Do you know what a SAQ is? It’s a Should-Ask Question – and, believe me, there are plenty of SAQs to ask throughout your life! Especially when it comes to evaluating a work-from-home job offer.
Working at home is convenient in many ways, but requires you to take more care in others – from dealing with taxes to figuring out payment methods to assessing job security. In order to help you out, I’ve put together 10 of the top questions you should ask yourself before taking a remote job.
1. What do I need out of a job?
When you’re trying to start your work-at-home life, it’s sometimes tempting to grab the first job you can land. Sometimes, this may even be necessary – if a layoff or illness or some other life change has forced you out of your previous job, you may need to secure an income right away. Any income.
Still, it’s key to ask yourself an incredibly important question: What do you need out of a job? Don’t just think about this one – get a piece of paper and write it out.
- What rate of pay do you need this job to pay you? Don’t lowball your monthly budget.
- How often do you need to be paid?
- What benefits do you need and which are nice to have?
- What sort of flexibility do you need in scheduling?
- Is the work you’ll be doing something you can enjoy?
- Does it matter if it’s personally fulfilling?
These questions should guide your search and your acceptance of any potential work. Don’t burn yourself out trying to hold down a remote job that isn’t working for you as hard as you are working for it. That’s no way to live, and may make it more difficult to find a better position down the line – simply because you’ll be too exhausted or busy to look.
2. What is the training schedule?
It’s true that there is great flexibility to be found in scheduling while working from home, even with the large companies hiring for virtual call centers. It’s important to note, however, that training hours do not match the hours of shifts you’re promised – and training hours are famously inflexible.
When you’re speaking with a recruiter or reviewing a job listing, make sure you pay attention to when training classes start, how long training lasts, and what their policy is for missed training. (Try never to miss training: companies are not generous to those who do.)
On a related note, you should also check to see whether on-site training is required. Some remote jobs that have loose location requirements may demand that you attend training in person. You need to know whether you have to report for training for two weeks, five days a week, at a call center in the next town.
You may also want to find out if training time is paid. In many cases, it’s not. This is something to keep in mind if you are expecting, and hoping for, a paycheck ASAP.
3. What are the benefits?
You’ll find that more companies are offering benefits to their employees – and some even offer them to their part-time employees as well as their full-timers! You’ll find great benefits offered by Amazon, Alorica at Home, Concentrix, Sitel and more.
When you are fortunate enough to secure a work-from-home job that includes benefits, make sure you understand the details and rules governing those benefits so that you can take full advantage of them. Review the details of health coverage, do you need to work a certain number of hours per week to qualify for it? Make sure you understand how an employer-matched 401(k) works and take advantage of any other retirement planning. Memorize the rules around Paid Time Off, vacation days, sick leave, and any other schedule-related items. Find out if they offer tuition reimbursement if you’d like to continue your education, and whether there are offer any discounts on either company products or with other vendors. A discounted gym membership, or a percentage off on Apple products can be pretty sweet.
4. How will my performance be evaluated?
Asking yourself this question is important for two reasons: first, it gives you the 411 on what a job truly expects out of you. For example, you can tell how much a job emphasizes up-selling by researching whether you have sales goals to meet even as a customer service rep. If having to convert customer calls into sales calls is not your strength (or even in your wheelhouse), you may not thrive with that particular company.
Secondly, it can signal how fairly you’ll be treated – companies that clearly outline their expectations are upfront about the job’s requirements and how your performance will be judged. Transparency is key. It’s less likely you’ll have to worry about remote supervisors who can’t see how hard you’re working giving you poor reviews based on vague guidelines or nothing at all.
5. What are the tax requirements for this job?
When you land an employee job, the company that you’re working from home for will take care of handling your taxes – just like any in-person job would do. Part of your paycheck will be withheld, you’ll get a W-2 form, and you’ll file your taxes in the same way you’re probably accustomed to doing.
