In this second installment of the series, “How I Travel Long Term on a Budget (Without Backpacking),” I want to delve a little deeper into the first way to make your working holiday come together: the Internet.
Most people don’t realize the variety of online jobs available these days. There are heaps. And the demand is extraordinarily high.
And there’s a reason why: in many cases, remote workers are simply cheaper for employers. Because you work remotely, they don’t have to worry about providing you with the tools you need and the office space. And because you’ll technically be a contractor, not an employee, they don’t have to pay superannuation either – or deal with the deluge of paperwork that come with a new employee.
Plus, they can hire more people to help when demand is high and downsize when demand decreases. It gives them flexibility.
Aside from writing, illustrating, programming, and marketing, there are jobs you wouldn’t imagine exist in the cloud-jobs you never pictured yourself doing, in fields you never considered relevant or lucrative.
In the Medical Field, you will find remote positions in medical transcription, medical billing and coding, textbook writing and editing, reviewing and writing medical content, medical illustration.
In the Sciences, you can be a consultant, technical writer, content writer/editor, researcher, project manager, report writer, virtual lab assistant, mentor/tutor, or virtual course instructor.
For those interested in Retail, you can become a customer service agent, stylist, reservation sales representative, writer/editor, illustrator, or customer service team member.
In the Arts there are virtual teaching assistants, digital designers, graphic designers, and illustrators.
Looking into Administration? Try being a sales assistant, database administrator, operations analyst, or customer support specialist while working from home.
Who would have thought-in Anthropology you can become a remote consultant, analyst, editor, educational planner, forensic specialist, medical researcher, social worker, technical writer, translator, or university administrator.
And, perhaps the most astonishing, there appear to be online jobs in Philosophy as a data analyst, marketing strategist, editor, curator, researcher, virtual assistant/tutor, and virtual teacher.
Still don’t believe it? Go to Flexjobs.com and do a search. Here are a few, which I gathered on 5/6/2014:
Job Title: Remote Medical Transcriptionist, Full-Time Telecommuting Job–Australia
Description: “Looking for Medical Transcriptionist with three or more years’ acute care experience. Second shift; work-from-home; full-time. Accurately transcribe medical reports and remain current on medications, procedures, and other relevant content.”
Job Title: Marketing Consultant, Full-Time Telecommuting Job–Sydney, Australia
Description: “Marketing Consultant will be responsible for strategic roadmap development, customer contact strategy, data analysis, & project management. Must have experience with direct marketing, customer analytics, research methods, & statistics. Remote job.”
Job Title: Sales Representative, Entry-Level Telecommuting Job–Australia, UK, Anywhere
Description: “Freelance Sales Rep needed to identify stores interested in utilizing an online ordering system with their website or Facebook page. Requires experience in software-related sales & knowledge of social media/internet. Telecommute. Commission-based.”
Job Title: Freelance Senior Planner, Short-Term Telecommuting Job–Melbourne, Australia
Description: “Short-term, three month contract for a Freelance Senior Planner to develop digital strategies for social and website channels for the client. Must have four years of digital and 2-3 years of strategy experience. Previous agency exp needed.”
Job Title: 3D Artist, Telecommuting Job
Description: “A 3D Artist is needed to build existing and conceptual virtual simulations of retail environments. Need experience working in Maya and a strong background in modeling optimized assets for a game engine. $20/hour. Freelance. Remote position.”
Job Title: Evaluator, Philosophy, Telecommuting Job
Description: “Evaluator will review and score work submitted by students, provide feedback, serve as a subject matter expert, and follow FERPA regulations. Telecommute.”
So what does this all mean? Well, it means that a working holiday lifestyle is entirely more feasible than any of us ever imagined. But there are a few things you need to do first.
1. Check Out FlexJobs, SkiptheDrive, and VirtualVocations
As a freelance writer, I have my own cache of sites I check daily, including Freelancewritinggigs.com, Online-writing-jobs.com, Mediabistro, and Bloggingpro. Whatever industry you’re in, there’s a resource out there for you.
Here’s where to begin:
FlexJobs.com: This site has tens of thousands of current job listings in over 50 categories. A team of 12 job researchers scours the Internet every day, searching through job boards and employer websites to find legitimate work from home jobs amid all the scams. You’ll find telecommuting job listings in almost every industry, from entry-level up through executive. Employers who are hiring post their jobs with FlexJobs because they know they’ll find a fantastic pool of qualified candidates who are serious about working from home.
SkiptheDrive: Software-developer-turned-business owner Peter Metz started SkiptheDrive to help more professionals start working from home. The sit is known for pairing remote workers with Fortune 500 companies, but it features listing in a variety of industries. Posts are updated every day.
VirtualVocations: In February 2007, after spending hundreds of hours searching online for a genuine work-at-home job only to find scams, junk, and business opportunities, stay-at-home mom Laura Spawn took matters into her own hands and called upon the programming skills of her tech-savvy brother Adam to help her build a virtual jobs database free of employment scams. Today Virtual Vocations remains a family-owned and operated service committed to offering telecommuting success.
2. Spruce Up Your Resume
You’re going to send a different cover letter to each employer, so you only need to have one resume on hand.
But it’s got to be a versatile one. Most employers looking to hire online don’t care whether you’ve worked online before – it’s relatively easy to make the shift. But they do want to see evidence of certain traits in your experience, references, and listed skills. Because working online requires patience, time management, reliability, self-motivation, and attention to detail, you’ll want your resume to highlight these things in whatever way it can.
