After checking the listings for work-at-home opportunities, you might feel discouraged. There may be fewer than you hoped for or none that you’re interested in. Don’t lose hope. There are many different kinds of work-at-home jobs, but not all of them are commonly advertised. Here, we’ll go over some of the most likely opportunities and where to look for them, what kind of pay to expect, and whether you’ll need any special training or experience.
Some of these jobs are freelance opportunities, rather than salaried positions. And many are part-time in nature and don’t pay a lot. To earn an adequate living working exclusively from home, you might have to combine freelance opportunities or work for two or more companies.
If you need more ideas. The list of opportunities below is just a starting point. You’ll find more tangible ideas for freelance work you can do from home.
Law and taxes for independent contractors. Many of the companies we mention below hire home-based workers as independent contractors (or freelancers) rather than employees. Independent contractors are responsible for their own taxes and record keeping. You can learn all about these legal and financial requirements.
Call center agent
If you enjoy talking with people on the phone, becoming a homebased call center agent might be a terrific telework choice. More and more companies now outsource their customer service phone calls to call centers, which can handle the calls more cheaply by using foreign labor or home-based agents. Thanks to modern call-routing technology,
customers phoning in almost never know the difference. And if you hate the telephone, some companies also hire agents to respond to online customer questions.
Since 2000, the number of North American home-based call center workers has tripled. Well over half a million people in the United States and Canada now earn a living by answering customer phone calls from home. The main appeal to being a home-based call center agent is its flexibility. You can work full time or part time, and shifts are available around the clock.
To get hired, you’ll need a good phone presence, a dedicated phone line, a computer with high-speed Internet access, and a quiet space where you can field phone calls. This is not the kind of job you can do with a baby in tow or a new puppy scurrying about—call centers don’t want customers hearing household sounds in the background. If you’ll be chatting online, you won’t need the dedicated phone line and quiet background, but you will need good written communication skills. And because the work is shiftbased, you must also be able to set aside several hour blocks of time to handle calls or online inquiries.
The pay begins at about $6 to $9 per hour. Some companies pay by the customer question instead of the hour, so your income may vary depending on the number of questions received. Of course, you’ll want to get some assurances about typical volume before agreeing to the latter pay arrangement.
To find out more and see who’s hiring, check the websites of the top call center companies:
- Alpine Access (www.alpineaccess.com)
- LiveOps (www.liveops.com)
- Arise (www.arise.com)
- West Corporation (www.west.com), and
- Working Solutions (www.workingsol.com).
Another company you might want to contact is VoiceLog (www.voicelog.com), which employs home-based telephone representatives in the related field of monitoring customer service phone calls for quality assurance purposes.
If you’re comfortable with making cold calls and you’ve got a knack for sales, you might like working as a home-based telemarketer. A typical telemarketing position involves selling goods and services—such as magazine subscriptions—over the phone. But some telemarketing positions involve other tasks, like making appointments with potential customers or soliciting donations for a nonprofit organization.
The entry requirements are similar to those for call center agents. For example, you’ll need a dedicated phone line and the ability to commit to working specific shifts each week. You may also need a year or more of prior telemarketing or sales experience. (You could build up your resume by working onsite for a telemarketing company in your area.)
On the plus side, you’ll earn substantially more as a telemarketer than as a call center agent, since you’ll be responsible for selling goods and services to new customers, not just addressing the needs of existing customers.
Telemarketer pay is usually structured as an hourly base rate close to that of a call center agent, plus a commission for every good or service sold or appointment scheduled. This means that your take-home pay will depend on your ability to convince perfect strangers to purchase products or to book appointments over the phone. Full-time telemarketers who excel at what they do can earn upwards of $150 per day.
To search for home-based telemarketer positions, go to the major job boards like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com. Run keyword searches for each of the following combinations:
- telemarketer home
- telesales home
- appointment scheduler work home, and
- appointment setter work home.
Telemarketing companies to contact. Three companies that hire home-based telemarketers are: TeleReach (www.telereach.com), Intrep (www.intrep.com), and West Corporation (www.west.com).
Submit your resume even if there are no current openings, because you never know when a position will become available.
If you have a knack for taking difficult topics—like French verb conjugation or calculus—and making them easy to understand, you might find happiness as a home-based tutor. Online tutors help young people struggling with the day-to-day challenges of homework assignments, exam preparation, and essay writing.
