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Home-based Work: Are You Ready For It?
Where Do You Find 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”
In our workshops (and we’ll cover this in more detail in a later column), we always advise people to explore fully why they want to pursue a home-based job or business – and what might be motivating their spouse, as well. Just as important, what are your overall needs – monetary and otherwise – as an individual and as a couple? Understanding our motives and needs in any endeavor helps us stay flexible, anticipate and adapt to change, and define and reach our goals.

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”
Have you stopped to ask yourself (and answered honestly) how a job or home-based business will fit into your already-jam-packed days? Something will have to “give”… Will it be the half-hour break you used to take for a morning coffee? The nap you used to steal in the afternoon? The visit from a friend or neighbor that made the day so much easier? How about that walk you love to take, or the occasional “date night” with your spouse?
We suggest you make a list of the things you “can’t live without” before undertaking any work-from-home initiative. When it’s done, make sure your job or business doesn’t force you to compromise or forfeit any of those items.

Family Considerations
Many, if not most, stay-at-home parents become the emotional and psychological “nerve center” of their families. If this describes you as well, you must consider how they’ll feel about sharing you with your home-based job or business.

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
Following are 20 statements designed to help you assess your home-based work compatibility. Review the statements and circle the response (T = true, F = false) that best describes you and/or your situation.

1. I enjoy working independently.
2. One of my faults is procrastination.
3. I am a good organizer of time, tasks, and priorities.
4. I get tired of being at home.
5. I do not require frequent direction,
feedback, and supervision.
6. I can avoid both overworking and wasting time.
7. My family will understand that I am
working even though I am at home.
8. I bristle at criticism, particularly of my work.
9. I take pride in my work.
10. I am a so-so listener.
11. I communicate effectively via phone and in writing.
12. I am not very disciplined.
13. I have a place in my home where I can work effectively.
14. Even the basics of technology
(email, office software) baffle me.
15. I can lead or follow as the situation warrants.
16. My home relationships are unstable or in conflict.
17. My children are well-behaved and adaptable.
18. My decisions are often ineffective.
19. I can deliver my services in a memorable way.
20. I have a generally upbeat and positive attitude.

T      F
T      F

T      F
T      F

T      F

T      F

T      F
T      F
T      F
T      F

T      F
T      F

T      F

T      F

T      F

T      F

T      F
T      F

T      F

T      F

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”
Early in 2004, we began publishing a weekly email bulletin of screened, home-based job and freelance leads, titled “The Rat Race Rebellion.” We launched the “Rebellion” in response to the many emails we were receiving each day from people who wanted to work from home, but who had been victimized (alas, sometimes repeatedly) by con artists.

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
Despite the plethora of scams and the ever-evolving techniques that scammers use to snag the unwary, the good news is that the number and variety of legitimate leads are growing, too. And there are some simple rules of thumb that you can follow to find them, and dodge the traps altogether.

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”
Think for a moment about the typical “help wanted” advertisements you see in newspapers. They normally follow a certain pattern and contain similar kinds of information.

Headline: The job title (e.g., “Editor”)
Body: Usually includes all or some of the following:
• Description of the responsibilities of the position;
• Synopsis of the skills, experience, and education required;
• Job location;
• Salary and benefits;
• Hours; and
• Instructions for applying for the position.

Here’s an example of a classic help-wanted ad:

Accountant
We have an immediate need for a Certified Public Accountant. Must have 5+ years experience in corporate, individual and partnership tax preparation, defined benefit planning, IRS/FTB negotiation/ representation and collections. Full-time position with excellent benefit package. Salary commensurate with experience. Fax resumes to [number] or email to [address].

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!
Full-time or part time. No experience necessary. Huge daily income working as little as 30 minutes a day! No selling required. Call us today to start on the path to financial freedom! 900-555-5555

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
Thinking again about the content of legitimate and bogus job ads, let’s take a look at “good” and “bad” search terms that you might use with Google or a similar search engine. (Keep in mind, though, that “good” and “bad” search terms don’t guarantee legitimate or bogus hits. Some hits with the former may be scams, and some with the latter may be trustworthy. What to do? Remember the “beware signs” we discussed earlier, use common sense, and make it a habit to visit sites such as www.mommysplace.net and www.wahm.com to see what experienced work-at-home folks are saying, or have to say, about the lead in question.)

“Bad” Search Phrases

“work from home”
“work at home”
“home employment”
“home business opportunity”
“home based work”
“telework jobs”
“telecommuting jobs”
freelance

“Good” Search Phrases

“must have home office”
“must have quiet home office”
“this is a 1099 position” [Refers to IRS Form 1099]
“will have the option to work from home”
“must be willing to work from home”
“this is a freelance position”
“this is a telecommuting position”
“we are seeking a freelance”

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
Before we conclude this second column in our series, here’s a sampling of the sites we visit in our weekly research for “The Rat Race Rebellion.” But don’t forget to do your own part, too – Investigate every lead thoroughly, never pay for a job or for “more information,” and use your common sense as you screen the leads you find.

Accounting/Financial
http://www.batemanhouston.com/
http://www.balanceyourbooks.com/jobs.shtml
http://www.actuary.com/actuarial-jobs/

Administrative
http://www.axiondata.com/employreq.htm
http://www.connect-dataplus.com/employ.shtml
http://www.workingsol.com/agents_page/
http://www.nettranscripts.com/index.asp?pageID=12

Call Centers – Inbound & Outbound
http://www.liveops.com/become_agent.html
http://www.workathomeagents.com/
http://www.sterlingtesting.com/
http://www.verafast.com/job_opportunities.htm

Education
http://www.pearsonedmeasurement.com/careers/index.htm
http://www.smarthinking.com/static/e-structors/positions/
http://www.tutor.com/
http://www.brainfuse.com/register/becomtutor.asp

Healthcare/Medical
http://www.medicaljobsonline.com/
http://www.jobscience.com/
http://www.intellicare.com/about/careers.html

General Job Search Sites
http://www.indeed.com/
http://jobs.collegegrad.com/
http://www.craigslist.org/ (choose “jobs” from the menu, check “telecommute”)

Medical Transcription and Coding
http://accuscribe.net/workus.htm
http://medigrafix.com/employment/
http://www.aviacode.com/company/CodingCareers.asp
http://www.medquist.com/

Technical and Web
http://www.plumchoice.com/careers.html
http://www.devistudios.com/jobs.htm
http://www.computerjobs.com

Translation/Interpretation
http://www.newworldlanguages.com/
http://www.ubiqus.com/usa/Group_recruit_intro.html
http://www.multilingualvacancies.com/vacancies/search.php

Writing, Editing & Proofreading
http://www.writersweekly.com/markets_and_jobs/summary.html
http://www.journalismjobs.com/Search_Jobs_All.cfm
http://www.cyberedit.com/hub/jobs.shtml
http://journalism.missouri.edu/careers/

Until Next Month…
We hope you’ve found this article helpful, and that you feel encouraged and better prepared to conduct a successful search for home-based work.

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 linkreaders@staffcentrix.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. ■