The 20 best (and real) work-from-home jobs

9 min read
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The number of employees who work from home has been escalating for well over a decade. If you would like a job that allows you to work from home at least part time, there are plenty of opportunities to find one.

A recent analysis by Global Workplace Analytics revealed some impressive trends in telecommuting. The company looked at the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data collected from 2005-2018 and reported some key findings:

  • Telecommuting has grown by a blockbuster 173 percent among workers who are not self-employed.
  • 50 percent of the U.S. workforce has a job that is conducive to at least part-time telecommuting and approximately 40 percent of the workforce works remotely at times.
  • 75 percent of employees who work from home earn over $65,000 per year, which puts them in the upper 80th percentile for wages among all employees, whether telecommuters or office-based.

Working from home has benefits for both workers and employers. Previous studies by Global Workplace Analytics have shown that telecommuting saves employers and workers time and money, reduces stress, increases productivity, lowers exposure to office colds and flus, and helps the environment by reducing the number of commuters.

Avoid work-from-home scams

However, for every real work-at-home job, there are dozens of frauds. Scammers try to steal your identity and/or money by getting personal information that a new hire would be expected to give an employer, such as a Social Security number or bank account number.

When considering a work-from-home job, put up your scam-detection radar. “First and foremost, trust your gut,” advises Christine Durst, who runs Rat Race Rebellion, an online job site that caters to the work-at-home and virtual workforce. “Almost every scam victim I’ve spoken with says, ‘I sort of felt like something wasn’t right.’”

Durst says to look for these signs that you are dealing with a legitimate employer:

  • The hirer is an established company.
  • The job ad includes the company name and does not ask applicants to reply to a blind email address.
  • Human resources personnel are available for questions.
  • There is mention of company benefits and vacation policies — information commonly associated with “real” employment.
  • 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.

Bankrate has put together a list of 20 legitimate work-at-home jobs. Wage and job-growth data comes from the 2018 edition of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. The BLS lists “median” wages rather than “average” wages. The median wage is in the middle of the data set, with half of the jobs paying less and half paying more. BLS job-growth projections are for 2018 to 2028.

20 best work-from-home jobs

  1. Web developer
  2. Computer support specialist
  3. Virtual assistant
  4. Interpreter/translator
  5. Marriage and family therapist
  6. Travel agent
  7. Teacher/tutor
  8. Franchise owner
  9. Social media specialist
  10. Licensed insurance representative
  11. Writer/editor
  12. Medical transcriptionist
  13. Childcare provider
  14. Graphic designer
  15. Customer service representative
  16. Short-term rental host
  17. Website tester
  18. Registered nurse
  19. Meeting, convention and event planner
  20. Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerk

1. Web developer

Web developers create and design websites for personal or commercial use and are responsible for how sites look and function. Web designers can put their skills to use in publishing, advertising, management consulting and other fields.

Driven by a boom in mobile devices and e-commerce, employment growth in this field is projected to be 13 percent through 2028, which is well above the 5 percent average growth for all occupations.

Median annual wage: $69,430

2. Computer support specialist

Corporations, nonprofits, call centers and many other businesses hire computer support specialists to work remotely.

Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics and co-author of “Undress for Success: The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home,” names computer support specialist as one of her top work-at-home jobs.

The BLS projects 10 percent growth in this field through 2028 as organizations upgrade their computer equipment and software.

Median annual wage (computer network support): $62,770

(Computer user support): $50,980

3. Virtual assistant

Virtual assistants provide administrative, technical and/or creative services for health care, legal, government and finance businesses, among others. You can own a virtual assistant business or work from home for a company that makes you available to clients.

“You can fit your offerings to what you know how to do,” says Stephanie Foster, a former medical transcriptionist who runs Home With the Kids, an online resource for telecommuters.

Because virtual assistants work in many different fields, the pay range is very broad. The highest-paid virtual assistants work full time and offer executive support or higher-pay services such as web design, Durst of Rat Race Rebellion says.

Median annual wage: N/A

4. Interpreter/translator

If you have a native-level proficiency in English and at least one other language, you can find work-at-home job opportunities at schools, hospitals, courts, corporations and other public and private sector entities. Interpreters work in a spoken language or sign language; translators work with written or audio documents.

