The Various And Sundry Professions That Allow Frugalwoods Readers To Work From Home
After I shared the logistics of how Mr. Frugalwoods and I both work from home while caring for 18-month-old Babywoods (and thus avoid the expense of childcare), I was inundated with a chorus of requests for more information on how to find a work-at-home job. Since I’m not expert in that field, I decided to crowdsource a rundown of remote jobs from the best experts I know: the readers of Frugalwoods.
As I do every month, I polled our Frugalwoods Facebook group to find out exactly what it is that you people do from home. I wasn’t surprised in the least by the bevy of responses I received and I’ve included a list below, which we’ll get to in a moment. Before we go any further, let me clarify that today we’re discussing work that you’re paid money for. Anyone who is a full-time stay-at-home parent/caregiving is working HARD, but unfortunately no one pays them for their labors.
I also want to point out that some folks derive great satisfaction from their in-office jobs and have no desire to leave them, which is wonderful! The goal today is to offer a few alternatives to the conventional in-office mode of working, not to deride those who enjoy the camaraderie and interaction provided by a traditional office setting. There is no one right way to enjoy the good life!
Sidenote: please, please, please do not get yourself into a multi-level marketing scam of a situation in an attempt to work from home. Don’t buy products that you will then have to sell because you are tremendously unlikely to make any money from this. For more information, here’s an entire website devoted to exposing the scams inherent to these types of organizations.
The Different Methods of Remote Work
From our conversation on Facebook–and my own experience of doing all of these methods–I think there are three primary modes of working from home:
1) Working remotely for a traditional company.
In this instance, you’re an employee of a formal organization, you just don’t go into an office every day. This is what Mr. Frugalwoods does and, let me tell you, it is WONDERFUL. He is on the clock for regular business hours; however, he doesn’t have a commute and we get to see him on his “water cooler” breaks throughout the day.
The flexibility is fabulous and it means we all get to eat breakfast together. Additionally, since he doesn’t have to get ready, pack a lunch, and drive anywhere, he does the household/childcare work in the mornings and evenings to free me up to do my own work/some yoga.
- A standard salary.
- Access to a 401k or 403b retirement savings account.
- Greater job security.
- Regular paychecks (you know how much, and when, you’ll be paid).
- No commute.
- More flexibility to your daily schedule than an in-office job.
- Less flexibility in your daily schedule than a freelancing position since you’re probably expected to be on the clock for specific hours each day (although this varies by position).
- A requirement to travel periodically either to your employer’s main office or to clients (again, this varies by job).
- There’s a cap on how much money you can earn (aka your salary).
- It can be tough to build rapport with a team if they’re all centrally located in an office and you’re not (again, variable).
- There’s the possibility of missing out on crucial conversations that happen informally at the office (by the proverbial, or actual, water cooler).
- A change in management could bring remote work to an end if the company decides to amend their policies on working from home.
2) Working for yourself as an entrepreneur.
This is what most of my work entails. It means I don’t answer to anyone, but it also means I’m solely responsible for generating work product. If I don’t produce, I don’t earn any money. I personally love this because it means I only do things I believe in and am passionate about. I get to set the direction, tone, and mission of my business (aka Frugalwoods).
- Complete flexibility over your schedule as well as what you work on.
- Manage client relationships yourself with no middle person.
- The freedom to pursue a career you’re deeply passionate about.
- The ability to chart your own work flow and decide how you want to grow your business.
- The sky is the limit in terms of earning potential. Of course the opposite is also true and you might make zero dollars (or even be out your start-up costs).
- There’s a lot of back-end administrative work that has to happen, such as accounting, paying self-employment taxes, setting up your own individual retirement account, invoicing, etc, which can present a burden.
- A paycheck is not guaranteed and the amount often fluctuates wildly. Some months I make quite a bit of money, other months, not so much.
- No healthcare or other benefits.
- No paid sick or vacation days. If you don’t work, nothing gets done.
3) Working as a freelancer/subcontractor.
