Want to work from home for a virtual company? You’ll need to stand out from the global crowd. Follow this guide to get a remote job with the flexibility you crave.
Want to work from home? Better still: Want to grab your laptop and stay connected to your job as you travel to visit friends from college or spend a long weekend exploring a new city?
Remote work jobs are on the rise; a recent FlexJobs study showed that remote job listings increased by 26 percent between 2013 and 2014, and this trend is likely to continue as more and more companies discover the value of a remote workforce.
What kinds of companies offer remote work opportunities? FlexJobs lists 76 companies you might want to consider, in industries from software development to education. Of course, to get one of these remote jobs, you are going to have to be prepared to sell yourself as a remote worker — even if you’ve never worked from home a day in your life!
How can you transform yourself into a candidate these remote companies might want to hire? We’ve got a few tips to help you stand out to potential employers and prepare yourself to work from anywhere. (Click here to tweet these tips.)
Become the best possible team member
Remote teams are not limited by location. They have their pick of candidates from across the country and, sometimes, across the globe. Your job is to convince a remote company not only that you have the skills they need for the position available, but also that you are the best possible person to join their team.
This means that you need to demonstrate excellence in both teamwork and remote work. If you have previous work-from-home experience, include it in your application; if not, consider picking up a freelance gig to get some remote work practice.
If you have a job and you want to eventually transition into a remote job at another company, start preparing now by asking your supervisor if you can work remotely one day a week, or one day every two weeks. (Need help learning how to develop a work-from-home routine? We’ve got a guide.)
Virtual companies believe that online interactions are just as valuable as face-to-face interactions, so showcase your ability to communicate online by being active in online communities. Fill out your Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and LinkedIn profiles, and begin posting, following and replying.
Why do you need to spend so much time on social media? Being able to communicate publicly in a clear, professional and interesting way is important. In fact, remote company Zapier lists “proficient written communicator” as one of the “defining characteristics” of a good remote worker. Remote company Buffer reads job candidates’ Twitter accounts to determine whether the candidates communicate in a way that fits with the Buffer team.
The more you know about what remote companies value, the better you can prepare yourself to become the best possible remote team member.
Learn the tools
Remote offices thrive on collaboration and project management tools like Basecamp, HipChat and Slack. Prove that you have what it takes to navigate the remote workday familiarizing yourself with these tools in advance.
If you spend a little time messing around with the free trial version of Basecamp, for example, you’ll get an idea of how these remote collaboration tools work — and you can add it to your resume. You should also familiarize yourself with the basic language of project management, since virtual teams need to work together to ensure their deliverables hit their milestones while avoiding scope creep! (Don’t understand those terms? Start with this project management glossary.)
Lastly, you’ll want to become as familiar with Google Drive as you are with MS Office. Many virtual teams use Google Drive to share and edit documents, spreadsheets and more. You don’t want to be the person who emails a supervisor to ask, “How do I change ownership on a document?”
Be ready to work (from home)
What are you going to do on your first day of remote work? Are you going to be the person who gets out of bed and opens up the HipChat interface while you brew that first cup of coffee, or the person who spends an hour catching up on Tumblr while you wait and see if your boss needs you for anything?
Don’t get us wrong: one of the best things about working from home is the ability to have a little more flexibility in your schedule, from taking a mid-afternoon Netflix break to the good old “working in your pajamas” cliché. But you also have to be ready to work from home, and that means managing two things: productivity and communication.
Your future remote employers are going to want to know that you can produce what you have been assigned to produce, without a supervisor checking up on you every 15 minutes. They also want to know that you are going to communicate with your team members appropriately. The team member who stays offline all day and then comes back at 5 p.m. with a bunch of completed work is just as bad as the team member who spends the entire day messaging the Slack channel to ask “what should I do next?”
Every workplace culture is different, but most strike a balance between independence and connectivity, and that’s the balance you’ll want to present to potential employers. Start thinking of remote collaboration examples you can use in interviews, and get ready to structure your anecdotes with the STAR technique to make them even more effective. Follow up with your ability to deliver results, overcome challenges and maintain communication with team members even when you don’t see each other face-to-face.
In the end, selling yourself as a remote worker is all about communicating to potential employers that you have what it takes to join their team, use their tools and get things done. When you apply for remote jobs, make sure you feature these skills and you’ll be one step closer to working from home — or from anywhere else in the world.
Do you work for a remote company? What advice do you have for people who want to work remotely?
Nicole Dieker is a freelance copywriter and essayist. She writes regularly for The Billfold on the intersection of freelance writing and personal finance, and her work has also appeared in The Toast, Yearbook Office, and Boing Boing.