Bec from Salt and Charcoal working online in a cafe

Skills To Work Online: 5 Skills You Need, Plus How To Leverage Your Pre-Existing Skills

The skills to work remotely vary depending on the job itself. For example, a content writer needs a different set of skills than a computer programmer.

But honestly… if you know how to send an email and use basic writing software (i.e. Word), you have the minimum tech skills to work remotely.

You don’t need to be a tech wizard. You don’t need to know how to code. Heck, you don’t even need to know how to use Excel.

However, you do need 5 general skills to be a successful remote worker – communication, time management, self-discipline, resourcefulness, and basic technical literacy.

And the best part? You can leverage your pre-existing skills for remote work roles. We’ll discuss that and more below!

Key takeaways

  • Don’t underestimate basic soft skills – communication, time management, resourcefulness, and problem-solving… These are key in all remote jobs, regardless of the role.
  • Technical literacy is knowing the basic technology required for YOUR desired remote position.
  • You don’t need to be a tech wizard, an Excel master, or own specific qualifications/degrees to work remotely.
  • Identify which of your pre-existing skills can be transferred to remote roles to save time and money in your journey.

We fund our travels by building and renovating websites! This course taught us ALL the skills needed to do that: The Digital Investors Program.

5 Must-have skills for online work

You may be surprised by this, but the must-have skills of successful remote employees are:

1) Communication skills

Effective communication is crucial in any work setting, but it’s critical for remote workers.

As you’re not physically present with your remote team, you have to be clear and concise in your communication. This is the foundation of successful collaboration.

Communication is the most important skill for working remotely

The ability to convey your thoughts, ideas, and instructions effectively is key in any remote job. Whether it’s through email, instant messaging, video calls, or other platforms used in the company.

Active listening is equally important. This ensures you understand the needs and expectations of your coworkers and clients, so you can provide results accordingly.

2) Time management

Remote work gives you the freedom to choose when and where you work, which is the whole point of doing it! But this means you have to set up your own schedule.

It’s up to you to plan your workload and meet your deadlines, as you don’t have a boss or coworkers physically around you to keep you on track.

Without time management, you can easily end up leaving everything until the last minute, feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

This skill makes sure you set your priorities and healthily balance work and play. You can make the most out of your day, accomplish your goals, and still have time for other activities or hobbies you enjoy.

There are dozens of free digital apps (like project management tools) that can help with this.

3) Self-discipline

This is the motivation and inner drive to stick to your work schedule and stay on track with your tasks. And to be honest… it’s the one most of us struggle with.

Working remotely means there are dozens of distractions around you – TV, video games, household chores, exploring the destination you’re currently visiting, or just plain procrastination.

For some of us, it’s challenging to focus when you don’t have a traditional office environment, or a boss watching over your shoulder. It’s not always easy, but with practice, you’ll find what works for you.

Things that help with self-discipline include:

  • Having a designated workspace where you can focus without interruptions.
  • Set clear boundaries.
  • Establishing routines and rituals that help signal your brain that it’s time to work.
  • Using app-blocking apps.

4) Resourcefulness and problem-solving

When you work remotely, you may not have immediate access to the same tools, equipment, or support as you would in a traditional office setting. That’s where resourcefulness and problem-solving come in.

For example, if you have a technical problem but don’t have technical skills, you have two options:

  • Give up and throw the laptop through the window.
  • Search online for tutorials or ask colleagues for advice to fix it.

This is the essence of these skills. It’s remaining calm in the face of challenges and adapting to make things work.

The truth is that, as remote workers, we rarely know how to do every single thing required in the job. Most of us learn while working on the job.

That’s when resourcefulness and problem-solving come in handy, as they help you overcome challenges and keep the workflow going smoothly.

5) Technical literacy

Technical literacy doesn’t mean you have to be a tech expert. It means having a basic foundation regarding the technology required for YOUR specific remote position.

It also means having the willingness to learn and adapt to the technology relevant to your work.

For example, most content writers don’t need to learn how to use complex software, learn how to code, or even use Excel. Knowing how to send emails and use Word/Google Docs is often enough.

Now, the technology required will also depend on the company itself. Some use specific video conferencing tools, instant messaging software, project management tools, etc.

Don’t let this stop you from getting a remote job, though, as these are extremely easy to learn!

Just go to Youtube and write “tutorial of -name of the software/tool-” and you’ll likely find hundreds of videos teaching you how to use it.

S&C Remote Work Tip

3 Skills you may think you need, but actually don’t

As you’ve seen, to be part of the remote workforce:

1) You don’t need to be tech-savvy

You don’t need to be a technical expert to work online. But having a basic understanding of the most common tools used in your industry is essential.

2) You don’t need Excel or other computer programs

No, you don’t need to be an Excel wizard or know code like a computer engineer. But you do need to be resourceful, so you can gain remote work skills that are relevant to your job or company.

3) You don’t need specific qualifications or degrees

Nowadays, remote work is not limited to specific industries or degrees.

Yes, some professions naturally lend themselves to remote work (software development or content writing, for example), but the field is opening up, and fast.