This is the other element of my work, but I’m actually phasing this out in order to put more energy into my own business. I find there are only so many hours in a day and I need to focus on how I want my business to grow for the longterm.
The distinction from #2 is that, as a freelancer, you’re working for clients who will often assign you work projects as well as deadlines and the price they’re willing to pay. Although you’re not a formal employee of a company, you’re still beholden to their rules and expectations. However, it’s also entirely possible to freelance while you build up a small business or other entrepreneurial pursuit. Sidenote: if you’re interested in becoming a freelance writer (like me) and aren’t sure where to start, I recommend my friend Catherine Alford’s course Get Paid To Write For Blogs.
- A lot of flexibility over your schedule as long as you meet client deadlines.
- Consistent work if you have reliable clients.
- No (or few) requirements for travel or in-person meetings.
- The ability to take time off as it suits you.
- You’re not working on your own projects/business–you’re doing work for someone else.
- You might not be passionate about the work.
- The burden of back-end administrative work still exists (taxes, retirement, invoicing, etc).
- Freelance jobs can evaporate quickly if a company changes course or decides to manage a project in-house or cuts back on their budget.
- No healthcare or benefits.
- It can be tough to get paid on time and difficult to know how much money you’ll receive in a given month since clients are often notoriously slow to pay freelancers.
The Elephant of Freelance and Entrepreneurial Work
If you’re pursuing either freelance or entrepreneurial work, there’s an enormous elephant in the room: health insurance. As we all know, healthcare can be complicated to come by on the individual market and can also be exorbitantly expensive.
Before committing to a position that doesn’t provide insurance, I recommend investigating what your premiums would be under the ACA in your state. Mr. FW and I, for example, did this research and are comfortable with the amount we’d pay monthly in Vermont.
Planning For Freelance Or Entrepreneurial Work
If you’d like to wade into freelance or entrepreneurial work, I encourage you to consider the following:
- Will this income be supplemental or do you need it in order to survive (by which I mean pay your rent/mortgage and buy groceries)?
- Will this be the sole income for the household?
- How will you handle health insurance?
- What retirement account will you set up for yourself? Two common options are SEP IRAs and solo 401Ks.
- What will you do if you don’t earn what you expect to earn?
- What will happen if you earn $0 in your first month? Or in your first year?
If at all possible, I highly, highly, highly recommend building up your remote freelancing/entrepreneurial business prior to quitting a traditional job (if you currently have a traditional job). This is what I did and it made the transition easier because I knew what to expect in terms of income, I was aware of our limitations as a self-employed business of two people (me and Mr. FW), and I had a clear strategic vision for the next year (and next several years) of work.
It wasn’t easy to build up my side hustle while also working a standard Monday through Friday 9 to 5 schedule, but it was well worth it for me. I put in time in the early mornings before going to my cubicle, in the evenings, and on the weekends. What I will also share, in the interest of full disclosure, is that Mr. FW and I both work because we choose to, not because we need the money. Through our extreme frugality, we’ve made ourselves financial independent, which alleviates the pressure of needing to earn an income in order to survive.
Frugality Smooths The Way
As with everything else in life, frugality can smooth the way by ensuring you’re not living paycheck to paycheck and not in dire straights if you don’t make any money at first.
Having enough money on hand to pay rent and buy groceries–even if your freelancing checks don’t come by the end of the month–is the financial position you want to be in before launching a self-employed career. Frugality also gives you the freedom to only take on work that’s fulfilling to you and to expand your business as you see fit–not as you must in order to eke out a few extra bucks every month. Plus, the less money you spend, the more money you save, and the less money you need to earn.
If you’d like to start saving more money and giving yourself a comfortable financial cushion, I encourage you to take my Uber Frugal Month Challenge, which outlines the steps Mr. FW and I took to save over 70% of our income. It’s free and more than 12,400 folks have already taken the Challenge and saved thousands of dollars!
