Remote work has been on the rise for years, and for good reason: The flexibility of remote work allows you to craft the career—and the life—of your dreams. Do you need to relocate for your spouse’s new job? Or do you have a sick parent that you’d like to move to take care of? Maybe you have a disability that makes commuting and working in an office challenging. Or you’re itching to explore the world while simultaneously building your career. Or you just want to get a few extra hours in every week with your kids while they’re young. Whatever your reason, remote work is your ticket to freedom.
In the wake of COVID-19, our perspective on what is possible for remote work is expanding on a daily basis. But even as we’ve seen an increase in remote work across a wide range of industries, there are still certain jobs and career types that are more suited for remote work than others.
I have a lot of experience working remotely, both as an employee and as the owner of my own fully remote business as a career strategist. From my home office, I help my clients craft the careers of their dreams. In my former life, I was the Head of Sales and later the Head of Brand and Content for the fully remote startup Remote Year, which has been taking professionals on trips around the world—while they continue to work remotely—since 2015.
With over six years working in multiple roles, managing teams of up to 30 people spread across the globe, and building a business, all while remote myself, I’ve learned a lot about the kinds of roles that can be effectively executed outside of a traditional office environment.
The best jobs for remote work can be done solely with widely available technology, meaning you can successfully complete all your job duties using your computer, a phone, and other things you already have. Roles that have clear deliverables and measurable results also lend themselves to remote work because managers and others at a company can easily see your progress—even if they can’t see you sitting at a desk every day.
These are the types of careers and jobs that are best suited for remote work:
Marketing encompasses anything that drives revenue growth through brand awareness and lead generation. Businesses are now prioritizing online strategy and that means lots of marketing jobs, most of which can be done remotely. Business owners want great marketers who can help them scale their business and grow revenue—even better if they can do that with less overhead cost by working from home.
Marketers are generally divided into two buckets: specialists and generalists.
Generalists wear a variety of hats and do everything from social media management to brand development. Usually, generalists are needed at smaller companies or startups that are still figuring out their marketing strategy and have smaller budgets. This is great for anyone who likes to have multiple, very different projects going on at once or who is always looking for something new to learn. Though there are a variety of different types of roles in marketing, many people test the waters as generalists before committing to a specific niche.
Specialists are people who have expertise in one area of marketing. Social media, paid advertisements, content marketing, SEO, and public relations are just a few examples. Usually specialists work for bigger companies or agencies that have larger budgets to direct to marketing, or they might operate as consultants or freelancers. The skills you need depend heavily on which specialty you want to work in.
A marketing role is ideal for someone who likes to exercise both their creative and their analytical brains. Generalists and specialists alike have to be good communicators who can keep up with and adapt to new trends and technology in a rapidly evolving industry. Strong writing and data analysis skills are also important.
Almost every company that produces a service or product needs some sort of sales team to connect to customers (and make money). That makes for an extremely diverse, varied field. In sales, remote workers have the opportunity to build real relationships with people, solve problems, and, quite often, make customers’ lives better.
Though sales is typically seen as client facing and therefore a role that must be done in person, it’s actually well suited for remote work in many ways. Companies that value face-to-face sales methods often need salespeople in a particular geographic location to be closer to prospects, but don’t want to—or can’t—commit to opening a new office. So remote employees allow companies to expand geographically with less risk. Additionally, a lot of sales can be conducted over the phone or internet, and there are many tools available now to assist with distance selling. If salespeople are good at building relationships and can leverage these tools, then they can do their jobs well from anywhere.
In addition to being good relationship builders, remote salespeople have to work well on their own and be very results-driven. Your manager will work best with you if you have great digital communication skills and you can clearly demonstrate your daily sales activity and your progress toward your sales goals. Sales is also unique in that for many roles you don’t need a bachelor’s degree. If you can prove yourself—or sell yourself—you can get hired.
Sales is also a good option for people who want to work from home but are concerned about the potential isolation one might feel without the presence of a physical team. Remote salespeople get to interact with other humans throughout their day, either via digital communication tools like video chat or by visiting prospects in person. If you are a people person and you want to go remote, sales might be a great fit for you.
There are so many ways to build a remote career around a love of writing. Writing is needed across all types of companies and industries (and the pay varies widely). Branded content, content marketing, social media, copywriting, and technical writing are just a few avenues you can take to pursue a writing career in addition to traditional editorial or journalistic routes.
Though writers may need to communicate with others in the early stages of a project and throughout the editing process, the act of writing itself is solitary, making it well-suited for remote work. Writing is also measured primarily on execution, so your process doesn’t matter as much as the quality of your output and, depending on your role, you might be able to maintain a more flexible schedule that fits your personal working style. You can change up your location as well, since writing can be done anywhere you can bring a laptop (or just a pen and paper if you want to retype it later!).
Though there are many full-time, remote opportunities for writers, you might consider a career as a freelance writer if you’re seeking even more freedom—and don’t mind spending a lot of time pitching.
To be successful as a remote writer, you obviously need to have excellent writing skills. You should also have solid organizational skills and self-discipline to ensure you can take on multiple projects at once and never miss a deadline. Depending on the type of writing you’re doing, you might also need strong interpersonal skills to conduct interviews or technical or subject-matter expertise in whatever industry or area you’re focusing on. You must also be comfortable working on your own, since working remotely as a writer usually means less interaction with other people throughout the day.
4. Software Engineering
Software engineers get to creatively solve problems by building web applications and software that, ideally, make our lives better. At Remote Year, the most common jobs for participants were always software engineer, developer, and designer—suggesting that companies are comfortable with these roles being remote.
