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17 ways to kickstart your remote-friendly career in 2017

I hope you had a wonderful New Years! After the new years celebrations were finished winding down, many of us are grappled with the following: a prosecco hangover, the decision on where to eat New Years brunch, and of course – all those resolutions that have been swirling around in our heads since we realized the year was ending. Again. Am I going to do them this year?

Raise your hand if one of your resolutions involves:

  1. Making more money
  2. Being able to work from home
  3. Being able to work from anywhere

If any of these apply to you, you’re in the right place. Because on this beginning of the new year, I’m here to talk about 17 ways you can gain a foothold in a remote-friendly, online career. I personally work in tech, and feel strongly that there is a way for almost anyone to get started in this industry, and that it doesn’t have to involve everyone on the planet becoming a programmer.

Let’s quickly look at how tech meets each of these resolutions, then we’ll dive into the exact ideas you can use to start building your tech skills today!

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Why start working online?

Now, by “working online” I don’t necessarily mean, “learn to code.” Let me be clear that these two things aren’t the same thing! These jobs and careers are empowered by tech in the sense that if you’re part of the internet generation, you can learn to do these jobs, often by just expanding knowledge you already have. Usually, these jobs will set you in the direction of learning some code, and ease you into getting an even more technical job, if that’s what you want.

Here are a few ways that a remote-friendly job in the tech industry can help fulfill your resolutions this year:

Make more money

One reason tech is awesome is because everytime you learn something new, you’re effectively giving yourself a raise. Here’s an example: You can start with the basics, like how to make basic website with a couple different pages. Once you understand that, you can start learning how to make this website perform better on Google. Combine these two skills: making websites that perform better on Google, and suddenly you can double or triple your fees.

It’s that simple: the more you learn, the more money you make. But as opposed to most jobs, the margin by which your value on the market increases is much higher, especially when you’re just starting out.

“Every time you learn something new, you're giving yourself a raise.”
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Work from home

Working from home can be awesome. Not only do you save money on transport and eating lunch out every day, but also time by not commuting. I probably don’t need to tell you why the option of working from home is really awesome.

Work from anywhere

This is the real goal, isn’t it? Being able to work from anywhere, also called location independence, is high up on the list of so many of us this year. Today’s post-grads aren’t interested in long-term dedication to a single employer, and want the opportunity to spend more time traveling and persuing their own business ideas.

What you’ll find in this post

17 different ideas for how to start working online. Each one of them is a valid entrypoint, from which you can learn others and become an even more skilled tech worker! You can combine them together to create a more well-rounded profile and intrigue employers and clients.

Career options that open up. Each skill you learn can bring you closer to a very real career that is empowered by tech. Each idea opens up several options, especially depending on how deep you want to go in that area.

Additional resources for career step. In the form of podcasts, blogs, tutorials, and e-courses. You can start with Google, but I’ve included some of the most important authorities in each sector in this post to get you off to a good start.

A few things to remember

  1. There will always be clients who fit into your skillset. Does your mom and pop store down the street need a super fancy website full of animations and 3d art? NO! If you can find people, whose problems you can solve with what you know (or can learn on the fly), you can already get to work.
  2. You can start your online career journey in parallel to your normal job. Doing something dramatic like quitting your job and learning full-time is not necessary. Spend your evenings on it, and start to make money on the side before taking the leap. You may find that you need to pick a different path into tech before you find the right one.
  3. It takes hard work and motivation, just like anything else. There are no silver bullets to learning something technical: it’s going to feel like every sector has a huge mountain of information, and you can barely grasp the basics. That’s okay! Absorb as much as you can and put it into practice. If you perservere, you can succeed.

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Ideas for kickstarting your online career in 2017

1. Build your first website

Everyone needs a website. Well maybe not your cat (well actually…), but practically everyone you know has a skill, product, or service they are looking to market. I would recommend beginning with the world’s most popular “content management system”, Wordpress . You don’t need to know any code to get started, and your website already has a place for your clients to log in to add their own pages or edit text. In order to customize it completely, you’ll need to learn HTML and CSS, but before that point, you can manage the whole website just by pushing buttons!

What can you do if you learn how to make a website?

  1. Create simple websites. Doesn’t it drive you nuts when you google a restaurant and you can’t find their opening hours on their website…because they don’t have one? How often do you see friends on facebook asking if anyone can help them with a website? The demand for basic, functional websites is all around you!
  2. Learn to make your own website themes. You can create website themes (such as for Wordpress) and sell them on your own website. Either create custom themes for individual clients, or create reusable ones which anyone can purchase. Ideally you create a few variants which you can adjust into custom themes for your clients!
  3. Become a web designer. Especially if you’re creative in other ways, like drawing or photography, you might have a good eye for web design. Start by learning how to tweak an existing website, and soon you’ll figure out how to DIY it.

