Additional reporting by Naomi Williamson.
Most of us love the idea of earning extra income or quitting our full-time jobs altogether and working from home. If you thought work-from-home companies were just running scams, it turns out there are plenty of authentic and reliable ways to make money by working from home. Christine Durst, cofounder of RatRaceRebellion.com and consultant to the FBI on internet scam issues tells us, “There is currently a 61-to-1 scam ratio among work-at-home job leads on the internet—that is, for every legitimate job, there are 61 scams.” But, there are a lot of opportunities for a “real job.” The secret is knowing how to separate the scams from what’s legit.
Here’s a hint: Legitimate jobs will typically never require you to pay a fee to get more information, and they don’t come in unsolicited junk e-mail messages. Still, there’s plenty of earning potential in working from home because, now, many of the top-earning home-based positions are with big traditional companies like Xerox, Dell and IBM.
No matter what your area of interest or expertise, if you have the desire to work from home, someone, somewhere, has work for you that can use your skills and natural talents. If you remain diligent and flexible, you’ll find it. And you won’t have to spend money on gas or transportation to get to work.
Rebecca Martin from Covergys.com, a call-service supplier, says, “be sure you have a quiet, distraction-free designated work space. Decorate your home office in a style that is appealing and inspirational to you.” Most women do better if they treat their at home job more like an occupation. Let everyone know you are working. Get dressed in the morning, stick to a routine that works for you and those around you and you’ll be on your way to earning substantially more than you thought you could.
Most of the jobs in this article require an up-to-date computer, a high-speed Internet connection, a phone with a dedicated land line and a quiet place to work.
1. Customer-service rep. Many companies, such as J. Crew, Express Jet, 1-800-flowers, and even the IRS, outsource customer-service operations to third-party companies who then hire home-based workers or “agents” to take calls and orders. When you call 1-800-flowers, you may be speaking with Rebecca Dooley, a retired police officer and employee of Alpine Access, a major call-center service. When you dialed the number, your call was automatically routed to Rebecca’s spare bedroom in Colorado.
Alpine Access currently employs more than 7,500 work-at-home customer-service agents who take in-bound calls (there’s no outbound or cold calling) for dozens of companies. “This works perfectly for me because I can set up my hours around my family’s busy lifestyle,” says Rebecca, who usually works 20 to 32 hours a week, depending on her schedule.
While the typical hourly rate is about $9, Alpine Access agents who work more than 20 hours a week are eligible for benefits plus a 401k program when they have worked for over 1,000 hours. (Some companies consider their staff independent contractors, so they don’t provide benefits.) Other companies that hire virtual call agents:
2. Telemarketer. To do this job, you need a pleasant voice and personality, and really thick skin—you’re bound to encounter some hostility. Still, it’s a good way to earn income. Many large companies now outsource their cold-calling campaigns to third parties who hire home-based workers to place the calls. Telemarketers are typically paid by the hour, and they may earn incentives and commission based on performance.
Companies hiring home-based workers include Telereach.com and Intrep.com. Apply on their websites. Keep in mind that a legitimate company will typically not require you to pay a fee to get information or leads, and will explain how to apply, exactly what is required and what to expect.
3. Online juror. Companies will pay you to sit on mock juries to give attorneys and other jury consultants feedback on cases they are currently handling. Think of these as focus groups. The cases are real, but your verdict will do little more than give those involved a prediction of how things might go. You can earn fees ranging from $5 to $60. Be sure to read all the disclaimers and details. Go to:
4. Survey Taking
I’d pretty much ruled out survey taking as a legitimate way to earn money from home, but then I heard from Bonnie Alcala. She and her daughter Andrea Spain, an elementary-school substitute teacher, take surveys online for fun and a little profit. They are careful to avoid any scams by refusing to pay an upfront fee or other charge. Bonnie and Andrea pocket around $100 a month for spending two hours a week taking surveys, which gives each of them extra pin money. In addition, they collect all kinds of gift cards and other prizes.