Though software engineers work collaboratively with developers and designers, there is a ton of autonomy in this role, which makes it ideal for remote work. In fact, working remotely might be the best setup for software engineers since it allows them to minimize distractions typically found in office settings and find their flow when working on important projects that require focused attention. Additionally, because the demand is so high for effective software engineers, many companies are willing to hire remotely so they can expand their reach for potential candidates. Many employers would rather hire a better software engineer from outside their geographic area than limit themselves to who can come into their office.
Similar to remote sales roles, you don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree to become a software engineer because you can learn all about coding on your own or through one of the many coding bootcamps available nowadays. Beyond having the technical experience, you will also need to be great at communicating with teammates and project managers through virtual communication tools, excellent at managing your own time, and resourceful in your ability to learn what you need to be successful.
Designers are needed across a myriad of industries, from tech to finance to media. They design marketing materials for Fortune 500 companies, logos and websites for new business owners, apps for scrappy startups, and even book covers for publishers.
As is the case with writers and software engineers, the bulk of a designer’s work is conducted solo, is execution driven, and increasingly takes place entirely digitally. All these aspects make it ideal for remote work.
If you’re looking to become a successful full-time remote designer, you need to be a creative who likes to work independently, but who can still collaborate with a team. You will need to be a great visual storyteller, well-versed in a variety of digital communication mediums and social media platforms.
To be effective in your role, you must also be able to bring someone else’s vision to life, or contribute to crafting a larger vision if working with a team through the use of virtual collaboration tools. As a remote designer, you will likely be working on multiple projects at once; so excellent organizational and communication skills will support you in getting work done and sharing progress with stakeholders along the way.
6. Customer Support
Customer support roles are responsible for responding to customers’ questions and helping them solve problems. Many of these jobs are great for fully remote workers because companies need support available 24/7 (i.e. support reps that span time zones) and most support is conducted via virtual channels like chat, email, and phone. Often companies only hire remote customer support, increasing the number of available roles out there.
As a virtual customer support representative, you can take advantage of the fact that companies are looking for employees to operate in different time zones. For example, if you are not a morning person and you would prefer to work West Coast hours while living on the East Coast, you might be able to find a role that needs coverage in that time zone. Alternatively, if you are an American looking to travel to Asia, you could find a role that operates on Asian time zones rather than attempting to stick to American hours.
Customer support roles are great remote jobs for people who still want to engage with others throughout their day, but don’t want the pressure of sales goals. You will be great at customer support if you have strong interpersonal skills, excellent listening and communication skills, and previous experience helping people solve problems.
7. Online Business Owner
Owning your own online business is a true jack-of-all-trades job, especially when you’re just getting started. It’s great if you like the idea of doing a little of everything: marketing, sales, product development, customer service, and even bookkeeping. Building something from the ground up remotely is an excellent way to see the direct impact of your labor while also creating something that provides you with ultimate flexibility in terms of income potential, location independence, and daily work. However, along with that level of freedom comes a lot of hard work. Starting your own business takes a lot of time, dedication, and a certain set of experience and qualities.
You might thrive as an online business owner if you’ve worked remotely before and maybe even work better when outside of the traditional 9-to-5 office routine. If you are independent, self-motivated, resourceful, and have a track record of achieving results, you have the foundational skills necessary for building a business from the ground up, be it as a freelancer or the CEO of a digital startup. If you’re new to this, it also helps if you love to learn (because there will always be something new you don’t know!) and build great relationships remotely.
It’s also easier to get started if you have some understanding of marketing and sales because no matter what your business is, you will need to sell something to earn revenue, whether that’s your expertise, a service, or a product. You also want to have some specific expertise in the industry you’re starting a business in. This is important for designing a product or service that will be valuable to the market. For example, if you’ve been working in human resources, you could use your expertise to become a career coach, to consult for small businesses, or even to develop digital products such as online courses for human resources employees.
The best online businesses come from a combination of your skills, experiences, expertise, and interests so that you are offering something that is based on both what you know and what you love.
8. The Job You Already Have
It turns out that the best job for working remotely is probably the one you have now, especially if you’ve been a high performer thus far. If your boss and company already know you and trust your ability to deliver results, they might be open to trying out a new arrangement rather than risk losing you entirely.
Consider this perspective: It’s quite expensive to replace an employee. Your company would probably prefer to try to keep you than hire someone completely new. Greg Caplan, cofounder and CEO of Remote Year, says his team helps potential participants get their employers’ permission to let them work remotely and travel. “We repeatedly see that most employers want to retain their employees—assuming you are in good standing—and they’re usually way more open to the idea of working remotely than most employees initially think,” Caplan says. “Employers are always looking for new ways to attract top talent and differentiate themselves amongst competitors; remote work is a surefire way to do just that.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has also changed many companies’ and bosses’ perspectives on remote work. The world experienced a massive shift toward remote work all but overnight, and this forced remote work experiment has revealed the real extent to which jobs of all kinds can be done from anywhere. As a result, companies may become more open to the possibilities of remote work long after the pandemic is over.
If you’ve seen that all or most of your job could be done remotely, you have proven a track record of success, and you are considering leaving your employer for a fully-remote job anyway, it is worth putting together a formal ask. Proposing a permanent flexible working arrangement is really an exercise in negotiation: Just as you would negotiate for a higher salary or more vacation time, you can negotiate for a more flexible working arrangement.
If your current job can’t be done remotely, your next best bet is to see if there is an internal opportunity available for you at your current company, which would still likely be easier than landing a new remote job and having to start fresh somewhere else.
The jobs listed here aren’t the only jobs that can be done remotely. There are so many different types of roles you can do from anywhere. In my work, I’ve seen teletherapists, online nurses, and even virtual pharmacists. No matter what your background, education, or experience, you can find something that works for you—wherever you are.