly accomplish more. But yes, you need to put in the work.
Build your personal brand through LinkedIn to attract the right clients that you’d like to work with. Also, with a highly optimized LinkedIn profile, you will have the confidence to apply at companies that directly hire independent contractors.
OPTION 3: Apply at remote staffing agencies that connect you with foreign clients
You can apply through a remote staffing agency. Taking this option will give you not only the financial security that your corporate job offers, but also the opportunity to work from home and acquire remote working skills that can help you thrive as a self-employed individual and later transition to being an entrepreneur.
Plus, because no commute is needed, you can use your supposed commute time to upskill yourself and invest in your professional growth.
OPTION 4: Set up a freelancer profile at freelance marketplaces
I personally won’t recommend this, but this is a possible option. I know a few Filipinos who succeed at Upwork or other freelance marketplaces, so if it’s for you, go for it.
However, sooner or later, you’ll discover that investing in yourself and doing your own marketing is a much more viable option that can give you long-term success than relying on freelance marketplaces to “sell” you almost like a commodity.
I was once attracted to Elance (oDesk and Elance merged to become Upwork), but when I learned about the race to the bottom, which I saw happening, I didn’t like it. I’m glad I didn’t pursue this because I found LinkedIn.
15 Tips for Aspiring Remote Workers and Freelancers
If you’re contemplating becoming a self-employed professional as a remote worker, a freelancer or independent contractor, consider these 15 quick tips to get you started:
#1. Ask yourself these questions and be honest
Do you think you’re cut out to be a remote worker or freelancer?
If you’re just looking at remote working or freelancing as an “escape” from your 9-to-5 job or an excuse to set yourself free from the worsening traffic condition, then remote working or freelancing might not be for you.
To succeed in this industry, you need separate sets of skills. And you must be very clear with your why. So why do you want to work from home?
Before you dive in, think about it several times. Weigh in the consequences based on the benefits and downsides I mentioned above. There are other benefits and downsides that I haven’t mentioned, for sure, so do further research before you dive in.
#2. Understand the basics of remote working
Many of those I mentioned above cover the basics you need to know. The major aspects you need to understand include financial security, payment structure, work arrangement and flexibility.
Specifically, these are some of the questions you need to answer to gain clarity on what you’re getting in to:
- Is there financial security?
- How do you get paid?
- Does the company pay remote workers on time?
- What are the expectations?
- What tools do you need to succeed in your role?
- What skills make you qualified to work remotely?
- Will you be paid per hour, per project or based on results?
- Is the pay remitted weekly or monthly?
- How much are the charges when you receive your pay via PayPal, Payoneer or other platforms?
- How many hours are you expected to work?
- Do you need to use a time-tracking device,e.g., Time Doctor or HubStaff time tracker, so the client can monitor your activities?
- Which timezone are you expected to work? PST? EST? AEDT?
- Which holidays apply to your work arrangement? Your local holidays or the holidays on your client’s location?
#3. Choose the best career path that can make you thrive
As discussed above, there are different career paths to thriving in remote working. You’re the only one who can tell which one works for you, especially at the beginning.
I don’t recommend staying in any career that doesn’t make you happy and fulfilled, but it’s always best to make an informed decision and take calculated risks when possible before joining the remote workforce.
#4. Don’t quit your full-time job yet
Unless you get hired in a remote working agency to render full-time working hours, always remember that being self-employed, esp. as a freelancer, is a totally different world. No matter how excited you are to leave your 9-to-5 job, you still have to be realistic.
Here’s what you might consider:
- Start as a moonlighter. Keep your day job while you take part-time freelance jobs. This helps you gain an understanding of what it takes to be an effective self-employed professional and learn the skills needed to thrive.
- Take part-time freelance jobs that are aligned with what you are currently doing. That was how I started. I was in the academe, so I started as a freelance academic writer. I wrote and edited research papers, speeches and other academic papers. It was easier for me because I had the skills needed to do the jobs. Doing a totally different job while you’re employed full time could be so exhausting.
#5. Listen to what people are not saying
When you finally decided to transition to remote working or freelancing, expect to hear a lot of comments or remarks. Your close friends will be excited for you. Some may doubt your decision.
Others will ask you endlessly, “Why? What kind of career or future awaits you if you’re just working from home?”
