Everyone wants to work from home. It's the Holy Grail of much of today's workforce. And with good reason - why fight traffic for two hours only to sit in a windowless cubicle all day, when you could make the same money while curled up on the couch in your pajamas? But the reality is often much more complicated. Any Google search for "work at home" will usually bring up scores of scam pages that promise thousands of dollars a day in income, but first require you to pony up money.
Unfortunately, far too many people fall for these scams but it's probably mostly due to the idealized way many view the work from home world. Think about it: does the local pizza place ask for a deposit when you turn in an application? Or would the manager of the gas station down the street make you pay him for an interview? Of course not! Far too many people get seduced by the idea of making a fortune at a work from home job, while forgetting the most important part of that phrase: the word "job."
If you are fortunate enough to be hired for a work from home position, you must treat it like any other job: you will have a schedule to adhere to, a certain amount of work to be done, equipment to maintain, or any number of other requirements to adhere to. You probably won't get wealthy doing it, but you'll make a decent paycheck - and won't have to spend it on gas or business clothes!
One of the easiest fields to get into in the work from home business is customer service. With this job, you will have a set schedule which depends on the needs of the company, and will be required to be sitting at your computer, ready to work, when your shift starts. These kinds of jobs entail taking incoming calls and providing customer service to anything from cell phone companies to television services to salon appointments, but there are often opportunities for advancement to other positions within many of these companies.
The majority of these customer service jobs will require that you have a home computer, a quiet and distraction-free workplace, a home phone line, and internet access. Most of these positions require DSL or Broadband internet - no satellite or dial-up because of connectivity issues. Each company has different requirements, schedules, and training which they will spell out for you up front. A good company won't want to waste their time - or yours - if you aren't qualified to start with. If the company you're applying to doesn't want to answer simple questions early on, that should raise red flags.
Similar to customer service are transcription jobs, but they tend to be harder to find. Most available positions are in medical transcription, which requires special certification. The second most popular field is legal transcription which, although there isn't a certification, the majority of companies will only hire people with prior experience. But if you're a fast typist (absolute minimum of 60 wpm,) don't mind sitting at a computer for long periods of time, aren't very easily distracted, and are willing to purchase extra equipment and software (most companies require a foot pedal and special transcription software,) then transcription would be worth looking into. Like the customer service jobs, you have to do your research and apply at each work from home company, but competition is fierce and companies will almost always pick someone with more experience.
If you want to get an idea of what a transcription job is like, there are some places to try that don't cost anything to get started. The New Zealand-based company TranscribeMe (www.transcribeme.com) pays a small fee to its workers for transcribing small segments of audio, as does Virtual Bee (workers.virtualbee.com.) Though Virtual Bee requires their potential workers to take a qualification test first before they can be paid.
So, if you've still decided to pursue a work from home career, there are several things to keep in mind during your job hunt. First of all, network! Most large companies who use work-at-home services outsource their needs to a middleman company, which can make these jobs harder to find. Very few work from home companies advertise their positions because they rely on word-of-mouth. Ask your friends, relative, neighbors - heck, the person you talk to on the phone when you're trying to get cell phone support! Second, be professional. Your employer won't care whether you show up to a work from home job in your pajamas, but they will care if you can't show up on time!
Most of these interview processes are long and require online conference calls and phone interviews. If you're late for any of these, that's a good indication to the company that you probably won't be on time when it counts, and work from home jobs are far less forgiving about being on time - after all, you only had to roll out of bed and turn on your computer, not sit in morning rush hour traffic. And third, be patient. Looking for a work from home job can be just as tedious and frustrating as trying to find a "real" job, but since most companies these days are looking for ways to save money, this is a perfect time to apply for a work from home position. Just be persistent and keep applying - good luck!