Where to learn how to make a website?

  • Buy a book. That’s how I learned. I got a book on HTML, sat on a computer without internet access, and taught myself. Nowadays with how many distractions (emails, notifications, social media, etc.) being able to concentrate is KEY. A hard-copy book you can work through from start to finish is a dream come true for establishing a foundation! Here’s what you want to look for:

  • Decide on a project you want to make. Just creating “My first website” isn’t going to get you hooked! Think about your dream website: Maybe it’s a website about knitting boots for kittens. Awesome. Make that website.

  • Do online courses. Total honesty: I don’t know a single person who succeeded with online courses to learn to code, but it can always come down to motivation. The most popular online course systems are Codeacademy , Treehouse , and Udemy . I’d encourage you to start with one course, and then decide on a personal project to build.

  • Follow online tutorials. There are countless tutorials online, if you want to create a Wordpress website . Google is your friend! There are tutorials on how to do almost anything if you just search for them. I learned how to program my first real web application by tutorials.

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2. Master social media

Did you know that there are people who are experts in getting followers, comments, and deciding exactly what a company shares on social media? They know how to get people to engage in their content by writing smart captions and write click-worthy headlines. If you already spend too much time on social media, why not learn how to make it work for you?

What can you do if you master social media?

  1. Become a social media consultant. Advise brands and companies on how to reach their target audience through social media.
  2. Become a virtual assistant (VA). Many bloggers and business owners outsource their social media work (along with more manual tasks) to VAs. Learn how to become a virtual assistant.
  3. Work as a social media expert. You can get a remote friendly job as a social media expert and focus on one company’s social media presence.
  4. Make money from your own social media. To prove that you’re really an expert, you probably need to show this by growing a social media account to become really successful. Try it on your own, or on a new project and put your learnings to the test. With enough followers and “engagement”, you can charge brands to be promoted through your social media channels.

Where to learn how to master social media?

  • Pick your platform. There are so many out there, first you need to pick something to learn. I would personally pick either Instagram or Twitter, depending on where your interests lie. Pinterest is one of the most powerful platforms, but only really makes sense if you are trying to drive traffic to a website. However, I have seen it used to drive traffic to instagram profiles, though it’s a bit indirect.
  • Read up! Here are some of my favorite bloggers talking about social media:

    • Melyssa Griffin's Social Media Archive – She has articles like, “6 Ways to Create a More Engaged Instagram Audience” and “6 Ways to Grow your Blog or Business Using Twitter”. Melyssa is also a Pinterest guru and has fabulous tips on driving traffic with Pinterest.
    • Sarah Morgan's blog – She focuses more on blogging itself, but also has Instagram tips as well as an e-course called “Pinterest Powerhouse” which will teach you to use Pinterest like a pro.

3. Learn a new online skill – and establish yourself by blogging

Almost all of us have a career shift at some point. Considering today’s post-grads, an increasing number of us aren’t doing the job we were theoretically “trained for” in University. One of the best ways to establish yourself in a new, tech-oriented career is to start blogging about what you’re learning. Write tutorials, insightful articles, posts for absolute beginning teaching them the things you’ve just learned. By writing prolifically on a subject, you make yourself searchable (meaning, discoverable by clients and employers!).

What can you do if you establish yourself blogging?

I’ll just give one example of a field you can get into by establishing yourself through blogging: social media marketing. Write a blog about the things you learned while growing an instagram following, study your results, and then publish it to the world.

Just remember that a blog full of information can be even more convincing than a CV or resume with a couple of relevant bullet points. It’s an active demonstration of your knowledge, and makes it easy for future clients or employers to vet what you know.

Where to learn how to establish yourself by blogging?

4. Learn how to optimize a website for search engines

One time, a guy tried to impress me at a bar by sharing two awesome facts about himself: he rides a motorcycle and he knows how to make websites show up higher in Google’s search results. As a tech person myself, I knew neither of those things were magic per se, but you’d be surprised at how many people are surprised that you can, to some degree, help websites rank better in Google. Companies and brands with an internet presence know that this “magic” is key to driving traffic to their websites and generating sales – that’s where YOU can come in.

