Evaluating yourself and potential jobs

Finding a Work-at-Home Job

by Gary Foreman

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Please discuss the ins and outs of working at home and how to find a legitimate company to work for that requires no start up cost.

Donna asks a good question. According to the American FactFinder, 5 million Americans work at home. That's about 3% of all workers. And the trend is for more people to join the at-home workforce.

We'll begin by looking at some steps that Donna should take in looking for any job. Then we'll discuss some things that are unique to finding an at-home job. And, finally, we'll discuss some traps and scams to avoid.

An important step in any job hunt is a self-evaluation. What job skills do you have? What types of work do you like to do? Are there tasks that you very much dislike?

After you know yourself, you can determine which jobs best match your skills and interests. Then figure out where those jobs can be found. A good starting place is the classified ads. Both in Donna's local paper and online.

Many job applicants skip an important step. They don't research the potential employer. An online search or visit to the library will provide some good background information about the company. Not only will Donna know enough to ask good questions during an interview, but she'll also be better able to decide whether it's the kind of company she'd like as an employer.

OK, now that we've looked at some general job hunting tips, let's get specific about at-home jobs.

The first thing is to recognize that not everyone is meant to work at home. It takes discipline, motivation and skills that translate to an at-home environment.

There are a number of websites dedicated to at-home workers. The Independent Homeworkers Alliance at Homeworkers.org provides work-at-home job listings. You can try a free trial membership before joining on a paid basis. Avoid expensive membership dues or fees. You do not need to join anything to be successful in your job hunt.

Networking is especially valuable when you want to work at home. Friends will know about employers who might be looking for additional help. They can also find out whether the employer would hire at-home workers.

Just like a typical job search, try to think of companies that could use the skills that you have, only this time using them at home. Donna's best bet might be to call or visit companies that could use her skills with a resume in hand.

She may find that the potential employer has not tried work-at-home employees before. Information explaining how they can reduce company overhead costs would be helpful.

Once Donna has an offer, she'll need to decide whether to accept it. Part of that decision is determining whether the offer is real or just a scam.

Some scams are easy to spot. Any job advertised as "easy" or "anyone can do it" won't make you rich. And real jobs don't require that you buy office supplies to get started.

Life is flexible. Is your job?
Find flexible work at Flexjobs.com.

There are some jobs that Donna can pretty much assume are either scams or are highly unlikely to work out. Processing claims, posting ads, stuffing envelopes and data entry jobs are all suspect.

And just because a job uses the Internet doesn't mean that you should put your common sense in the closet. You cannot set up an inexpensive website for a product/service that "the whole world needs" and expect them to flock to your site making you a fortune. Even with search, getting your site noticed is hard work and takes expertise.

If you haven't already, try to find out more about the proposed employer from independent sources. It's easy for a company to post glowing tributes from strangers. Be suspicious of them.

Don't hesitate to ask the company for references. Just the way the company responds will tell you something about them. Real companies will not be surprised or insulted at the request.

Ask trusted friends what they think of the opportunity. Give yourself time to think about it, too. Heed your instincts. If you're at all suspicious, the wise thing is to walk away.

Donna does need to be prepared to work for commission or on a "task-completed" basis. Most at-home jobs are not paid on a "per hour" or salary.

Finally, Donna will need to know whether she'll be an employee or a contract worker. If she's a contract worker, she could be responsible for extra taxes.

Finding a legitimate work-at-home job isn't easy. The biggest challenge is determining if she has skills that can be applied to an at-home job situation. Without those, it will be very difficult to find a job that isn't a scam. However, if she has those skills, more and more employers are willing to let workers telecommute.

Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

Take the Next Step

  • Write down a list of your special skills. Ask others what they think as well. Here are 9 self-discovery steps that can help.
  • Take a look at your local paper and online at site such as The Independent Homeworkers Alliance to see what jobs your special skills fit into.
  • Research additional work-at-home opportunities and advice in The Dollar Stretcher library.
  • Find telecommuting and other great jobs such as part-time and freelance work at Flexjobs.com. Because life is flexible. Is your job?
  • Get control of your financial life. Subscribe to Financial Independence, a free daily email that provides you with the tools to help you gain that control and achieve financial independence. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist for FREE!

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