career

10 best (and real) work-at-home jobs

Call center representative

When you phone to order something from a catalog or infomercial, a big office with rows of cubicles may come to mind. But the person on the other end of the line is likely to be sitting in a home office. "It's a huge and growing industry," Durst says of companies that hire independent contractors to take calls from home. She says the "home-shore movement" started in response to complaints about the many companies that looked offshore for workers.

While some websites such as AlpineAccess.com actually hire representatives, most use subcontractors. Just be aware that the pay may be by the minute rather than by the hour, so you may not be paid for time you spend waiting by the phone. A list of companies that hire call center reps can be found at HomeWithTheKids.com.

Tech support specialist

Call centers also hire technical support specialists to work remotely. Kate Lister, co-author of "Undress for Success: The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home," names it as one of her top three "best-bet work-at-home jobs." And according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, jobs for computer support specialists (on-site and remote combined) were expected to increase by 18 percent from 2010 to 2020 -- much faster than the average for all occupations -- with 110,000 new jobs.

Travel agent

Scams abound in the travel industry -- particularly organizations that charge for information on how to break into the field. But operating a home-based travel agency can be an excellent business, says Tom Ogg, founder of HomeBasedTravelAgent.com. "Real home-based travel agents have experienced robust growth over the last decade, and there are probably 40,000-plus of them and growing." A growing (although small) number of people earn $100,000 or more a year, he says. "A solid business concept and plan focused on profitability will take you a long way to achieving your monetary goals." There's also the joy of helping others enjoy their leisure time.

Teacher

From postsecondary education to elementary schools, there are opportunities for students to learn virtually. Along with that come opportunities to teach (and tutor) virtually. While distance learning is not new, advanced technology, collaborative multimedia software designed for schools and high-speed Internet connections have created more opportunities for teachers and students to work together from afar, says Fell.

Durst has also noticed more teacher jobs being posted, and she knows of one professor who works mainly online and makes six figures -- although income "depends on how many hours you're applying to it and the type of classes you're teaching." A resource center for online teaching jobs can be found at GetEducated.com.

Writer/editor

Yes, the print publishing industry has been suffering, but Durst is seeing frequent listings these days for writing, editing and proofreading, particularly for the Web. Even those without writing experience can join the blogosphere. Not only can blogging be lots of fun, Foster says, but also there's money to be earned blogging for someone else's site, getting paid to post on your own blog or through revenue-sharing arrangements. A list of blogging opportunities, for which the pay range is less than $4 per post to more than $20 per post, can be found at HomeWithTheKids.com.

Franchise owner

It's a no-brainer: Owning a business can be the road to at-home work. For an initial investment, franchises may offer a ready-made business with brand awareness, a system and a territory, says Leslie Truex, founder of the website WorkAtHomeSuccess.com. She advises considering businesses that target the over-50 crowd or the self-employed, involve health and wellness, relate to the "green" movement, or involve electronic or online devices (i.e., accessories, applications).

Scam alert

When considering any at-home job, put up the scam-detection radar.

Durst suggests watching for these positive indicators of "real" employment:

  • The hirer is an established company.
  • The ad includes the company name and does not have applicants reply to a blind email address.
  • Human resources personnel are available for questions.
  • There is mention of information commonly associated with "real" employment (benefits, vacations, policies, etc.).
  • There is an application and interview process, not simply an emailed offer.
  • The employer can detail the job duties and expectations.
  • References/work samples are requested.
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