You can learn how to improve how a website and its pages rank in Google. This technique is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Things like how to format the page correctly, keyword research, link building, etc. are all things you can learn, entirely online. And charge for.

What can you do as an SEO expert?

  1. SEO Consulting. Oh consulting, that magic word that makes your rates about 10x higher than those who call themselves freelancers. Help your clients rank better in Google, and they will help you rank better in your bank account 😄
  2. In-house SEO for a single company. If you don’t want to freelance consult, there are also remote-friendly companies that are looking for people to rule their SEO.
  3. Become an SEO writer. Tired of people doing it wrong? You can be a content-writer with a focus on SEO.

Where can you learn SEO?

  • Backlinko : One of my favorite sites regarding SEO. Brian Dean, founder of this website, focuses on ranking in Google without generating tons of of pages – how you can rank better by optimizing your client’s existing content.
  • SEMrush Blog : SEMrush is one of the leading tools for doing evaluations of a website’s SEO, and their blog is a gold mine of tips you can learn from.
  • The Moz Blog : Tons of great information about improving a website’s search, social, content, and brand marketing.

5. Sell online courses about something you know, or are learning

When I was home for Christmas, sitting by the fireplace, my dad flipped on the TV and started watching something about building your own kitchen cabinets. Little did he know that I was thinking to myself, “Dad, you bought an e-course?!” But that’s exactly what he did! Some guy, who “has been woodworking for 40 years and loves it”, created an ecourse and is probably making a bunch of money from people like my dad who just want to learn how to do something from an expert in video format.

You can do exactly the same thing in your area of expertise, whether that’s knitting, DIY crafts, the SAT exam, cooking, photo editing, or one of the brand new skills you’ve acquired by applying this list!

There is usually still room to distinguish yourself from competators by focusing on a few key differentiators: being useful, having attractive and entertaining images or video, developing a unique voice.

Where can you learn to create online courses?

Here are a couple of websites I found with useful information about creating e-courses:

6. Create a niche website in your area of expertise

Niche websites!! How many of us are kinda weird? Meaning, we know A LOT about something, and need an outlet? In that case, a niche website may just be for you. Let’s go back to that idea about knitting boots for cats: if you can build a whole website around this area, and no one else is covering it, you can create a successful website which generated income for you.

What can you do with a niche website?

  1. Affiliate marketing. Say you’re knitting boots for cats: every person who buys cats knitting supplies through your website (say, by clicking a link to Amazon) can earn you a small comission for their money spent. With a sufficiently popular website, you can make some serious income through this channel.
  2. Sell your own physical products. If you’re making awesome cat boots, you can also sell them! For more realistic examples, think of DIY crafts (like Etsy) or printed goods (like posters or art prints).
  3. Sell your own digital products. The problem with physical products is that you still have to create them, and then distribute them, which takes time and effort. It’s better to create a digital product (like an eBook or e-course, which we’ll discuss next) that you can create once and sell forever. Think: “Kitty’s guide to knitting boots.”

How can you learn to create a niche website?

One of the online entrepreneurs I find most inspiring has to be Pat Flynn, who is utterly famous for his website Smart Passive Income . He has a regular podcast where he talks about earning income online that requires a lot of work up front, but minimum effort to maintain.

7. Create a niche website in an area you have no idea about – but can research

One of the important things to remember is that you can write anything on internet. I can write all about how to make candles, without ever having made a candle myself. Same goes for niche websites – you don’t have to be the end “user” of your niche website in order to write it. You just have to be willing to put in the research.

This blog post on Smart Passive Income talks about Pat Flynn’s experience creating a niche website in ~70 days in a topic he knew nothing about, which began generating about $700 / month.

8. Build a review website, or do video reviews on YouTube

Let’s start with the example that you are a hobby photographer, and you want to start reviewing camera bags. Fantastic, you have some background knowledge and a niche already! Now you can start writing detailed reviews and creating videos.

Why does this work? When you do a good review, you are helping people decide whether or not to buy something. If they decide to buy the product, how are they likely going to buy it? Probably through your affiliate link. Differentiate yourself by going in-depth (read: EXCRUCIATING DETAIL) as well as offering to help anyone out who buys the product and needs tips on how to use it.

What can you do as a reviewer?

  1. Be a professional reviewer. Yes, you can make enough money on affiliate sales in order to support yourself, but of course you need to build up enough traffic to make that happen (see: SEO section, above).
  2. Become a brand embassador. Of course, as soon as you do that, you are no longer an objective reviewer when comparing between brands, but this can open you up to getting your hands on more (and pre-release!) products.

