Working from home is highly attractive to a lot of people, and with good reason. You can have all the benefits of a traditional job while being able to skip the commute and work in the comfortable setting of your own home. Or maybe you want to skip traditional employment completely and strike out on your own. Working from home is something that will satisfy that itch, too, especially if you want to build a business around your higher priorities (like family, health, or location independence).
No matter why you want to do it, the only way to start working from home… is to start working from home! You need to land that first work-at-home job, or get that first client, or make that first sale if you’re ever going to get your work-at-home dreams off the ground.
It takes some effort, but finding your first work-at-home job isn’t impossible. Here’s some of my best advice for getting out of the office and into your own work-from-home situation:
Decide what you want to do – and how much you need to make.
One of the most important steps in building a successful livelihood is doing something that you want to do. At the beginning of your work-at-home life, you have the opportunity to go after whatever that may be. Do you love helping people and solving their problems? Go into customer service! Have you always wanted to learn new things and tell others about them? Try freelance writing. Maybe you have fun doing random searches on Google (search engine evaluator!), or you’re a born networker and salesperson (direct seller!).
Whatever you enjoy, make it your priority to find a work-at-home position doing just that. Then – with a nod to pragmatism – list another two positions that you’re good at. Maybe you don’t enjoy them quite as much, but still enough while being able to work from home. This will keep your focus narrowed, but your options open.
You should also decide how much you need to make in wages for the job to be viable. Consider what other members of your household are bringing in financially and what your monthly expenses are. Decide on a number. Once you have, only go after jobs that match your number – or accept that you may need to land more than one home-based job. Don’t forget to make sure the hours-to-pay ratio is healthy enough that you don’t overwork yourself for too little return.
Get online and track down the job you want – avoiding scams along the way.
Now that you have your Top 3, you know exactly what to search for. Head over to your favorite job board or job lead websites, and feed those job descriptions into their search bars. This keeps your search narrow and should prevent you from becoming distracted and lost in a sea of irrelevant or unwanted job listings. On some sites, such as Indeed, you can even set up a recurring search and they’ll email you new listings each day.
This is also the stage at which you should do a scam-check on any possible job leads you consider. Being a regular visitor of sites like mine, Real Ways to Earn, Work at Home Mom Revolution, The Work at Home Woman, The Penny Hoarder, or others will help you recognize and avoid. You don’t want to waste your time chasing bad leads – and you definitely don’t want to surrender any personal info to scammers!
Before you apply, create a cheat sheet.
So, you’ve decided what you want to do and even found several job listings that you’re interested in applying for. That’s great! But before you start filling out those applications, take some time and create a cheat sheet. It requires a little time investment up front, but should streamline the application process for you as you go!
Here’s what you should add to your cheat sheet:
- All the usual résumé information, including dates of previous positions and salary information.
- Your answers to common application questions like “Why would you be a good fit for this position?” or “What do you consider to be your strengths?” Now, it’s true that each of those answers should be geared specifically to the job you’re applying for – but since you already know what kind of positions you’re applying for, you can create a template that you can tweak for each application.
- Some of these work-at-home job listings may request a cover letter – write a good general letter that gives you a framework and that you can later adapt with details for each new application.
You can keep this information in a text file on your computer, and just reference it or copy from it as necessary.
Great Work-from-Home Websites
So, you’ve made the leap! You’ve decided that you’re going to work from home, you’re going to work for yourself, and you’re going to build a work-from-home career on your skills and experience. And then you hit your first challenge: where do you find these legitimate work-at-home jobs? The Internet is an ocean of scams and poor-paying work, and you could burn all your energy just finding worthy (and available) work.
Luckily, you have resources like my blog – and I’ve handpicked 10 of the best places to find legitimate job opportunities online, just for you.
This job site is both amazing and subscription-based – and it earns both its reputation and your modest monthly investment. FlexJobs is a job board with a robust search feature that filters out all the bad stuff and only allows the good stuff to be posted. When you search for jobs on FlexJobs, you can be sure the job offers have been vetted for legitimacy. They post opportunities for over 50 industries, from editing and writing to business development and human services to project management and web design. When you search, make sure you use Advanced Search and select “100% Telecommute” to find only work-from-home jobs.
FlexJobs charges a monthly fee of $14.99, but you can absolutely get your money’s worth and leave the site whenever you feel you’ve found enough work and don’t need the job board anymore. They offer Skills Tests you can take so prospective employers can see your qualifications right on your FlexJobs profile. You can set up job alerts to get desired job postings sent to your email every day. And they have a “Job Search Tips & Blog” section that can help you improve everything from your résumé composition to how you interview. This is one job board that really cares about helping you succeed!
“Wait a minute!” I can hear you thinking. Isn’t Craigslist just swimming in scams? It’s true that Craigslist has historically had a bad rap as an Internet free-for-all zone. However, it can actually be a great place to find remote (or local) work opportunities. You just need to have common sense when evaluating the job offers, and make sure you don’t engage in any unsafe behavior, such as meeting someone from Craigslist in person in a private place. Just remember: if a work-from-home job sounds too good to be true, it’s almost definitely a scam.
