Tips for Working at Home

Working from Home -- start here
So you have decided to work from home, congratulations. Now the question is where do you begin?
Anyone can be successful working from home. After spending twenty years in the bricks and mortar world, I have been successfully telecommuting for the past six years. I have worked in a virtual call center for financial services in both recruiting and customer service, worked with an online tutoring company, evaluated web searches, and have written for a grassroots outreach effort. You can do this too; first you need to ask yourself a few questions:
1. Do I want a part time or full time income?

2. What are my marketable skills (writing, customer service, technical support, web designing, tutoring, sales………..)

3. Do I want to be an employee or independent contractor (Employee means the company you work for deducts all your Federal and State taxes, Social Security, etc. from your paycheck). This in turn usually gives them the right to hold you to a scheduled work time with direct (remote) supervision. An independent contractor (IC) contracts with a company to perform specific duties. They pay you a flat rate, sometimes an hourly rate for services performed, other times it’s a flat fee for a particular project. The contractor is responsible to manage or pay their own taxes. If you are an IC you are not eligible for unemployment or workers’ compensation. Think in terms of employing a personal assistant (employee) to answer your phone on specified days/hours with specific instructions on what duties they would perform versus a web designer (IC) you contract with to build a web site for your business. You might still pay the web designer hourly but other than stating what goal you want them to achieve, you will not be supervising them or even telling them how to do the job. If you are working for yourself you may want to consult a tax professional on the benefits of forming a sole proprietorship or even a corporation. For more information on employee vs. IC see
http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=99921,00.html

4. Do I want or need a flexible schedule or do I prefer a structured environment?  This will help you determine what type of job best suits your needs.  Some people need more structure in their lives and work, others naturally gravitate towards the freedom.  Some, like myself have personal family responsibilities, such as children, that prevent them from working a set schedule. 

5. Ask yourself what type of home office you have or will need.   Depending on your job path, you will need to create a business environment.  This could be your lap top outside in your garden, or a more formal secluded place in your home. Friends have converted closets, basements; personally I have a guest bedroom that doubles as my office. What you use will primarily depend on the job you are doing. For example if you are writing or blogging, the laptop in the garden is perfect. If you are a virtual assistant you may need a dedicated phone, fax, and even locked file cabinet.  Now if you are an employee performing technical support via phone for a large cable company, they will likely require a land line phone (some use Avaya type systems); a headset (USB or analog), type will depend on the software your employer or contracting company is using, a computer, and a noise free environment. Many customer service or technical support employees are required to consistently demonstrate a professional quiet background. Translation – no dogs barking, babies crying, television in the background……………………you should get the picture now.

6. How much money can I make? It is very varied and really depends on the skills you have to offer. It is important to remember that you are not going to get rich overnight by doing something legal. As a web designer you will need to market yourself and charge the going rate or even slightly lower to attract clients and get yourself known. Writing and blogging again will vary depending on what type of writing you are doing. Individual bloggers can get paid by the word or a flat fee per article. Many writing jobs require you submit samples of published work. Customer service or sales jobs are by far the easiest to come by. CSR’s usually work P/T at rates from an average of $9.00 to $12.00 per hour. Sales have the potential for more based on incentives/commissions.  Recently I am seeing more unique work from home positions showing up, keep an eye out for my "spotlight jobs".  These are usually full time, salaried with benefits, require a degree or certain certifications or experience, but you never know when one will fit your profile.

7. Research the company you are applying to. Don’t just read the available jobs and what the salary is. Read about the company. Is this something you can see yourself doing? If not, move on.

8. How do I know who is legit? Do your own research, such as the Better Business Bureau, research the owner of the web site through http://www.domaintools.com/  or other sources, check for complaints through sites like http://www.ripoffreport.com/  , http://www.mywot.com/  and local and state agencies. Ask questions in virtual forums, and you can “Google the company name + scam. Remember if it’s too good to be true it probably is. No one legitimate is going to pay you $25 hour to surf on the web or chat in a chat room. They might pay you $12. per website to critique and write a report after viewing the site.   This report probably takes an hour to complete. The same applies to "Data Entry, earn $2,000 a week" type jobs, it's a phishing or worse type of scam.  Never pay for a job, same as in the B and M world. Legitimate companies will hire you without a fee. Having said that, there are a few exceptions, some call centers may require you to pay for the background check, others may require you purchase a particular piece of equipment (this is a personal decision if you want to do that).  Find more tips on avoiding scams here:  http://howtoworkfromhome-demi.blogspot.com/p/avoiding-scams.html

How do I get an online job – either apply as employee, or start marketing yourself as a contractor/freelancer. You will most definitely need a resume or business proposal. Either way you’re selling your services and experience. The resume should be short and focus on what you have to offer the employer. There is really no difference than in the B and M world. Many employers have you fill out an online application, but give you the option to upload your resume’. A good recommendation is a skill set listed high up on your resume.