Where can you learn to do effective product reviews?

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9. Learn how to code by building an app you always wanted

For those of you who want to learn how to code, but don’t know where to start: start with something you’re passionate about. I can’t tell you how many people share their app ideas with me, and think, “If only I could code!” Well, actually, you can.

My top 3 tips for people who want to learn how to code

  1. Do not copy-paste code from the internet. Do you think artists become good at drawing by tracing pictures? HECK NO. They look at something, and draw it themselves. It’s the same with code. Whatever you read, type it yourself manually. Even if it’s slow, you’ll soon be able to “draw” your own app without looking 😉
  2. You need long-term focus. If you aren’t able to be online without getting distracted, separate yourself from the internet. Buy a book on the basics of code for the web , hole up in a coffee shop without WiFi, and start learning!
  3. Keep yourself accountable. Join a local group of people who are learning to code (you can find them almost anywhere by searching Meetup.com) and make sure you are working every day!

10. Join groups that specialize in helping people learn your target skill

I just talked about going to meetups, but sometimes that’s not an option (it’s too far away) or you just don’t want to (talking to strangers in real life is hard). Solution? Join Facebook groups for people learning the same things you are. Their passion and interest will rub off on you, and keep you motivated to continue learning. You can also get feedback on your project and ask questions to more experienced users.

Besides Facebook, there are a lot of other ways to find a community online. Twitter chats are another way to network with people who are either learning the same thing as you, are further along, or are experts in the field. Check out this list of twitter chats for entrepreneurs – there are chats targeted at people who create content, people in SEO, people in marketing and social media. Just about everything has a twitter chat!

11. Learn how to flip websites

I first learned about flipping websites from this article by Banker in the Sun where he talks about the ways he makes money as a digital nomad living in Thailand. The basic premise is that you buy a website from an online auction, you fix it up (improve its design, SEO, content, etc.) and then (if you want to) sell it again for more money. The real flipping occurs when you take a unprofitable or marginally profitable website and make it into a profitable one.

What can you do as a website flipper?

Most people do website flipping as a form of side income, and not really as a “career”. However, if you are learning a bunch of the other tech skills in this post (like SEO, creating a review site, and becoming a social media expert), applying all those things to flipping a website might be a great way to apply your skills and have some concrete metrics to share with your next client in any one of those areas.

How to learn how to flip websites

12. Create your own podcast

In case you haven’t noticed, about 99% of jobs online involve sharing (or applying) the knowledge you have. Whether you’re an expert, or an expert in the making, sharing that knowledge is a great way to create credentials for yourself without needing a line for it on your CV or past job experience. Consider a podcast to supplement your blog while you work on learning a new skill and establishing yourself as an expert in your new techie skills.

“Sharing knowledge online is a great way to create your own credentials, without involving a CV.”
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The ever entrepreneurial Pat Flynn has a step-by-step podcasting tutorial which can help you get started. His number one tip is that before you start podcasting, “Commit. You must internally commit to podcasting, as you have to do with anything that is potentially beneficial but takes some time and effort.” Don’t miss his post if you think that speaking is a way you’d feel comfortable with sharing your knowledge and your journey to it!

13. Write an eBook to teach others

As with e-courses, an eBook is another way to bundle together a bunch of what you know an disseminate it to people. We all probably know what an eBook is, so let’s get to the why and how of making an eBook.

Why create an eBook?

There are so many reasons that an eBook can be useful for furthering your online career, but here are a few I came up with!

  1. You can use an eBook to incentivize people to sign up for your email list. In fancy marketing land, this is called a “lead magnet”. People who are offered something in exchange for their email address sign up way more often than people who aren’t – and an email list can be a great way to establish a list of potential clients!
  2. An eBook helps establish your expertise. You might notice a common theme: Writing about what you know and are learning helps esablish your expertise. An eBook is just another medium to do that!
  3. eBooks are easily accessible and searchable. Unlike an e-course, eBooks can make great reference material for people who want to learn about a specific subject. Meaning, it’s material they can return to again and again!
  4. Improve your writing skills. Working online requires especially good communication, because you have to be precise and concise to be helpful and keep people’s attention.
  5. Make some money! A successful eBook can put money in the bank, and you don’t need to have a massive website (just a targeted one) in order to start making money from ebook sales.

How to create an eBook

The best resource I found on creating eBooks is this article by BlogTyrant , which covers how to create a PDF eBook.

