Technology and planning can make parts of almost any job teleworkable, but they have their limits. Some jobs—airline pilot, forklift operator, or foreign service officer—just can’t be done at home. If your current job is like that, you’ve got a choice to make. You can either give up on your dreams of working from home, or you can make a dramatic change.
If you’re committed to the idea of telework, rest assured that you will be able to find a way to earn a living without leaving home—regardless of your background, skills, or education. We can’t promise you that the quest for a new work-at-home job or career will be easy. Nor can we say with certainty that you’ll earn the same amount of money as you do now, or enjoy the same benefits, prestige, or upward mobility. What we can tell you is that there’s a teleworkable career path for almost everyone.
Imagine your ideal work-at-home job
One of the best things about making big changes in your life is that you get to start from scratch, and reimagine the way you work and live. So for a moment, forget about what you do for a living or the kind of work you’ve been trained in, and ask yourself:
- How much money would you like to earn? What’s the bare minimum you need to be happy and live comfortably?
- Do you want to earn a fixed salary? Or are you willing to accept the risks (and rewards) of working for yourself?
- Must your job offer benefits—like health insurance and a retirement account? Or do you have a spouse whose job provides these benefits for your family?
- How many days a week would you like to work from home? Is it important to you that you work from home full time?
- How many hours are you willing to work each day and each week? Would you mind working on evenings or weekends?
- Do you want to work a fixed schedule? Or are you willing to be flexible about the hours you work each week?
- Would you be willing to take a step down professionally or accept a slower promotion track in exchange for the opportunity to work from home?
The answers to these questions will help you determine which work at home career path is right for you.
Explore your options
If your current job or career isn’t compatible with telework, you’ll have to be more inventive. Fortunately, there are several different paths you can take to achieve a new work-at-home career.
Tweak your current job. Could you work from home if you reconfigured your current job responsibilities? If you’re an architect, programmer, researcher, or lawyer, for example, your employer might be happy to carve out responsibilities you can do from home, such as drafting or legal research.
Find a telework-friendly job. The key is to figure out what you like most about the work you do now and use that as a springboard to a new job. If, for example, you are a high school math teacher, maybe you could telecommute to a job in the test-preparation industry. Or suppose you now work as a caterer for weddings and other big bashes—perhaps you could use your culinary know-how to work at home as a cookbook editor or a recipe reviewer. To learn more about snagging a job that will let you work from home.
Switch to freelancing. You may be able to use the skills and experience you already have to become a home-based freelancer. For example, if you teach writing and enjoy working one-on-one with students, you might want to offer a home-based tutoring service. Working for yourself can be incredibly liberating. You can set your own hours, decide which projects to accept or decline, and work as much or as little as you please. In exchange, you give up the comfort of a fixed salary and benefits such as vacation pay, sick leave, and health insurance.
Start your own business. If you’ve always dreamed of starting your own Internet company or selling your handmade jewelry, now is your chance! You’ll get to wear a variety of hats, from marketing specialist to bookkeeper to customer service professional. And you may, like many entrepreneurs, enjoy the excitement of building something from the ground up—especially if it lets you earn a comfortable living when the business begins to thrive. But starting a business
involves a great deal of work and risk for not very much pay, especially at the outset.
Not everyone can stomach the financial ups and downs of the business-owner’s life. To learn more, turn to resources like Legal Guide to Starting and Running Your Own Business, by Fred Steingold (Nolo), and Wow! I’m in Business, by Rich Stim and Lisa Guerin (Nolo).
For guidance on the best job options for you: Pick up a copy of the classic resource, What Color Is Your Parachute: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers, by Richard N. Bolles (Ten Speed Press). Another good choice is The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success, by Nicholas Lore (Fireside).