What Skills Do I Need to Work at Home?


If you want to work from home, you might be wondering what skills you need.

To work from home, you need to be able to think and act independently, communicate well, and stay organized.  You should also have a specific skill set, in an area such as sales, marketing, advertising, artistic, technical, or management.  Finally, you should be a self-starter who is comfortable working in isolation at times.

Read on to learn more about what it takes to work at home.

General Skills Your Employer Wants

There are some skills that all employers will want a remote employee to have.  Companies expect you to have these skills, regardless of the type of job.

Independent Thinking

Your boss will want you to ask him before you make any big decisions for the company.  However, he does not want to have to watch your every move.  You should be able to think independently and solve problems on your own.

For instance, let’s say your boss uses a specific ergonomic mouse.  It is a few years old, and starting to wear out due to heavy use.  He asks you to order this ergonomic mouse for him on Amazon.  If you go on Amazon and cannot find the mouse, you should not simply give up.  In fact, you have only just begun!

First, you should check to see if the mouse is available elsewhere, such as on eBay or craigslist.  You should also look on Amazon and these other sites to see if there is a suitable replacement.  In addition, you should call the manufacturer to see if they can ship you one directly.  Finally, email your boss with a list of possible substitutes, and explain what you did to find the desired mouse.

This shows that you take initiative, use creativity, and try to solve problems for him.  He may not be happy that the mouse is unavailable.  However, he does know that you tried to find it, and did not give up easily.

Good Communication

Since you will not see your boss or coworkers face-to-face very often (aside from Skype!), you need to communicate well.  This means that your emails should be concise, but clearly written.  You should also speak well on the phone and leave messages that tell people what they need to know.

Communication refers not only to “outgoing” messages, but also “incoming” messages.  You should be able to read the tone of someone’s voice on a call.  You should be able to find the “message behind the message” in an email.

For instance, let’s say your boss asks you to revise a document, to make it sound more informal.  Make note of this!  He might also be telling you to write future documents in this more informal manner.

If your boss criticizes an idea you have, don’t take it personally.  He may not be shooting your plan down.  Instead, he may be addressing a concern and asking you to elaborate.  He might be training you to anticipate objections and address them, which is a key to winning over customers.

Organizational Skills

As a remote worker, you will need to keep all of your information, files, and folders organized.  You will also need to keep track of dates and assignments.  Again, there is no one looking over your shoulder all day to make sure these things happen.

This means that you will need to develop your own organizational systems.  This could mean using post-it notes (physical or digital), Google Calendars, and smartphone apps, or sending automated emails to yourself.

Specific Skills Your Employer Wants

In addition to the general skills mentioned above, there are job-specific skills your employer will want.  These include technical, creative, and interpersonal/persuasive abilities.

Sales

If your job title is sales representative or account executive, then you will obviously need to sell.  However, many other employees can sell as well.

For instance, a good tech support worker does a fantastic job of helping a customer with a time-consuming problem.  He then suggests that the customer upgrade to the higher tier software.  That way, he can save even more time each week.

The tech support worker has established trust with the customer by helping him.  As a result, the customer is more likely to consider his recommendation.  At the very least, the customer is more likely to remain a customer.  Customer retention, in addition to sales, is important to the company’s bottom line.

In every interaction, pretend like the customer is deciding whether to refer you to a friend.  In this way, you will provide a better experience and help to “make the sale”.

Marketing, Advertising, & SEO

Many people will use smartphone to do a Google search before leaving the house.  If they can find your product easily, they are more likely to consider buying from your company.

Learn a little about search engine optimization (SEO) and local search results in Google.  Then, you might be able to help your company to optimize its website for local customers.

In addition, make sure that your company’s website is mobile-friendly.  Many small companies will not be able to afford a web design expert.  However, if your company’s website runs on WordPress, you can make sure that it uses a theme that is mobile-friendly.

Finally, once the customer finds your site and decides to stay, think about the user experience.  Does the webpage load quickly?  If not, it might be a good idea to scale down the size of your images.  It might be a blessing if your SEO and local search efforts bring more traffic to your site!  However, it might also cause the site to slow down.

If necessary, upgrade your package or switch to a host that can handle more traffic.  Studies have shown that a 1 second delay in page load times can decrease page views by 11%.  This same delay of 1 second can also decrease customer satisfaction by 16%.  So, make it snappy!

Finally, there is traffic coming to your site, and the pages are fast enough to keep them around!  Now, you should learn how to make the copy on your website appealing to customers.  It should not be spammy, sleazy, or too sales-oriented.  Be genuine in your desire to help the customer, and they are less likely to click away.

Artistic

There are many avenues for artistic personalities to help a company while working remotely.  For instance, you can help your company to design the website and color scheme.  You can also take photographs and edit them to appeal to your customer base.  In addition, you can shoot videos and edit them, and then put them on the website or on YouTube.

Artistic types can also help with logo design for a company and brand design for products.  Artists can also help with the design of the product itself.  Those with an eye for design might also work well with software engineers.  Together, they can collaborate and decide on how to make the layout of an app functional and visually appealing.

Finally, artists can help the company to create images for brochures and sales materials for customers.  Having artistic ability really helps you to contribute to many areas of the company!

Technical

There are many different technical skills that a company might find valuable.  For instance, the ability to draw up designs in CAD software can be helpful.  Also, the ability to do computer programming or software design can help a small company with automation.  In addition, knowledge about computer systems and new technologies can help the company to keep up with competitors.

Management

If you are in a management role, then obviously you will need to know how to manage teams remotely.  However, management ability is also helpful for other reasons.

First, management skills make you more attractive for promotions in the future.  Remember that between two equally skilled employees, a company will often hire the one with management potential.  The reason is that this person can continue to grow with the company, whereas the other will need training.

Second, management skills allow you to help the company by easily taking on a leadership role on small team projects.  On a team project where everyone is equal, the boss will often assign someone to be the “first among equals”.  You are more likely to receive this role if you have management ability or potential.

Skills that Will Help You to Succeed

There are some skills that will help you to succeed in any remote position.  In some ways, these skills are even more important than job-specific technical or soft skills.  The reason is that even a highly qualified worker is useless if he has no motivation to work.

Self-Starter

As a remote worker, nobody is going to be looking over your shoulder to make sure you are working.  You will need to start your day on your own.  This means changing from “relaxing at home” mode to “work” mode.

Also, if any distractions pull you away from your work, it is your responsibility to start working again.  In a remote role, you may need to field questions from coworkers in the office.  After helping them, you need to jump right back into your work.

Comfortable in Isolation

Working at home does not mean that you need to be alone all the time.  If you are worried about that, check out my article on isolation while working at home.  However, you should definitely feel at home working by yourself for a good chunk of the day.  If you rely on in-person chatter with coworkers to make it through the day, then remote work might not work!

If you are still not sure whether you want to work remotely, check out my post about the pros and cons of telecommuting.

Conclusion

There are many technical and soft skills that employers will want to see in remote workers.  However, the most important things are self-discipline and the ability to work alone.  If you are ready to make the leap and need to figure out the right setup, check out my post about the best tools for telecommuting.

If you have any comments about working at home, please leave a comment below.

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