Remote work is something that many people were pushed into by the Covid-19 pandemic. Companies around the world had to work quickly to find new ways to operate without their teams in the office. Workers, meanwhile, had to adapt to being home-based. For some, it was a dreadful experience, but for others, it opened their eyes to the potential that working remotely provides.
In this article, I’m going to look at all things remote. What is remote work? Where can you find remote jobs hiring language professionals? What are the differences between remote employment and freelancing? Read on to discover all this and more, including insights into the benefits of remote work – and into the downside of it.
Remote working, at its core, means working at a location that is remote from the company for which you are doing the work. That doesn’t mean you have to be home-based. I’ve been working remotely for nearly a decade. During that time, I’ve worked from home, from overseas, from coffee shops, and from the beach (not recommended – sand and laptops shouldn’t mix).
Remote working was already increasingly prevalent prior to the pandemic, spurred by the growth of freelancing (I’ll talk more about that in a minute). The pandemic has served to accelerate that trend.
According to a McKinsey report from February 2021, “Considering only remote work that can be done without a loss of productivity, we find that about 20 to 25 percent of the workforces in advanced economies could work from home between three and five days a week. This represents four to five times more remote work than before the pandemic.”
Remote working may have been forced upon many of us, but it seems that it’s here to stay. McKinsey also found, through surveying 278 executives back in August 2020, that they planned, on average, to reduce their office space by 30%. As I said, remote work is here to stay.
Before I delve into ways in which you can use your language skills to find remote work, let’s first take a quick look at the differences between remote workers and freelancers.
A remote worker is someone who works in a different location than the company they’re working for. They might be employed by that company, they might be engaged as a consultant or they might be a volunteer or an intern.
A freelancer, on the other hand, is someone who works for one or more companies without being directly employed by them. They could work at one of their client’s offices or work remotely (as is the case for most freelancers).
Many of those who were forced to work remotely during the pandemic are now considering the merits of doing so longer term. There are certainly plenty of benefits to remote working, so I’ll explore some of these to start with.
The advantages of remote work depend on the nature of the work. For example, freelancers tend to experience greater freedom and flexibility than employees when it comes to things like setting their working hours and taking time off.
In general, though, all remote workers benefit by saving time through not having to commute. That’s extra time that can be spent working or enjoying a leisure activity, and which otherwise would be wasted in undertaking the same repetitive journey multiple times per week. With fewer people commuting, the planet benefits too.
Many remote workers also enjoy the freedom of not having to get ‘dressed up’ for the office. That doesn’t mean working in your PJs (although some remote workers absolutely do, and if that works for you, that’s great), but it can mean wearing something more comfortable than a suit, should you wish.
Remote work can also deliver substantial cost savings. Working from home means no paying to commute. It also presents a chance to save on food expenditure, as it’s cheaper to eat at home than to grab lunch from a sandwich shop every day, let alone that coffee on the way to work and a little something sweet to ease the journey home.
Consider the fact that remote workers don’t need to be geographically tied to the office and the potential for cost savings gets a whole lot larger. City centre living tends to be more expensive than life in the suburbs, while life in the countryside, or even overseas, can be cheaper still. A remote worker who can work for a company in London but live in Thailand, for example, can save a small fortune compared to a worker who has to live in London.
That’s a whole load of potential advantages, but remote work can have its disadvantages too. Some people find the buzz of the morning commute delivers the right kind of energy to kick their working day off. Others thrive on the social interaction that comes from spending the day in an office packed with colleagues. Working remotely removes all of this, and many workers who are used to an office environment struggle to adjust to the quiet of working on their own all day long.
Remote work can also be tough from a technical perspective. When you work in an office, there’s usually an IT person on hand to provide advice, guidance and kit if your working setup isn’t quite right. When you work remotely, you have to deal with any issues yourself. Something that would have been a minor problem in the office, such as no sound coming out of your laptop speakers, can suddenly be a major issue when you’re trying to lead a Zoom meeting and can’t hear any of the participants, and there’s nobody there to help you fix it.
Being physically removed from colleagues can also have a major impact on team spirit, particularly for teams that work closely and spend the day bouncing ideas off each other or providing practical and emotional support. Yes, tech has come a long way and there’s a huge amount that the right combination of Zoom, Slack and other software can do to help keep team spirit alive, but it can take time to find the right balance and for some remote workers, it’s never quite the same as simply being with colleagues in the office.
I just want to touch on a couple of other points before I look at the issue of remote work and language skills. Remote work can be made a great deal harder – or a great deal easier – by having the right setup. So let’s look quickly at what you might need.
If you’re a remote worker for a company that provides all of your equipment, that’s excellent. If not, you’ll need to sort out a few essentials. A decent laptop is a must. Your entire livelihood can rest on its reliability, so go for the best you can afford. Invest in a backup drive too – you never know when you’ll need it.