With a lot of misconceptions going around about remote working and freelancing, you’re better off doing your research to learn as much as you can about the industry, so you can make an informed decision.
#6. Set clear boundaries at home
First, have a home office or any distraction-free spot in your house where you can focus. So, when you’re ready to work, you just need to go to that spot and your body knows it’s time to work and time to focus.
Second, let everyone in the house know when you’re working and why they should not disturb you unless there’s an emergency. This is important when you’re in a call with your client and when your work requires deep focus.
Sure, your client will understand that you are at home, and therefore your kids might be around during calls, but it also shows that you don’t set boundaries at home and you don’t set up your work area to be conducive to doing focused work.
If your family understands the nature of your job, you’ll get that kind of support from them. You may also consider staying at co-working spaces where you can meet and work with other freelancers.
#7. Invest in good equipment and a reliable Internet provider
You can’t function well if you don’t invest in these basic requirements. And always be ready with backup plans. If your ISP fails, you need to have a backup Internet connection or maybe a pocket Wi-Fi.
You’re required to have a reliable Internet connection. Without it, don’t attempt to get a work-from-home job that requires a decent Internet speed.
#8. Be comfortable with technology and productivity tools
Because your clients and colleagues are from other parts of the world, you will communicate with them using technology. You should know how to use at least the basics: Skype, Google Documents, Dropbox, Zoom, Outlook, Trello, Slack, etc.
#9. Brush up on your communication skills
To thrive as a remote worker or freelancer, you must have good communication skills, i.e. writing, reading, listening and speaking. Whether you are a virtual assistant, a graphic designer, a web developer, or a content creator, you will benefit tremendously from having effective communication skills.
You will have to write emails, talk to your clients, negotiate with prospective clients, write proposals, read tons of references, do web research, etc. Everything that you will do, basically, is communication.
#10. Seek support from industry groups
Here’s the truth: The freelance industry is not very friendly to those who are just starting out. And working from home can make you feel isolated and lonely.
The competition is so high. I’ve even encountered freelancers who attempt to put their fellow freelancers down or make them look bad in front of foreign employers. Whatever is happening in the corporate world is also happening in remote jobs.
So, it’s important to manage your expectations in terms of working conditions, the industry and your colleagues. Take advantage of meetups for freelancers in your area. It’s good to hang out with your fellow freelancers, share your skills and talk about your experiences.
#11. Make learning a part of your daily routine
Every remote worker, every freelancer is a learner. Unlike in an office where your manager arranges training for you each month or quarter, if you work from home or do freelancing, you’re the only one in charge of your own professional growth.
If you don’t enjoy learning (and I mean learning on your own) or you’re not keen at upgrading your skills, you will be left out and lose your remote job before you know it.
Always remember that there are so many freelancers who join the industry every day, so if you don’t consistently perform at your best, many others are ready to fill in your position.
The skills you acquired in college are no longer enough to make you thrive as a freelancer. In fact, remote working is a skill in itself that requires so many sub-skills if you want to thrive.
For example, journalism students might have learned writing, editing, proofreading, data gathering and interviewing while in school, but as freelance content writers, they need to learn other skills, including search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, inbound methodology and content strategy, which they most probably haven’t heard of while in school.
The good thing is, you can now learn everything, so there’s no excuse not to know whatever your remote work requires. Several learning opportunities are available online. Here are some learning options to consider:
- Enroll in massive open online courses (MOOCs). You’ll find paid and free MOOCs on Udemy, FutureLearn, Open2Study, Coursera, edX, Udacity, and many others.
- Watch relevant videos on LinkedIn Learning and other similar platforms. You need a premium subscription to have access to these learning videos. Take the 30-day free trial if you haven’t done so.
- Read books and ebooks from your computer and other devices.
- Listen to audiobooks.
- Find a mentor or use LinkedIn’s Career Advice.
#12. Have the right mindset
Working from home as an independent contractor or a freelancer is a business. As a self-employed professional, you will do practically everything for yourself. You will do your own marketing, manage your finances, do the actual job, manage your resources, pay your bills, negotiate with clients, create proposals, etc.
You may hear others say that as a freelancer, you are your own boss ― this may sound great, but in reality, you are still accountable to someone else and that is the one who helps you pay the bills.