Example

Skills: 5 years banking experience performing customer service and teller duties. Excellent communication skills, strong mathematical abilities, extensive experience with Excel, Microsoft Word, in house software, and instant messaging systems. Received teller of the month award on four different occasions.

What does this tell us: Without even meeting this person, I know they have the potential to be an ideal candidate for a credit card customer service position. Why: Banking background demonstrates likelihood of passing a background check, knowledge of federal banking regulations, good speaking voice, good computer and math skills.

Why is it important to list these skills separately? This is what recruiters want to see, if you get yourself noticed, they will read a little further. Keep in mind that thousands of people apply daily for these jobs. Many companies use scanning software looking for key words. No key words in the resume, you’re not going to get beyond the scanner.

What else do we need to say? The balance of the resume should be short and informative. A good guideline is strengths on top. For example if your education is stronger than experience, put your education on top. If your experience is more relevant to the job than your degree, put that on top. If your job history is relevant just highlight the last 5 years or so of work experience, only put more if you feel it is a good selling point. Explain time gaps: on leave to raise a family, military service, traveling abroad. Don’t leave unanswered questions; you may never have time to answer them. How good you look on your E resume is key. Use good grammar, no spelling errors, and minimum personal information. Your employer is more interested in your skills, than in what clubs you belong to. If you are a college student with no work experience than by all means draw on your volunteer work, clubs, academic accomplishments and even courses that would be of interest to your prospective employers.

Covers letters are useful to some jobs; others do not even give you an option. If prompted to upload a cover letter, by all means do. Your opening paragraph should briefly explain why you are an ideal candidate for the position and company. In other words demonstrate to the prospective employer what you can offer them. Take what you’ve learned about the company, the position and find a way to tie in your relevant experience or skills. Use a formal writing style, no slang, no abbreviations, just good grammar and professionalism. Be sure to thank them for their time, leave contact information and best way and time to reach you.

Testing even before you get an interview is very common in the virtual world. Tests can range from voice auditions, personality tests, computer knowledge, to math, logic, typing or spelling. Use your time while you’re job hunting to brush up on your skills. When the test comes do the best you can.

Important note: You are only sending your resume to online companies you have thoroughly researched. If in doubt about their legitimacy, I recommend an email of interest which would contain a brief description of your skills. Request they forward you more information on their company. Never, ever provide your date of birth, home address or social security number to anyone unless you have verified the company is legitimate. When in doubt visit one of my favorite work at home forums and post the question or ask me.


So where are all these work at home jobs?


Short answer: Everywhere. You just need to know where to look.
Many big companies such as GE, Home Shopping Network, Hilton Hotels, and 1-800 Flowers all hire work from home individuals. There are also virtual call center companies like Alpine Access, West at Home and Convergys that contract with major companies to provide sales, collection, inbound customer or technical services. New jobs are posted  right here under the Job Leads tab at the top of this blog or here: http://howtoworkfromhome-demi.blogspot.com. Perhaps you’re a teacher looking to make a few extra dollars. There are many companies that hire work from home tutors and teachers. A big employer in my state is Florida Virtual School, http://flvs.net/areas/employment/Pages/default.aspx . A well known tutoring company that hires virtual tutors is Sylvan-Educate Online, http://www.educate-inc.com/careers/careers.html and there are many, many more.

Are you a writer or perhaps you’re bilingual. Writers can find many jobs online from writing greeting cards to E-books. Bilinguals can find CSR, TSR or translating jobs, and most pay extra for your added experience. What ever your skill, learn to be proficient at web searching. When you are searching in a major job search engine like Monster .com or Career Builder.com don’t just search with the terms "work from home or telecommuting", try using different key words such as remote office, virtual, remote employee, and any combination you can think of. Remember, just because it’s on a big job search engine, does not mean it’s legit job. Do your homework, check the companies out before you send any personal information. Most importantly remember, you do not need to pay to find a WAH job. Be sure to check the daily leads http://howtoworkfromhome-demi.blogspot.com.