Take healthcare as an example. It’s a traditional in-person job, but now you can have a doctor’s appointment through a video call, and there’s even online physical therapy.

It boils down to being creative and flexible.

Now, if you have a degree that’s not traditionally remote-friendly, here’s how to check online opportunities for your industry.

Where to learn remote work skills for free?

You can learn the basics of pretty much any skill through YouTube, blogs, and free courses!

For example, one of our teammates (a virtual assistant) got started with this free course. There, she learnt the basic skills needed to land her first job in that area. 

We learnt our remote work skills at the eBusiness Institute.

We did a (paid) course with the eBusiness Institute called Digital Investors Program. It taught us the skills needed to buy, build, and resell websites for profit. That’s how we fund our travels since 2020! 

They have a free course teaching the basics, you can watch it here.

That said, the downside of free resources is that:

  • There are LOTS of them, it’s hard to tell the good from the bad and it gets overwhelming quickly.
  • You can get conflicting advice, confusing you even more.
  • It’s hard to translate it into applicable steps (i.e. actionable things that will eventually earn you money)
  • It takes 5 times longer to make money from them, compared to paid resources that have a step-by-step you just have to follow.

Note: If you want to follow the steps we took to become full-time travellers, definitely check out any course from the eBusiness Institute. They teach digital marketing skills and how to create profitable websites. We’ve done all their courses, you can check our review of each one here.

How to know which remote skills to learn?

For this, you need to at least have a role in mind. Start by searching for the specific set of skills needed for that particular role, and learn them if necessary.

If you’re unsure, you can always do a quick Google or YouTube search. You’ll likely find a blog or a video dedicated to the skills needed for the job you want to do, what a workday is like, and more. 

But sometimes you have to do the job to know which skills you need to work on or learn. 

In other words – you’ll also know which skills you need while doing the job. 

For example, if you work as a content writer, some employers may require you to upload your articles into WordPress, while others prefer to use specific writing software. You’ll learn how to use those as you work.

Now, we really enjoy online courses for learning new skills or honing old ones. They provide structured learning and remove the guesswork from the process. 

And thankfully, there’s no shortage of learning platforms. Here are some recommendations that provide free and paid options:

How to transfer your pre-existing skills into remote work

The process can take a while, but be patient and open to ideas – all of us have skills that can be transferred to remote work. Here’s how you can do it:

Identify your transferable skills and pair them with remote roles

Start by making a list of things you’re good at, or that you enjoy doing. If you don’t know where to start, ask your loved ones!

For example, if you have a knack for explaining complex topics in a digestible way, this can be transferred into content creation.

You can create content about pretty much anything

You can create content on social media, a blog, or even work as a content writer/ghostwriter.

This also works if you have a degree that’s not traditionally remote-friendly – i.e. healthcare or tradies.

Understand remote work requirements and skill set gaps

Once you have your skills paired with remote roles, it’s time to hit the job search engines.

Look for the remote job you want to do and check the specific skills and tools employers look for. This could include project management software, video conferencing tools, or collaboration platforms.

Then, identify any gaps in your skill set that may be essential for these roles. Take advantage of online courses, tutorials, or resources to learn and develop them.

Seek feedback and improve

Actively seek feedback from colleagues, supervisors, or clients in your remote work journey. This helps you identify areas for improvement and refine your skills. Take feedback constructively and make adjustments accordingly.

Just keep in mind that transferring your skills into remote work is a process, it may take time to fully adapt.

Leveraging your existing skills is a shortcut to remote work. It also saves you time and energy, as you can be hyper-specific in which skills you have to learn to complement your previous ones.


What skills are needed for remote work?

The skills needed for remote work include:

– Self-discipline and time management.
– Strong communication skills.
– Adaptability and problem-solving abilities.
– Basic technical literacy (i.e. send emails, use Word).
– Proactive learning and resourcefulness.

Specific skills will vary depending on the role. We recommend reading the job descriptions of the job you want, finding the skills they need, and working on getting them. There are free and paid resources to learn from.

How do you develop remote working skills?

To develop remote working skills, you can:

– Establish a dedicated workspace and daily routine.
– Practice effective written and verbal communication.
– Embrace challenges and problem-solving opportunities.
– Familiarize yourself with relevant technology and tools.
– Seek out continuous learning and professional development opportunities.

Is remote work suitable for everyone?

A remote work environment may not be suitable for people who thrive with frequent face-to-face interactions. It can also be challenging for people who need a structured office environment.

Even so, we recommend at least giving it a try, more so if you’re curious. There are low-risk ways to get remote work, so you can see if it’s a good fit for you or not.

The bottom line

A remote employee needs 5 basic skills to succeed – effective communication, time management, self-discipline, resourcefulness, and technical literacy.

You can also find ways to leverage your pre-existing skills in remote roles. All of us have something that can be transferred and/or adapted to an online occupation – be patient and creative to find it.

All skills can be honed and learned. The key is to be open and believe that you can actually do it. We can be our own worst enemies! Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to try just because you think you can’t.

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