Usually I’ll see a post on a message board that goes something like, “I need to be home with the kids, so how can I work from home?” Or, “I hate my commute so how can I work from home?” When people start offering suggestions, though, the enthusiasm dwindles. When someone suggests starting a business, the answer is often “That’s too hard.” If someone suggests asking if their current employer will allow working from home, the answer is often, “No way!” If someone suggests sales, the answer is “But I hate to sell.”
After a few pages of this, the original poster will usually come back and say something like, “Come on, isn’t there something else?” I really don’t know what they’re looking for. None of the choices presented are acceptable, but yet they still want to work from home. Unfortunately, there are really only four basic choices if you want to work from home. If none of these work for you, working from home might not be for you. Here are the four basic categories of work from home opportunities.
Start Your Own Business
Whether you call it running a business, freelancing, or consulting, the end result is the same. You’re responsible for getting your own clients, managing projects, and handling tasks like billing, marketing and taxes. It’s a lot of work and carries some risk, which is why some people don’t like the idea. However, this is the option that gives you the most control over your vocation and your income.
Work for Your Current Employer
You can see if your current employer will allow you to do your job from home, either part-time or full-time. Some people are afraid to even ask, and some know that the answer is likely to be “No,” but if you don’t ask you won’t know. If you do ask, go in prepared to show your employer how you’ll handle things like child-care, availability, etc. The more you present it as a well thought out option, the more serious your boss is likely to take the request. If you hate your current job, though, don’t expect that bringing it home will make you feel any better about it.
If you don’t mind sales, you can sell items like Pampered Chef, Tupperware, Avon, Mary Kay, etc. You may also be able to get a job with another company doing cold calls and sales for them from home. Many people, though, don’t want to do sales and dislike the idea of pressuring friends and family into buying stuff. They also don’t like the idea of cold calling. The commissions might be good, but the work can be tough.
Work for a Company Using Work-at-Home Labor
There are some companies that hire people specifically to work from home. These are usually call centers, sales centers, or companies that contract out work such as medical transcription or billing. The downside to this is that you might not love the work and end up taking it only because “It’s something to do from home.” This is also the area of the work from home job market that is the most laden with scams. If you decide to seek out a work-from-home employer, you have to do a lot of research and be cautious.
Yes, you can also do things like take surveys or work for Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to make money at home, but nothing like that will pay you anything close to a living wage. If you want to work from home and make a living that can support you, you are really limited to the four options listed above.
Nothing is easy and nothing is perfect. There is no “wonder-job” that you’ll love everything about and which will require you to put in very little effort, even if it is work from home. You have to decide if working from home is something you want badly enough to overcome your reservations about the types of work that are available and, if so, put in the effort to pursue the right option for you.
(Photo courtesy of Fabio Bruna)