14. Learn how to use Photoshop and Illustrator (or Sketch)

You don’t have to be a graphic designer to benefit from being able to use graphics tools. Of course, it’s better if you develop a sense of design, but being able to create graphics opens up several possibly online careers (or, allows you to be more expensive because you have this extra skill!)

What can you do when you know how to use Photoshop and Illustrator?

  1. Become a virtual assistant. Many VAs also do social media work for their clients, and you can be even better at it if you can do some of the graphics work yourself.
  2. Enhance your social media skills. Pretty much every platform out there is becoming increasingly visual: even Twitter gets more engagement when an imagine is involved. If you’re going to focus your business around social media, knowing how to use these programs is a huge advantage!
  3. Design graphics for the web. If you’ve got a talent for these things, you can become a graphic designer. You can start by creating simple graphics and eventually become more advanced and sophisticated over time.

15. Dropshipping

No list of jobs you can do online would be complete without dropshipping! If you haven’t heard of it yet, prepare to be amazed – this is a real thing.

You make the store interface on the web, and a different company ships the goods with your label on it.

Let me give you an example.

Basically, you create a website, let’s say www.woolbootsforkittens.com. People google for your website, see a big nice gallery of wool boots knitted for kittens, and place an order. But instead of YOU, the website owner, grabbing some kitten boots from your supply room, putting them in a box, and mailing them off, the kitten boots come from a mass supplier. You provide an invoice template or some nice labeling (read: BRANDING) and the buyer gets some generic kitten boots, which they could’ve probably ordered from just about any other website.

That, my friends, is dropshipping. According to most, the secret is to come up with a really great niche (again, niche) in order to succeed in dropshipping. I’ve never dropshipped myself, but I had a co-worker who dropshipped poledancing poles. Real people do this and make money from it!

What can I do as an expert dropshipper?

  1. Ecommerce consulting. Dropshipping is all about ruling ecommerce. If you can create an effective dropshipping website, you can consult other online shops on how to perform better.
  2. SEO consulting. You’ll definitely learn SEO as a dropshipper, so specializing in SEO for online shops becomes another online career path.

How do I get started with dropshipping?

Check out this awesome Ultimate Guide to Dropshipping by Shopify. It has 11 chapters on everything from dropshipping basics, to how you can set up your store using their platform. After that, you’ll for sure want to google for some online forums or facebook groups that can support you as you have questions (also great because you can search through past questions).

16. Learn to be a day trader

Now, almost ALL of the ideas I’ve listed so far also require some kind of website. Which, to some degree, makes a lot of sense: having a website is one of the main ways that your product, service, and expertise can be discovered online. But if you’re not so interested in having a website, but rather, just making some money so you can pursue other passions, you might be interested in trading on Forex .

Here are some resources to pique your interest and get you started:

One of the big caveats here is that you need to invest money in order to make money – perhaps more than other careers you can do online. But of the potential to gain (and lose) is probably higher!

17. Learn how to test websites

There are even more alternatives to having your own website: one of which is testing other people’s websites for usability and user experience. In technical terms, this is called Quality Assurance, or QA. You’ll search the website for links that don’t work, confusing navigation, or other website flaws. The initial amount you make is pretty small ($100-$200, at $10-$15 per test, which takes approximately 15 minutes to complete) a month by responding to first-come-first-serve calls for testers, but it can be one way to get into the more professional field of QA.

What can you do as a website tester or QA?

  1. Work remotely at a start up as QA Engineer. After practice and online training, you could apply to a small start up as a junior QA. Most of these positions don’t require programming, just that you learn to use some tools to automate your work.
  2. Create an online testing agency. If you want to create your own business, why not doing it by testing websites? You can offer audits and *money word* consulting!

How to get started with website testing

  • UserTesting.com , YouEye.com , and Userlytics.com can all get you started making money right away.
  • Start googling about “How to become a QA tester”. You can find many quora threads, facebook groups, meetups, etc. to help you on your way.
  • Online courses are always an option – but make sure you are putting what you learn to use! Don’t waste your money on an online course when you can read it for free or learn by doing.

o

Ready to start 2017 online?!

Do you have any questions about breaking into one of these areas, or how to combine them to kickstart your online career? Shoot me a comment below and I’ll be happy to answer anything!

If you’re already working online, I’d love to hear what you do and what brought you to it!

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About the author

Hi there! I'm Monica, an American expat living in Germany for nearly four years and using every opportunity to explore the world from my homebase in Berlin. My goal is to capture my memories in photos and posts that show how easy it is to start from scratch and travel the world by working abroad.

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