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Why More Americans Are Working From Home

Linda McMaken

Faced with a stagnant economy, and little expected job growth, many Americans are seeking alternative employment. Many are choosing to work from home and using the Internet to work virtually. While traditional employment doesn't appear to be on the rise, online workers are finding jobs and hiring virtually is on the rise, according to Elance.

Just a few years ago, most online or home-based jobs were entry level, low-paying jobs that didn't provide much income, nor did they provide any options for additional work or opportunities. In fact, many of the jobs were scams or menial work, such as stuffing envelopes, and these jobs were considered a hobby or a small secondary income.

Welcome to the 21st century, where there are 4.2 million more workers than the previous decade, and 13.4 million people work at home one day per week, according to the U.S. Census Bureau report for 2010. The median income in the survey for home workers was around $74,000, compared to those working exclusively outside the home at about $65,600.

Virtual Jobs
Web programming is one of the top jobs for virtual workers followed by graphic designers, writers, marketers and mobile developers. All of these professions are well suited to working at home.

The entire medical profession is rallying around the virtual workplace with medical transcriptions working as freelancers. At home, on-call nurses take patient questions via their home office, and radiologists are reading x-rays on their home computers while working for multiple medical facilities.

How Online Job Services Work
There are many online job services available. Most charge a fee to the employer, but a few take a commission from the employee's earnings. The fee is to ensure the employer is satisfied with the work and paid.

Benefits for Employers
A study by showed an average business would save nearly $11,000 per year by hiring a virtual employee. There is no need to increase office space when your business grows, you don't have to invest in equipment like specialized graphic software when you can hire a freelance employee that already has it and you don't need to hire a full-time employee for a short-term project. Employers can find talent globally for their projects, and it saves on payroll and taxes.

Benefits for Employees
For freelancers, the benefit is visible by having a two-second commute to work. Office hours can be anytime you choose which frees you to get children off to school or time with your family. It also offers you the opportunity to choose the jobs you want to do, and determine how many hours you want work. The savings in commute time, gasoline expense, parking and dressing for the office are drastically reduced.

The Downside
All jobs have their downsides, and freelancing is no exception. Most virtual workers have no benefits such as health insurance, no paid holidays, and often find they must work on a holiday or weekend to complete a project. As a self-employed freelancer, you will be responsible for paying your own taxes. You should seek the advice of an accountant to help you understand the taxes associated with being a freelancer.

The Bottom Line
In an interview with Elance CMO Rich Pearson, he said its latest survey showed that "83% of small businesses plan to hire half their workers online within the next twelve months, and business projections say half of the American workforce will be virtual in five years." These jobs will be in multiple fields and workers would be best advised to learn how to set up a home or cyber office to take advantage of the shifting employment paradigm.

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