Do you have a Chromebook, or are you thinking about getting one? I can’t blame you! They’re an attractive option when funds are tight – you can get one for as little as $100 – or when you don’t have much computing to do at home. They’re light, portable, and boot up fast, putting them in the sweet spot of easy to work with in a coffee shop or in class. But what if you want to work from home and you only have a Chromebook? Does that even work? Don’t you need a better computer?
What You Can & Can’t Do On a Chromebook
One of the keys to effectively working from home with a Chromebook is to understand what you can and can’t do with these simple computers. A Chromebook isn’t a full-feature laptop. Instead, these machines run Chrome OS, Google’s proprietary operating system built from the ground up to work in tandem with their suite of office programs (and other products). Just as working in Google Docs or Google Sheets requires you to access those programs online through your browser, Chromebooks depend largely on being online for full functionality. While this means you can’t necessarily get much work done when you don’t have a WiFi connection, it does mean that all your files are backed up and synced in the cloud – seamlessly accessible across devices.
Please note that you can save files – from music files to PDFs to Microsoft Word documents – onto your Chromebook’s hard drive. Your space is just often fairly limited compared to other computers, and those files saved natively are not automatically backed up. Also, to achieve peak Chromebook efficiency, don’t burden the machine with too many extraneous files clogging up the works. And remember to regularly back up all files saved to your Chromebook in the event of loss, damage, or failure. (This is a good idea to do with all of your computers, actually.)
With a Chromebook, you can’t download any software – for one thing, the entire purpose of the machine is to be ultra lightweight, putting most of its computing power online through Google products and other apps. You cannot install Microsoft Office on a Chromebook, or Adobe products like Photoshop. If your work heavily relies on photo manipulation, a Chromebook won’t be enough for your job. There are workarounds for some of these limitations – for example, you can access a version of Microsoft Office through your browser – if you get an app like Crossover or install a Linux OS. However, these solutions can be tricky: Crossover is in Beta and can be buggy, not always delivering reliable or fully-featured use of the programs you’re trying to make accessible on the Chromebook. And installing a second OS like Linux requires a solid knowledge of computing.
What you can do with your Chromebook is run all of those nifty little Google programs we’ve been introduced to over the years: Google Docs for writing, Google Sheets for doing spreadsheet work, Google Calendar for keeping up with our agendas, and so forth. You can also find more Chromebook apps in Google Play (or the Chrome OS store) to help with various remote job duties. For example, if you’re a coder, you can install Caret or Cloud9 for writing code. Polarr lets you do photo editing, even with no Internet connection. You can also use programs that are browser-based, such as Pixlr for image editing, Evernote for seamless synced note-taking, and Slack for team communication.
When it’s time to find remote work that you can do with a Chromebook, simply consider what tools are necessary for the work-from-home job in question and pay attention to any technical requirements. The general rule of thumb is that any writing-based job is more than likely Chromebook-friendly, while online work that requires you to use a company’s proprietary platform may not work on your Chromebook. It may also be helpful to look for work that says it can be done on a tablet or smartphone, since the limited functionality of those pieces of technology are similar in some respects to the limitations of your Chromebook.
Whether you’re writing copy, drafting blogs, ghostwriting, answering questions, doing research, or editing someone else’s writing, you can do it all with a Chromebook. Writing is the great equalizer: it can be done through office programs, through browsers, through email, through productivity apps, and more. The most important consideration for any remote writing position is to ensure you can save your files in the form requested by your client. That’s it.
(Pro tip: if you’re editing and they request you have Track Changes turned on, you can do that with Google Docs!)
Social Media-Based Work
Since social media is inherently an Internet-based concept, you can do pretty much any social media-related job from your Chromebook. You can browse Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram to do your research, write drafts of social media posts, and put together your social media posting calendar easily enough with a Chromebook. You can communicate with your clients through Slack, invite them to collaborate on the Google Docs or Sheets file of the schedule, and use your favorite browser-based scheduling platform (from Sprout to Buffer) to manage posting. The only tricky item might be creating visuals for social media – but thanks to sites like Pixlr, Canva, and Stencil, you can create most of what you need.
Get the details on working as a social media manager here.
Thanks to Google Sheets, you can do pretty much any spreadsheet-oriented work on your Chromebook – and what you can’t do in Sheets, you can do in related apps or through browser-based services. Creating a database of expenses, profit, inventory and more is simple enough, and Sheets can do complex equations or create visuals. You can work as a data analyst, and even create presentations with Google Slides. Are you a work-from-home accountant or bookkeeper? You can use QuickBooks Online (or FreshBooks or Wave and so on) via your Chrome browser.
While the biggest phone-based work-from-home industry – that’s customer service, of course – generally uses platforms that aren’t friendly to machines not running Windows or Mac OS, there are still plenty of phone-oriented jobs you can do using your Chromebook. So long as you can use the browser version of Skype, Google Hangouts, or Google Voice, you can do any job requiring calls. You can work as a rent surveyor with Yardi-Matrix, make business calls for a small business, make travel arrangements as a virtual assistant, conduct interviews for writers, and so much more.
To learn more about becoming a virtual assistant, start here and then check out my other posts on the topic. Working as a virtual assistant is actually a big gateway for many of these jobs, since you may find yourself working for an executive or small business owner who needs all types of calls done and doesn’t much care how you do it.
These are just a few of the remote job types you can do with a Chromebook – there are plenty more! You simply need to look at each job listing critically, pay attention to the technical requirements, and determine whether you have access to either browser-based services or Chromebook apps that can do the work. If you do? You and your Chromebook are a great pair and ready to make some money!