By Neya Abdi on Feb 2, 2017 8:42:34 PM
Today, almost anyone can make a living from the comfort of their couch with remote work from home. The required tools? A working computer and a high speed internet connection — as well as the necessary skills for the job of course. Online video conferencing and project management platforms have made it easier and cheaper to build international teams.
And there are plenty of benefits to working remotely, too. On a personal level, your hours are flexible, your specific work environment is up to you, and you can make a living while being a stay at home parent or caregiver. Moreover, you can access other markets without the legal and financial complications of moving and applying for work permits.
But there is one catch: language. English language fluency is almost essential for building and growing a successful career as a remote worker for many reasons.
You can work from anywhere, but many of the most lucrative remote working jobs flow from English speaking countries like Australia, the U.K., Canada, and the United States. In addition, a lot of the platforms that provide these online marketplaces stem from the English speaking world. Simply accessing these platforms and applying to remote working opportunities requires a useful level of English.
English is the lingua franca of global business. This status has even affected multinational corporations that have introduced policies making English the operating language, even if they are not headquartered in an English-speaking country. Why have they done this? To standardize communications between different offices and make documents accessible to everyone. What this means is that even remote working opportunities in places where the official language is not English may still be unavailable to you without English language skills.
There are a lot of remote job opportunities in administration and data entry, and this is one of the first tasks growing businesses outsource to virtual staff. Naturally, they will want an employee who is fluent in their company’s operating language, which is increasingly becoming English for many businesses. To grow your reach and client list, English language proficiency is a must.
Landing and Keeping Clients
Fortunately, an employer who is deliberately looking for foreign remote workers will not be predisposed to discriminate based on origin or an accent. Nevertheless, they will still be judging an applicant’s English language abilities.
There are technical remote working opportunities that don’t need the written skills of someone applying to be a copywriter or an editor. But first impressions do matter, and in the world of online work, email is usually the first mode of communication. A client looking through several applications will quickly dismiss your email if it’s poorly written with spelling and grammar mistakes. English is one of the most studied second languages among non-native speakers, so there will be stiff competition.
This works the other way around, too. You may have excellent editing skills, but struggle with conversation. Once hired, you’ll likely be looped into conference calls and Skype meetings for updates and to share ideas. If you can’t keep up with the conversation, or struggle to find the words you need without flipping through a dictionary, you will lose the opportunity to make valuable contributions to the team.
A candidate’s ability to speak multiple languages is usually dismissed if they can’t speak English. It’s unfair, but it is a reflection of our current economic environment. You can, however, work this to your advantage. Companies are always looking for multilingual candidates to add to their staff. Perfecting your English skills puts you in a unique and highly desirable position as a remote worker. If you speak multiple languages you go from being a candidate “whose English is not good enough” to a “multilingual star candidate”.
This bias towards English isn’t just found in the job market. It’s found in the availability of professional development resources, too. Your skill set can grow exponentially with solid English reading, writing, and speaking abilities. A straightforward data entry role can grow into a virtual assistant position which may grow into an account management job. The amount of information and professional development materials online are endless, but a large portion of them are available in English. Once you have reached the English level needed to get basic remote jobs, you can parlay those into more lucrative gigs by brushing up on your copywriting, coding, or administrative skills using the ample courses and materials available online.
Barriers and geographic distances are becoming less important as the internet makes us more connected. At the moment, English is the lingua franca for this new world of work and perfecting it could be your ticket into this exciting remote worker economy.