According to a recent survey of over 3,000 business owners, the future of work may not require office plans. More than half (57%) of millennials surveyed plan to at least double their spending on online workers in 2013, while 82% believe within the next 10 years many businesses will be built completely with virtual teams of online workers.
“Younger workers don’t want to limit themselves to commuting and cubes,” says Michael Haaren, co-founder and CEO of jobs website Rat Race Rebellionand co-author of "Work at Home Now." “Several trends support the prediction that working from anywhere will soon be the new norm.”
More companies are ramping up their hiring of anywhere workers who don’t need to come into or even be near the corporate office. Haaren says businesses like American Express, Amazon, United Health and Aetna are some of many realizing that hiring more virtual workers gives them access to millions of potential candidates rather than the hundred or so within a 50-mile radius. It also saves businesses on commercial real estate costs and reduces turnover, as workers become ironically loyal when offered their freedom.
Some forward-thinking businesses are beginning to innovate around the idea of anywhere work. Co-working centers are sprouting up across the country to offer freelancers, road warriors, entrepreneurs and home-office workers the option to rent an office for the day, week or however long they need it, in whatever city they’re in at the time.
The idea has even roused a few deep-pocketed investors. Through his investment firm Revolution, AOL founder Steve Case backed startup Loosecubes in March, which matches virtual workers with companies that have free desk space. Meanwhile, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Starbucks’ Howard Schultz are two of the many big names helping fund General Assembly, a global network of co-working campuses with a sprawling, 20,000-square-foot space in New York.
One day, anywhere workers may also be able to work from the road. Literally. Haaren points to new WiFi-equipped Ford, Chevrolet and Mercedes models, which turn cars into Internet hotspots on wheels. If Google’s self-driving “robot car” takes hold, he envisions a future of “rolling workstations.”
So where are these high-paying virtual jobs that can be done anywhere from your couch to your local coffee shop?
Many of the best-paying are concentrated in health care. Increasingly, health care professionals are being hired by hospitals and insurance companies to consult or assist remotely. Teleradiologists, for example, view digitally transmitted patient images and confer with the primary doctor via videoconferencing. As one of the highest paid medical specialties, they can make anywhere from $100,000 to $400,000 annually, depending on experience level and hours worked. Haaren says companies like Virtual Radiologic, Imaging on Call and Radiology 24/7 are some of the many now employing them.
Similarly, telepharmacists have escaped from behind the counter to review prescriptions and check for drug interactions from wherever they choose. Ann Rathke, the telepharmacy coordinator at North Dakota State University’s College of Pharmacy, Nursing, and Allied Sciences says a telepharmacist will earn a median salary of $105,000 working for a retailer and $118,000 working for a hospital.
Moreover, telenurses are hired by hospitals to do telephone triage—advising patients over the phone—and earn near the $65,000 median salary of traditional registered nurses. Medical transcriptionists also often work remotely, turning physicians’ voice recordings into typed reports, and earn a median salary of $33,000.
With the explosion of online college courses, running a class no longer requires a classroom. Online post-secondary teachers earn a median of $62,000 a year and are free to lecture from anywhere in the world, with the help of a webcam. The gig also provides a welcome freedom for those academics who value in-the-field research for their scholarly articles.
In the new globally connected marketplace, there’s also a greater need for translators, who aren’t tied to an office and earn a median of $43,000 annually.
“As the US becomes a much more culturally diverse country, the need for translation services is increasing,” says Nancy Collamer, career coach and founder of website My Lifestyle Career, citing Chinese, Spanish and Arabic as the most in-demand languages. “Combining that with technical expertise, like legal translation, will increase your earnings.”
For the really daring, Haaren says phone sex operators have scheduling and geographic freedom—and major upside potential. While it’s not tracked by any governmental institution, a knowledgeable source on the topic, “Mistress Susan,” says PSOs working for others can make $6 to $30 an hour and $240 to $1,200 a week, depending on the rates and agreement. But independent PSOs who’ve branched out on their own might charge $3 to $100 a minute and can earn six-figure salaries.
While the job is certainly not for everyone, it’s getting attention lately after the recent release of indie film, "For A Good Time, Call," about two young women in New York struggling to make the rent. The solution? Get (vocally) creative. It’s even incited some real-world women to ditch the corporate world for the day-to-day flexibility that comes with the job.
Other high-paying anywhere jobs include technical writers, virtual tax preparers and customer service representatives.
“The market is heading toward independent contracting,” says Haaren. “People with the old employee mindset will suffer. The entrepreneurial and self-driven will prosper.”
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