If you’re working in the gig economy or classified as an independent contractor, however, you’ll be responsible for handling all of your own withholding for taxes. If you will owe more than $1,000, you’re also expected to file estimated taxes four times a year – which means sending reserved funds off to the IRS on April 15, June 15, September 15, and December 15. eFile has some great information on taxes for self-employed and independent contractors.
Make sure you know how you’re classified – employee or freelancer – so that you can make the appropriate arrangements to pay your taxes.
6. How do they pay?
How you get paid is just as important a question as “how much” – especially since there are some methods that take fees out of any cash you receive.
Physical checks may take longer, but at least you’re not losing anything to payment processor fees. And if they’re able to do direct deposit, even better. Keep every cent you earn; don’t lose any to convenience, if at all possible.
Pro-tip: if you’re expected to do your own invoicing, stay on top of it. When you’re an independent contractor, you have to advocate for yourself and be a one-person army following up on any missing payments. Don’t let them de-prioritize you and leave you hanging for your pay.
7. How flexible is that flexible schedule?
If you’re a stay-at-home mom or have a chronic illness, you know how incredibly important scheduling flexibility is. You may have a sick child or a daycare closure to contend with – or perhaps you’re too ill to get out of bed. Whatever might affect your availability to work, you want to ensure the flexible job you select is actually as flexible as promised.
It can feel devastating to accept a job based on perceived support that’s not there – the demands of the job may preclude last-minute rearrangement of your schedule, or only senior or high-performing people may be permitted true freedom to select the schedules that work for them. Make sure you understand exactly what flexible means for the particular work-at-home position you’re considering.
8. Do I need any equipment I don’t already have?
Do you have all the equipment needed to do the job in question? If you don’t, and you can’t afford it, that’s a problem (and doesn’t look good to recruiters). Some customer service jobs require you to have a landline. Other remote jobs require you don’t use WiFi for your Internet connection. Others might involve software that older computers can’t handle (and you’ll notice technical requirements listed for many jobs showing you what operating systems and more you need to do the work).
The good news is that there are work-from-home positions that will provide necessary equipment. AppleCare at Home advisors can look forward to being sent an iMac for work; Buffer supplies laptops for their remote team as well. Other companies will send you a “thin client” PC with headset, mouse, and keyboard (you only need to supply the monitor).
9. Does this sound too good to be true?
When you’re considering a remote job, always make sure it’s legitimate. There’s generally a pretty easy way to start this process: ask yourself if the job sounds too good to be true. If it does, it’s probably a scam.
The Internet is like the Wild West: it’s a wide-open place with plenty of lawless corners. Guard yourself against common scams by employing some common sense. Research every company you’re going to work for, and find reviews by real people who’ve had experience with them. Check Glassdoor. Find supportive work-from-home groups on Facebook and check with them if something sounds suspicious.
10. What is my plan to advance my career?
When you work from home, it’s important to find ways to advance and seek job security. Even if you’re starting in an entry position with a company, find out more about their opportunities for advancement. Ask questions about the process for raises and moving into senior positions. Indicating investment in long-term success with a company also makes you a more compelling job candidate and indicates to management that they can rely on you (so long as you also perform well).
You don’t have to have a plan to advance with the company, though – if your dream job is elsewhere, just keep that in mind. Focus on getting all the education and experience you can out of your current position, then leverage that to find your next job closer to the dream you have for your career. Do this as many times as you must without damaging your resume by job-hopping too frequently.
And don’t forget: always be learning. Keep yourself relevant and your skills fresh by continually learning new skills, leveling up the skills you have, and making yourself an expert in your particular field. Take advantage of any tuition reimbursement you might have access to, or use free resources on the Internet – there are so many opportunities out there to help you learn to code or become a social media manager or learn bookkeeping. You can always learn something new.
These questions should give you a good handle on whether you’re ready to take a specific work-from-home job offer – work through them on each position that’s open to you and make your work-at-home career the best it can be.