The 4 Best Remote Work States for Virtual Employees and Freelancers

The search for the next best place to work is on. Not necessarily because of job opportunities or geographic location, but because of a mix of incentives and a lower cost of living that can put more money in your pocket. According to an Upwork survey, an impressive 25% of Americans will work virtually in 2021. With such an influx of workers to the virtual world, your best plan is to find a remote work state that offers you a work-life balance and maybe even some other perks to go with it. Whether you’re new to the world of virtual work or you’ve always wanted a job in the sector, these remote work states offer unlimited possibilities for both work and play.

1. West Virginia

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, growin’ like a breeze
Country roads, take me home
To the place, I belong
West Virginia, mountain mama
Take me home, country roads

John Denver, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”

West Virginia may not seem like the setting for a virtual work revolution, but it’s become the biggest hot spot in over a year. In April 2021, West Virginia launched the Ascend WV program, offering $12,000 cash for remote workers to move to Morgantown, West Virginia.

In addition to the cash stipend, the state government will also offer a program that provides about $10,000 for new residents to explore the Mountaineer State. This includes free tours for hiking, ziplining, mountain biking, and all of the other outdoor activities that make West Virginia unique.

Sponsored in part by Brad D. Smith, founder of Intuit and a West Virginia native, this program is one of the most generous of its kind. However, it does come with some caveats.

  • As of May 2021, you have to move to Morgantown
  • You get $10,000 for the first year and $2,000 upon living in West Virginia for the second year
  • There were already 2,000 applications within two weeks, making acceptance highly competitive

Advantages

Moving to West Virginia comes with many advantages in terms of cost of living, entertainment, and more, including:

  • A 139% reduction in cost of living compared to New York City
  • Fresh, mountain air
  • Warm, friendly people
  • Skiing, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, and pretty much every outdoor activity you can think of

Disadvantages

Moving to West Virginia isn’t for everyone, especially city folk. The largest city in the state is Charleston, which has only 48,000 people. If you love lights outside your window, huge art exhibits, or attending professional sports, this probably isn’t for you, although a West Virginia Mountaineers football or basketball game is something to behold.

Pro Tip

As one of the freshest and most heralded remote work states, West Virginia has plenty to offer. But don’t forget about Bridge Day. Over one day in October, hundreds of base jumpers from around the world hurl themselves off the 876-foot New River Gorge Bridge. It’s something that’s somewhat of a rite of passage for newly minted West Virginians.

2. Oklahoma

I’m proud to be an Okie from Muskogee
A place where even squares can have a ball
We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse
And white lightnin’s still the biggest thrill of all

Merle Haggard, “Okie from Muskogee”

Like West Virginia, Oklahoma doesn’t seem like a hotbed of remote work possibilities. But through the Tulsa Remote program, it’s become one of the breeding grounds for remote work. While tens of thousands of applicants apply for the program, only 250 make the cut. Through this virtual work incentive, you’ll get $10,000 cash for moving there, as well as free access to a coworking space and invites to exclusive business events.

Advantages

Oklahoma isn’t just the setting for a famous musical. In fact, it offers:

  • The median home price of $157,200 is 43% lower than the national average
  • Unparalleled Southern-style barbecue
  • A chance to see sports through the University of Tulsa, Oral Roberts University, and various minor league teams
  • Amazing craft breweries for the beer enthusiast and local roasters if you love a good cup of joe

Disadvantages

Oklahoma isn’t a vast urban community. Much of it is still rural, and even if you’re in Oklahoma City or Tulsa, you may yearn for larger horizons or bigger crowds. State and local taxes (sales and income) are also much higher than in other areas of the country, although property taxes and overall taxes are far below the national average. Extreme weather is also prevalent in Oklahoma (tornadoes and 100-degree weather throughout the summer), which may be off-putting to some people who move there

Pro Tip

Despite its relative remoteness compared to major big cities, the BOK Arena in Tulsa invites top-notch musical artists on a regular basis. If you want to eat at a famous Route 66 joint for cheap, make sure to check out Hank’s Hamburgers. Your arteries may argue, but it’s arguably one of the best stops on the famous American highway.

3. Mississippi

Cause a Mississippi girl don’t change her ways
Just ’cause everybody knows her name
Ain’t big-headed from a little bit of fame
I still like wearing my old ball cap
Riding my kids around piggyback
They might know me all around the world
But, y’all, I’m still a Mississippi girl

Faith Hill, “Mississippi Girl

The Magnolia State is another seemingly head-scratching location for remote workers, but its leaders have realized the importance of attracting talent in the digital age. And that’s why Mississippi makes the list as one of the best remote work states. The Southern charm mixes with warm temperatures, and a trip to the Gulf of Mexico is at most three hours away.