#13. Build your online portfolio
I know what you’re thinking right now ― what if you haven’t really started freelancing? Well, remember tip #4? While you’re a moonlighter, document all your projects and do great jobs that you can include in your portfolio.
You can create your own website to showcase your portfolio or simply optimize your LinkedIn profile where you can highlight all your great work.
Whether you’re applying as a remote worker or trying to win clients yourself through direct hiring, you should know that those prospects have their own fears ― they’re afraid of hiring you.
While you’re thinking about whether you’ll get paid by potential clients, they’re thinking about whether they could trust you and whether you can get the job done the right way.
So it’s important to consistently do great work that can help you build a portfolio that will help eliminate your potential client’s fear of hiring you as a remote worker or a freelancer.
#14. Polish your digital footprint
Clean up your digital footprint because your potential clients are searching through Google to find out more about you before they take a chance on you.
So how do you get started doing this?
Do a Google search of your name using the Incognito mode on your browser. If the search results include any posts that you won’t be proud to show your potential clients, e.g., those posts when you were ranting about your current or past employer, delete them or adjust the privacy settings on your social media profile.
The point is to make sure that your online presence will help you land your dream job, rather than lose an opportunity.
#15. Stand out by building a powerful personal brand on LinkedIn
Personal branding, in simple terms, is a way to market yourself and your career so you can attract the right opportunities that can help you become successful.
Whichever path you choose as you transition from the corporate office to remote work or freelancing, having a LinkedIn profile that helps you stand out can absolutely accelerate your success.
Here’s how I used LinkedIn to achieve my goals in 2017 ― Personal Branding Works: My LinkedIn Journey 2017
LinkedIn has been a game-changer in my life as I transitioned from corporate to freelancing to consulting. You can use LinkedIn to be found by your target clients, be remembered by those who need your expertise and services and be recognized for what you stand for.
I’ve written a ton of articles about this, and you might want to check out some of them:
- 3 Key Steps in Building Your Personal Brand on LinkedIn
- Freelancers Need a Personal Brand. Here’s How to Get Started
- 8 Ways Freelancers Can Build a Powerful Personal Brand on LinkedIn
- Are You a Freelancer? Here’s Why You Should Stop Acting Like One
My Forbes and Entrepreneur Philippines features were also around this topic:
- This Filipina Freelancer Shares 5 Ways To Land High Paying Jobs Through LinkedIn
- This Filipina Freelancer Shares 9 Steps To A Powerful Personal Brand On LinkedIn
- This Former Teacher’s Smart Strategy Helped Her Earn Around Php150,000/Month Online
40+ Skills That Can Help you Land Remote Jobs or Freelance Job Opportunities
- Proofreading and Editing
- Social Media Marketing
- Social Media Management
- Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL)
- Graphic Design
- Virtual Assistant Jobs
- Accounting, Bookkeeping and Finance
- Web Development
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Video Editing
- Photo Editing
- Content Marketing
- Podcast Pre-production, Production and Post-production
- Academic Writing
- Speech Writing
- Project Management
- Legal Writing
- Email Marketing
- Web Design
- Lead Generation
- Customer Service
- Visual Design
- Ghost Writing
- Shopify Development
- Data Entry
- Facebook Marketing
- Funnel Marketing
- Business Consulting
- Voice Over
- Information Technology
- Account Management
- Advertising & PR
Bonus: Where to Find Remote Jobs and Freelance Opportunities
There are so many sites from where you could start, but for now, below is a quick list that comes to mind.
Always do your research before joining any of these. Find out the basic information that you need to ― I discussed them above.
Make sure you’re making an informed decision so you can weigh in what’s best for you and how you can seamlessly transition from corporate to remote jobs. Not all of these would be useful to you, but at least, it gives you an idea and you can do further research from here.
- Freelance/Remote Jobs on LinkedIn
- Remote Staff
- People Per Hour
- Hubstaff Talent
- 99 Designs
- We Work Remotely
- LinkedIn ProFinder
- Amazon Mechanical Turk
The benefits and opportunities awaiting you in remote and freelance jobs are tremendous, but it’s not for everyone. I hope the insights and tips I shared here are useful in helping you make that big decision that can change your life the way it did transform my career path and my personal life.
If you want to leverage LinkedIn to get started in freelancing and accelerate your success, schedule a free 15-minute LinkedIn Strategy Call with me and let’s talk.