Choosing the Right Work

Before you start your search for remote work, you should take some time to understand what kind of work best fits your personality.  The right work will make you feel energized and excited.  If your work feels soul-crushing and emotionally draining, you're doing it wrong. 

Learn how to assess your strengths and weaknesses, and how to find work that plays to your strengths.  Most people skip this step, which is why so many people end up doing work they hate.

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Understanding your Strengths and Weaknesses

 
Every one in the world ought to do the things for which he is specially adapted. It is the part of wisdom to recognize what each one of us is best fitted for, and it is the part of education to perfect and utilize such predispositions. Because education can direct and aid nature, but can never transform her.
— Maria Montessori
 

Before you can find work that plays to your strengths, you need to know precisely what your strengths and weaknesses are.  A strength is a specific activity that you're naturally good at, and doing it makes you feel energized.  It's the kind of activity that gets you "in the zone," where time seems to fly by.  Finding work that allows you to use your strengths will make you naturally more successful and satisfied with your work.

On the other hand, your weaknesses are those activities that take the wind out of your sails.  You might be able to do these activities satisfactorily.  You might even be good at them.  But you dread doing having to do them, and they make you feel exhausted.  Attempting to make a career out of your weaknesses will inevitably make you exhausted, defeated, and ineffective.

For example, one of my strengths is working with business owners to understand complex problems, and then designing systems to solve them.  My previous career as a sales rep for water treatment systems was a great use of this strength—I was able to design mechanical systems to fulfill my customers' business needs.  My more recent freelance work with small business owners gives me lots of opportunities to design and implement new systems like sales funnels, customer experience strategies, order processing and inventory management systems, and CRM programs.

However, one of my weaknesses is that unless I regularly see rewards for my efforts, I get bored very easily.  Selling water treatment systems was easy when the commissions were rolling in, but often after a bad month, I'd have to drag myself to work in the morning.  Building processes to scale small businesses is fun for me, but once my processes are in place and working, I quickly run out of steam.  So instead of trying to run the newly designed processes myself, I work toward hiring my replacement so I can move on to a new and interesting project.

How to Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses

The process to identify your own strengths and weaknesses is going to require a bit of homework.

I recommend picking up a copy of Marcus Buckingham's Go Put Your Strengths to Work.  It's only about $13 for the eBook or a physical copy, and it will be one of the best investments you'll make in your long-term career path.  An audio book is also available if you prefer to listen to the course while you're on the go.

Marcus Buckingham's book is a fantastic source for clarity on what your strengths are, and how to apply that knowledge to your career.  Do the exercises for developing your strength statements.  You'll spend a typical work week recording which activities make you feel strong, and which make you feel weak.  Then, you'll take your notes, and form specific statements about your strengths and weaknesses that you can apply to your search for work.

The results of your work will reveal profound truths about yourself.  They will speak to you on a visceral level, and will be your best resource for guiding your search for work.

Finding Work that Makes You Strong

 
Many of us feel stress and get overwhelmed not because we’re taking on too much, but because we’re taking on too little of what really strengthens us.
— Marcus Buckingham
 

Once you have identified your strengths and weaknesses, you'll have a solid guide for the type of work to seek out, and the type to avoid.

If you're like me, and need to be regularly rewarded to stay energized, find a role that will provide that.  Commissioned sales is certainly a possibility, but nearly any job can incorporate rewards and recognition if management is on board (see: The Great Game of Business).  Other types of rewards can help as well.  For instance, I find it rewarding when someone shares one of my articles from Tiny Life Gear in a forum, or if I see lots of search traffic for a particular article.  It makes me feel good when others find my work valuable, whether that generates commissions directly or not.

If your strengths involve direct interaction with people, consider what kind of remote work will provide that interaction.  Will working solely with customers make you strong, or do you need to work closely with a team?  Do you need to work in person, or does skype, phone, chat, or email work for you?  

If your strengths require your creativity, consider what kind of remote work will allow you to create what you enjoy.  If you are a strong writer, would you enjoy writing an email campaign?  What about SEO optimized blog posts, technical manuals, or an informational eBook?  Or do you mostly thrive on writing fiction?  If you're a visual artist, would you rather create logos, make greeting cards or t-shirts, illustrate books, or commission portraits?  Would you enjoy rendering 3D images of products in CAD or Sketchup?

Whatever your personal strengths and weaknesses, take some time to identify what kind of work make the best use of your strengths, and what work you should avoid.  Use that information to guide your search for remote work opportunities, and you'll be more successful in your search, and more productive and satisfied with the work you find.