Ask a mentor to specifically mention these traits in her reference, or use these terms in the brief description you write of your previous positions. Think of any experience you have that required these skills, and make it show.
3. Create an Effective E-mail Template
Applying for a remote job isn’t too different from applying for an office job. When you contact a potential employer, you want to sound respectful, interested in the position, and confident in your experience. But you don’t want to sound desperate.
Here’s an example:
I am interested in becoming a Remote Medical Transcriptionist for [insert company name]. I have a Graduate Certificate in Nursing from the University of Queensland and have worked for a variety of healthcare organizations, including the Royal Children’s Hosptial, Urapuntja Health Service, and Princess Alexandra Hospital. I am an active member of the Australian Practice Nurses Association.
Please consider my experience and qualifications, and feel free to contact me if you think we can work together.
[Your name here]
Admittedly, it’s a really simple template, but employers don’t have time to read a novel. You want to be clear and to-the-point, highlighting the most relevant parts of your resume, and showcasing your communication skills. If they want more details, they can open your file. If a company asks you to describe why you consider yourself a good fit for the job, add a brief middle paragraph to the template. Otherwise, it’s probably not worth your time to try to win them over.
By letting your experience speak for itself, you are showing potential employers that you’re confident in your skills.
4. Properly Research Potential Employers
I don’t bother researching potential employers until I get a bite. Otherwise, it just slows me down.
If a company responds to my application and proposes a next step, I turn to two main sources to decide whether I want to oblige: the company website and a Glassdoor review.
If the company website sounds fantastic but the review is negative, I may end the application process. If the review is great but the company mission doesn’t sound in line with my professional goals, then I may back off.
Then go to Linkedin and look for people who are working in that company, or more specifically, people who are working in the department you’re applying for. Ideally, you want to find who you’ll be interviewing with.
Once you know the person you’ll be talking to, Google his/her name and find out as much as you can. More often than not, you’ll be able to find out what their pain points are and you can use that in your interview.
5. Apply for 5 Jobs A Day
This was my average when I started. With this level of persistence, it took me about a month to find a good match. I slowed down to about one application per day after I got my first gig, but the key was regularity.
The first thing I did every morning was check my favorite three sites for new job postings-and there were new postings every day. It’s a considerable time commitment, but once you get the routine down pat, it becomes something you do during your lunch break or on the bus ride home. An added bonus is that applying for jobs online is mobile, and much faster than the old-school way of applying in person.
Every step of the hiring process remains online, too, for the most part. Depending on your field, you may be asked to do an interview, but it will probably be on Skype or mobile.
6. Don’t Stop Applying Once You Get a Job
I mean, yeah, give yourself a break and a pat on the back. But it’s best to diversify your income in case your original gig falls through. In fact, you should probably assume that it will, or at least that it won’t be the best one you find.
The exciting part is that you can add your current job to your resume and increase your employability. Scoring that first gig is the hard part.
Once you’ve got it, you start to relax a bit, your cover letters start sounding less desperate (which is a good thing), and you have the confidence to go for something that pays better.
7. Don’t Quit Your Day Job Until You’ve Hit Your Mark
If you’re shifting to online work for good, don’t put in your two weeks at your other job until you are making the same income or better with your new gig(s).
I waited one and a half years before I made my move. I still have nightmares from my old job, but it would have been a bigger nightmare if I’d been too hasty.
8. Make Sure Your Income Is Steady Before You Go Traveling
If you are freelancing for a bunch of different companies, this may not be so easy at first.
But after time, you will learn which gigs you can depend on for steady income. If you land a job as a medical transcriptionist right off the bat, and it looks like smooth sailing from here on out, then you’re set.
But be confident that, even if something does fall through while you’re in the middle of your travels, it won’t take long for you to find another gig.
9. Buy the Right Device for the Job
I had a clunky Windows Vista before setting off on my working holiday, and even considered bringing it along. It was either that, or spend $600 on a tablet. In the end, I went with the tablet for two reasons: portability and Internet access.
My traveling companion of choice is a Samsung Galaxy Note. iPad minis are also quite practical, but they aren’t writer-friendly. Android tablets come with a word processing program.
I’ve been traveling five months now without a problem – fingers crossed. Oh, and I don’t have a phone. If you’re going to be traveling a lot, I highly recommend forking over the extra cash for a tablet with cellular capability.
It’s really quite blissful: As long as there’s cell service, I can check my e-mail. And I can also make calls. Just make sure you buy an “unlocked” device so that you can pop a new SIM card in when you switch countries.
10. Research the Wifi Availability in Your Region of Travel
You’ll be surprised where you can find free Wifi these days.
In Tasmania, for example, most towns along the east coast have free Wifi – you just drive to the center of town, log on, and work away.
In Queensland, on the other hand, you’ll be hard pressed to find a public library that realizes which century we’re in. Even less developed countries than Australia have gotten it together. In Kuala Lumpur, there are 15 hot spots located around the city – all with free Wifi. You just sign up on their website and enjoy.
And, of course, if you have cellular, you’ll be fine pretty much wherever you are. But do make a point to research the area ahead of time, just in case.
Working online isn’t for everyone. It requires lengthy periods of time sitting on your bum behind a computer screen, and you don’t interact much with people face-to-face. But if you can tolerate it, and make it a lifestyle, it will open up more doors to you than you ever thought existed.