How Frugalwoods Readers Work From Home
Without further ado, here’s a list of jobs Frugalwoods readers do from home. There’s a mix of all three types of remote work represented here and you can also check out the complete conversation over on our Facebook page.
Carol works remotely (anywhere with wifi and a phone) as a nurse case manager for Medicaid patients. Carol says, “I communicate with patients who live at home or in shelters by phone. I keep tabs on their healthcare needs and provide referral services, as well as educational material regarding their medical or mental health diagnoses.” She does this job full-time, but her hours are flexible and she reports that she loves it.
Katie works for a large corporation that offered her a work-from-home option 2.5 years ago and she’s been doing it ever since. She is required to live within 75 miles of one of their sites, but other than that, she’s at home.
Lena is an independent contractor, “primarily in the visual aspect of branding and some marketing.” She’s also a stay-at-home parent to her 3-year-old, 2-year-old and 2-month-old, so she’s working a reduced schedule until her youngest adjusts.
Amy works as a freelance writer, something she started this year after her youngest child went off to kindergarten.
Caroline is a subtitler, transcriptionist, and proof reader, something she does part-time while also caring for her children.
Chrissy and her husband own a small pest control business, which allows them the flexibility they crave to balance their family life with their children.
Derek is a a category manager for a craft beer company. He says that he chose the at-home route because he calculated that commuting to work was by far the most expensive and time-consuming thing in his life that provided no value to him.
Jana reports, “My main job is as a touring acrobat with the circus, but on the side I run all of the social media for the personal training studio I work for when I’m home. I love being able to maintain my job with the gym even when I’m not physically there. Best of both worlds!” How cool is that! Pretty sure Jana wins for most creative jobs!
Faith shared, “I assist my professional photographer husband with weddings… and… I do our bookkeeping and design the wedding albums. I don’t earn a distinct paycheck, but before I took over these roles he had to outsource this work so there is a huge savings. Soon we will be creating a line of natural scenes on wood prints and I will be creating a website to sell online and applying to sell at boutique craft fairs–all from home!” What a fun family business!
Terry does health insurance work for a doctor’s office. She originally worked in the office, but transitioned to working from home five years ago and loves it!
Kellie is a contract writer in the field of industrial psychology for several different companies and calls herself a “digital nomad.” I like that! I think I’m a digital homesteader :).
Sarah has worked remotely for the past three years at two different jobs. First, she was a science writer for her local university. Now, she’s the outreach coordinator for her local humane society. She goes into the office for a few hours each day in order to take photos of the animals ( :)!!!), but otherwise, she does her work from home.
Lydia works remotely for a large investment management company on their private equity team. She says this came about because her husband accepted a new job out-of-state and she told her employer that she’d be happy to stay on in a remote capacity and they took her up on it. Three years later she reports she still loves it!
Julia shared, “I’m about to leave my teaching job to work freelance as a tutor and proofreader from home. I can’t wait – but I’m nervous too!” We wish you luck Julia!
Anne has “worked from home for 9 years evaluating search engine results. I love my flexible schedule!”
Rita is a freelance content editor, which she’s been doing for two years.
Jed is a freelance photographer and does work for his local newspaper, portraits, weddings, Mardi Gras Krewe, and events at his church.
Teresa works from home as an office manager for a construction company part-time and also does some data entry for a friend’s internet-based business.
Sheila reports, “I’ve worked remotely for over 10 years. I am a software developer and all of my current team work remotely in various states across the US.” While she says she loves her arrangement, she also offered the following sage advice, “You do have to work much harder at relationships and at making sure your management knows you are working when you should be – in other words, you need to be at least as productive as you were in the office.” Wise words!
Laura says, “When I worked for pay, I worked from home as an occupational therapist. I would visit clients in their home, but do all office work from my home. These days I am a doctoral student, which is another form of work from home – just without pay.”
Semira works remotely as “a marketing consultant for tech companies.”
Sherry is an adjunct professor of accounting and teaches online-only remote courses from home, something she’s done for over ten years.
