The idea of finding work from home jobs is a dream for many people. Having the freedom to, within reason, set your own hours or at the very least free yourself from the daily commute would be a boon to a parent, a carer, or someone who has a health condition which makes it hard for them to do a regular 9-5 job in an office.
Even those who are not faced with such limitations often want to find a work from home job so that they can save a bit of money compared to having to commute, and just enjoy the flexibility of working from the comfort of their own home.
Even as recently as 10 years ago, it was relatively hard to find work from home jobs that were legitimate opportunities unless you were already a part of a company and had some seniority and trust. Now, however, telecommuting opportunities mean that it is easier to find entry-level positions that allow virtual staffing. It makes sense for companies to offer work from home jobs because they get motivated, happy employees and they save on the overheads associated with running an office.
Avoiding Work at Home Scammers
Unfortunately, the work from home jobs marketplace is full of scammers, and this makes it hard for people to find the legitimate opportunities. If you really want to work from home, you will need to be realistic about the hours and the wages that you can get, and be patient and diligent in your job search.
Make sure that you are looking for a telecommuting opportunity as an employee, and be wary of “business opportunities” because these are often scams. When you’re just getting started in the work from home marketplace, it makes sense to look for a true employment opportunity where you get an hourly wage, because the self-employment business opportunities do not guarantee an income and many of them are nothing more than MLM schemes.
Finding Job Opportunities
If you are looking for a legitimate job opportunity, the best places to search are traditional job sites. You will need to go through the same kind of application process that you would for a standard job. So, dust off your CV, and be ready to answer some emails or do a chat interview, or perhaps even a Skype call.
In some cases, you might be expected to have a quiet office in your home so that you can work undisturbed. This is particularly true if you are looking for an opportunity in customer service. Working from home is still work and it is important to remember that.
What Kind of Jobs Can You Do From Home?
There are many jobs that you can do from home. The most common ones that you will find are:
- Live Chat Agent
- Call Center Agent
- Virtual Assistant
- Online Marketing
- Data Entry
- Technical Support
- Sales and Marketing
If you have some specific expertise such as medical coding, or the ability to do IT work or graphic design, then you will find that there are more opportunities available there. You will need to have a portfolio or a quality resume, and you will most likely be expected to pass a test before you start the job.
Becoming a Remote Worker
It is often easier to become a remote worker if you already have a job and you ask your boss if you can work from home, instead of trying to persuade a new company to hire you and allow you to work remotely. Your existing boss will know whether or not you are a motivated and trustworthy employee and they will be able to support you if you can do your job outside of the office.
You might have to attend the office for meetings from time to time, but if you can make the business case for working from home there is a good chance that the request will be accepted.
Your Job Hunt and Common Scams
Since working from home has become such a huge thing in the last few years, there are a lot of fake opportunities out there and a lot of scammers that try to prey on people who are desperate for a fast and easy income. Some scammers will use the names of real companies to try to make themselves seem more legitimate.
If someone claims that they are offering work from home opportunities for a big company such as Amazon or Google, don’t believe them. While it is true that there are remote roles available for those companies, if you wanted to apply for them you would do so by going through their own websites. You do not need to use a third party and you most definitely do not need to pay out any money.
The same goes for other niches, such as transcription or medical coding work. There are a lot of companies that offer ‘training’ for those jobs, and promise work for a fee. Do not work for a company that asks you to pay them money before they will hire you. Even if they are saying that the money is for their software, it is not worth paying for it. A legitimate company will interview you, and if you pass the interview they will provide you with the software for free so that you can do the job.
When you are offered a work from home job you are given a contract. Read the contract and make sure that you understand it. If the company is training you and is offering you equipment as a part of the job, make sure that you understand what your obligations are. One common scam is to set incredibly strict and difficult to understand conditions regarding what work they will accept.
Some companies will ’employ’ customer service agents, for example, but then rate them poorly on query response time or on customer interaction, and refuse to pay because of that. If you are paid per message or per call, then you can end up with a poor hourly rate if that happens. It may be that if your rating slips to a given level you will be released, and if you are released within a certain time period you have to pay for the training. Do not trap yourself in that situation.
Something similar can happen with some copywriting agencies. They will take on writers, but allow the client to rate the work that they do. Clients may turn down work after it is written. If this happens then you may have spent several hours working on a piece that you don’t get paid for. Are you willing to take that risk, or would you prefer to work in a job with a fixed hourly rate?
So You Have a Job, Now What?
Let’s assume that you do manage to find a good job that allows you to work from home. Now the challenge is getting the work done. Depending on what it is about homeworking that appealed to you, there may be some challenges to holding up a good level of productivity while working remotely. Working from home can be far less stressful than working in an office, but if you are constantly distracted by kids or pets, it’s hard to get into a flow state and get your work done.
Another challenge with working at home is persuading your neighbors and family members that you really are working. Be prepared for the expectation that because you are “at home” it’s OK to come over for a coffee or it is OK to ask you to run some errands or accept a delivery. It will take a while to educate people that you still have a job, and that your job is just as important and challenging as an office job. Indeed, some people might just never get it.
Try to set up a good workspace so that you can sit down and ‘go to work’ undisturbed. A comfortable chair is worth every dollar that you spend on it, as is a good keyboard and mouse, and a clean and tidy space to work in. Make sure that you can see your computer screen and work without distractions. Try to have your ‘workspace’ in a room that you don’t usually relax in. This will help you mentally relax and unwind once you are done for the day. One common pitfall for homeworkers is that they struggle to ‘get started’ in the morning, and that they also struggle to relax at night.
Another issue is isolation. With work from home jobs you don’t have that water-cooler experience that you do in an office. You may feel like you are a bit deprived of human contact. To get around that join a networking group or arrange for skype calls with your co-workers occasionally. This will help you to meet more people, and stop you from going stir crazy.