“Companies can access home-based translators with hard-to-find language skills without being held back by geographic location,” says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs, a site that caters to telecommuters, freelancers and part-timers.

The BLS projects 19 percent growth in this field, which is much faster than average.

Median annual wage: $49,930

5. Marriage and family therapist

Marriage and family therapists usually work full time and many have private practices. Online video conferencing apps such as Skype and FaceTime make it possible for therapists and their patients to talk without either of them having to commute.

The BLS growth outlook for this profession is “much faster than average,” with 22 percent growth projected over 10 years.

Lisa Marie Bobby, founder and clinical director of GrowingSelf.com, a Denver-based marriage and family therapy and life-coach practice, says she’s been meeting patients online since 2010. It’s simply easier and a more efficient use of time.

“It’s a 45-minute meeting versus a three-hour event that you have to find time for,” she says, noting that online therapy sessions are more conducive to regular attendance and reduce patient no-shows.

Median annual wage: $50,090

6. Travel agent

People no longer routinely call a travel agent to buy their plane tickets and book hotels for them. The internet has revolutionized that. But if you specialize in niche travel, such as exotic destinations for wealthy clients, you have the potential to make a good living working from home, says Tom Ogg, a travel industry veteran and founder of HomeBasedTravelAgent.com.

“The common belief is that the internet is killing travel agents,” says Ogg. “The truth is they’re making more money now than ever before; they just look different. A solid business concept and plan focused on profitability will take you a long way to achieving your monetary goals.”

The BLS wage information is based on the old business model, Ogg says. Still, employment growth for travel agents is expected to decline 6% over the next 10 years.

Median annual wage: $38,700

7. Teacher/tutor

Advanced technology and high-speed internet connections have created more opportunities for teachers and students to work together from afar.

“With more states allowing children to attend public school online, there’s been growing demand for K-12 teachers,” says Rat Race Rebellion’s Durst. “We’re seeing a huge demand for people to teach children in Asia, primarily in China, to speak English.”

Your income “depends on how many hours you’re applying to it and the type of classes you’re teaching,” Durst says.

The BLS projects the demand for teachers to grow, especially at the college and university level.

Median annual wage (kindergarten, elementary school): $57,980

(High school): $60,320

(College/university): $78,470

8. Franchise owner

Owning a business can be a good path to working from home. For an initial investment, franchises offer an established business with brand awareness, a business model, a territory and maybe even access to capital. There are franchise opportunities in mailing and shipping, cosmetics, travel, marketing, employment and staffing, retail and many more industries.

Franchises can cost a lot of money, but there are opportunities for less than $50,000, says Jania Bailey, CEO of FranNet, a franchise marketplace. “You might be able to get financing from the (Small Business Administration) or the lenders the brand works with. It’s a little more affordable than people think. If it takes $100,000, you might need $20,000.”

Above all, Bailey says, don’t limit yourself. Franchise opportunities are not limited to small cottage industries. “Unless you are in this industry, you have no comprehension of how big it is and how many opportunities there are.”

Median annual wage: N/A

9. Social media specialist

It’s becoming increasingly important for businesses to have a presence on social media. If you have a knack for using social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, you could stay home and make a living helping businesses reach out, engage and promote their products through social-media marketing.

Social media managers or specialists also can earn money through training and consulting.

The BLS data includes social media specialists with other types of public relations specialists.

Median annual wage: $60,000

10. Licensed insurance representative

Many people find it easy to shop for insurance online, but they often need to talk to a licensed insurance rep to help them choose the right policy.

Insurance companies are increasingly outsourcing their incoming phone calls to contact centers, which then have to hire or contract with licensed insurance reps “because state laws mandate that only licensed agents can ‘sell’ policies,” says Durst of Rat Race Rebellion. So, if you see an ad on TV for a life insurance company and call the number on your screen, there’s a good chance you’re talking to someone who is working from home.

“As you can imagine, it can be quite difficult for the contact centers to find people with the proper credentials, so the job ads are all over the place,” Durst says.

The BLS projects 10 percent growth in this field.

Median annual wage: $50,600

11. Writer/editor

Traditional print publications are declining, but if you have a computer, internet access and the right credentials and/or experience, there are work-at-home opportunities for people with writing and editing skills.

