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Work from Home: The Search for a One Minute Commute
by Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs
The good news is that there ARE real options for those of us interested in work at home jobs, even in this economy. And not only are they real, but some really excellent opportunities are out there . . . in line with your career, good paying, and flexible.

My personal work at home job journey began when I was pregnant with my first child. Although prior to that I had been always been a go-get-'em professional career woman, I had long known that I wanted to work part-time or from home when I had babies. Rushing out of the house to work in the mornings and barely making it home in time for my son's bedtime just didn't feel right to me. So, I started my search, knowing from my years in high-tech that flextime and telecommuting positions did exist. I just had to find them.

I looked. I dug. I researched. And I got really frustrated . . . Sound familiar?

But instead of giving up, I thought about it and realized that there was an opportunity amidst my frustration. So, long story short, I decided to create what I had been looking for - a job site dedicated to finding good, legitimate work from jobs. And of course, I started it from home! Here's what I've learned . . .

A Land of Work at Home Opportunity
There is a surprising diversity in the types of jobs that can be done in a work from home or telecommuting capacity. This is in large part due to the explosion in popularity and subsequent proliferation of home computers, high-speed Internet access, WiFi, and other gadgets such as Blackberries that enable people to keep well connected.

So, what are the job options? You've likely heard about data entry, virtual admin, and call center jobs, but those are just the tip of the work from home iceberg. Here are just some of the other jobs out there:

Account Executive
Computer Programmer
Customer Service
Data Analyst
Editor / Proofreader
Fundraiser / Grant Writer
Graphic Designer
Marketing Manager
Online Researcher
Online Teacher & Tutor
Public Relations Professional
Recruiter / HR Manager
Sales Representative
Search Engine / Web Marketer
Technical Support
Web Content Manager
Website Usability Tester

Prepare for Success
There are some important things to keep in mind, because working from home really isn't for everyone. You have to be honest with yourself in order to have a shot at being truly satisfied and successful with this type of arrangement. Some good questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you comfortable and confident in your computer skills enough to run a home office?

  • Are you self-disciplined with your time management and maintaining your work ethic?

  • Are you able to proactively communicate by email, phone, and/or video conference?

  • Do you have a home office where you can focus with minimal interruption?

  • Bonus question: do have a network of family and friends that you can socialize with regularly, so that you don't miss the personal interaction of an office?

If you can answer yes to all of those, then on to the next critical point: find an opportunity that you enjoy.

Find Your Golden Opportunity
The beauty of telecommuting jobs is that the company and the employee can be anywhere. Also, there's no limit on what company can hire telecommuters, so opportunities exist in companies of all sizes and shapes - big or small, headquartered in cities or small towns, government or private sector, and in industries from A to Z. Despite their universal nature, keep in mind that all telecommuting jobs are not created equal, and know which one(s) you are willing to consider.

The most common work from home or telecommuting jobs are part-time, ongoing positions. These jobs typically are long-term arrangements with a predictable amount of work and hourly pay, however they may not include benefits such as health insurance, paid vacation, or retirement accounts. Also, these employees are often responsible for paying their own taxes.

Another widespread remote arrangement is freelance, contract, or consulting jobs. These roles are often hired on a per project-basis, part-time or full-time, and are generally short-term situations. They are either paid hourly or per project, do not receive benefits, and are responsible for paying their own taxes. Benefits to this arrangement are that you can diversify your "client base" by having more than one project on your plate, which in turn can provide both more variety to your work as well as increase your earnings.

The most difficult home-based jobs to find are full-time, salaried positions with benefits. The best option is to focus on job types that are the most compatible with offsite, independent roles, such as consulting, sales, customer service, online marketing, graphic design, web development, and writing. Also, look at companies who regularly hire telecommuters or remote-workers. They likely have a corporate culture that places a high value on telecommuters and have a wider variety of telecommuting positions available.

Finally, another popular angle on home-based work, although it's not for everyone, is starting a home-based business. Entrepreneurship can be an exciting opportunity for people who want to work at home, although it comes with more risk and often involves an upfront investment. If you want to start your own business, proceed with caution, be prepared to work hard, and be able to survive without immediate profits!

To find the type of job you want, you'll need to use your arsenal of job searching tactics (networking, job sites, employment agencies, recruiters) as you would a traditional job, but also think out of the box. Some examples:

  • Announce that you're looking for your "dream job" on your Facebook page, and give a description of what that is.

  • Ask the moms in your local Yahoo group to keep an ear out for opportunities for you.

  • Research around on Google for yourself with the specifics of what you want (such as try "telecommuting [job title] jobs").

  • If you're a Twitterer, twit that you're available and looking for a job - be as specific as you can in only 140 characters!

Of course, I also recommend you try my site, FlexJobs.com.

Protect Yourself from Work at Home Scams
Unfortunately, it's important to acknowledge the abundance of work at home scams. Steer clear of all jobs that:

  • Make claims that are too good to be true (e.g., $3000 for 5 hours of work per month).

  • Require upfront payment for training, supplies, or to learn secrets for getting rich while working from home.

  • Say you don't need any job skills or work experience.

  • Ask you for any personal financial information such as credit card numbers or bank account information.

Bottom line: if a job opportunity doesn't make sense or seems suspicious in any way, it is probably a scam.

Have Hope
Real, professional work at home jobs are out there for those folks who are serious about finding them. The number of telecommuting options is continuously on the rise, too! Many employers see telecommuting as cost effective, green, and a benefit that makes employees happier, and more productive. In fact, did you know that President Obama supports increasing telecommuting options?

Here's to the day when your commute involves getting coffee in your own kitchen and padding down the hallway in your slippers to your home office!

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