Just because you’re planning to work remotely, don’t stop networking. If it’s feasible to perform your current job from home, approach your employer. Be flexible, offer to start doing it part time. I actually did that for four years, I worked from home one day a week. When I was ready to move permanently to a WAH status, I approached my employer and changed to P/T position. Just remember to honor your commitment. If your employer expects you to be working from home on Monday, be home and available. Don’t take the kids to the beach, unless you let your boss know.  Approach local business who are hiring an in-house employee. Get an interview, but suggest a remote option. Just keep in mind they do not know you, so their initial response will mostly likely not be positive. You have to sell your services. Present the business with a true business proposal of what services you can perform, and how much you will charge them.  Sell the advantages of hiring remote employee. 

Many people have been successful at finding good wah jobs on Craig’s list. Personally, I have not. Now that does not mean they’re not there. Just please be careful, and follow all the common sense guidelines I’ve mentioned earlier.  For more tips on avoiding scams select the "Avoiding Scams" tab button at the top of the page or http://howtoworkfromhome-demi.blogspot.com/p/avoiding-scams.html.

Remember visit my favorite forums, they post new jobs regularly. Also just because ABC company is not hiring today, does not mean they’re not hiring tomorrow. Many give you registration options, or just check back with them regularly. Online jobs can have peak periods, just like any other business. Keep applying, and applying, just as in the B and M world, it may take some time to hear back.

Waiting is the hardest part

You have now researched several companies, created an online resume, and are ready to begin applying. This is the hardest part. Don’t sit still, once you decided what type of job you want, apply to several. Competition is steep in the virtual world, just like outside. Many virtual employers contract with numerous companies. There may be nothing available today, and 3 offers tomorrow. I would say generally, if you hear nothing two weeks after testing, follow up with an email. Short, professional, and courteous. Also a good tip is to have an email address specifically for job search. Keep it professional sounding. No “hotmamma15 or superstud” type names please. Your name or first initial. Last name @............com is a good one.  Free emails are available from Gmail, Yahoo, and others. 

Some virtual employers perform online testing even before the interview.  This may seem a bit impersonal, but it's a necessary evil.  Take a deep breath, read the instructions, and take the test(s) to the best of your ability.  If you don't do well, then the job was probably not for you.  There's no point in saying you can type 50 wpm when you can barely type 20.  If your resume says you're MSD certified be prepared to back it up both in testing and presenting that certificate.  If you don't do well on a test, use the opportunity to learn by brushing up on weak skills if needed. But, if you do well on the test, you are one step closer. 

You get an email for an interview, woo hoo this is exciting.   Just remember even though you can’t see this person, they are evaluating you. Unless it is a life or death situation, do not reschedule the interview. Yes, emergencies come up, but remember first impressions do count. Pick a time when you can have a quiet professional conversation at your computer. No driving down the road taking the dog to the vet please. Use your best speaking voice, no slang, no profanity, no gum chewing. Listen and answer the questions while selling yourself. Remember you already researched the company. Example: I am very interested in working for one of the largest credit card companies in the world. My 5 years banking experience should give me a head start in the training process……….. Sell yourself, and be knowledgeable about why you want to be part of this team.  In today's challenging job market employer's want to know what you can do for them.  You must find a way to demonstrate that you are the candidate they've been searching for.  After the interview you may be requested to have a background check, credit check, fingerprinting or even drug test.  Just as in the brick and mortar world, depending on the job, these tests may be necessary. 

What if you don't get an offer, keep applying.  You can beat the odds somewhat when applying for WAH jobs by enhancing your skill set. In today's world it's all about the skills and certifications. An easy way to stand out in the crowd is to show your skill set right up front. Most of us have numerous skills, and I keep my resume skill set flexible. If I'm applying for an accounting position I emphasize my financial skills whereas if I'm applying for a research position I'll focus on Internet search skills, etc. If you're lacking  particular skills such as Excel, think about taking a course. My local library offers computer classes free. Most importantly keep applying, just because you applied to XYZ Company six months ago, doesn't mean you shouldn't apply again. If you have not heard back from them, apply again or update your profile. 

You  receive an offer and now you’re in, congratulations! You can now go to work in P.J.’s or flip flops, no more sitting in traffic, or watching the rising gas prices. You can finally have the balance of work and life that you've been searching for.  Good luck to you and feel free to share your experience via a comment.  Feel free to visit the tab at the top called "Success Stories" or http://howtoworkfromhome-demi.blogspot.com/p/success-stories.html.  I hope to be putting your story up there real soon! 








3 comments:

lisa said...

Thank you, your information is very helpful. I found your blog on WAHM:)

Robert Truitt said...

Very nice article you have here. I like the fact that you gave us good tips about work at home jobs.

Demi said...

Thank you