There are many reasons you might have contemplated ditching a long commute and cubicle environment to work from home. Maybe you've always dreamed of running your own company and starting an online business at home is the way to get there. Perhaps you have a spouse who is your household's primary breadwinner and you just need a little extra income. Or maybe you need a lot of extra cash to kill off some debt with a side gig.
While there are a variety of options suited to professionals seeking a work-from-home career, there are also plenty of deceptive internet job scams to watch out for. A good rule of thumb is to not pay any service that promises you work; they're supposed to pay you. And if you're asked to provide sensitive personal information, that could be a sign that a scammer is trying to steal your identity or commit financial fraud. You should also research any company you aren't familiar with before you start working with them by looking for online reviews and news coverage. If a company turns up in the news for the wrong reasons, such as misleading consumers, that's a red flag. If you can't find any information on a business, that could also clue you in to a potential scam. If a business looks suspect, vet it with friends and family first and do some digging.
[See: 25 Best Jobs That Pay $100K.]
With that in mind, here are some tried and true ways to find legitimate work-from-home jobs.
-- Set realistic expectations.
-- When looking for a side gig, stick with reputable and trusted companies.
-- Look for sites that specialize in work-from-home jobs.
-- Consider launching your own business.
Set Realistic Expectations
When searching for work-from-home opportunities, it helps if you have the right mindset, says Ben Taylor, founder of HomeWorkingClub.com, a website for remote workers and freelancers.
"There are hundreds of genuine work-from-home jobs out there, from entry-level positions in customer service and sales, all the way up to high-level corporate roles in companies such as Dell, American Express and Philips -- all of which are renowned for hiring remote workers," Taylor says.
The problem is that "the legitimate opportunities are often lurking in plain sight alongside lots of scams and 'get rich quick' schemes," Taylor explains. Because of that, it's easy to get duped, but it's less easy if you're pragmatic and vigilant when you read ads, according to Taylor.
"The key thing to remember is that the home working world is no different to the 'real' world," he says. "The best jobs go to those with extensive skills and experience, while the entry-level jobs go to those willing to work hard, put the hours in, and pay their dues. Any website or scheme that suggests there's a way to sidestep this reality probably isn't telling the whole truth."
In other words, if a job is offering a high compensation for hardly any effort on your part, and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. And you don't want to give out personal information, like your Social Security number, to a con artist or jump through a bunch of hoops only to find out that the job is legitimate but low-paying.
[See: 16 Low-Stress Jobs.]
When Looking for a Side Gig, Stick With Reputable and Trusted Companies
There are a number of side gigs that you might consider to earn extra money, and they don't all involve ride-sharing services, personal shopping or delivery services. A few compelling side gig options include:
Dog-sitting. Sure, it sounds kind of out there, but if you love animals, this could be a fun way to earn some extra, occasional or regular money. People in your community can find you through a site like Rover.com, where you put up a profile and go through Rover's screening process, which includes a background check. According to the Rover website, if you're a regular sitter, you could earn up to $1,000 every month.
Become a virtual assistant. Many virtual assistants transcribe meetings and phone conversations, but you also might be setting up appointments, doing internet research, data entry or any number of administrative tasks. If you're interested in exploring this further, VAnetworking.com is a free resource for virtual assistants, and according to the website, a VA can expect to make $25 to $100 an hour and possibly a bit more. How much you make, of course, will largely depend on your experience, what the market will accept and the services you're offering.
Look for Sites That Specialize in Work-From-Home Jobs
If you don't know what you want to do and only know that you want to find some decent, legitimate work-from-home job opportunities, you might want to check out VirtualVocations.com, a website that specializes in telecommuting jobs around the country. Other websites to check out for legit work-from-home jobs include FlexJobs.com, PeoplePerHour.com, Jobspresso.co and ZipRecruiter.com.
You may also want to check out the well-known career sites, Monster.com, Indeed.com and CareerBuilder.com.
Consider Launching Your Own Business
Laura Pennington-Briggs, a freelance coach based out of Bloomington, Indiana, and owner of the Better Biz Academy, turned her side gig into a full-time career. She coaches aspiring freelancers and also specializes in writing blog posts for attorneys, works as a virtual assistant and a project manager. "My work-from-home job became so booked back in 2013 that I left my day job and have worked for myself ever since."
For people who have an administrative background, Briggs strongly recommends considering virtual assistant work, such as research, administration tasks and email management, as a launching pad for a full-time work-from-home gig.
But if you do want to work remotely full time, unless you have an idea for a company, gradual is probably the best way to go, says Katherine Conaway, a freelance writer, consultant and producer who has been working remotely since 2014 when she quit a job in New York City and began working while traveling. She is the co-author of "The Digital Nomad Survival Guide."
"Working remotely and freelancing usually starts with individual projects -- it's only after you've built up enough portfolio and client demand that it becomes your full-time situation," Conaway says.
And she isn't a fan of landing work through job sites. Networking -- talking to your connections on LinkedIn, Facebook, past co-workers, family and friends -- is the best way to find freelance work, she says. "It's not an obvious or easy path," she says. "But it's the best way I know to find work remotely and freelance."
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