The Way We Work
August 25, 2010 by Tamara Rice

If you're thinking about becoming a remote contract worker -- or maybe you are a newbie in the biz -- you may be subjected to some well-intentioned (but inaccurate) advice and information about the ins and outs of contract work and freelancing.

We're here to set the record straight by debunking the 10 Biggest Myths About Remote Work:

Myth #1: It's lonely working from home. Working remotely doesn't have to be lonely. Some contract remote workers are in contact with coworkers by Skype or IM chat during the majority of their working hours -- it just depends on your particular field. There are even friendships to be made along the way. (Hey, if people can fall in love over the Internet, you can make a friend or two!) And let's not forget you have the freedom to work wherever you want, not just home. Rent a cubicle, work from a coffee shop, hit up your local coworking venue, get a remote work partner -- options are endless.

Myth #2: You're on your own. You don't have to be. There are third-party sites and tools out there that assist remote contract workers and/or connect them to other remote contract workers. Check out the oDesk community for an example of remote contractors staying connected, sharing tips and best practices, and even sharing coffee breaks. Who says you need an office?

10 myths about remote work threeMyth #3: It's feast or famine. These days being a remote contract worker doesn't necessarily mean you flutter from employer to employer, never knowing where the next paycheck will come from. A lot of remote workers tend to keep the same list of clients over the long term - and have a fairly predictable income as a result.

Myth #4: There's no guarantee you'll get paid for your work. Once again, you don't have to go it alone in terms of billing and collections. Get a signed contract for every job, hire yourself an accountant/collections agent or simply use a third party like oDesk, which guarantees you'll be paid for the hours you work -- it's a whole lot easier than sending invoice after invoice to get what you are owed.

Myth #5: Remote work is just for tech-savvy people. True, you probably need to know your way around email and maybe even the Internet to work remotely, but online freelancers are not just software developers and graphic designers. Customer service representatives, administrative assistants, writers, sales people, business consultants can all work remotely. Consider your own field -- you might just be surprised by who's working remotely these days.

Myth #6: You have to accept low wages to be competitive in remote contract work. This actually couldn't be further from the truth. A lot of people make as much - if not more - as contract workers than they did working as traditional employees. It may take time and patience to build your clientele and prove your worth, but there's no need to sell yourself short. Know your worth, earn a stellar reputation with your clients, and set your rates accordingly.

10 myths about remote work oneMyth #7: You have to have the latest in technology to be competitive. Again, sometimes remote workers don't deal much with technology. Simply having a reliable working computer and/or telephone can be enough for certain fields. No one is going to ask you how old that laptop really is -- from across the Internet, they can't see that it's five inches thick and weighs as much as a full tool box!

Myth #8: Remote workers don't have access to benefits like health and disability insurance. Plenty of self-employed individuals buy their own health or disability insurance -- it's not typically as daunting as it sounds. Even so, there are unions and other resources for remote workers which can allow them to participate in group plans. The bottom line: Most traditionally employed people are paying for their benefits too, only human resources does the paperwork and payroll takes the premium out of their earnings. It may take some extra effort, but you don't have to forego health and disability insurance to make your remote work dreams come true.

Myth #9: You'll spend more time drumming up business than actually working. This is the beauty of the Internet, friends. You don't need to knock on doors or stuff your resume into envelopes to be a contract worker anymore. Initially it may take some time to create your online resume. You might even need to learn what social networking is, but the flat world of the Internet allows you to be seen as far as the other side of the world, by thousands of potential clients. What's more, a lot of remote contract work is long term. You may go months, even years for some, between times of needing to actively seek work.

Myth #10: Only the business savvy should venture into contract work. Any business acumen you need to work remotely can be easily learned along the way through experience and and a hunger for good advice from those who've gone before you. While freelancing can be like owning your own small business, the reality is that it does not require an MBA or any great accounting skills or entrepreneurial strategy to be successful. The most basic requirement for success in remote work is that you are fantastic within your area of expertise. Be confident in that!

What remote work myths have you heard lately? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Tamara Rice

Freelance Writer and Editor

Tamara Rice is one of several freelance writers on the oDesk Blog team. She joined the oDesk marketplace in 2009, after more than six years on staff at an award-winning national magazine.

  • Anonymous

    Nice tips oDesk!, I found some nice tips of how to get remote jobs from the link
    http://www.widerinfo.com/how-to-get-a-remote-job-to-work-from-home/

    Really helpful for the people who are planning to have remote job online

  • kate

    Well, people are swarming in odesk and if you wont place your rate at $1 (or even less), no one will attempt to offer you a job. and most simple jobs/basic jobs require odesk hours--what's the logic for beginners?
    I for one worked online and i realized why people sometimes give up. i recruit and ive tried recruiting VAs in a day, i get 40 applications, what's the edge? who gets hired? oftentimes, those who have already online exp should be hired (so as to save time). what about he newbie who want to venture to this work because its "better"?

  • Tamara

    Hi, Khuram. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about acquiring insurance in countries outside the US to be of any help to you. But I welcome any comments and advice here from those who do.

  • http://www.phprad.com Khuram Javaid

    About Myth #8, Is there any help for non-US workers ?

  • http://www.chitchat.org.uk Daniel Offer

    A genuinely excellent article, however, I do think it's important to add - given my role as a purchaser of freelance services that you need to be clear in your expectations that you set for your client.

  • http://www.workequality.com Sean

    chat is definately a system of providing real time communication that many digital businesses employ - which also provides a social aspect to otherwise isolated work.

  • http://www.odesk.com/blog Tamara

    Yes, Sunanda, thanks for adding to the conversation and answering Ken's question. Sometimes chatting is part of the job (i.e., chatting about the work, communicating during the day about the work). I'm not refering to personal conversations. Only work-related things, like those who do remote customer service and are communicating with customers via chat all day long. There are certain fields where it's a given. I'm in no way suggesting you use your employer's time to chat away with friends, just pointing out that some fields of remote work involve a lot of communication and you won't get lonely. =)

    And, Johnny, you are right in that a few of these might be true for some--i.e. those who cannot afford to pay for their own benefits. But they are common "cons" people bring up when considering remote work that aren't necessarily true for most remote workers--which is what I wanted to point out.

    Thanks for reading, guys! Keep comments coming.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=740377809 Sunanda Kundu

    not necessarily! If you are chatting on YM with your odesk team mate or the buyer it would not matter. I have worked on a project where i had to connect up with team members and the buyer and YM served well. You do not feel lonely at all! :)

  • Sunanda

    not necessarily! If you are chatting on YM with your odesk team mate or the buyer it would not matter. I have worked on a project where i had to connect up with team members and the buyer and YM served well. You do not feel lonely at all! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000508415203 Ken Weill Lumacad

    For Myth #1 and #2.

    Are we even allowed to do YM or chatting while in the middle of logged working hours?

    As far as I know, it's not allowed. Some said that you won't get paid on the time logged when you are caught chatting. I think I've read that somewhere in oDesk. About hourly jobs.

  • Muhammad Saleem

    hmm

  • http://www.freelancerant.com Johnny

    I wouldn't call these complete myths since a freelancer is likely to experience most of them at some point during his or her career. That said, those who survive recognize the signs of these myths well in advance and act to remedy them.