Home-based Work: Are You Ready For It?
by Christine Durst and Michael Haaren
The spread of the Internet, coupled with the growing acceptance of virtual-work arrangements – telecommuting, remote freelancing, and geographically-distributed teams – is opening up new career options for people around the world. In this article, we’ll share some tips and insights on how and where you can find legitimate job and freelance leads online.
But first, even if it’s a given that many homeschooling parents want and need to work from home, as so many other parents and individuals do, our experience prompts us to take a moment to focus on an essential but often-neglected aspect of home-based work – its impact on the individual and the family. Why? Because “living with your job” (or even more so, your business) can bring significant changes of many kinds to the household, and you want to make sure that everyone is prepared.
Motives and Needs – of “Me” and “We”
For example, for financial reasons you may be tempted to take the first home-based opportunity – be it a job or business – that comes along. Soon, however, you find that the work fails to engage you emotionally or intellectually. You and your spouse welcome the income (if it’s a business, let’s assume it’s profitable), but inside, you’re dying on the vine. The result? At minimum, change and stress that could have been avoided.
Or let’s say you’ve begun to do freelance work – editing, for example – that comes in regularly and pays moderately well. You adore the work and are happy with the income, but your spouse knows you could make so much more as a freelance writer, if only you would get out there and do some marketing. (For good measure, let’s say he or she also craves something the family can’t afford – more travel, for example – which is consistently, and sincerely, presented to you as an educational benefit for the children.) The problem is, you detest marketing, and you don’t want to be a freelance writer. In fact, a little voice may soon begin to sound, Haven’t I made enough sacrifices as it is? Isn’t it my turn to do what I want? The result? Hmmm….
Other Personal Considerations – “The Pause that Refreshes”
Make certain that those you care for are prepared for the changes that the new “entity” – your work – will bring, and involve them whenever appropriate in the planning and execution of your home-based endeavor. Working from home can be a positive experience for everyone in the family if you introduce the new “configuration” in a thoughtful and caring way. Open yourself to hearing their concerns, and really listen when they express their thoughts – even if (or especially if) you don’t agree with them.
Readiness for Home-Based Work
There are no “right” or “wrong” answers in this assessment, only thought-prompters to help you decide whether a home-based work arrangement is a good option for you, or whether changes might have to be made before you begin. Take time to think about your responses. Where are the potential rough spots? Will you encounter difficulties within the family if you try to modify things to accommodate your work?
In any initiative, recognizing potential hurdles is half the battle. Creating a plan to overcome or avoid them will help you minimize friction and maximize progress and harmony.
Now let’s move from the home environment to the online world, and see how we might chart our course more optimally there, as well. (As we do, we’ll recap lightly from our last column, for those who are joining us late.)
The 30-to-1 Scam Ratio in Home-Based Work “Opportunities”
As our research team went to work, we immediately understood why so many people had “horror stories” to tell: for every 30 job leads we investigated, only one was any good! With “30-to-1” odds – and the consequences of a bad choice often painful, if not catastrophic – it was a wonder that people still had the courage to look for home-based work at all.
Finding the Legitimate Leads
In the following sections, we’ll introduce you to the “beware signs” that usually signal scams. We’ll list Internet search phrases that work (and some that don’t), and we’ll offer some Web sites where you can search for legitimate jobs and freelance work.
How to Spot the “Bad Apples”
Headline: The job title (e.g., “Editor”)
Here’s an example of a classic help-wanted ad:
Scammers, in a bid to grab your attention (and money) and pull you into their net, present quite a different picture:
WORK FROM HOME!! – EARN $1,000 - $3,000 A DAY!
Let’s pick this ad apart and identify the “beware” signs.
Header - “Work from home” is obviously not a job, yet scammers consistently include it in their headers. It’s the biggest bait for victims desperate for home-based work.
Income - Exaggerated claims of income are almost a dead giveaway. Work 30 minutes a day and make $3,000? Even Al Capone had to work harder than that!
Experience - In the “real world,” almost all legitimate advertised jobs (apart from basic labor, internships, and the like) have some experiential requirement. But scammers want to cast their nets as widely as possible, so “requirements” of any kind are usually omitted.
Cost - Note the 900 number (billed to you on a per-minute basis) you’re obliged to call for more information about the “opportunity.” Legitimate employers won’t charge you a fee to tell you more about a position.
Description - What exactly is this ad for? What would you be doing? This is a job with no “job”! Real job listings will always indicate – or at least imply – what the position entails.
Palm Trees - If the ad features palm trees, a mansion, and an expensive sports car, watch out! Successful scammers often bag their prey by dangling enticing things in front of them – much like kidnappers do: “If you get into my car, I’ll give you this candy bar.”
SPAM - Miraculously, an ad for home-based work has just landed in your email inbox. My goodness! How could they have known you were looking for home-based work? Well, miracles do happen, but not via SPAM.
If you receive unsolicited job offers in your email, a scammer has probably “harvested” your email address from another site you might have visited while you were looking for work. Move them to your trash file, without clicking on the “remove me from this list” link you’re likely to find at the bottom of the page. (Spammers often use these links to confirm that your email address is active, and clicking on them can result in even more SPAM.)
“Googling” Your Way to Work
Note: Be sure to put phrases in quotes to limit search returns to targeted texts.
As you’ll see, the “good” phrases use language that often appears in legitimate help-wanted ads, and these are just a sampling. You can add others to your roster when you’re conducting your online searches, by jotting down the phrases you see repeated in ads that appear legitimate. Then, as you conduct more searches, your results will be broader and deeper, and you’ll be even more likely to find something that fits your – and your family’s – needs.
Job Search Sites
Writing, Editing & Proofreading
Until Next Month…
Join us again next month, when we’ll introduce you to the Virtual Assistant industry, share tips and guidance on becoming a “VA,” and explore the advantages and disadvantages of this popular home-based career path. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to write us with any comments or questions you might have about any aspect of home-based work. You can reach us via email at email@example.com.
Christine Durst and Michael Haaren are the founders of Staffcentrix, LLC, which specializes in virtual career training programs and resources. They have appeared in such publications as BusinessWeek, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as on radio and TV. For more detail on their bestselling book on Virtual Assistants, The 2-Second Commute, or their weekly home-based jobs bulletin, “The Rat Race Rebellion,” see www.2secondcommute.com.
© 2006 Christine Durst & Michael Haaren. ■
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