If you’ve decided that you’re willing to put in all the hard work required to work remotely, it can be tempting to buy into workshops and courses at an early state—many of which promise to quickly propel you into the world of working and traveling.
However, remember that there’s no such thing as a magic bullet. Not only do many promoted courses charge for instruction that can be found online for free, avoiding the process of pushing yourself to seek and learn information robs you of potential vetting time. Meaning that, if you’re not able to commit the hours of interest required to learn from various resources, you might have to ask yourself whether the path you're pursuing is really right for you.
So, while learning through free online tutorials and taking practice projects might not sound as appealing as a fast-tracking it to a remote career, doing so is better than feeling stuck attempting to work in a field just because you’ve already plunked down money.
Are you ready to start learning? Whether you’re already accomplished in a field and could just use a little brushing up or are starting from square one, here are our favorite free or almost-free resources for learning online:
Resources for Building Your Skills Online
iTunes U – While not everything on iTunes U is free, there’s plenty of content to be had without spending a penny. It’s a great resource for those on the go who don’t have a free minute beyond our commutes: Courses can be loaded on your phone, into your computer, or synced into your car for easy on the go listening to podcasts and lectures.
HubSpot Academy – The free certification program offers courses on inbound marketing, including website optimization, landing pages and lead nurturing. These skills are a must for business owners as they try to grow their online presence.
Moz – If you want to learn search-engine optimization to make sure your website is as visible as possible, check out this treasure trove of resources from SEO leader, Moz. Besides having the free Moz Academy, there are also webinars (live and recorded), and beginner’s guides to SEO, social media, and link building.
LearnVest – The most successful entrepreneurs know how to manage their money both on a business and personal side. In addition to having extremely affordable finance classes, LearnVest also offers some of its classes for free, such as “Building Better Money Habits” and “How to Budget.”
Niche Consulting Courses – The Internet has made for a coaching boom, which is extremely helpful to entrepreneurs who want to learn how to start or improve a business in a specific niche. Some great coaches and organizations that routinely have free courses and ebooks on building a business include Natalie MacNeil and My Own Business. Try searching “niche keyword” + “business course” to find one most applicable to you.
EdX – EdX is your one-stop shop for all things university. From a UC Berkeley class on essay writing to a Harvard course on Einstein, they’ve got it all. With a helpful search bar that lets you explore by school, subject, or topic, it’ll only be a matter of seconds before you find something that will catch your eye. EdX features courses from MIT, Dartmouth, Cornell, and more that would make your head spin.
ALISON – ALISON has partnered with top publishers, among the likes of Macmillan and Google, to bring you courses tailored to areas where you may need some beefing up. Particularly great for copywriters who need to learn about a new niche, ALISON lets you explore everything from supply chain management to nursing, taking top, reputable materials and makes them super accessible.
MIT OpenCourseWare – For a more concentrated selection of coursework from one of the country’s top universities, check out what MIT’s serving up with OpenCourseWare. These are actual courses taught at MIT and offered for free on the site for viewing and reading at your discretion. The school put together an entrepreneurship page that lists available courses that are beneficial to new business owners. Courses include “Early State Capital” and “The Software Business.”
Khan Academy – This free learning resource was created to give everyone access to education in math, science, art, technology and more. There are over 100,000 interactive exercises to put your education to practical use. Even though many of the courses are geared toward high school students, there are several courses that would be good for anyone to have a refresher on, such as taxes and accounting.
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania – This university has almost 100 free on-demand college courses that are extremely applicable to entrepreneurs, including ones that cover business planning, operations and management and small-business tax.
Coursera – Much like MIT’s Open Courseware, this site has 114 educational partners that provide free courses to almost 10 million users. One benefit to Coursera is that there are very specific courses that fit perfectly into particular niches, such as “Data Management for Clinical Research” from Vanderbilt University and “Innovation for Entrepreneurs: From Idea to Marketplace” from the University of Maryland. Its wide network of partners allows for a greater selection.
YouTube – It’s probably unsurprising to most users that YouTube is one of the world’s largest search engines, as there are literally videos on just about anything you can imagine. From TED talks to recorded presentations on building a business, it’s a great free resource on just about any topic.
Pro tip: Have you found a course or ebook that sounds appealing, but costs money and you’re unsure if it’s worth the price? Check out “The 5 Laws of Avoiding Work at Home Scams” to see if the program you’re considering holds up.
Where to Find Remote Work
Eager to practice your newly-learned skills? Finding remote work isn’t as difficult as you might think!
