For many people, one of the biggest things to love about a job is having autonomy and control over their time. These workers say that a flexible job — one with an adaptable, telecommuting, part-time or freelance component — lowers stress, improves quality of life and makes them more engaged in the work itself. Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report backs that up, showing that engagement rises when employees have the opportunity to work from home or off-site.
This fact is why my book, AARP’s Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills, delves into flexible jobs in a wide range of categories. In my reporting for the book, I generally found that workers over 50 are often willing to trade pay for that sense of independence.
So here are five flexible jobs that you can expect to be in strong demand in 2018.
1. Event planner
The nitty-gritty: You’ll need organizational chops to manage logistics smoothly and professionally and with a sharp eye for detail. Event planners are the engineers behind annual association gatherings, big birthday bashes, weddings and fundraisers such as 10K charity races and silent auction black-tie dinners. Employment for meeting, convention and event planners is projected to grow by 10 percent from 2016 to 2026 — faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Pay range: Hourly pay ranges from $11.41 to $35.59, according to PayScale. Annual salary ranges from $28,950 to $72,942.
Qualifications: There’s no must-have degree or certification for this kind of job. But some universities and community colleges offer them. George Washington University in Washington, D.C., for example, offers an event management certificate. You might also consider the certified meeting professional credential. If weddings are your thing, check out the websites of the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners and the Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants.
2. Customer service representative
The nitty-gritty: You’ll need an up-to-date computer, a high-speed internet connection, a dedicated landline phone and headset, and a quiet place to work. You can expect to be answering calls, taking new orders and tracking existing ones. You might troubleshoot problems or help out with technical support. A sympathetic tone and can-do approach will serve you well in this work.
Pay range: $9.61 to $18.36, according to PayScale. Some firms provide health, vision and dental benefits, or access to group plan rates. Paid vacation and matching 401(k) plans may be a perk, but you’ll have to clock in enough hours to be eligible.
Qualifications: Job descriptions typically call for experience in customer care or technical support. But think broadly when you apply. You might make your time working in a retail store, as a bank teller or in sales count as qualifying experience. Typically, an online test and a phone interview are required. Background, drug and credit checks are standard. Employers may offer paid training sessions.
3. Medical records administrator
The nitty-gritty: As hospitals, nursing care facilities and old-fashioned doctors’ offices say farewell to stacks of paper in favor of electronic records, there’s a soaring demand for workers who are at ease with computerese. The work entails making digital files out of such things such as physicians’ scribbled notes about patient visits, surgical procedures and test results. A hot specialty: coding. Medical coders convert a doctor’s report of, say, an injury and procedures performed, into numeric and alphanumeric codes to create a claim for insurance reimbursement. Medical coder/remote coder and coding auditor/reviewer are some common flexible job titles in this category.
Pay range: $11.79 to $25.82 per hour, according to PayScale.
Qualifications: A high school diploma or experience in a health care setting are enough to qualify you for some positions. But for most jobs, you’ll probably need an associate degree in health information technology from a technical or community college. Online courses are available, too. Coursework covers such things as medical terminology, anatomy and database security.
Passing a certifying examination is not always required, but employers often prefer it. The American Health Information Management Association offers a certificate. The American Academy of Professional Coders can give you coding credentials, while the Board of Medical Specialty Coding and Compliance and the Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists provide credentialing in specialty coding.
The nitty-gritty: You may brag that you’re fluent in a second language, but are you really? It’s easy to get rusty. Languages evolve, and being in sync with contemporary terms and slang is essential. If you’re going to be a Spanish translator or interpreter, for example, you need to know the difference between Spanish spoken in Spain and what’s spoken in Mexico or Puerto Rico.
Interpreters deal with spoken words. They are the go-betweens for two parties, such as doctor and patient, client and lawyer, and speaker and audience. Translators work with written words, possibly on a computer with files they transmit back and forth. Spanish is the most in-demand language, but there is growing need for languages such as Arabic and Mandarin.
Pay range: $11.74 to $39.09 an hour, according to PayScale. Depending on assignment and expertise, pay can top $100 an hour.
Qualifications: Fluency in at least two languages is required, of course, but having an area of expertise, such as the judicial system or health care, and full knowledge of their technical vocabularies, can make the difference for landing jobs. Trade organizations such as the American Translators Association offer certifications. Many federal, state and municipal courts have certification programs for judicial situations, as does the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters & Translators. The International Association of Conference Interpreters, meanwhile, can certify you for work at those big international gatherings.
If you already have solid language skills, you can get training at community colleges and universities to prepare for certification exams. The American Translators Association has a list of programs that it approves, along with a job bank when you’re ready. The All Language Alliance connects job seekers and positions. Internships and volunteering at community organizations or hospitals will build your résumé.
5. Technical writer
The nitty-gritty: High-tech merchandise is proliferating, and medical and scientific data are becoming increasingly intricate. This is creating openings for technical writers who can work in-house with product designers and developers and communicate clearly with laypeople on the outside. As a technical writer, you might be called on to prepare paper and digital instruction manuals for consumers or to write grant proposals for research scientists.
Pay ranges: $15.41 to $45.39, according to PayScale.
Qualifications: You'll need top-flight writing skills and a hankering for technology and scientific subjects. The Society for Technical Communication offers certification for technical writers. The American Medical Writers Association has continuing education programs and certificates in medical writing.
Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is the author of Great Jobs for Everyone 50 +: Finding Work that Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills, Getting the Job You Want After 50 for Dummies, Love Your Job and What’s Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.