A smartphone can come in handy too. There’s a great deal that you can do on a smartphone to manage temporarily if your laptop is suddenly out of action. And if your internet connection goes down, you can always use your phone as a hotspot. Doing so means you can work outside of the home too, as you can use your phone to connect your laptop from coffeeshops and elsewhere.
Other essentials will depend on the nature of the work you undertake. For a remote video interpreter, that could mean a decent webcam. For a translator, it could be a trusty dictionary. With the right equipment to hand, you can maximise your efficiency and productivity.
A remote position means that you have to organise your own working environment. If you don’t have the luxury of a home office, that means making do in a space that’s likely far less suited to working than an office desk and chair would be. Sitting at a cluttered table, where you have to move toys or paperwork aside in order to carve out a workspace, or perching on the sofa with your laptop on your knees, isn’t ideal for getting into the right mindset for a productive day – at least, not for a lot of people.
As such, put some time and thought into your workspace. Even the smallest space can be made more conducive to productivity with the right approach. Create an area where you want to spend time and you’ll enjoy your working day so much more.
If you’re planning to start a career as a remote worker using your language skills, first map out what your skills may be. Not just the languages you speak or plan to learn (for a list of the best languages to learn, by the way, you can click the link below), but any other skills you have, such as sector-specific knowledge or tech skills. You’ll find it easier to focus in on the right kind of remote working jobs as a result.
Next, think about the kind of remote work opportunities that you want to pursue. Are you after remote positions hiring workers for companies, where the company will be your sole employer, or do you plan to use remote job boards to pick up freelance work? You’ll need to decide this and shape your approach accordingly.
Companies with remote jobs advertise in a range of places – on their own websites, on sites set up specifically to advertise work from home remote jobs and through employment agencies. The more locations you can search in, the more remote employment opportunities you should discover.
Remember that networking can be a powerful tool when it comes to finding remote work, just as it can for finding other forms of employment. Use professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn and reach out to contacts over the phone and by email. Chances are, your first remote work jobs could come from existing contacts.
If you’re looking for freelance work, rather than remote employment by a single company, the above still applies. You also have the chance to seek remote online jobs through freelancing platforms such as Upwork. It takes a bit of time to set up your profile and start to build up feedback, but if you put the effort into establishing yourself, you’ll likely find plenty of potential work available through such sites.
Read more: 15 Best Languages to Learn
Are you ready to get started? There is an abundance of remote working opportunities out there, so let’s look at some of the most popular for those with tiptop language skills.
Remote work job boards are awash with translation opportunities. If you’re fluent in two or more languages and have a superb eye for detail, translation could be the ideal way to make money remotely. Check out the major remote job sites like Upwork, Indeed and Fiverr, as well as industry-specific job boards – the Institute of Translation and Interpreting is a good starting point.
Not every translator wants to be a localization specialist, but for those that do, remote work job sites can offer rich pickings. Look out for remote gigs from clients with good reputations. Remote jobs sites like Upwork allow you to see how much a client has spent, what they pay per hour on average and how well rated they are by those who’ve worked for them. Finding localization jobs with clients who pay well and are well regarded is obviously the ideal to be aiming for here.
Remote video interpretation has taken off in a big way as a result of the pandemic. As meetings have moved online, cross-border conversations have relied on video interpreters to facilitate them. As such, if you speak two languages fluently and have some experience of interpreting, it’s well worth looking for remote work companies that are in need of interpreters.
Even if you don’t have experience, you can test your abilities by interpreting everything from YouTube videos to TED talks. Use these to discover whether you have a natural flair for interpretation work or not – it shouldn’t take too long to find out.
If you prefer to work with written language rather than spoken language, there’s a whole range of remote virtual jobs that you can do. Companies around the world use content writers in order to deliver their marketing strategies. If you speak two languages, you can apply for copywriting work in both – that instantly means double the volume of work at home remote jobs available to you, compared with those available to monolingual copywriters.
Copywriting these days is a core part of many marketing strategies, but it’s far from being the only part of marketing that you can do remotely. If you have strong marketing skills, then you can help companies develop multilingual campaigns designed to develop their business across international borders.
If you have customer care skills, there are plenty of remote work positions that need you. Companies with multilingual customer service operatives often use remote teams for both telephone and live chat support. All you need is a stable internet connection and excellent languages skills.
Doing remote work from home has implications for workers’ mental health. Some remote workers find that their mental health improves as a result of cutting out the stress of commuting and the need to constantly interact with others throughout the working day. Others feel a sense of crushing loneliness and isolation results from the absence of that same interaction.
If you’re considering using your language skills to work remotely on a long-term basis, think carefully about the mental and emotional impact that doing so is likely to have.
Consider your physical well-being as well. If you used to walk or jog to the office, how will you build exercise into your day instead when you work remotely?
Remote worker jobs are growing in popularity. Are you going to be part of this remote work trend? There are companies out there that need your skills and are happy to pay for them, without you ever leaving the house. All you need to do is find them.
If you’re still stuck for inspiration, you can check out our article on how to make money online via the link below for further ideas.
Read more: How to Make Money Online
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