On the right-hand column of your local Craigslist page, you’ll see a long list of job industries you can investigate. Right underneath that, you’ll find a section called “gigs” that includes all sorts of temporary projects from wedding parties looking for videographers to small businesses that need social media managers. If there aren’t many jobs on offer, you can check a box in the left-hand column to “include nearby areas” in the search as well. Use Craigslist to find one-time clients and turn them into repeat business!
Stack Overflow isn’t a job board, it’s a community – the “world’s largest developer community” where web developers, app developers, software developers and others come to learn, share their programming knowledge, and grow their careers. In addition to being a place where you can post your questions or help others with their own, they have a “Developer Jobs” section where you can find developer jobs that they promise are free of fakes or recruiter spam. From this page, you can set up job alerts sorted by keyword and location. (Simply enter “Remote” to see the work-from-home opportunities.)
When you sign up with Stack Overflow and start searching for jobs, they give you the opportunity to create your “Developer Story.” This is a unique way to present your skills, certifications, achievements, and portfolio – everything that would go on a traditional résumé – in a way that more accurately reflects your value and goals. Creating your Developer Story allows Stack Overflow to match you to jobs that fit your profile and interests.
Toptal pulled their name from “top talent” because that’s what they’re most interested in – finding the best talent and matching them to companies looking to hire. In fact, Toptal touts that they only work with the top 3% of freelancers in the software development and design, and finance industries.You can rest assured that any jobs offered to you via Toptal are legitimate because those companies or individuals wishing to hire via Toptal must sign up and work extensively with them to be connected with any freelancers. This includes big companies, too! Toptal’s clients include Airbnb and Pfizer, for example.
Toptal is an exclusive network, and you must go through a rigorous application process to join their stable of freelancers. There’s a preliminary Skype interview followed by a timed coding test on Codility. After this, you’ll have another Skype interview where you’ll need to walk them through your coding solutions on the coding tests, and then complete another coding test while the interviewer watches you and reviews your work. Finally, you’ll need to complete a pretty comprehensive coding project to Toptal’s satisfaction before finally being accepted as one of their freelancers. If you make it all the way through, you can look forward to setting your own rate and having access to prime projects.
Contena is an elite supportive job board specifically for writers looking to launch their own freelance writing career. This one’s entirely membership-based, so you must join to get access to their opportunities and materials. They’re also not always open to adding new members, but you can sign up for an account to be notified when they’re onboarding new members. The membership fee is steep, and they strive to offer extensive value to match. Not only do they scour the Internet for job leads, they also vet them all for quality standards.
They also offer Contena Academy, a series of modules that teach you the business side of freelancing so you can launch a solid business. You’ll learn everything from building your portfolio to crafting pitches. For an extra fee, you can also get access to their Contena Coaching, where you’re paired with a coach who helps you with your portfolio and pitches, and provides feedback on your work. If you’re serious about your freelance writing career, Contena could be a good investment for you.
Reddit’s tagline is that they’re “the front page of the Internet,” so it should be no surprise that you can actually visit the massive discussion site to find advice regarding remote work, tips on how to land work-from-home jobs, and actual job opportunities. It’s a bit more structured than Craigslist – Redditors (registered members) can upvote and downvote posts on each subreddit (discussion board), so legitimate and popular posts should rise to the top while scams or poor content sink to the bottom. It’s free to register, but be careful – there’s a subreddit for every interest, so you might end up enjoying r/cats when you meant to job search on r/freelance!
If you’re interested in searching the remote job market on Reddit, two subreddits immediately stand out: r/WorkOnline and r/freelance. Make sure to use your common sense here, just as on Craigslist – any job that seems too good to be true usually is. The Freelance subreddit is a particularly good starting point as it offers many related subreddits in its right-hand column to help you continue your search past their page. The r/telecommuting subreddit may be useful as well.
There are two ways to find remote work on Facebook: you either go looking for work, or you subscribe to groups that share job opportunities. The first way is the most proactive: get out there and find some clients! Join Facebook Groups that are relevant to the industry you work in (if you’re a writer, look for your subject areas), whether that industry is website design or social media management. Then make yourself useful – engage and network with the people who also visit these groups, and look for organic ways to promote your services when you find someone in need.
For the second method, just search for the job types you’re interested in and there’s probably a Facebook Group for you. Give it a try: “freelance writing jobs” turns up Freelance Writing Jobs, while “web design jobs” results in Web Design and Development Jobs. (Please note that I have not vetted these Facebook Groups – these are just examples of what you can find when searching.) You can also search tags like “programmer needed” or “writers needed” to find individual posts looking for freelancers.
Remember: your job is to find a job.
When you’re in need of a job, finding a job is your job – so treat it like one. Make sure you keep yourself on a regular schedule, getting up at the same time every day and not staying up all night. (Unless you’re nocturnal! In which case, you do you, but keep it regular.) Whatever your schedule, stick to it and spend a predetermined amount of time each day job searching. For example, your daily schedule might be: spend an hour networking over coffee, spend the next two hours searching and saving job leads, take a break for lunch, and then spend the afternoon filling out applications for those job leads. After you’re done with applications, spend another hour or so networking.
Whatever you do, don’t blow off your breaks! Humans aren’t wired to be all business, all the time. You don’t want to burn out on the application process, then find yourself struggling in the interview process. Keep yourself focused, but also keep it real.
These are some of my best tips, and should have you finding job leads, shortlisting the ones that work for you, and getting those applications out there like a pro.