Technology has evolved to allow us to access our social lives, business communications and everything in between anywhere in the world. “Remoting”, or working remotely, was once a privilege, but now working from home is widely accepted across industries.

And it’s growing.

According to an article in The New York Times, telecommuting is more popular than ever before. The Times cited a Gallop survey that found that 43 percent of U.S. workers have worked remotely. Flexjobs delved deeper into the world of remoters, and the site compiled its findings in the “The State of the Remote Job Marketplace” report. According to the report: “3.9 million U.S. employees, or 2.9% of the total U.S. workforce work from home at least half of the time….”

However, remoter beware. Scams are plentiful for those seeking employment that allows the flexibility of a remote location. Flexjobs also reported that there are “60 to 70 job scams for ever one legitimate work-from-home job.” Here are some tips on some ways you can become a remote worker.

Guide to becoming a remote worker infographic

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The Best Jobs for Remote Work

So, what industries are the hottest for remoting? While creative industries like writing or graphic design may be one of the best bets for a snagging a remote working opportunity, there are many other industries that also are embracing the idea of allowing their employees the freedom to work remotely. Plus, this privilege isn’t just one for freelancers. Flexjobs reported that the medical and health, computer and IT, sales, customer service, accounting and travel industries offer the most opportunities for remote careers.

Working from home allows many families to enjoy a greater work/life balance but working from home isn’t for everyone. Remoting requires self-motivation, good time management and the willingness to work solo. When you switch to a remote world, the water cooler interactions won’t be as plentiful and may be traded for Skype chats.

For those who are interested in pursuing a work-from-home career, though, the sacrifice of the office interactions may be worth it for the freedom that working remotely allows. Before you trade in your cubicle for a home-based office, though, here is what you need to know about the realities of being a remoter.

Freelancer vs. Employee

Some companies allow their employees to work from home, and, for the most part, this doesn’t change the dynamics of your employment agreement unless your employee states otherwise. However, for individuals who are looking for a part-time remote opportunity, becoming a part-time or freelance worker might be the best options.

Part-time employees are treated as employees, although they might not receive benefits like health care, 401Ks, etc. State and federal taxes should still be deducted from paychecks. Freelancers are categorized differently. They are typically contract employees and must fill out a 1099 form for tax purposes. Taxes typically will not be withheld by the company. It is extremely important that anyone who accepts a contract position discusses the tax impact with an accountant. To ensure that serious indebtedness for taxes isn’t accrued, save a percentage of each paycheck. An accountant can then estimate—based on income—the amount that should be paid quarterly for both state and federal taxes.

Some freelancers wait until the end of the year to pay, but this isn’t always the best idea. It’s easier to save a portion of each paycheck and pay quarterly to avoid a large bill at the end of the year. Some business expenses also might be deductible, but this is a matter to discuss with an accountant.

Depending on the area of work, a freelancer also may decide to incorporate his/her business for tax and legal purposes. Talk to a lawyer to discuss what options are best. Also, before you sign any contract for a job, always have a lawyer review it for you.

Healthcare—and access to a health plan—is important. Most companies offer health benefits for full-time employees, but part-time workers are not guaranteed these same benefits. And freelancers? The responsibility is on the individual to secure health care.

Many healthcare plans are available via Healthcare.gov, and a change of work circumstances may allow a new freelancer to secure coverage on the site. Other options may include a spouse’s insurance or perhaps government sponsored programs like Medicaid or Medicare—depending on income and eligibility. The good news is that the Affordable Care Act has allowed those who need access to coverage to find it. While the options aren’t always perfect, they are better than going without insurance. In the case of a catastrophic accident or illness occurs, the costs can be crippling.

Remoter Business Checklist:

  • Ask your accountant about tax implications and how much you need to save each quarter.
  • Talk to an attorney about incorporating (is it right for you?)
  • Have all job contracts reviewed by an attorney.
  • Research healthcare options, if you are not entitled to participate in a company plan.