If you are working remotely for a company with a real office team then try to find ways to meet them on a regular basis so that you are not forgotten about and you do not end up being pushed to the outside. That face-time with your boss and your co-workers is an important part of being a successful worker, and home workers sometimes earn less or get passed over for new opportunities just because the office team does not get to have as much contact with them as they do a real office worker. Don’t let that happen to you.
From Employee to Business Owner
Being an employee is nice because it means that you know that you will get a regular paycheck for the work that you do. Employees benefit from a lot of perks depending on the state that you live in and the employment law in that state. You may get sick pay, holidays, pensions, insurance, etc. If you are a freelance worker then a lot of those benefits go away and you will need to take that into account when working out how much money you need to earn to be financially secure.
There is a reason that freelancers and contractors charge hourly rates that look a lot higher than the average employee’s. Value yourself and the work that you do. If you undercut the going rate for your industry too much you will find yourself constantly stressed out and struggling to pay the bills.
Try to save up some money so that you can build up your skills and get some financial freedom. Invest a little bit of time each week into a side project so that you can build up your own home business.
It can take a long time to get a business off the ground and you won’t be ready to quit your day job immediately, but if you don’t start working on an exit strategy at all then you may never be in a position to move on to something better. If there is something that you are passionate about then you should try to build it up into a successful company. Even if it only ever makes you some side money, it’s still better than nothing.
Your goal should be to build up a passive income. Think of it this way. Working as a transcriptionist is great, but what happens if you hurt your hands or get carpal tunnel? Working as a proofreader is great, but what if you get a migraine and need to take a few days off? As a freelancer, you can’t afford that time off unless you have savings. Even if you have savings, if you let your clients down too often then you might lose them.
It makes sense to build up a business where you have other people working for you. Yes, you will need to pay those people, but you are paying them to make money for you. This is far more scalable than simply getting paid to do work yourself because there is only one of you so there is a limit to how much you can realistically earn. When you are paying multiple people you will find that you are better able to take on more clients and make more money over time.
Building your Brand
Depending on the route you go with your home working strategy, it can be scary at first to get out there and find clients. Some jobs translate well to remote working and freelancing. You can do small tasks for other people on various home working platforms such as Appen or Amazon Mechanical Turk. You can promote your services as a bookkeeper, or a proofreader and make money that way. You can do transcription, translation, etc, and get clients through agencies.
Some other businesses are just starting to expand into the online space. For example, you can be an online-only personal trainer or coach these days, and you can do well out of a handful of high-quality clients alongside a number of lower-paying clients that get a less-interactive service.
If you want to do that, however, then you need to build up your brand online so that people want to work with you. That can be fairly challenging, especially if you’re not experienced. It needs patience and consistency, and an understanding of what people are looking for on social media.
If you have a day job right now and are thinking of moving to work from home and picking up your own clients, start investing in your online portfolio now. Build up a persona on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms such as LinkedIn and Instagram. Network as much as you can and start to position yourself as an expert in your chosen niche.
Consider being active on Quora or other question and answer sites. Build up a blog, and write some white papers which you can use to create a mailing list. Start thinking of yourself as a brand, and a product, and market yourself. Don’t be shy. It’s not easy to do that at first, especially if you are used to being a face in the crowd at a big company but it is well worth doing.
Stop Working for Free
If you want your business to succeed, you need to be business like. A lot of people, especially those in creative professions, but also those in IT, struggle with charging what they are worth. Photographers, graphic designers, and other similar creative workers will often get requests from friends and family to ‘knock something up that will only take a few minutes’.
It can be hard to say no to those requests, but you will need to start making people value your work at some point. Do not work ‘on spec’ for someone you don’t know. If you do produce spec work because you desperately want to do the full project, watermark your work so that they can’t steal it. Say that you will remove the watermark on full payment.
Do not agree to work ‘for the exposure’. Some creative people, and indeed some people in other professions, are willing to do a certian number of hours of charitable work per year. They will give thos hours to a charity that is close to their hearts. Other work must be paid. Exposure does not pay the bills and it is highly unlikely to bring you in any paying work.
When you do work for free, what will usually happen is that those people will tell their friends and family that you did the work for free. So you will just get more requests for free work. If you are asked to do work for a friend, family member or a ‘good cause’ and you do want to help them, tell them your full rate and then offer them a small, one time only discount. Put it in the contract that any future work will be at full price. This avoids any surprises and it means that you will not get pestered for more low paid work later.
Counter-intuitively, it is often better to charge a lot for your services, because the type of client that you get will be lower maintenance. The people who want rock-bottom prices are often the most fussy and most likely to complain to try to get a freebie.
By charging more, you show that you are confident in your work, you will get fewer time wasters, and you will need fewer clients to make a livable wage. This means that you have more time to invest into building up a better service, or branching out, or even hiring other people to do the long-term work for you.
Be Patient and Realistic
Whatever route you take into working from home, it will take time and it will require that you do real work. There are no get-rich-quick schemes that actually work. If someone is promising that you can make huge amounts of money by working from home for a few hours a week then they are either flat out lying or they are presenting a hugely unlikely scenario that depends a lot on luck.
Do not trust people that are promising huge incomes for little to no work. Understand that the biggest salaries come from the highest trained jobs and that if you do not have training in something such as medical transcription, insurance adjusting, or foreign languages you are unlikely to command a high salary right off the bat. You do have options for building up your own business, but it will take time for you to achieve success.
For those who are self-motivated, committed, and able to invest the time into growing their business, you will find that the opportunities are there. Working from home can be liberating, and it frees up a lot of your time. You won’t have to get up early to drive to work, you can take lunch at home, and you’ll be around when the kids get home from school. That alone makes it worth it.