Whether you're a stay-at-home parent, a retiree or just want to dabble in a little moonlighting, there are several viable ways to make extra income – or even a living – at home. Do you know the best work-at-home jobs?
Work-at-home jobs, sometimes referred to as telecommuting positions, are easier to get than ever. According to Global Workplace Analytics (GWA), the work-at-home population grew nearly 80 percent from 2005 to 2012.
In 2012, there were almost 3.3 million Americans who were working at home, and this figure doesn't even include those who are self-employed. That is another 2.8 million self-employed people who work from their homes, GWA reports.
Even though it may sound too good to be true, it's not. Earning a steady income from a work-at-home job can become a reality. The secret is finding a fulfilling work-at-home job that will bring both financial and emotional rewards.
There are numerous ways to earn income at home -- some as an employee, and others as a self-employed small business owner or general contractor.
Remember, all that glitters is not gold. It is important to take the proper precautions to ensure the potential work-at-home job is on the up and up. Before delving into any ventures, ensure that you:
- do your research on the position and the company;
- fully understand the tax implications of your work and on any benefits you may receive; and
- stay mindful of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warnings about work-at-home scams, discussed briefly at the close of this article.
So if you're in the market for a career change, check out some of the best work-from-home jobs.
Customer Service Representative
If you possess good communication skills and a healthy dose of patience, a customer service position might suit you well.
To work as a customer service or call center agent, you'll also need to have a reasonable working knowledge of and access to basic technologies including:
- a solid Internet connection;
- reliable computer;
- landline; and
- a quiet space to take calls.
There are numerous companies that directly hire independent contractors to fulfill their customer service needs. Other companies use third-party providers to handle their calls. You can check job listings with the companies and see if you meet their job requirements.
AARP recommends a few places you might want to try to start your job search:
- Hilton Hotels;
- American Airlines;
- 1-800-Flowers.com; and
- virtual call center operators, including Sykes, Convergys, LiveOps, West at Home, Working Solutions and Arise.
In many customer service or virtual agent positions, you'll get to choose your hours or shifts. Income potential ranges from $9 per hour to more than $20 with incentives and bonuses, reports AARP.
Writer or Copy Editor
If you have a knack for the written word, writing or editing may be a smart, flexible option for you.
There are a lot of possible ways to land writing gigs, including:
- querying print magazines;
- starting a writing business;
- blogging; or
- working for a content distribution company.
There are usually no specific education requirements to land a role in the writing industry, but it's important to hone your skills before you begin submitting applications or queries. Many new writers tend to overestimate their abilities. You might want to have your work critiqued by a professional who can offer suggestions before you begin your job search.
Income potential varies widely, depending upon experience and venue. New bloggers writing for their own sites might earn $4 a post, while those writing for larger online companies may earn $35 to $50 an article. Print writing is usually more lucrative than Web writing, ranging from $50 to $100 an hour or more, but it's also more challenging to secure the commission of print work.
To begin your search for writing work, you may try:
- contacting online or print publications you're familiar with and requesting their writers' guidelines;
- applying at a content company such as Demand Media or Hubpages;
- peruse online job listings at sites such as Odesk, Indeed and Career Builder;
- checking the jobs board at ProBlogger; or
- venturing out and beginning your own blog or writing company.
If you have a background in education or you have certain skills that'd you like to share, tutoring could be a good fit for you. Private online tutoring is a field in its prime; offering classes or private tutoring in your home is another valid option.
Most companies don't require a teacher certification, but you will need some verifiable experience and demonstration of knowledge of the field in which you're applying. If you decide to go the online tutor route, you'll need to have a high-speed Internet connection and the ability to learn whatever software or platform the employer requires you to use.
Income for tutors varies widely, according to the subject matter and venue. For instance, private, in-home tutors charge anywhere from $20 to $100 an hour, while online tutors make significantly less. The average annual income for a tutor is $18,598 to $81,592, according to PayScale.
For information about tutoring and leads for tutoring positions, AARP recommends:
- tutoring firms such as Kaplan and Smarthinking.com;
- the American Tutoring Association; and
- National Tutoring Association websites.
Other Options for Work-at-Home Jobs
There are other avenues you might want to look into for working at home. If you currently work outside the home, you could try speaking to your employer about the possibility of telecommuting and doing some (or all) of your duties from home, if practicable.
In addition to the jobs discussed above, Bankrate suggests other legitimate work-at-home jobs, such as:
- virtual assistant;
- medical transcriptionist;
- Web developer/designer;
- travel agent; and
- franchise owner.
Be Cautious of Work-at-Home Scams
Everybody has heard the saying "look before you leap." And that definitely holds true when it comes to work-at-home jobs. The FTC warns consumers to be leery of bogus business opportunities and work-from-home advertisements that make outlandish income promises.
The FTC explains, "When money's tight, work-at-home opportunities can sound like just the thing to make ends meet. Some even promise a refund if you don't succeed. But the reality is many of these jobs are scams. The con artists peddling them may get you to pay for starter kits or certifications that are useless, and may even charge your credit card without permission."
Common work-at-home schemes to avoid include:
- envelope stuffing;
- rebate processing;
- online searches; and
- medical billing.
If you feel like you've been scammed, you can report the company to the FTC by calling 877-FTC-HELP, as well as your state's Attorney General's office.
Do your homework and check with the Better Business Bureau to check the legitimacy of a prospective work-at-home program. There are a lot of valid opportunities out there, but a little caution can save you a big headache down the road.