Kristen is a nurse who works from home as an infection preventionist providing education for 270 healthcare clinics as well as surveillance. She says, “The best part is being in control of your time which in turn frees you up to make frugal choices like avoiding childcare and cooking at home more often.” So true!
Laura is a consultant and reports, “My hours are flexible and my stress level has gone wayyy down (no commuting, getting dressed, packing a lunch…).”
Meredith has worked from home as an editor for the past five years.
Rebecca does a mix of communications work for nonprofit clients and freelance writing for publications aimed at the public, all focused on the same general topics of wildlife and conservation.
Sandy shared: “I’m a marketing consultant/freelance writer. I started by subcontracting with a small marketing firm, but now I’m starting on my own with a couple of clients while also caring for my two girls.”
Bonnie left her career in IT and now sells on eBay while taking care of her three young granddaughters.
Bridget reports: “I turned my traditional office job into a remote job when I moved from Maine to Colorado. I’m a technical writer and it works really well. I feel it does help that I had in-person relationships with my co-workers before I left the office, but as time has gone by and there’s been turnover, I’ve been able to forge relationships with new co-workers through good communication.”
Mol commented, “I work from home as a patent examiner for the United States patent and trademark office. USPTO allows flexible hours and lots of opportunities for promotion. I love my job!”
And now, a the list of things my friends/neighbors do from home:
- Nannying (my friend has one kid and watches another kid several days a week)
- Pastoral work (I have a friend who was invited to lead an online worship service)
- Book editing
- Renting out a room(s) on AirBnB
- Writing courses for online classes
- All manner of farming/homesteading
The beauty of all of these jobs is that they provide you with location independence. No longer do you have to live somewhere you don’t enjoy simply because your job is there. No longer do you even have to live anywhere period!
Plenty of folks take their remote work on the road–either traveling full-time or living in multiple spots around the globe. For many people–me included–the only requirement is an internet connection and your trusty laptop. Another wonderful element of online work is that your start-up costs and overhead and incredibly low–you’re not purchasing a warehouse, or an office, or products.
Location independent work is also fostering something of a revival in rural areas where there simply aren’t many jobs. That’s certainly true for us. There are precious few jobs in our town of 400 people and we wouldn’t be here without our ability to work, learn, and operate online. Aside from the schedule flexibility and lack of commute that at-home work provides, consider too if it might allow you to move to a lower cost of living area, or, just a place you’d love to live.
Crafting The Life You Want
A gigantic part of my decision to quit my office job and start my own business was the fact that I wanted to be home with my daughter and I wanted to live in the middle of the woods. Those two things weren’t going to jive with a 9-5 corporate job. Instead of spending tons of money militating against that mode of life, Mr. FW and I decided to change the entire equation.
Rather than spending lavishly on high-quality childcare or a vacation home in the woods or other balms to soothe our discontent, we changed the way we live. We simplified and streamlined our existence in order to facilitate the stuff we want to do every single day. As opposed to going on exotic family vacations for a week every year, we’ve designed a life that we love living day in and day out. We had to slash our spending, ramp our savings up to over 70%, and be dogged in our investments, but we made it happen.
Question the traditional mode of living in our modern society: going to an office every day and paying money for conveniences to make your life more tenable because you don’t enjoy your job. We spend the vast majority of our lives at our jobs–it’s valuable to ask yourself if that’s how you truly want to live. It’s also the case that, in many ways, we pay to work in this culture. Clothing, hair, meals out, gasoline for our commute, people to clean our homes–the list of ways in which we pay for the privilege of maintaining an out-of-the-home job is immense.
Consider instead if there’s a way to pare down what you own and what you do. A way to live out your passions and incorporate what matters most to you into your daily routine. Because I gotta tell you, 98% of life is the daily routine. Those meteoric highs of Disney vacations and cruises are fleeting. Soon enough they’re over and we’re back to the grind. Instead of hating that grind, and spending money to try and make that grind more bearable, can you do away with it instead? Can you make your “grind” something that brings you lasting happiness?
Do you work from home? What do you do?
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