Bloggers, journalists, technical writers and editors who know how to plan and revise content and meet deadlines face a competitive market, however.

Median annual wage (writer): $62,170

(editor): $59,480

12. Medical transcriptionist

A medical transcriptionist listens to voice recordings from doctors and other healthcare workers and transcribes them into written reports. A transcriptionist can work for a hospital, doctor’s office, a third-party service or be self-employed.

The expansion of healthcare services is expected to drive demand for this job, but a slight decline is projected due to tech advances and outsourcing.

Median annual wage: $34,770

13. Childcare provider

If you have small children, providing childcare in your home can have dual benefits: You keep your own kids busy with friends and activities while earning money providing care for other people’s children.

Websites like Care.com and Sittercity.com connect childcare providers with parents who need a sitter. How much you earn will depend on how many kids you care for each day and the extent and hours of care you provide.

The BLS projects 2 percent growth in this field. Keep in mind that your state may require licensing if you want to do this on an official basis.

Median annual wage: $23,240

14. Graphic designer

If you have experience designing logos and T-shirts or using computer software to create brochures and advertisements, you could make good money working from home.

Websites like Fiverr.com and 99designs.com can help you meet potential clients who need your services. How much you earn will depend on the scope of the project and your experience. The BLS projects 3 percent growth in the field.

Median annual wage: $50,370 per year

15. Customer service representative

When you call to order something from a catalog or infomercial, the person on the other end of the line might be sitting in a home office. Hiring independent contractors to handle complaints, process orders and answer questions is a “huge and growing industry,” says Durst of Rat Race Rebellion.

Many customer service reps work for retail stores, banks and credit agencies, but nearly every industry needs them.

Median annual wage: $33,750

16. Short-term rental host

If you have an extra bedroom in your home or apartment, consider renting it out through sites such as Airbnb or HomeAway.

You decide how often you want to rent out your space and how much to charge. The only caveat is that you need to stay competitive with similar short-term rentals in your area. Do your research to attract renters and make a decent return from each stay.

Short-term rentals are a volatile debate topic in some neighborhoods, so be sure you comply with the rules and laws of your community.

Nearly 11 percent of U.S. adults have used online home-sharing services, such as Vrbo  (Vacation Rental By Owner) or Airbnb, according to the Pew Research Center. The BLS does not have wage data on this aspect of the “gig economy.”

Median annual wage: N/A

17. Website tester

Sites like UserTesting.com and Userlytics.com pay people to test different websites and mobile apps, then share their feedback. UserTesting.com pays testers $10 per test, with each test expected to take no more than 20 minutes. Testers then share their feedback in a video.

“Companies want to make sure that the user experience is a good one and the boardroom is not always the best place to get unbiased feedback,” says Durst. “So, they use services like this to get insights from people who come from the demographic pools that are in their target markets.”

Opportunities for this work, sometimes called “remote usability testing,” may be limited. This is more of a side gig than a job to make a living.

Median annual wage: N/A

18. Registered nurse

The growth in “telehealth,” which is giving or receiving health care services remotely through computers and mobile devices, has given registered nurses opportunities to work from home.

“With more insurance companies adding ‘new parent support lines’ and ‘telephonic triage’ and other phone options that help meet their customers’ needs without having to visit a doctor’s office, there’s been a big increase in demand for registered nurses,” says Durst.

The BLS projects 12 percent growth in this field.

Median annual wage: $71,730

19. Meeting, convention and event planner

Whether it’s a convention, a fundraiser or a birthday party that needs to be organized, event planners have ample opportunity to do a lot of the work from home via phone and computer.

The job may require you to visit potential meeting sites. Candidates with experience in the hospitality business and a college degree in hospitality or related field such as tourism management will have the best opportunities.  The BLS projects 7 percent growth in this field.

Median annual wage: $49,370

20. Bookkeeping, accounting, auditing clerk

Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks produce financial records and ensure their accuracy. These jobs are suited to working from home, with occasional visits to clients and overtime hours during certain seasons to be expected.

Employment in this field is expected to decline somewhat by 2028 as technological changes and automation reduce demand.

Median annual wage: $40,240

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