A 56-year-old woman I know (she prefers not to be named) works from home about 30 hours a week, handling editing, proofreading and administrative duties for a consulting firm. This flexible work arrangement has proven to be a gift during a very difficult time.
“My husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness," she says. "I have no idea how I could have been his full-time caregiver and still shown up at an office. Instead I work at any hour of the day, any day of the week, so I can fulfill my job obligations and still be available for my husband’s needs.”
Work-from-home jobs can be a great way to earn money full-time or part-time (perhaps in retirement) on a flexible schedule. But, as Next Avenue has written, there are plenty of scammers luring people who want to work from home. Be wary of ads that tout “high income for little work,” "no experience necessary" or other suspicious claims of instant riches for little effort.
(MORE: Working From Home: The Good, the Bad, and the Bottom Line)
To find legitimate, quality at-home assignments, follow these five tips:
1. Focus on telecommuting-friendly jobs. Tasks that require minimal supervision and can be completed using a phone or computer are best suited for virtual assignments.
Some examples of work you can easily do on a remote basis:
- Telephone-based jobs, such as customer service agents, financial product sales and telemarketing.
- Computer-based jobs, such as web designer, translator, medical transcriptionist, researcher, blogger and online instructor.
2. Sell yourself locally. The number of people looking for work-from-home jobs is far greater than the number of advertised positions. So to get work-from-home assignments, you may need to drum up opportunities on your own, rather than answering ads. The way to do this is to promote your skills in and around the community where you live.
Pitch your home-based services as an affordable solution to a local company's pressing business problem by visiting or calling nearby offices. Many small-business owners like to outsource tasks to independent home-based workers, who tend to be more affordable than larger commercial firms.
For example, if you know your doctor’s office is swamped trying to collect money owed by its patients, suggest that you could handle its billing and collections from home. The Medical Billing Home Business Bible has advice on how to do this type of work.
Once you’ve lined up your first few clients, market your services by building an informational website, speaking at business meetings or doing local or online advertising.
(MORE: How to Run A Business From Your Home)
3. Network like crazy. Just as with office jobs, the best way to find work-from-home assignments is through networking.
Start by contacting people who are familiar with the quality of your work and the value of your expertise: former employers, colleagues and industry peers.
Then expand to nearby small-business owners by attending meetings of local business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce. And don’t forget to contact family and friends who might want to use or recommend your services.
4. Contact large companies around the country directly. Some big companies post work-from-home openings on their websites — but many of them don't. That's why it pays to approach large firms throughout the U.S. directly and suss out potential unadvertised jobs that haven't been turned into official openings.
One way to make contact is by networking your way into a personal introduction with a decision maker at the target company. LinkedIn can help you do this — there may be someone in your LinkedIn network who knows the person you need to meet.
Alternatively, you could send an e-mail and resumé to the personnel department. If you go this route, don't be shy about following up with a phone call, since HR folks are often flooded with emails and resumés.
(MORE: 6 Steps to a Workable Home Office)
5. Find listings online. A growing number of job boards specialize in work-from-home jobs.
Two of my favorites are Flexjobs.com and Ratracerebellion.com, which carefully screen listings and also post helpful articles and resources for virtual workers. Their job listings range from one-time gigs (such as a data entry project) to salaried, professional positions.
You can also search for virtual jobs on most of the larger job boards, such as Simplyhired.com and Indeed.com, by using their advanced search filters.
To ferret out the most appropriate listings when looking for telecommuting jobs online, combine "telecommuting" or "work from home" with the type of work you want, such as "telemarketing" or "copy editing."
That will save you from wasting time looking into jobs you don't want, no matter how flexible they are.