If you’ve got a little spare time and want to save up a stash of cash for holiday shopping or even a family vacation, here are Bonnie and Andrea’s favorite survey sites:
5. Writer, Blogger, Editor, Proofreader.Everyone says you’re a fantastic writer, so isn’t it about time you got paid? Good writing is still in demand says Durst, especially for online content. For the best sites tryJournalismJobs.com, About.com seeks “Guides” in a broad area of topics, andMediaBistro.com. For blogging jobs, tryproblogger.net. If you have experience as a freelance copy editor, writer or proofreader, go to editfast.com. Rates vary between $15 and $25 an hour.
6. Cyber Crafter. If you’re a crafter in search of customers, the internet is your showcase, and not only at auction sites like eBay. DeWitt Young of ObviousFront.etsy.com Has had success turning her crafts into cash in cyberspace. She has a booth at Etsy.com‘s Craft Mall, an amazing place where more than 10,000 artisans and crafters offer their goods for sale.
DeWitt turns salvaged parts from old TVs and VCRs into artsy necklaces, earrings and figures.Colleen Jordan uses 3D printing to create her necklaces called wearable planters. Don’t be discouraged, Shapeways 3D printing company can get you started with their simple apps so you can easily customize your own designs with a click of a mouse, anything from a wedding band in rose gold, a vase in ceramic or your own bobble head printed in full color. All for the purpose of generating sales.
7. Online guide, expert. Do your friends look to you for advice on things you’re passionate about, such as which car to buy, how to repair appliances or how to make a killer cheesecake? Whatever your area of expertise, if you are also a seasoned writer with an infectious enthusiasm for a particular topic, consider becoming an online expert guide. Guides are freelancers with an ability to communicate well and good grammar and spelling skills.
For example, About.com guides write articles or reviews in their area of expertise. They earn no less than $725 a month, but some make more than $100,000 a year depending on year-over-year, page-view growth. Go to beaguide.about.com, where you’ll find which areas of expertise are still open. (There are many!)
Also try Chacha.com, a new search engine similar to Google and Yahoo, and click on “Become a Guide” for more information. At JustAnswer.com, users agree to pay for the answers to their questions. Guides are paid a percentage of the pre-negotiated price per answer and the number of accepted answers received. Go to Just Answer to find out how.
8. Virtual assistant. Many small-business owners and mid- to executive-level professionals need personal assistants, but can’t afford a permanent position on the payroll. The solution? Hire people from remote locations to do their administrative work.
Virtual assistants handle all kinds of administrative projects, including travel arrangements, event planning, correspondence and other support services that can be done remotely via e-mail and phone.
Lynne Norris, who works out of her home in Pennsylvania (NorrisBusinessSolutions.com), says that rates for VAs run about $25 to $75 or more an hour, based on the types of services you provide. The startup costs are about $500 to $1,000, assuming you have an up-to-date computer and printer. Lynne loves the flexibility. “My children are happy that I don’t miss the important things in their lives.” Check out the International Virtual Assistants Association (ivaa.org), orvirtualassistantjobs.com and teamdoubleclick.com for more.
9. Online tutor, English as a second language instructor. If you have a college degree and the skills to tutor students online in math, science, English or social studies, this job may fit you perfectly. Go to Tutor.com—tutors who work for the company and have passed their probationary period earn $10 to $14 an hour. According to Durst, “Skype and other web interface tools are bringing English language instructors face-to-face with students from around the world.” Try ispeakuspeak.com, openenglish.com to get started.
Tips on how to avoid work-at-home-scams. It’s not always easy to figure out if a company is legitimate. Try these five essential tips from the Attorney General of the State of New York:
- Check with the Better Business Bureau in your area and the area in which the company is located.
- Ask questions, including: what specific tasks you’ll have to perform; whether you will be paid by salary or commission; and who will pay you. Also, ask about the total cost to you, including supplies and equipment.
- Be wary of overstated claims of product effectiveness, exaggerated claims of potential earnings, and demands that you pay for something before instructions or products are provided.
- Be wary of personal testimonials that never actually identify the person so you can’t investigate further.
- Contact your state Attorney General’s consumer help line if you believe you’ve been victimized by a work-at-home scheme.