One of the great things about working from home is that you can use the skills you already to have to find the perfect work-at-home job for you.
Whether that means it’s something flexible that you control and can ramp up or down, you’re a traditional employee working a 9-5 at home, or anywhere in between, working from home is something that many of us who’ve done it will never want to leave behind.
There are countless types of work-at-home jobs, and one of the keys to success is to find the right job for what you need and want. A lot of that has to do with pay, responsibilities, and structure — but it also boils down to being able to spend your time doing something you’re good at. We all want that, don’t we?
But what if you don’t feel like you’re prepared in the skills department for any kind of work-at-home job? That’s what we’re diving into today — identifying and developing the skills you’ll need to work from home.
Know You Aren’t Alone
First of all, no one is born equipped with the skills necessary to work from home. And that’s good news! It means that all of these things truly are skills and don’t depend on some kind of innate talent or ability.
If you feel like your skills are too inferior to qualify for a work-at-home job, just know right away that you aren’t alone. The biggest difference between people who start at zero and become something, and the people who start at zero and don’t, is that the successful ones make the decision to move forward anyway.
Essential Skills Can Be Learned
Skills, unlike talent, are absolutely something you can learn. Whether your goal is to convert more calls into actual sales or you just plain want to type faster… those are skills, and you can learn how to acquire them.
Keep in mind, your ability to master some skills won’t come overnight. You might pick up one or two things here or there, but unless you’ve spent a lot of time taking classes or learning “on the job” in the workforce, there just isn’t really much opportunity to pick up things like managing multiple phone lines, learning new software quickly, handling upset customers, or troubleshooting cranky computer systems.
But, no matter where you feel your skills are lacking, you can absolutely start practicing today and preparing for the day when you’ll put those skills to work in your new, fantastic work-at-home job.
Typical Work-at-Home Skills You’ll Need
While there’s no be-all, end-all list of skills you absolutely must have to work from home, there are quite a few skills that are important for many at-home jobs. These will make a good starting point, and then as you get to know the job opportunities out there that attract you most, you’ll also start getting a sense of any additional required skills you’ll need:
- Microsoft Office. You may already be familiar enough with Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to survive on your own, but if you really don’t know what you’re doing with those and other Microsoft Office software, you’d really benefit from taking a basics course. Many local libraries offer these for free, community colleges offer coursework, or you can learn online with sites like GCFLearnFree.org.
- Google products. The same goes with the Google suite. You’ll be much better off if you know how to navigate Google Drive, Gmail, and more. These are not only commonly used products in the remote world, they are also easily shared between clients and contractors and will allow you to access important files and emails anytime and from any device.
- Basic English and grammar rules. You don’t need to become a grammar whiz, but having a grasp on basic grammar and spelling will take you a long way. If you can speak and write professionally, you give off a good impression, and that will make your working life a bit easier. The Grammar Girl podcast is a great place to start picking up tips and principles, especially if this sort of thing is easier for you to internalize by listening.
- Basic computer troubleshooting skills. When you work from home, any issues with wifi, networking, software or hardware will become a major problem. You have to have a functioning computer and Internet connection to be able to do your work, and some basic skills to troubleshoot the common tech issues that arise will save you a ton of headaches, lost productivity, and issues with your supervisors and/or clients. Udemy has a nice-looking basics course here.
- Improved typing speed. Typing speed is absolutely critical when you work from home. And it’s a skill easily mastered on your own. Repetition is the key to success. Sites like TypingTest.com and Typing.com will help you increase your speed and accuracy.
- Being your own support agent. This essentially boils down to being able to hunt out the answers to the questions you have. If you think of it as your job to start finding solutions yourself instead of waiting for someone else to rescue you, then you’ll start getting good at finding the information you need. This is something that’s taught more by experience than by actual coursework. Next time you have to go to someone to get a question answered, ask that person where they found the answer… and then when another question comes up for you, try looking around before you bring someone else into the equation.
- Effective communication. Effective communication, especially when you’re working remotely, is an absolutely essential skill. It’s something you can learn in training but then must start practicing if you’ll have any hope of getting good at it. The good news is it’s a skill that will pay off in every part of your life, for the rest of your life.
And if you’re going into an independent contractor role or you’re starting your own business, you’ll also benefit from having some of these skills:
- Basic bookkeeping. You’ll be responsible for tracking your income and business expenses as well as making quarterly payments to the IRS (and possibly your state). It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it needs to be done.
- Basic marketing. If you’re going into business for yourself, you need to know how to help people who need your services to find out about you. Your best bet may be looking online for a marketing course designed specifically for your business. The foundations of marketing remain relatively unchanged, but the application of those foundations may change from industry to industry and business model to business model.
- Basic graphic design. If you’re marketing your own business, putting together your own visuals, or even DIYing your website from scratch, a very basic understanding of graphic design principles can be very helpful.
- Planning and goal-setting. This is something that can be learned fairly well by searching the internet or Pinterest for things like “goal setting” or “how to set goals,” but if you want to dive deep, I’d recommend the book The 12 Week Year. It takes you step by step through the process of setting goals, breaking them down into manageable pieces, and then making a plan to execute them.
There are also some great skills you can learn to help your job search:
- What Color Is Your Parachute? – How can your unique skills, talents, and interests help your job search? Learn how to dig deep within yourself to find the perfect career path.
- Resume writing. Isn't it time you brush up your resume? How about your LinkedIn profile?
So tell me: what skills would you tackle first?