According to recent Census data, about 8 million Americans currently work from home.
Want to join them? The good news is that more employers are getting on board with remote work, which means that it should (in theory) be easier than ever to get a work-from-home job. The bad news is that scammers are still out there, trying to reel you in with promises of easy work and six-figure paychecks.
Beyond that, even genuine remote jobs come with challenges. It can be harder to get ahead, for example, if you’re not in the office where teammates collaborate (and the boss can see them doing it). And depending on your own work temperament, it can be a challenge to get stuff done when you’re just a few feet away from the laundry and the dishes — and your Netflix queue.
But if you’re aware of the potential pitfalls and prepared to navigate them, working from home can be the best thing that ever happened to your career. Many telecommuters say they’re more productive at home. Plus, technology has made it easy to attend meetings virtually and communicate with coworkers from anywhere in the world. If you’re a self-starter with discipline to spare, remote work can help you build a career and a life at the same time.
Want to get a work-from-home job? Here’s how to get started:
Ask About Telecommuting in Your Current Job
If you love your job but hate your commute — or your noisy, open-plan office — you might be able to keep your gig and lose the business casual. It’s possible that you’ll be able to convince your boss (and your employer) to let you work from home.
To make your case:
1. Learn company policy.
Fewer than half of companies that allow remote work have a telecommuting policy, according to a recent survey from Upwork. However, it makes sense to find out whether your employer is one of them before you ask to work from home.
Telecommuting policies typically cover things like work hours, eligibility, equipment and workspace requirements/provisions and legal disclaimers. They might also spell out workers’ responsibilities regarding childcare. (In other words, they’ll spell out that telecommuting isn’t a substitute for childcare or dependent care.)
Even if your company doesn’t have a policy, it’s a good idea to review a sample telecommuting policy so that you can see the kinds of issues employers consider when determining whether to allow employees to work remotely.
2. Ask the right way.
Just as you wouldn’t ask for a raise or a promotion on the fly, you shouldn’t casually ask to make a major change to your work schedule or location. Request a meeting with your supervisor and specify that it’s to discuss the possibility of telecommuting. That way, your boss won’t be taken by surprise and react before they can consider the pros and cons.
3. List the benefits.
And there are lots of pros! For example, telecommuters tend to work longer hours than their office-bound colleagues. In surveys, many say that they’re more productive at home, too.
It may also help to be specific. You might mention a project that would benefit from some heads-down time without distractions, for example. However, you should avoid getting too personal when you make your case. You might want to telecommute so that you can pick up your kids in the afternoon, or work out every morning without getting up at 4 a.m., or transition easily to a side gig after your full-time workday is finished. But these considerations are unlikely to persuade your boss.
4. Anticipate resistance.
Put yourself in your boss’s shoes. What would you be worried about, if your direct report wanted to go remote (full-time or part-time)? Be prepared to answer their questions and concerns. Explain how you’ll make yourself available and accessible for collaboration, including the technology you’ll use to facilitate that, e.g. video conferencing, Slack, email, etc.
Don’t over-explain until asked. There’s nothing less persuasive than a would-be telecommuter delivering an unprompted monologue about how they really, truly will not spend the whole day watching TV and catching up with their neighbors.
Offer to work from home on a trial basis to prove that you can be productive and collaborative while working remotely. That way, there’s less on the line and no commitment if it doesn’t work out.
5. Be excellent at your job.
The most important thing you can do to persuade your boss, once you’ve embarked on that trial telecommuting period, is to do your job well. Go above and beyond, especially when it comes to communicating with your supervisor and team. Be proactive about solving any telecommuting-related problems that arise. (For example, have a backup plan in case something happens to your internet at home.)
Look for Work-From-Home Jobs
Ready to move on from your current job to a new telecommuting role? There are plenty of advantages to starting out in a job as a full-time remote worker. For one thing, your manager will definitely be comfortable with you working from home.
To find legit work-from-home jobs, look online … but be careful. More on work-from-home job scams in a minute, but there are a few things you can to do to protect yourself when you’re looking for remote job listings:
- Stick with employers’ sites. If your industry is known for remote work, or you’re targeting a company that employs a lot of telecommuters, you can go directly to the source. Get in the habit of checking your target employers’ jobs pages, or use a site like LinkUp that aggregates listings. You can also follow employers’ verified profiles on social media and keep your eyes open for opportunities.
- Use vetted sites. If you don’t want to comb through employers’ sites — or risk getting fooled by a clever scammer on a free job board — you might consider paying for access to a job site that vets listings. For example, FlexJobs charges a monthly fee to access job listings in a variety of industries, including healthcare, software development and marketing.
- Search niche or general job sites. Most job boards and job search sites have remote listings, including Indeed, Monster and CareerBuilder, as well as industry-specific sites. To find remote listings, use keywords like “remote,” “telecommuting” or “work from home.” Just be wary of scams.
Avoid Work-From-Home Job Scams
How can you tell if that work-from-home job is legit? By being aware of the signs of scams, including:
- A fee to get started. No legitimate employer charges prospective employees money to get started. If you need to buy a kit or pay to get a background check or otherwise shell out cash to begin working, it’s not a real job.
- A request for your financial information. Legit employers don’t need your social security number, banking information and other essential financial data right up front. If the contact person asks for these things before you’ve even had a job interview, it’s a sign that you’re dealing with fraudsters and not a real company.
- Unprofessional ads. Typos happen, even in job search ads. But if the listing is riddled with mistakes, zany formatting, or high-intensity sales-pitch language, you may be looking at a scam instead of a legitimate opportunity.
- Common work-from-home jobs scams. Scammers often return to the same old tricks – because they work. Familiarize yourself with common scams and you can skip over those listings when you’re searching. (A few examples: wire transfers, data entry jobs with suspiciously large paychecks, stuffing envelopes, etc.)
- It seems too good to be true. Your mom was right: if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. You won’t make a fortune working part-time unless you have some very hot job skills in an in-demand area. Rule of thumb: if a robot can do what the job listing describes more cheaply than a person can, no one is going to pay top dollar for human labor.
Finally, don’t forget one of the best ways to get a work-from-home job or any type of job: networking.
And don’t confine your efforts to formal networking events, either. Some of the best networking happens spontaneously, when you’re talking to friends, family and former colleagues about your career goals. Don’t be afraid to mention that you’re looking for work and that you’d love to work remotely.
When you do, make sure you’re presenting yourself as a person who would be a solid addition to the team. Again, that means not stressing your personal needs, but rather emphasizing your effectiveness and skill. (It also means being positive, so try not to talk at length about your dreaded commute or noisy cubicle neighbors.)
Be prepared. You never know when you might run into someone who’s looking for a candidate with exactly your qualifications. Keep your business card handy and your resume and social media profiles up-to-date. Hone your elevator pitch and be ready to make a case for yourself. Your new work-from-home job might be right around the corner.
Tell Us What You Think
Do you telecommute? We want to hear from you. Tell us how you got your work-from-home job. Share your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.