One progressive remote work program in Mississippi will pay you to live and work there remotely. Known as the Shift South program, Natchez and surrounding Adams County will pay you $6,000 per year to offset moving expenses and cover the cost of living. You’ll have to buy a home with a value of at least $150,000 (although prices are reasonable), but you can live straight on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. It’s a sight that few other Americans experience, let alone enjoy on a regular basis.

Advantages

Mississippi offers a number of advantages over other remote work states. Warm people, unique food, and a culture all its own highlight the list. Other perks include:

  • Some of the best soul food you’ll ever eat
  • Southern hospitality
  • Blues music you can’t hear anywhere else
  • A relaxed pace of life
  • A dedication to football only rivaled by Texas

Disadvantages

Like any other state on this list, Mississippi isn’t (or ain’t) for everyone. It remains somewhat rural and undeveloped, which may mean that your average Northerner won’t care for the scenery or culture. Furthermore, a “we’ll get to it tomorrow” attitude may also fail to meet the pace of many people from other areas of the country. A lack of professional sports may also underwhelm new residents, although sports at Mississippi State and Ole Miss are practically a religion. Finally, flying to and from Mississippi is rather expensive, even if you fly out of Jackson. This may require you to go to New Orleans, Memphis, or even Atlanta to find a decently priced flight.

4. Kansas

As far as Salina I can get that good station from LaRue
I’m searching the dial while I’m scanning the sky for a patch of blue
And I watch the black clouds roll in chasing me back again
Back to the flat fine line, the Wichita skyline

Shawn Colvin, “Wichita Skyline

Even if you consider the Kansas Jayhawks your mortal enemy or you can’t stand the “Wizard of Oz,” you probably won’t feel any ill will toward Kansas once you move to the Sunflower State. While it’s often been the central part of “flyover country,” it basks in the glory of numerous achievements. You’ve eaten a Pizza Hut pizza? It’s from here. Have you downed a slider from White Castle? Thank Kansas. And with interesting sites from Wild West-era Dodge City or the hilly, scenic views in Lawrence, this state has a little something for everyone.

For the remote work community, Choose Topeka has been turning some heads. Purchase or rent a home, have a remote job, get selected for the program, and you’re eligible for up to $15,000 in housing and cost of living money. Even Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches will throw $1,000 in your bank account when you move to Topeka and live in one of the restaurant’s “sandwich zones.” And with costs less than half of major East Coast cities, you can save tons of money for travel, home upgrades, or a road trip.

Advantages

Kansas is mind-blowingly cheaper than almost any other state in the country. And with those lower prices also come the advantage to experience some of the interesting or strange things that the state has to offer, including:

  • Make a trip to see Monument Rocks out in western Kansas, the first National Natural Monument in the U.S.
  • Dodge City is a famous Wild West town that beckons for you to have a “shootout”
  • Wichita State basketball is always a charmer during March Madness with a team that challenges even the likes of Duke University
  • The World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, which weighs over 5,000 pounds

Disadvantages

Kansas is smack dab in the middle of the Great Plains. It’s flat. It’s plain. It isn’t for the avid snow skier or the beachgoer. But what it lacks in topography, it makes up for in charm. Still, the city-goer may find it bland compared to other places. In addition, nearly two-thirds of the state is remote and rural, lacking attractions or really any reason to visit some areas at all. Furthermore, the lack of major airports also causes avid travelers to have to travel to Denver or Kansas City, Missouri, to find a decent rate on flights.

Bonus: Go International

As a digital worker, you can literally do your job anywhere in the world. So why confine yourself to the United States? If you want to get adventurous, check out these incentives for remote workers abroad.

St. Lucia

Want to live in the Caribbean? Saint Lucia has your back. In an effort to jump-start tourism and pull some money into the country post-COVID, the island country has launched its Live It Program. Although you’ll have to quarantine for two weeks, the government will then provide you with thousands of dollars worth of tours, as well as your own personal concierge.

Advantages

You’re in the Caribbean. Enough said. But be sure to check out the Grand Pitons, often recognized as one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. Plus, you have the advantage of either living like a local or doing the five-star, all-inclusive tourist thing. Regardless of your budget, St. Lucia can accommodate you. Other perks include:

  • Deep-sea fishing opportunities
  • Getting in on a local cricket game
  • Enjoying sapphire blue waters
  • Living in a tropical paradise

Disadvantages

The internet can be slow at times and fast-paced anything is nonexistent. Remember that these are the islands. If you can’t slow your pace, you might feel awkward or out of place. Island life isn’t for everyone, but at the very least, you’ll know very quickly.

Perhaps the best advantage of working remotely is that remote work states will accommodate you. They’re waiting with open arms. From the beautiful mountains of West Virginia to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, today’s remote workers can choose the environment they want, when they want. It’s up to you to choose your own adventure. And that’s what working remotely is all about.

Have you lived in different states due to remote work? What was your favorite? Why was your remote work state better than the rest? Connect with Virtual Vocations on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts and tips. We’d love to hear from you!



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