Some companies, such as Upworthy, offer full-time employment that includes all the perks and security of working for a company at home, including paid vacation and medical benefits. This type of employment is called ‘off-site,’ and you can search for the term when perusing job posts anywhere from Craigslist to LinkedIn. Just note that remote workers who score these jobs generally already have experience in their field, allowing them to be desirable candidates despite asking for extra flexibility.
Other remote workers earn money as independent contractors, otherwise known as freelancers. There are many sites like that allow freelance workers to find ample clients. Here’s a rundown of our favorites:
Upwork – Formed out of the merger of oDesk and Elance, Upwork is a huge site dedicated to freelance work. There are over 90,000 jobs listed on Upwork at the time of writing this article, which is quite a lot.
Of course, not all of these 90,000 jobs are going to be worth your time or effort. You’ll see a lot of people expecting the equivalent of the complete works of Shakespeare hand-written in an hour, for roughly $1 pay.
However, jobs are available in a huge range of professions. There are both short and long-term projects, fixed rates and hourly rates, and expert or entry-level roles—something for everyone! Additionally, making a profile couldn’t be easier and, thanks to Upwork’s great help center, you can rest assured that you’ll be looked after should any unforeseen problems (bad clients) pop up.
Freelancer – Freelancer is very similar in design to Upwork—roughly 8.5 million projects have been launched through freelancer, and there is a huge number of positions available at any one time. That there are so many jobs available is a bonus, as you will be competing with quite a few of the other 16,700,000 or so other registered users for desirable job posts.
Unlike Upwork, which I’ve used and enjoy, I don’t have any personal experience with Freelancer. However, be aware that this platform doesn’t garner the best reviews from Highya readers, with common complaints ranging from unapproved charges to a lack of support and scam proposals.
Guru – Much like the above two, but on a smaller scale and with a better name.
SimplyHired – SimplyHired isn’t a site strictly for remote work, as it offers both online and on-site openings. Additionally, most of the jobs listed on this site are solely based in the United States. However, if you’re sticking around for a bit to brush up your skills or traveling around stateside, this may be worth a look.
iFreelance – A Relatively modest site when compared to the big three above, but iFreelance still deserves a look because there’s so much less competition.
Project4hire – As with all of the sites listed above, Project4hire offers a range of jobs in many categories. The interface is simple to navigate, making narrowing your search down to just the jobs you are interested in very easy. However, Project4hire works slightly differently, requiring you to bid on any job you are interested in, and then the employer will make their decision. Registration is free for the basic membership, or you can purchase a premium membership for $10 a month.
Behance – Mainly aimed at the creative types, Behance is great for designers, photographers, and writers. However, developers and programmers will find a few job posts, as well.
Peopleperhour – Peopleperhour offers only web-based freelance work that is clearly broken down into specialties, such as SEO, web development, or anything else that glues your eyes to a screen for most of the day.
Demand Media – If you’re creative with a camera or the written word, Demand Media might be the right place for you. The site allows users to create a showcase for their talents that helps to connect with a huge audience.
A Final Note About Using Freelancing Sites For Remote Work
The resources we’ve listed above offer a chance to get started working remotely without having to spend time figuratively hitting the pavement in search of clients that are comfortable working with an off-site contributor.
However, your success on these sites relies heavily on the reviews of previous clients. As such, there are a few tricks to breaking into the market.
First, take the time to approach every bid with a personal note. This means not sending a generic application query when you see a job you’d like to apply for, but instead, approaching each initial contact with the care you would put into a cover letter—doing so is your first chance to stand apart from the competition.
Start off by selling yourself slightly under value and deliver great content to those who give you the opportunity. By bidding low, you’re giving new clients incentive to trust you and help build your reputation. Your earnings over those first few projects may not be enough to support a remote lifestyle. However, consider them like internships that will set you up for later success. The more reviews you build up and the more professional you become, the higher your income potential.
In addition to building a reputation within each site, remember that each project is an opportunity to build a name for yourself that can lead to word-of-mouth recommendations. This is important because most job sites take a small fee or a cut of your earnings. Those costs can be unsubstantial to start, but add up when you’re paying 3-5% or your annual earnings to fees.
Finally, don’t give up! Many would-be freelancers throw in the towel because they find that the first few jobs they’re awarded barely amount to peanuts. Stick it out until you have a proven track record, and then you can charge a premium for your services, allowing you to support a nomadic lifestyle.
Other articles in this series:
- Part 1: An Introduction to Working Remotely
- Part 2: Which Jobs Work Remotely
- Part 4: How to Choose a Destination, Estimate Cost of Living, & Find Accommodations When Working Remotely
- Part 5: 13 Steps to Prepare For Working Remotely
- Part 6: How To Stave Off Stress & Enjoy Working Remotely Long-Term