Almost any kind of job, from accountant to writer, can be done from the comfort of your own home.
Ever wished you could work from home? Commute to the "office" in your jammies? Make every day casual Friday?
Well, it's never been easier to do just that. Almost any kind of job, from accountant to writer, can be done from the comfort of your own home.
"About 27.8 million Americans worked from home in 2006, which was a 10 percent jump over 2005, and that number is going to continue to grow," says Eddy Salomon, who operates WorkAtHomeCareers.com, a clearinghouse of home-based employment opportunities.
What's behind this growth in work-at-home employment? Often, home-based workers are cheaper than traditional ones.
"A growing number of companies are hiring people to telecommute from home, as opposed to off-shoring those jobs to another country or hiring people to work in an office," says Cheryl Demas, founder of Wahm.com, a site that caters to work-at-home moms (and dads).
So, what kinds of work-at-home jobs can you expect to find out there?
"I've seen it all, but customer service is hot right now. I think it's a big growth area -- phone banks and order taking. Many of the ads you see on TV are routing their calls to home-based workers. So do pizza places and airline reservation firms, to name a few others," says Demas.
Other work-at-home jobs include data entry, customer service, and writing for Web sites, also known as blogging. For the latter, Salomon recommends Helium.com, AssociatedContent.com and PayPerPost.com as good places to start writing for money. Other sites where home-based workers and connect with employers are Guru.com, Elance.com and Rentacoder.com.
But there's a catch for those who prefer a steady paycheck: The above-mentioned jobs tend to be short-term assignments that don't always pay a lot.
By contrast, a work-at-home career is long-term and requires higher-level skills, like bookkeeping, graphic design, medical transcription, sales, engineering and photography.
"I recommend people pursue a home-based career by investing in themselves and upgrading their skills through education," says Salomon.
How do you find and apply for home-based jobs with the best pay, benefits and stability?
Web sites like Wahm.com and WorkAtHomeCareers.com are both worth a look, with postings of home-based job, helpful articles and forums where you can network with others. Other sites to check out include Tjobs.com and MoneyMakingMommy.com.
As with all things Internet, beware of scams. In a nutshell, you should never have to pay anything to take a real work-at-home job. If a company asks for money, they're likely trying to sell you a business opportunity, not offer you a position.
Also, Demas warns to avoid companies that ask you to do any payment transfers, accept packages, run auctions or reship materials.
"These are red flags, because there is no legitimate need for those sorts of services," she says. In some cases, shady companies will ask you to deposit cashier's checks on their behalf, only to loot your bank account later.
Here's a quick research tip. Type the name and Web site address of any potential employer into Google, plus the word scam, like this: "Ace Novelty Company scam" or "www.theacenoveltycompany.com scam" (without the quotes).
Also, it's a good idea to visit www.ripoffreport.com and www.bbbonline.org for more due diligence. And try to join at least one Web site forum where you can ask others about work-at-home opportunities you're considering.
Now. As someone who's done it for 10 years, I can tell you that working at home isn't for everyone. You must be able to work independently, without supervision. It can get lonely, too -- you may miss the camaraderie of an office. And your paychecks may come sporadically -- or not at all -- as you navigate from one assignment to the other in search of a long-term home-based career.
Still, for those who can make it work, working from home is the only way to go.