The pay is reasonable and the schedules can be incredibly flexible. Tutor.com, for example, pays qualified individuals between $10 and $14 per hour, plus bonuses and incentives. The company requires that tutors commit to working a minimum of five after-school hours per week during the academic year.
Learn more about becoming an online tutor at www.tutor.com (click “Become a Tutor”). Also check out SMARTHINKING (www.smarthinking.com). You can find additional online tutoring opportunities on the major job boards, such as Monster.com (a keyword search for the phrase “online tutor” will usually take you to the right place).
Become an online professor. Universities that offer online courses often employ virtual instructors. A good place to start is the University of Phoenix, one of the country’s leading online educational institutions. Go to www.phoenix.edu and click “Faculty.”
Have you ever worked as an administrative assistant—perhaps as a secretary in a big corporate office, or a file clerk for an insurance company? If so, you may have the skills and background to make it as a virtual assistant. Virtual assistants perform many of the same tasks as onsite administrative personnel, like data entry and word processing—
but they do them from the comfort of home. Your most likely employer is a small business that can’t afford full-time administrative support.
Virtual assistants usually earn between $10 and $12 per hour, although rates can be higher for positions requiring specialized expertise. Work schedules vary according to the nature of the job and the needs of the employer.
To find out more about becoming a virtual assistant, two companies to contact are Team Double-Click (www.teamdoubleclick.com) and Virtual Office Temps (www.virtualassistantjobs.com). Also run a keyword search
on the major job boards for the phrase “virtual assistant.”
If you’re a detail-oriented person with top-notch typing skills, a career as a home-based medical transcriptionist might be a good fit. Medical transcriptionists take audio-recorded doctors’ reports (known as “dictations”) and transcribe them into written text. These written reports are important for patient records and for filing health insurance claims.
Full-time transcriptionists can earn between $30,000 and $40,000 per year. To qualify for a position, you’ll need some training in the transcription field to gain familiarity with medical terminology and become adept at the process. Your local community college may offer medical transcription courses, or you can look into online certification programs.
Once you’re qualified, you can search for home-based transcriptionist positions with companies such as MedQuist (www.medquist.com) and Ascend Healthcare Systems (www.healthiva.com).
Read the fine print. If you see an ad for a company that promises to provide you with the materials and training to start your own medical transcription business, don’t respond. It’s almost certainly a scam (see “Avoid Schemes and Scams,” below).
Are you perfectly fluent in a foreign language? Do you have any experience doing translation or interpreting work? If so, you might find employment as a home-based translator. Companies engaged in cross-border transactions often need language talent to provide real-time interpretation for important conference calls or written translation of
corporate and legal documents. When in-house talent is lacking, these companies turn to language firms such as Accurapid to access skilled translators. The languages that tend to be most in demand include Japanese, Spanish, Russian, and Italian.
Translators usually work from home on a freelance basis. The volume of the work varies, as can the pay. You might get paid a flat fee, or at a per-page or hourly rate, depending on the company and the client. Once you establish yourself as a trusted freelance translator, you could make $40,000 or more per year.
To learn more, here are a few companies to contact:
- Telelanguage (www.telelanguage.com)
- Accurapid (www.accurapid.com)
- Legal Language Services (www.legallanguage.com), and
- Language Line Services (www.languageline.com).
If you’re a resourceful “people person” who likes challenge and variety in your working day, then you might excel as a virtual concierge. You’d be similar to a hotel concierge, recommending and arranging shopping and other activities, but for corporate employees rather than hotel guests. Concierge services are becoming increasingly popular among Fortune 500 companies, which offer the services as a perk to their employees. It doesn’t make financial sense for them to keep in-house teams of people ready to offer restaurant recommendations, book airline tickets, or track down a first-edition book for a spouse’s birthday. Instead, they outsource these services to outfits like VIPdesk (www.vipdesk.
com)—which then hire homebased workers to do the heavy lifting.
Are You Ready for This Request?
Here are some of the most unusual reported requests made to concierges, at hotels or elsewhere:
- Daily baths of fresh goat milk
- A helicopter to fly a banner over a beachfront bar and grill at a specific time, as a birthday surprise.
- False eyelashes.
- A shop selling frog-skin leather.
- Advice on how to get a guaranteed “Yes” to a marriage proposal.
- T-shirt for a dog.
