More people are working remotely than ever before. According to a FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics report, there was a 159% increase in U.S. remote workers from 2005-2017, with the current amount totaling 4.7 million. Meanwhile, Upwork’s Future Workforce Report projects that 73% of all departments will have remote workers by 2028.
If you’re struggling to land your first work-from-home job, you may be wondering how so many people have managed to pull this off.
While remote work is increasingly popular with employees and employers alike, it’s far from accepted at every organization.
In recent years, a few large employers such as IBM and Bank of America have called some of their remote workers back to the office, often citing a need for collaboration as a reason for their decision.
That’s unfortunate because collaboration and work flexibility are in no way mutually exclusive. In fact, when companies do remote work the right way, it can be a positive experience for all involved, boosting productivity, increasing employee engagement, and even making people happier at work.
But if you’re trying to get hired for your first work-from-home job, you don’t need convincing. What you need is a plan to match your skills and experience to opportunities with employers who understand the benefits of remote work.
5 Tips for Finding Your First Work-From-Home Job
1. Turn Your Regular Job Into a Work-From-Home Job
According to an estimate from Global Workplace Analytics, 56% of U.S. workers have a job that’s compatible with remote work, at least on an occasional basis. If you do most of your work using technology such as computers, mobile devices, and/or tablets, you can probably do your job from home.
Of course, “compatible with remote work” doesn’t mean “allowed to work from home.” To make the move without jumping to a new job, you need to convince your boss to let you give telecommuting a try. The best way to do this is to suggest a trial arrangement—say, one or two days a week—for a set period of time.
Before you ask, though, first lay the groundwork. Get a sense of how your boss feels about flexible work arrangements. Then, prepare a telecommuting proposal. Anticipate and address any objections, demonstrating your successful track record of work and your ability to manage your own time. Suggest measurable goals and check-in times to assess your progress. Be specific about how you’ll keep in touch during the day.
Above all, be flexible and willing to adapt based on your manager’s input.
2. Consult or Freelance
If your current position isn’t an option for your first work-from-home job, don’t assume that you’ll have to find an entirely new role to make the leap. Freelancing and consulting can give you a chance to get your feet wet without leaving a secure employment situation. Working independently can also give you a chance to build up an emergency fund. Ultimately, you may even find that you like working for yourself so much that you'll opt to build your own business instead of looking for another job.
The best thing about freelancing or consulting is that you can get started for only a few hours a week. You can find freelance job listings online or network your way into gigs via word of mouth.
3. Use Job Search Sites, Both General and Niche
Speaking of online job listings, job search sites are a great way to find work-from-home jobs. You can use your favorite job search sites (Indeed, Monster, ZipRecruiter, etc.) for remote work opportunities by refining your search by keywords such as “remote,” “work-from-home,” “work-at-home,” and “telecommuting.”
To make it easier to find remote jobs, Indeed has added a search filter that lets job seekers filter roles that have been identified as remote. Click on "Remote" at the top of the search results page to access listings.
You can also use job search sites that target work-from-home jobs. Some, such as WeWorkRemotely, and Remote.co offer free listings, while others, such as FlexJobs, provide vetted listings for a small monthly fee.
Beware of job search scams. As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Warning signs of job search scams include promises of big earnings for not much work or requests for money or personal information.
4. Use LinkedIn to Find the Next Step on Your Career Path
What if you’re not one of the 56% of folks who have jobs that are compatible with working from home? If you long for the telecommuting lifestyle and your current gig doesn’t allow you to work remotely, maybe it’s time to consider changing careers.
Don’t assume that you need to go back to school in order to switch tracks. You may be able to map your transferable skills to a new career without investing years of your time and thousands of dollars retraining. And don’t forget the value of the soft skills—people skills, problem-solving, listening, and communicating—that you’ve developed during your career and can prove to be very valuable now.
Not sure how to get to where you want to go? Use LinkedIn to explore the possibilities. Look at the profiles of people who have the job you want. What skills, experience, and qualifications do they have that you presently don’t?
Once you’ve identified what you’re missing, you can fill the gap by upskilling yourself as appropriate. You might be just a class or a bootcamp away from your dream career.
5. Talk to People in Person (Or “in Person”)
Social networking is a solid jumping-off place for your new career path, but if you decide you definitely want to move into a new field, there’s no substitute for talking to people who are already there.
Set up informational interviews with people who have your dream job and ask them how they got where they are today. You’ll be surprised at how many people will be eager to talk to you. Best of all, some will share their missteps which can save you time and trouble during your career transition.
Too introverted, shy, or busy to set up in-person meetings? Ask to talk on the phone or via video chat. You’ll get the back-and-forth interaction you need, with no physical meet-up necessary.
Talk to Your Boss. If your job could be done remotely, talk to your manager about how working at home could be a win-win situation.
Look for Employers Who Recruit Remote Workers. Not all employers have the flexibility to hire remote staff. Focus your job search on companies that hire remote workers.
Use Your Network. Talking to people who are successfully working from home can give you ideas for your job search and for the next phase of your career.