Finances

While employees (part-time and full-time) both enjoy regularly scheduled pay periods, freelancers often need to work up their own billing schedule. Some freelancers bill twice per month, others only monthly. Many clients might stipulate a 30-day grace period for payments, and freelancers must understand this up front before they agree to a project. A 30-day grace period means that the client has 30 days from the date of the invoice to pay. If you’re tight on money, this can leave you incredibly stressed out and grasping for dollars if you aren’t careful. Often, freelancers are at the mercy of the client, and this might mean unpredictable income.

You also cannot take out a payday loan for money that might not be guaranteed. So if you are awaiting a check from a client, your options might be incredibly limited when it comes to securing cash quickly. Freelancers must get payment terms in writing, and you should not sign any contract that has financial terms that might leave you in financial dire straits.

The Home Office: What You Need to Know

Once the nitty gritty details of your remote position are finalized, it’s time to create a new office space. This could be your home or another location—depending on your job. Some freelancers write or work in coffee shops, the beach or in their bedroom. The choice on where to set up shop is up to the individual. But where you work will impact your work.

Everyone has unique demands for their office area. Some need quiet, others like ambient noise or the radio. No matter what atmosphere makes you feel most productive, you need to ensure that one thing is certain: there are no major distractions. For example, if you have kids it can be difficult to concentrate while they are running in and out of your office.

Set a Schedule

Set your work boundaries and create a space that works for your job and your needs. This also includes setting a schedule and sticking to it. While working at random times might work for some individuals, you must be able to track this time—especially if you’re paid hourly. However, for those paid per project, the time slots are less important. Still, even for jobs that have little to no time constraints, the freedom to choose hours requires you to commit to your hours. If you want to work late at night, make sure your client knows this. If you plan to hold typical nine to five hours, then communicate this as well. Make sure everyone is on the same page regarding schedules and expectations.

To avoid distractions that may pull you away from productivity, set your hours during times where there will be little to no interruptions. For stay-at-home parents, nap time or school hours are the most productive times.

Remoter Workspace Checklist

  • Create a designated work space
  • Set your schedule (hours of operation, etc.)
  • Minimize distractions

Tools of the Trade

Full-time employees who are allowed to work from home might have tighter restrictions. Hours may be specific and there also may be other requirements for home-based options—like having a certain software program or having a dedicated business line.

Freelancers also need to have access to the tools they need to perform their job. This differs for every job or industry. Typically, a laptop, a dedicated business line (or cell phone), software programs, a printer/scanner and basic office needs are a must. Depending on specific circumstances, these business expenses may be tax deductible. However, you must discuss this with your accountant.

Remoter Tools of the Trade

  • A laptop or PC
  • Designated phone line
  • Printer/Scanner
  • Basic office supplies (papers, pens, clips, etc.)

What Cities Embrace Remoters?

Big cities–or the metro areas–are major hubs for telecommuters. Flexjobs notes that telecommuting actually beats public transportation for the most popular commute option in big cities.

While telecommuting may be embraced without question in urban areas, smaller towns or more rural areas might not have as many options. As technology advances so , too, does the acceptance of working from home. For those living in smaller towns or in remote areas, working from home as an artist, a writer or even for a local health professional handling billing services may be an option.

Is Remoting Right for You?

Remote work isn’t right for everyone. If you cannot self-motivate, have problems with procrastination, are easily distracted or love the social aspect of the office, remote work isn’t your best option. To be successful as a remote employee, you must be able to prioritize assignments, keep a schedule and get the job done. Remoting is extremely popular, and as technology advances, more workers are embracing the option. At the end of the day, though, you need to stick to the path that will ensure your livelihood. If you cannot self-manage, if you thrive best when someone is watching out for you or want the in-person camaraderie that the office provides, then traditional employment remains the best bet. For those who can get the job done without bending to distractions or love the solitude of independence, remote work may be incredibly rewarding.

No matter what remote career you’re investigating, however, remember that many posts about ‘work from home’ opportunities are not legitimate. Before sending a resume or personal information to a potential employer, be sure to investigate and research the company and the opportunity. Be wary of any post that asks for a ‘free’ service before hiring you, and never ever provide financial or other personal information unless the employer has been vetted. Flexjobs also warns that many scams will include grammatically incorrect wording and may promise lots of income even if the job seems minimal. While many opportunities exist for remoters, you may have to dig deep to find one that fits your background, your interests and that is, ultimately, the real deal.

 

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