Virtual concierges are skilled professionals, who are paid between $14 and $20 per hour. But the entry requirements are steep. You’ll need experience in the hospitality or customer service industries, and extensive knowledge about restaurants, entertainment, shopping, and other attractions in your area. Finally, you have to be detail oriented and willing to handle everything from a restaurant reservation to a hunt for an identical replacement for a child’s missing teddy bear.
In terms of physical requirements, you’ll need a quiet workspace, a dedicated phone line, and a computer with high-speed Internet access. You’ll also have to commit to working certain shifts during the week. You won’t be able to squeeze your work in whenever it’s convenient for you—after all, with lost teddy bear trauma, minutes count.
To learn more about becoming a virtual concierge, the best place to start is VIPdesk’s website (www.vipdesk.com). VIPdesk is well established in the virtual-concierge industry, and serves a roster of blue-chip clients. Find out about current hiring needs by clicking “Join Our Team.”
Do you have specialized knowledge in a particular area? For example, do you know everything there is to know about old baseball trading cards, making melt-in-your mouth cookies, or choosing a mutual fund? Do you enjoy sharing
your knowledge with others? Are you computer savvy? If the answer to all these questions is yes, then you might land a
position as a home-based online expert for a website such as About.com, Just Answer, or ChaCha.
At About.com, online experts can earn a minimum of $500 per month for writing articles on their chosen topic. About. com guides are responsible for putting together a full-length article at least once every two weeks, and updating an expert blog three times a week. Compensation is tied to the popularity of the materials you publish. The more people who read your articles, the more money you can make. The most successful About.com guides earn over $100,000
per year working exclusively from home. Check out the possibilities at www.about.com; click “Be a Guide.”
At Just Answer, online experts answer questions on a wide range of topics, from medical and financial issues to automotive and technical problems. Customers post questions with a dollar value attached, usually $9 to $15. The expert who successfully answers the question earns 25% to 50% of that dollar amount, depending on the expert’s
ratings. For example, someone might ask a question about renegotiating a student loan payment, and offer $8 for an expert answer. The financial expert who answers will earn between $2 and $4.
The online public awaits your knowledge! In mid-2007, About.com was looking for experts in the categories of action figure collecting, all-terrain vehicles, eczema, erectile dysfunction, fly fishing, inline skating, Mustangs (the car), snowboarding, Taoism, and U.K. television comedies.
Though your earnings per answer will be small, the job can be worth the effort if you stick to questions in areas you know well. You might be able to answer two or three questions while you watch your favorite show, and make an easy $10 per hour. What’s terrific about Just Answer is that you can set your own hours and work as little or as much as you want. To learn more, go to www.justanswer.com and click “Become an Expert.”
Finally, there’s ChaCha, a new search engine that offers users free Web-search assistance from a live guide. ChaCha pays a very modest sum ($5 to $10 per hour) to these guides, who work from home. The advantage is that the work is easy and relatively stress-free, with no worries about minimum time requirements or mandatory shifts. Unfortunately, you can serve as a ChaCha guide only if you’re invited by another ChaCha guide.
Home-based mock juror
Are you one of the rare few who enjoy getting called in for jury duty? Do you like watching legal shows on television and reading about headlinemaking trials in the news? If so, you might enjoy work as an online mock juror. The pay is unimpressive (often in the range of $30 to $60 per case you review), and the work isn’t steady. However, the work can be an interesting and entertaining way to supplement your income from home.
When lawyers face jury trials, they like to test out their facts and arguments beforehand, with a mock jury. Doing this with a live audience would be prohibitively expensive. But presenting the case to online jurors is a cost-effective way to see how real people respond to different arguments and where their sympathies lie.
Don’t worry that you’ll have to spend days glued to your computer. Usually, you’ll just have to review a written summary of the case and the key arguments or view a relatively short video. Then, you’ll have to convey your impressions to the lawyers in writing, explaining which arguments you found most convincing and why.
If you’re interested, here are a few companies to contact:
- JuryTest (www.jurytest.net)
- TrialJuries (www.trialjuries.com)
- ZapJury (www.zapjury.com)
- OnlineVerdict (www.onlineverdict.com).
Tory has the story! Many of the work-at-home job opportunities we’ve listed above were identified by the CEO of Women for Hire, Tory Johnson. Learn more about Tory and her career-services organization at www.womenforhire.com.