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The appeal of working from home is powerful. Parents and those caring for elderly family members at home treasure the flexibility. The rest of us love the idea of shaving minutes or hours of commute time off the workday and working in the comfort and privacy of our homes.
Proof of the appeal is in the numbers: Between 1997 and 2010, the number of Americans working from home, part time or full time, grew by 4.2 million. Now 13.4 million of us – out of 142 million U.S. workers – work from home, according to the latest census data, from 2010.
There’s a downside to home-based jobs, however. You earn less, on average. Full-timers working from home earned an average of $25,500 a year, compared with $30,000 earned by those working exclusively at a workplace and $52,800 by those who worked in both venues, the census says.
Still, there’s great interest in work-at-home opportunities. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson explains how to find legitimate home-based work in the following video. Watch it, then read on for more details.
Now, some tips to help you land the right work from home job.
1. Avoid buying job leads
If you’re looking for work you can do from home, you probably know it’s hard finding legitimate jobs. An entire industry of scammers and less-than-legitimate companies is poised to take your money and give nothing in return. But there are also good jobs out there and smart, safe ways to find them.
That brings us to Rule No. 1 for your job search: Avoid paying for job leads. You’re trying to make money, not spend it, right?
“The more (money) they want, the more suspicious you should be,” Stacy Johnson said of companies that market job leads.
If you’re tempted nevertheless, make sure that any company you pay for potential employment follows these Federal Trade Commission rules. The rules require marketers to share lots of information with job seekers, including whether the company has been involved in legal actions. Another rule: The company also must give you a list of people who’ve purchased its business opportunities in the last three years.
2. Do the due diligence
When you find job postings that look promising, research the company. Well-established companies make it easy to find their specific contact information. Don’t reply to blind ads that offer no identifying information about the company or job involved.
When you find a job that looks worth pursuing, do more research. Use this link to research a company’s name at the Better Business Bureau. A BBB search isn’t infallible, but it’s a good place to start.
Legitimate companies include an “about” page on their websites, with specifics about the company, including its location, mission, staff and funding. Also, do a general search on the company’s name, to see what you can learn. Search, too, for reviews and complaints about the company. For example, do a search for (company name) and “complaints” or “reviews” or “lawsuits.”
When you talk with a company about a particular job listing, ask a few questions of your own. Ask about:
- The specific job description and expectations for this work.
- Any records you will be expected to maintain.
- How you will be paid, and how often.
- How your work performance will be measured.
3. Find legitimate companies
Rather than purchasing leads, search for types of jobs that lend themselves to off-site work and that require little supervision, says NextAvenue, a site for older Americans that’s affiliated with PBS.
These include phone-based jobs — financial product sales, telemarketing, tech support, customer service, billing and collections, for example — and jobs done primarily by computer, such as legal and medical transcription, Web design, research, freelance writing, translation and online instruction. Here are more ideas at AARP from personal finance expert Jean Chatzky.
NextAvenue offers this intriguing tip: Home in on large companies likely to use telecommuters:
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.
7 more tips
Here are seven more ways to keep your search for a home-based job safe and effective:
- When searching online, filter your results using the terms “telecommute” and “freelance” to prevent you from having to comb through all job listings to find work-from-home possibilities. Use online job boards with advanced search filters, such as Craigslist, Simplyhired.com and Indeed.com.
- Use only trusted online sites; don’t click on pop-up ads.
- Beware of claims that seem ridiculous or unlikely, especially promises that you’ll be making large sums of money.
- If you have a specialized skill, find online job boards that focus on job listings for your skill set.
- Don’t neglect the more traditional job search approaches: Check with your local employment office, for example, and use your personal network of friends and contacts.
- Look into the professional organizations in your field; many publish job listings for members.
- College alumni associations often have excellent networks for job-seeking members.
Do you have experience looking for work-from-home jobs? Share your observations below or on our Facebook page.