If you’re ready to make your entrance into the remote work world, this article is for you.
I’ll start by telling you the story of how I landed my first 100% remote job.
I’d already spent countless hours – months to be specific – on freelancer websites and remote work websites bidding and applying for jobs. It was frustrating. Beyond frustrating. During this time, I shed a tear or two out of frustration, so if you’re going through this now, I feel your pain.
Competition was fierce. For many of the jobs I was interested in, there was pressure to apply within minutes or risk my application never being seen. I’d often come across postings that were only up for an hour but had over 50 applicants and 2 already in “interview” status. I knew making the effort to sit down and put in a thoughtful application would likely be a waste of my time.
I opened up to trying jobs I normally wouldn’t apply for to give myself more options. In fact, I’d do any job as long as it wasn’t immoral or illegal. But in the case of many of those jobs I was willing to take a chance on by trying something new, I did not have the right combination of skills the, companies were looking for. Therefore, I wasn’t even an eligible contender.
For the life of me, I couldn’t find a gig.
Then, one day, someone reached out to me on Upwork (one of the best freelance websites for beginners) asking me if I’d interview with them for an Arabic/English bilingual customer service position.
Unfortunately, I had to decline because my Arabic is not strong enough for a role like that. But that invitation caused a light bulb to go off in my head – a second language as a skill puts me in higher demand.
Who doesn’t know this? Why hadn’t I thought of it before?
And I did have a second language: Spanish.
I’d come to take Spanish for granted because in the United States, so many people speak Spanish that the differential employees are paid for using it at work is laughable – usually less than $1 additional dollar added to a base hourly rate.
However, in the world of outsourcing, an inexpensive bilingual English/Spanish speaker is like gold.
After the aha-moment, I changed my strategy for applying to jobs on Upwork. I started running searches only for jobs that required bilingual skills, pairing the words “bilingual” and “Spanish” with other skills from my background.
Here are some examples of keyword searches I’d run:
Spanish Telesales OR Spanish Telemarketing
Spanish Customer Service
Bilingual Recruiter English Spanish
Bilingual English Spanish
Entry Level Spanish
Just as suspected, when I’d look at the results, the number of applicants on each bilingual job was a lot less compared to the results of the same type of job without the bilingual filter (or requirement). I was competing with a lot less freelancers, drastically increasing the chance my applications woul be viewed.
On some of the applications, I had to send audio samples of myself speaking English for a few moments, and then Spanish. On one for a job based out of the Miami, Florida area, the job ad asked applicants to record in English and in Spanish why they should be considered. I also wrote them a typo free, short but compelling paragraph explaining that although I was overseas at the moment, I’m originally from Central Florida and would easily relate to both the English and Spanish speaking customers in the area. By the next day, finally, I had a job.
Being a bilingual telemarketer had never been a life goal for me, but I’m eternally grateful for that chance – my first entry level remote position.
It gave me a start in the remote work world – and it helped the startup I was working with to grow their team while staying within the limits of their budget. (They could never have found someone in the Miami market that would work for the rate I could offer working remotely from elsewhere).
I also learned about important technical basics when it comes to remote working. That helped me to become better prepared and in turn more attractive to other companies searching for remote work talent.
And now for the most import part: Your Story.
It’s easy to believe that a second language is not worth all the effort for an entry level position.
‘This is not helping me at the moment,’ you might think. ‘I need a job right now.’
Things that may deter you from deciding to learn a second language for work may be:
The amount of time it will take (an average of 10,000 hours)
The level of difficulty or commitment that’s needed
A lack of immediate results
But knowing that we’ll never be able to see what’ll happen in the future is reason enough to bypass all of those things as invalid reasons.
When I decided to learn Spanish, I knew it’d come in handy, although I didn’t know exactly how. I chose to mingle with lots of native Spanish speakers and did everything in Spanish. I had fun with it. Some people accused me of turning my back on my own culture or thought I was wannabe. But I didn’t care what they said, nor did I stop until I became fluent.
I didn’t fathom at the time that there was more value in this than just achieving a personal dream.
I couldn’t have guessed then that 15 years later, Spanish would be my key to ending a 9 month long drought of not having steady work and finding my first entry level remote job.
So I encourage you to give yourself the benefit of being bilingual. Whether you have to use it in circumstances of choice or necessity; learn a language skill that is in high demand for entry level remote roles.
Here are a few options for you:
English – If you’re not a native English speaker, you may be able to read this article – but can you speak it?
Practicing your comprehension and pronunciation so that you can hold fluent, meaningful conversations with 1.5 billion people more on earth will be well worth your time.
It will even allow you to communicate with many people whose first language isn’t English that find the need to conduct their business in the language.
Spanish – Hispanic buying power reached over $1 trillion dollars in the USA alone in 2017.
Imagine the rest of the native and non-native Spanish speaking population worldwide that you can service just by learning this amazingly easy language.
It’s the second most spoken language globally, and as you’ll see in my next point, that’s a really big deal.
Mandarin Chinese – The world’s most spoken language. It hails from a country whose population alone makes up almost of quarter of the entire population of our planet. There aren’t an abundance of work opportunities outside of China compared to those in English and Spanish because the majority of its speakers are still in China, but it’s still considered a critical language.
Also, due to the scarcity of Chinese speakers in most other parts of the world, when those opportunities outside of China become available, you’d have a minimal number of people to compete with for jobs that require you to be fluent in the language.
Can you say ‘Guaranteed Payday’?
Now for the skill part. Seeing your language as a tool and means by which you intend to earn a living, you’ll need to treat it as such. Find ways to attain a second language first if you don’t have one. If you already have one, you’ll need a planned method to keep it sharp and up to date.
|Beginner Bilingual||Experienced Bilingual|
|Use mobile apps to help you convert idle moments of downtime into study time||Make friends that speak your second language so that you can always use your language in a natural setting|
|Utlize free online resources to help you study, and invest in a professional language course if you can||Watch or listen to media in your second language at least once daily to stay in tune with the community and culture|
|Pick a language that intrigues you so that you won’t mind an immersion experience that can bring you to fluency. Don’t just learn the language – live it!||Stay in love with your second language by enjoying it’s finer side- indulge in works of literature, arts, and philosophy – or whatever your favorite subject is – composed in the language.|
In all, I hope this article will help you to decide to learn or enhance your second language skills. Becoming bilingual will bring all sorts of enrichment to your life, and can give you that push into the realm of remote working that you need.
If you have any questions or advice about learning a language or using your second language to help you get a remote entry level job, please ask or share the comments.
Or do you have a story about how knowing a second language saved your career? Don’t be shy, tell it to us – we’d love to hear about it!