While remote work had been gaining in popularity for years, working from home really hit the mainstream in 2020, opening a world of new job possibilities for those wanting to work outside of a traditional office environment. But although the options may seem endless, not every remote job is right for every job seeker looking to work remotely.

Whether you’re hoping to change careers or jump back into the workforce with a remote position, it’s vital to narrow down your options before you start applying. Here’s how to do just that.

Getting Started In Your Job Search: What Role Are You Looking For?

Remote jobs come in many shapes and sizes, and you may find that some are better suited to your unique circumstances and lifestyle than others. Before you start drafting your resume, ask yourself these four questions to ensure you’re focusing your job hunting efforts where they’ll be best spent:

1. How much stability do you need?

Remote work is unique in that it comes in many forms, from part-time contracts to one-off projects to full-time employment. If you’re looking for maximum levels of freedom, autonomy, and variety, then freelance and independent contractor positions might be the perfect fit. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a stable income and benefits, you may want to target full-time roles in your job search.

2. How flexible do you want your work schedule to be?

Many who move to working remotely do so to allow them the flexibility to juggle other commitments, whether that’s caring for children or other family members or even working another job. Alternatively, some prefer to keep to regular office hours as a way to help maintain a separation between work and home life. Luckily, there are a myriad of remote positions available for those with either preference—or something in between.

3. What hours do you want to work?

Just as remote jobs vary in how much flexibility they offer, they also vary in what hours employees are expected to work. With professionals contributing to projects from around the world, you may find yourself working with teams across time zones, meaning meetings and check-ins might be scheduled outside of regular business hours. Other remote jobs, including copywriting and customer service roles, may involve shift work or allow you to pick your own hours.

Before applying, study the job listing so you thoroughly understand when you’ll be expected to work, and be sure to note where the potential employer is located: a remote position with a company headquartered in the U.K. may have different operating hours than one based in the U.S. 

4. What kinds of corporate cultures do you thrive in?

As with traditional office employment, companies with remote employees offer a variety of different corporate cultures. If you’re looking for a relaxed environment with maximum flexibility, a 100% virtual company may be your best option. Start-ups, meanwhile, are great for those looking for a fast-paced culture that emphasizes individual problem-solving and entrepreneurialism, while large, established companies that traditionally rely on in-office workers will generally offer the most structure.

Breaking In as a Beginner: Where to Start Your Job Search

For those with little or no prior experience working remotely, some career fields may be easier to break into than others. Here are several jobs that are great for beginners:

1. Customer Service Representative

One of the most popular remote positions, customer service representatives are needed in almost all industries, and these roles can be a great way to get your foot in the door in a new field. If you’re not interested in talking on the phone, try looking for chat or email-based positions. 

In either instance, hourly wages for customer service representatives generally range from $10 to $19, according to data compiled by Payscale, and many roles offer stable, set hours each week.

2. Virtual Assistant

If you have some administrative and computer skills, a remote position as a virtual assistant could check all the right boxes. Like customer service roles, V.A. jobs can also provide you the chance to get a fresh start in a new industry. Conversely, you could apply for a role at a virtual assistant firm for some variety, as these professionals often work for more than one client. 

According to Payscale, V.A. positions start at a wage of around $10 per hour, though that varies based on experience, and can go up to as much as $27 per hour. The level of flexibility and stability you see in these roles will also vary according to the position.

3. Search Engine Evaluator

Another way to break into remote work is by evaluating the performance of search engines, online ads, and other online technologies. For these roles, work schedules are typically flexible in both when and how much you work. This makes this type of position particularly suitable for professionals looking for a remote side hustle.

The Takeaway

No matter your current circumstances or skills, remote work can be an option for you. Before you start, ask yourself the hard questions to find out what you want out of your remote career. Then, research the companies and positions that line up with your experiences and career goals while still allowing you the flexibility you need to live your life. From there, focus and persistence—and perhaps a bit of patience—will get you where you want to go.