Not so long ago, launching a virtual career meant living hand to mouth as an independent contractor or entrepreneur. However, this isn't the case any more. Today, the on-demand labor movement is in full swing with an estimated 53 million Americans freelancing, approximately 34 percent of the total workforce.
Far from struggling, almost eight in 10 (77%) freelancers make the same or more money than they did before they quit the rat race, according to a recent Freelancer’s Union study — indicating that location independent jobs can be even more lucrative than traditional career paths. Rebelling against traditional employment also means that you get to work from the couch, cafe or wherever the mood takes you. A few lucky folks even manage to travel the globe (hello Tahiti!) while they earn a steady income.
So what are these big-buck virtual jobs that can be done anywhere? Here are five ideas.
Social Media Marketing
If you spend a lot of your day on social media, why not use your skills to make some money? Businesses are increasingly seeing social media as a platform for engaging with their communities, but publishing new and relevant information on their Facebook and Twitter accounts is a major headache for most companies. Maintaining fan pages, staying active within the company’s network and running Facebook ads is a perfect digital nomad job that can be done from anywhere.
The downside, if there is one, is that social media never sleeps. Often, a lot more activity happens on social networks outside the regular 9-to-5 and on the weekends. Engaging on the spot can become challenging when customers are spread across different continents and time zones. But with the right tools for scheduling and publishing posts, social media marketing is one field where you can work from home, the coffee shop, or a hammock on a beach—with no formal training required.
With the explosion of online courses, teaching a class no longer requires a classroom. Online instructors teach everything from graphic design to nursing, customer service skills to schools’ curriculum at a distance. Students “attend” lectures and study at their own pace using a combination of video presentations, downloadable text documents and other multimedia references. Needless to say, online teachers must be comfortable with webcams, Internet technology, as well as mobile and social media.
Teaching at the K-12 level requires a teaching credential. Post-secondary instructors need, as a minimum, experience and an endorsement in their chosen field. Obviously the more qualified you are, the more money you will be able to earn through online teaching. Your earning potential is around $1,500 to $2,500 for delivering a semester-long college level course; more if you develop the course materials.
Learning the basics of web development sounds labor-intensive, but the time you invest learning code can pay dividends for the location-rebel worker. Coding skills are highly sought-after in every industry, not least because there’s a global shortage of software developers. As such, contract salaries are frequently high.
There are no exact figures for how much income a freelance web developer can generate—many variables are at play, including your experience and the number of projects you take on. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary (for employees) is $68,670 rising to well into the six figures for experienced programmers. If that sounds appealing, Codecademy.com is a good place to brush up on those coding skills.
Search Engine Optimization
SEO is the art of getting your clients’ websites ranked top in a Google search query. It combines the skills of keyword research, article marketing, onsite optimization and link building, so you’ll need a thorough grounding in analytics, copywriting and web design before launching yourself as a SEO guru. If these tasks sound like gobbledegook, “How to Become an SEO Freelancer in 48 Hours” is a good place to start.
Google changes its algorithms frequently, so you will have to put in the legwork to help companies make money with SEO. And the hard work should soon pay off. SEO experts with more than three years of experience can expect to earn an average salary of $97,750 according to The Creative Group’s 2015 salary guide.
Technical authors use their specialist knowledge to create guides and documents that can easily be understood by users of products and systems. These can range from car maintenance manuals to health and safety procedures for large businesses.
To excel at this job you will need strong analytical and writing skills with attention to detail. Clients will usually expect you to have some knowledge of their industry, such as technology, diagnostics or engineering. Experience aside, there are no set entry requirements to become a technical author, though building a portfolio of the FAQs, manuals and policy documents you have written will help win contracts from clients. After that, you simply need a steady Internet connection to earn $30 an hour from just about anywhere.
So there you have it—five of the best ways to earn a decent living without slaving in an office. Now get out of the cubicle and go!